6 Famous People Who Were Way Too Honest On DVD Commentaries
If you're one of those people who likes to listen to commentary tracks, you know that it's rare for that decision to pay off. But not all commentaries are boring, self-congratulatory chatter. If you're lucky, you'll be treated to Arnold Schwarzenegger giving a play-by-play explanation of the entire movie, or Mickey Rooney losing his damned mind. You might also stumble upon Ben Affleck throwing massive shade at one of the (many) terrible movies he has been in, or John Cleese utterly ruining one of your favorite comedies with his crotchety old bastardness.
Ben Affleck Hates Armageddon More Than You Do
Armageddon was the first movie about the end of the world that also tries to be a blue-collar comedy romp. In 151 minutes, it turns a ragtag team of oil drillers into astronauts and makes Michael Bay into the most-hated director on the internet (a title that has had precisely zero impact on his box-office returns). There was some tension on the set between Bay and star Ben Affleck -- Affleck would routinely complain about how dumb the plot was and how nothing made any sense, and Bay would routinely respond with, "Shut up, Ben Affleck." Obviously, both men had a point.
"Plots are for directors that can't afford explosives, stupid."
On the movie's DVD commentary track, Affleck gets to tell this story without any interruptions from Michael Bay, which results in him spending minutes mocking the entire premise of the film. It goes from funny to bitter to funny again, like a story about your high school wrestling career: "I asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the fuck up. So that was the end of that talk."
Bay would then cast himself as a NASA scientist.
In the film, Bruce Willis' character starts berating NASA on the shoddy "tranny" (transmission) on their equipment, and Ben has to stifle laughter: "See, here's where we demonstrate that because Bruce is going to tell the guys that they did a bad job of building the drill tank. Because he's a salt-of-the-earth guy, and these NASA nerdonauts don't understand his salt-of-the-earth ways. ... Like somehow they can build rocket ships but they don't understand what makes a good tranny."
His distaste for the movie cannot be expressed by merely pointing out how dumb it is, though. Affleck begins to make fun of absolutely everything on-screen, like he's having a gradual mental breakdown while watching it. He starts making fun of Billy Bob Thornton for his grunty simpleton role in Sling Blade (like, a whole bunch). He starts making goofy noises to mock the stuntmen during the film's action sequences, which creates one of the most awkward moments in DVD commentary history:
Ben: "Stunt acting is always fun to watch. Whoooaaah! Arrrghhh!"
Bruce: "My stuntman, Terry Jackson, was almost killed on this film. He was hit in the head with a big piece of pipe. The only thing that saved his life was the fact that he had a hard hat on."
OK, the actors weren't in the same room during the commentary, so he wasn't saying that directly in response to Affleck. Bruce Willis has witnessed the near-death of so many stuntmen that it's probably how he begins every sentence.
But Ben Affleck is far from finished with this movie. He recounts an argument wherein an incredulous Michael Bay asked him why he'd never learned how to pretend like he was floating in acting school. Affleck told him most acting training does not, in fact, include "weightless mime." Affleck points out that he had to lick Liv Tyler from a rickety platform while stagehands swarmed below them ready to catch them if they fell, which sounds like some kind of mid-'90s merit badge. And to add to the tension, there was a lot of talk on the set that Affleck's character may be cut entirely. By the time the movie ends, it feels like you've just spent two and a half hours in a group therapy session with Ben Affleck.
Tom Clancy Doesn't Understand Why The Sum Of All Fears Is So Stupid
No, this article isn't going to be all Ben Affleck movies.
Tom Clancy is the acclaimed author of several million stories of military intrigue, famous for his intense research. He worked hard to make sure every detail is as authentic as possible. So he was very qualified to know the many, many ways the Ben Affleck/Morgan Freeman trivia question The Sum Of All Fears is bullshit. And since he wrote the book on which the movie is based, he was even more qualified as an expert on all the correct information from his story that the filmmakers decided to change. Because the universe occasionally wishes everyone to share in its infinite joy, Tom Clancy was inexplicably asked to record a commentary track for the movie, and in it he is not shy about pointing out how much he hates it.
"And you're gonna pay me to do this? Seriously?"
During a scene in which Freeman's character grills Affleck's, Clancy says: "This is bullshit. No, if the CIA was paying that much attention to its employees, Aldrich Ames would not have gotten 12 men killed."
Yes, he outright says, "This is bullshit." And not just once, either. Later, when a character is dying of radiation poisoning from an encounter with nuclear bomb parts: "This is bullshit, by the way. Unless he was one of the machinists, which is how I do it in the book. You can't get sick just from looking at a sphere of plutonium." Hey, did we mention that the director of the film is sitting right next to him? This is the sort of thing that gets us out of bed every morning.
That's the thing about getting the opinion of someone who sort of knows their shit; he's not just pissed at plot stuff like the decision to include cartoonish neo-Nazis in the film -- Clancy takes issue with the quality of a satellite photograph and the fact that a weapon has the wrong proportions. And he also points out that the CIA would be spending its time collecting actual geopolitical intel, rather than gathering information about a man's "dick size."
At the time of the recording, Tom Clancy was an older man who'd spent countless hours researching these minute details for his book, and he truly can't understand why a movie would ignore all of his hard work in favor of dumb wrongness. His genuine confusion is almost adorable. His crankiness only gets worse as the film goes on; when American stealth bombers are spotted by the Russian military, it's clear Tom Clancy is well and truly done with this goddamn shit. A genuinely exasperated Clancy starts talking to director Phil Robinson like a child:
Clancy: "How the hell do they know the stealth bombers have just lifted off?"
Robinson: "Well, don't they have radar, satellites?"
Clancy: "The whole point of stealth, Phil, is you can't see them on radar at all."
Robinson: "Well, the satellites don't pick them up?"
Clancy: "If the satellite's overhead at that particular moment. They only do that twice a day."
"Goddammit, I told you to launch before or after 4:02. You've doomed us all."
Incredibly, the director won't just leave this alone, or admit it was done for plot reasons. Instead, he just keeps talking out of his ass:
Robinson: "Taking off, though, don't they have a thermal-"
Clancy: " If you had a KGB guy on the ground with a cellphone, sitting in his car, watching the airfield, yeah."
To a man like Clancy, the film's numerous errors are so basic and obvious that he simply cannot grasp how anyone allowed them to happen. The entire conversation sounds like it could have taken place during the very first preproduction meeting, yet here it is, etched forever in stone as the commentary track to a finished feature film.
Seth MacFarlane Really Wanted Marge Simpson To Get Raped On Family Guy
Remember when America loved Family Guy enough to bring it back from the dead? That might have been a Pet Sematary situation, considering Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane went on to angrily record a commentary track defending his decision to have a character get violently raped as a gag on his show.
The episode "Movin' Out" has a deleted scene (though it's included on the DVD and in syndication) in which Marge Simpson appears in what looks like an official Fox ad for The Simpsons along the bottom-third of the screen (since both Family Guy and The Simpsons air on Fox). Suddenly, Glenn Quagmire, Family Guy's lovable rapist, runs out, tackles her, rolls her struggling body over, and undoes his pants.
Later, in another fake ad, Quagmire somehow convinces Marge to have consensual sex. Then he kills her family, the Simpsons. It's ... not the best joke in the world. Really, it's not even a joke -- it's Seth MacFarlane taking his sort-of feud with The Simpsons to a rage-soaked landscape of flies and whispering. The network executives at Fox understandably cut the scene from the show when the episode aired. Seth MacFarlane was eager to complain about this on the commentary:
"I try to be diplomatic. ... I'm not going to be diplomatic on this one, because what happened to us was fucking bullshit. I got a call from the network saying, 'You cannot do this gag with The Simpsons.' And I said, 'Why not? They've made fun of Family Guy like five times ... why can't we take a little shot at them?' ... The reason, I still maintain, and I said this to them, is that you're afraid of James L. Brooks."
He honestly seems to think that Fox only cut the "joke" because it would annoy the guy in charge of a rival show, rather than because it was utterly insane. For comparison, one of the sick burns dropped on Family Guy in The Simpsons was inserting a poster of Peter Griffin that read "WANTED FOR PLAGIARISM." To respond to that with, "Oh yeah? Well let's see how your characters like GETTING RAPED!!!" makes us think that Seth MacFarlane doesn't know how friendly rivalries work.
John Cleese Hates Monty Python And The Holy Grail And Probably Hates You Too
We've previously mentioned how John Cleese really likes only the first half of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. And not simply because of the writing -- listening to him on the commentary track makes it sound like he hated every single thing about making the movie. He complains about how cold and wet it was, how he had to wear a fake beard, and how he was covered in real pig shit. For a generation of nerds, Holy Grail is a beloved classic. For John Cleese, it's "the five most miserable weeks" he ever spent.
His general feelings on the matter.
Cleese seems to loathe every aspect of the filmmaking process just as much as the pig shit. He complains about the "technical people" who spoil movies by adding establishing shots instead of putting Cleese's favorite takes into the final cut. Every six seconds that passes in the movie without any wackiness pisses him off. Behold as he puts the entire concept of the visual language of cinema on trial: "This is the stuff the directors love shooting, you know. Not a laugh in it. Intrinsically it's boring as hell. But, as they always say to me, John, cinema is a visual medium. To which I say to them, I think life is a visual medium, yet we've been sitting here talking to each other for three hours."
Every other scene in the film triggers in Cleese an ugly memory from production or a rant about how the world has gone to shit. During the famous "Help! I'm being repressed!" scene, in which King Arthur argues with a peasant over the validity of a monarchy as a system of government, Cleese points out that there was a lot of "angry, political crap" going on in those days and blames it all on liberal young people. As if that's what that scene was about, we guess? Later he rants about how leftist revolutionaries would go home to comfortable homes and have decent dinners after attending demonstrations arguing for social change.
"Help! I'm being retroactively politicized!"
The fact that Cleese thought this brief, wacky exchange was supposed to be some kind of cutting indictment of liberalism is like hearing the diarrhea scene in Dumb And Dumber was a subtle piece of commentary about class in modern America. In another scene featuring a guy reading a ridiculous fake Bible verse, Cleese makes sure we know this is supposed to be a damning indictment of organized religion:
"We brought up this endless Bible reading because every morning that I was at school from the age of 8 to the age of 18, I went to a Church of England service. And part of the service would be a reading from the Bible. Sometimes stuff from the New Testament that was deeply mysterious, which was strangely interesting but no one ever explained it properly. And a lot of it was this extraordinary rubbish from the Old Testament, which we had to sit through solemnly as if it was somehow meaningful and important."
He still regrets not being able to convince the others to make God a talking butt.
He portrays himself as having spent the film's entire writing and production process in a state of rage. But it's almost impossible to see the intent he's projecting on those scenes, even though he was there and we weren't. It's like Cleese became bitter as he got older and then retroactively decided he'd always been that way.
Hunter S. Thompson Hated The Shit Out Of Tobey Maguire And Timothy Leary
Hunter S. Thompson is the sort of man who would mail his friend's daughter a sculpture of a dead rat, so it is probably safe to say that no one was expecting an ordinary commentary track when he sat down to record one for Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, the film adaptation of his drug-fueled book about modern counterculture. Expectations aside, things got weird pretty goddamned fast. The commentary is unique not in that Hunter is an uninterested lunatic but that producer Laila Nabulsi is there to prod him to speak -- it's more like a cross-examination than a conversation between two artists celebrating their craft.
In one scene, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) throws change at a little person, and Hunter takes it as a personal attack. He groans, "Unconscionable rudeness to the dwarf ... was a horrible insult to me." That's not such a crazy outburst, and actually seems like a genuine bit of concern for Hollywood's infamously terrible treatment of minority groups. We ask you to bear that in mind as you read some of the things he says later.
In the scene where Duke and his lawyer pick up a hitchhiker, Duke climbs into the back seat to have a conversation with their passenger. This never happened, and when Nabulsi asks Hunter about it, he crankily responds to the historical inaccuracy by calling it a "faggy gag." He will not let up on the poor actor playing the hitchhiker, saying he looks like a "stupid fucking wax doll of some kind." When he's told the hitchhiker, Tobey Maguire, has become a big star, Hunter insists it's because, "He's a perfect representative of the breed," and he punctuates his distaste by saying, "Look at that freak!"
Other than Tobey Maguire, the thing Hunter S. Thompson hates most is Timothy Leary, the psychiatrist and writer famous for his LSD experimentation in the '60s. In the film, Johnny Depp's character delivers a scathing indictment of Leary, so Hunter takes that as his cue to sling fistfuls of shit at the man on his commentary track: "Tim Leary was, is, and will remain in my mind a treacherous, sold-out fraud, a vicious asshole who for 15 years ... was an official informant for the goddamned FBI ... fucking lying, fraudulent jackass."
And, since Leary wanted to be a priest at one time, Hunter refers to him as one of those "doomed pervert Catholics" before finally accusing him of being a "living blade in the back of generation."
While his dislike for Leary is somewhat understandable (the two men were at complete opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum), his irrational hatred of Tobey Maguire, easily the least offensive person to have ever existed, is thoroughly baffling. But, again, this is Hunter S. Thompson recording commentary for a movie with the word "loathing" in the title, so it is unfair for us to be surprised by any of this.
The Writer Of Spartacus Doesn't Think Audiences Know That Movies Are Written Ahead Of Time
Spartacus is the enduring 1960 classic that launched Stanley Kubrick's career, won four Academy Awards, and was beloved by critics and audiences alike. And when it came time to record a commentary track for this classic film, Howard Fast, the writer of the novel on which the film was based, couldn't wait to tell everyone how stupid they were for enjoying it.
First of all, Fast hated the casting of Jean Simmons as the female lead, and just hated star Kirk Douglas in every possible direction. But, mainly, he just couldn't stand looking at his goddamned face: "The endless rigid expression on Kirk's face begins in time to drive me crazy. I feel such a need for him to relax the muscles of his face. Spartacus was if anything a man of great intelligence. He should be afraid, he should be intrigued, he should be wondering, he should be reacting."
Then he spends a good amount of time complaining about the fight between Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. Fast says he was forced to write that scene, because Tony Curtis kills Kirk Douglas in a previous movie, The Vikings, and Douglas was required to be able to kill him back by Hollywood law. Fast is still bitter about being used as a yardstick in the two actors' dick-measuring contest, and he wants everyone listening to the Spartacus commentary track to know it: "It made no sense. But not too much in making this film made sense. So I wrote this silly scene because I was instructed to."
In a surprise twist, Fast eventually decides that the movie, which is the only reason he has for speaking into a microphone, isn't worth talking about. So he literally starts talking about whatever random bullshit leaps into his mind, like how people always ask him if he ever met Laurence Olivier. Fast then says, "Movie audiences are brain damaged," which, OK, you can point to the box-office returns and decide for yourself. But then Fast makes it clear that for some inexplicable reason, he believes that audiences think actors just make up movies as they go along. In his mind, none of us have any idea that movies are actually written beforehand: "There's an image of Olivier: 'He created all of those wonderful lines in Henry V!' This is what a movie audience believes. ... We believe as a nation that what the actor says is what he creates. Americans do not know that films are written, or plays are written, or any of that."
So if you already knew actors follow a script written by writers, congratulations: You are uniquely brilliant according to Howard Fast, the writer of Spartacus.
Adam Koski wrote the fantasy comedy Forust: A Tale of Magic Gone Wrong, a thrilling story of fairies that turn into monsters and the sisters that have to save them.
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Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.