Everyone has seen films that they thought were rubbish. Maybe the story wasn’t up to scratch and didn’t compel you, the plot might have seemed disjointed or perhaps there were conflicting themes trying to get across. Whatever the case for your lack of enjoyment, have you ever wondered why these movies were of such quality in the first place? Sometimes it can be pinned down to a particular reason. The director may have been inexperienced or the cast might not have worked together well. In some cases, the script may not have been good enough, or it could even be down to production problems and technical hurdles that hurt the overall quality.
While there are a multitude of reasons to why a movie might not meet its expectation, it can still be a surprise when a film releases to widespread disdain, especially if the cast and crew behind it have a proven track record. In these instances, one of the most common issues that results in a poor theatrical release is interference from a movie studio. Rather than allowing the director and other filmmakers to realize their own vision, they will often play a role in production that involves cutting out material they don’t want or like to demanding changes to the film for specific purposes, such as marketing.
Although this interference is usually kept to a minimum to give those working on a film to have creative freedom, sometimes the studio can get a little too involved and the quality of the finished product can be heavily affected because of it. This article looks at 10 examples that could have been great flicks but were hampered by studio executives in a variety of different ways.
20th Century Fox almost went bankrupt thanks to the out of control budget that accompanied the epic film, Cleopatra. The movie released to a very mixed reception and is largely seen as a disappointment compared to what it could have been. The studio interfered throughout the entire production, sacking producers and important crew that severely affected the way filming could progress.
The publicity surrounding the affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, also led to the studio deciding to condense the two films into one movie, meaning much of the material that had been shot had to be discarded. Executives then ordered that the original cut be further trimmed from six hours to just three hours, so that cinemas could show more screenings in a day and thus, maximize profits.
The actual film Brazil wasn’t actually ruined by studio interference in the traditional sense. 20th Century Fox, who handled the international release, made almost no demands of director Terry Gilliam, and released the film as planned. In the US though, things were different. The domestic distributor Universal demanded a reworked ending and a vastly re-edited film from Gilliam, which was flatly refused. The studio then created their own version of Brazil but were unable to release due to a stalemate they were in with the director. Eventually the ex-Monty Python member was able to screen his version to critics who lauded the movie, leading to Universal agreeing to release it with just ten minutes of footage cut, although by that time, demand for it had cooled considerably and it performed poorly at the box office.
8. Live Free or Die Hard
The Die Hard franchise is widely known for its pulsating action scenes and use of colorful language. Profanity plays such a part in the films, that the most well-known catchphrase from the series involves its use. However, months into filming and without the knowledge of the director, executives at the studio decided that rather than the R-rating that all of the previous movies had had, Live Free or Die Hard would instead shoot for a PG-13 rating, in order to appeal to a wider audience. Much of the more intense action scenes were removed and the overall tone lowered to such an extent, that the famous catchphrase didn’t even make the cut. Luckily, the full uncut version can still be seen on home media releases.
7. Dark City
Dark City is a science fiction film with a mystery-like story that keeps the viewer in the dark about exactly what is going on throughout the story. The movie was well received by critics and made back its budget at the box office release. While the studio didn’t interfere in the usual means by demanding edits, changing director or ordering a new cut of the film, they did enforce a brief narration at the beginning of the film. Unfortunately this opening sequence spoiled the entire twist at the end of the film and prevented the rather shocking reveal from having its full effect on the audience.
6. Once Upon a Time in America
This gangster film was so important to Sergio Leone, that he actually turned down the chance to direct The Godfather in order to work on it. After finishing shooting and editing, the Italian born director had a movie that clocked in at almost four and a half hours. Despite the unusually long running time, many critics who had seen the full edit were impressed and after a premiere of a four hour version at Cannes, the film received a long standing ovation from those in attendance. Despite the praise, the studio responsible for distribution in the US cut the film even further and removed more than 90 minutes of footage, resulting in a vastly different film that was panned by critics. Upon the release of the longer version on home media years later, the film received critical acclaim.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
With Spider-Man 3 being something of a letdown, the cast looking to move onto other projects and Sony wanting to reboot the franchise to get back to the story of a child becoming a man that the studio felt was essential, work began on a reboot called The Amazing Spider-Man. With the reboot being incredibly successful, a sequel was put into production. Unfortunately, the sequel could not live up to the standard of its predecessor, this was due to a variety of reasons that included there being too many main enemies and a story that didn’t fit with the themes of the film. The overall effect was something of disappointment, with Andrew Garfield directly blaming the studio for interfering by demanding changes and ordering story elements be introduced.
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Excitement amongst X-Men fans grew when it was announced that the most popular character from the franchise was getting his own film in the form of a prequel called, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The movie was originally meant to be a very dark film, exploring Wolverine’s army background, his battles with post-traumatic stress disorder and his involvement in Weapon X. Studio executives disagreed with the script though, and wanted a more family friendly story with less intense themes. This led to some of the more violent aspects being cut out completely, while arguments between director Gavin Hood and studio executive Tom Rothman demoralizing the production. Finally, the filmmakers were forced to cut down the screen time and importance of the character Deadpool, so that he didn’t detract from Wolverine.
3. All the Pretty Horses
An adaptation of the novel of the same name, All the Pretty Horses is a romance film starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz. Director Billy Bob Thornton wanted to create as faithful a retelling of the original novel as possible, and eventually ended up producing a film that had a running time of more than three hours. The studio though, believed that this was too long for a theatrical release and Harvey Weinstein forced the director to cut more than one hour of footage that resulted in outspoken criticism from actor Matt Damon, as well as a negative reception from critics upon release.
Nightbreed is a 1990 monster movie from Clive Barker. Trouble with the movie studio though, was constant throughout production, with executives making the director make significant cuts and trying to change the overall tone of the film from a dark fantasy film to more of a slasher film. Fox didn’t help when they marketed the film horrendously and misinterpreted the entire movie in teasers and trailers, cutting out any footage of the monsters that play a pivotal role in Nightbreed. While the theatrical release did receive some praise and is well liked by some fans, it is largely seen as a disappointment compared to what it could have been if the studio had not interfered in the way they did.
The 2014 remake of Robocop was seen by many as a chance to update the classic film for a modern audience, bringing the story to a whole new group of people who might never have seen the original film. Production was troubled though, as the studio behind the film were constantly involved, keeping a close eye on every single element of filmmaking. This was because early on, MGM decided that rather than having the R rating like the original, this reboot would instead aim for a PG-13 rating to ensure they could maximize box office revenue. This meant much of the violence and the darker themed had to be removed. The close monitoring and the fact that director Jose Padilha was not allowed to introduce hardly any of his own ideas, meant that this Robocop film was nowhere near the quality of its predecessor.