5 Artists That Thought Their Iconic Movies Would Be Disasters
It's tempting to think that creators bring their iconic works to life with the steely determination and calm assurance of people who realize they are dropping a great gift to the world. Maybe they sometimes do. These are not those times, though.
These are times when creators were sure the thing they were doing would be a massive dumpster fire, yet, somehow, wound up being adored by millions ...
Paul Verhoeven Thought RoboCop Would Be "Stupid Garbage" And "American Nonsense"
Paul Verhoeven was at the beach with his wife Martine when he read the RoboCop script, which turned out to be lucky in unexpected ways. He read 20 or 30 pages before throwing away the thing in disgust, calling it "stupid garbage" and "American nonsense." It seems like an out-of-character thing for the future Total Recall and Starship Troopers helmer to say, but that's exactly how he described it. You see, in Holland, he was used to making different kinds of movies -- down-to-earth, realistic ones, not science fiction.
Anyway, to get back to that beach -- Verhoeven had stormed off into the sea, presumably having left scattered pages of American garbage around his deckchair, and had a long swim. When he came back an hour or two later, his wife told him that she'd read it while he was gone, and he was wrong.
Verhoeven then read the script carefully over the next few weeks and realized that, yeah, there something he could work with there. Specifically, he changed his mind once he'd read the scene in which RoboCop comes back to his house, has flashbacks to his life with his family, and finds out he used to be called Murphy.
That's what convinced him the movie had exciting points to offer "from a theological point of view" -- in other words, apparently that's what made him think that RoboCop could be an allegory for Jesus. The possibility of adding that angle is really the only reason Verhoeven decided to do RoboCop.
Verhoeven has made it clear that he was indifferent to all the sci-fi stuff at best -- even reading the script more carefully didn't change his mind on that front. All that did was convince him the movie could have "a layer of philosophy or theology or whatever." To sum up, let us all be grateful to Martine Verhoeven for the fact that RoboCop is a clever satire rather than an '80s action movie people only remember because they saw it in a gas station discount DVD bin.
Michael Biehn Thought The Terminator "Didn't Have Anything Going For It"
When ambitious, up-and-coming young actor Michael Biehn got The Terminator script, he thought it had nothing to offer. James Cameron wasn't a name at that point, with his only claim to fame being getting fired from Piranha II: The Spawning. Biehn's exact words: "Who the fuck is Jim Cameron? I've never heard of him." The only actor attached, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was famous for being an Austrian bodybuilder who could barely act but loved cumming:
It was the exact opposite of a film Biehn wanted to join. He was very, very serious about becoming a great actor, and he wanted to work with people like Pacino, Nicholson, or De Niro, who'd let him level up. A script about a time-traveling, cock-blocking, cyborg starring a guy they had to dub over for Hercules In New York, and directed by someone who was booted from a Roger Corman murderfish sequel, did not hold a lot of promise a lot in that department.
Biehn's agent suggested that Biehn, y'know, actually read the damn thing, which led to him finding some hope. Biehn thought the love story was okay and liked his character, Kyle Reese. At the very least, he felt he could do a good job portraying him ... And that was about it.
The Terminator "didn't have anything going for it as far as I was concerned," says Biehn, believing it'd probably crash and burn. The paycheck didn't even mean that much to him -- he wasn't a big star, but he was getting regular work shooting TV, movies, and commercials, netting him $100,000 a year. So The Terminator didn't offer anything at all but the possibility of a good performance. As usual, great art owes much to said artist's vanity.
Liam Neeson Thought Taken Would Go Straight-To-Video
Liam Neeson certainly wasn't the first choice for Taken. In fact, he wasn't even anywhere on the list; he had to ask to be put on it. Neeson had read the script and was dead-set on getting the role. At a Shanghai film festival, Neeson pitched himself to Taken producer Luc Besson even though he wasn't on Besson's radar. Neeson told Besson that he'd done "quite a few sorcery movies with swords and shit," loved doing fight scenes, and used to be a boxer. Somehow it worked, and Besson offered him the role, making Neeson feel like "a kid in a toy shop."
Neeson loved weapons training, doing fight scenes, and hanging out with the stunt team -- which was great since it was the only reason he wanted to do the film in the first place. See, while he thirsted after the role, he had absolutely had zero expectations for it to actually succeed. Neeson thought it'd just be a niche little European thriller that would play in cinemas in France for a couple of weeks and go straight-to-video after that. But hey, at least he'd get a couple of months of dope workouts and fake fights out of it.
When his nephews in Ireland phoned him to tell him they'd downloaded Taken from South Korea, Neeson was really surprised. Not just because those little turds had screwed him out of the ticket price, but because the movie had "gone into the ether," as he says. The film had done well in France and then went to South Korea, after which word of mouth had apparently gotten so strong that people all over the world were pirating it. Taken definitely wouldn't be a straight-to-video movie, and this blew Neeson's mind. He put that outcome down to clever marketing and some luck, but we think he's discounting how much people really love the "Will his daughter become a singer?" subplot.
"THEY RESOLVED IT! OH, THANK GOD!"
Bob Odenkirk Thought A Show About Saul Goodman Wouldn't Be Worth Watching
Better Call Saul started life as a joke on the Breaking Bad set. After Bob Odenkirk's first Breaking Bad scene was shot, somebody on the set joked, "Can I get a job on the sequel?" In other words, to someone, Saul Goodman seemed like a pretty interesting character right off the bat. Not to Odenkirk, though -- he thought Saul "was just a con man. Who cares?"
To Odenkirk, the problem with Saul was that he was basically just comic relief in Breaking Bad. He was a wisecracking grifter with zero stakes. While Walter and Jesse were busy trying to avoid getting killed and/or trying to get rich, which created stakes that led to dramatic tension, Saul was just this guy standing on the sidelines, giving advice, and spitting jokes.
Saul, as we saw him in Breaking Bad, wasn't likable in the way you'd need for a series' lead, Odenkirk thought. Not that he'd have to be a good guy, of course -- Breaking Bad would have tanked if that's what audiences wanted -- but we'd have to see him as someone struggling to achieve a goal, whose point of view we can at least understand, if not agree with.
When Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan asked Odenkirk if he thought there could be a sequel about Saul, Odenkirk just said, "I don't know. If you think there is, I guess."
Guess Gilligan did.
At No Point Did George Lucas Expect Star Wars To Be Successful
Early on during the production of Star Wars, George Lucas showed a very rough cut of the movie (with footage from war movies as a placeholder) to his filmmaker friends, and the reaction was ... pity. As Lucas recalls, everyone basically said, "Poor George," and questioned, "What were you thinking?" The only exception was Steven Spielberg, who said it would be the biggest movie of all-time, which was met with, "Poor Steven." Anyway, they all helped him fix it up, even though they thought it was destined for the trash compactor Luke and crew escape.
Most of the executives at Fox had the same opinion ... and so did Lucas. He thought it would be a flop, and there was never a point at which he thought, "Gee, this could do well."
He was hedging his bets so much that he talked in pre-release interviews about how hard it is to make movies and how he'd go back to experimental cinema after Star Wars. In a New York Times interview, he said that making "a movie is a terribly painful experience" and swore that he'll never do a big-budget movie again, regardless if Star Wars succeeded or not. Talking to French movie magazine Ecran, Lucas said, he'd just made Star Wars to know if he could do it and, having done that, he'd just go back to experimental films.
When Star Wars was about to premiere, Lucas went to Hawaii with Spielberg. Apparently, it's something he does on the reg when one of his movies opens, but, in this case, he was probably eager to get away from the "MORE LIKE GEORGE LUC-ASS!" reactions he expected too. Right before he left, 20th Century Fox president Alan Ladd Jr. called saying there were lines around the block to see it, and that praise was coming from "every single paper."
Lucas was basically like "Yeah, whatever," telling him that those are probably just science fiction fans who'll turn up to watch any new sci-fi movie -- yes, Lucas had that little faith in one of the biggest pop-culture phenomenons ever.
While he was in Hawaii, Ladd Jr. called Lucas again, after the opening weekend, instructing him to turn on CBS News, which was airing a big story on what a sensation Star Wars had become. And that, Lucas says, was the first time he realized it was a massive hit. Presumably, Spielberg kept telling him, "Told you so" the rest of the trip.
Top image: 20th Century Fox