‘City Slickers 2’ Was an Environmental Nightmare

‘City Slickers 2’ Was an Environmental Nightmare

1991’s City Slickers found Billy Crystal going on a Western-themed vacation in order to stave off the existential ennui that comes with reaching the horrifically decrepit age of 39. The movie was a huge hit; it made more than $120 million at the box office, and Jack Palance won an Oscar for playing Curly, the grizzled old cowboy with a heart of gold.

Speaking of gold, following the film’s success, Hollywood soon vomited forth a nakedly contrived sequel: City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold. The movie swapped out co-star Bruno Kirby for Jon Lovitz (allegedly due to Kirby’s “falling out” with Crystal) and because Curly died in the first movie, in order to bring Palance back, the sequel randomly introduced Curly’s twin brother Duke, presumably after the screenwriters spent a good 30-40 seconds considering their options. 

With Crystal’s character Mitch having capably repaired all of his midlife crisis anxieties in one movie, his primary motivation in City Slickers II is a quest for money — inadvertently mirroring the same motivation that fueled Hollywood executives to greenlight this wildly unnecessary sequel. 

But it wasn’t just the intelligence of the moviegoing public that City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold insulted. According to reports from the time, the production team behind City Slickers II ticked off “environmentalists and federal land managers” after their southern Utah shoot “trampled about 30 percent more acreage than they were supposed to in an area above the Colorado River.” 

The crew had been ordered to “rehabilitate” the areas of soil that were damaged, but they missed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s deadline to properly reseed the land because it “conflicted with the film company’s completion dates.” This forced the bureau to place a “one-year moratorium” on filming in the area until the damage was repaired. 

Worse still, the crew “illegally bulldozed a 20-foot-wide road about half the length of a football field” in an area of “protected wilderness.” Why? For a stunt in which Crystal was dragged behind a wagon. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance “decried the damage wrought by” City Slickers II because, while the crew had permission to remove boulders and “some vegetation” they didn’t have permission to create what looked like a “landing strip.” The group warned that this may have caused “irreparable harm” to the “sensitive ecology” of the Colorado Plateau. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the production also “dumped contaminated water into a drainage.” 

Obviously City Slickers II isn’t the only Hollywood production to commit environmental transgressions. Francis Ford Coppola, for example, set jungles ablaze during the filming of Apocalypse Now, but at least that movie is a legit classic. These guys lay waste to nature in the service of a movie in which Jon Lovitz inadvertently masturbates a bull. 

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