In our FINAL Prelude episode (that's right, you heard it), we pull out all the stops for Cutthroat Island. It's known to be one of the biggest flops of cinema history and a career-ender for everyone involved except for the director who is at fault more than anyone.
When it comes to pirate movies, I like my swashbuckling hot and my pirates and pirate ladies hotter. People who wear leather and don’t take baths, covered in sea salt and bird shit. Wait that’s real pirates, who were most certainly gross. Movie pirates though, they have the hots all over. Jon Depp, Orlando Bloom, Matthew Modine… Wait Modine? Really? Do you want a pirate or a middle aged father who doesn’t understand his teenagers?
How exactly does this casting faux pas come about? Well, Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Liam Neeson, Jeff Bridges, Ralph Fiennes, Charlie Sheen, Michael Keaton, Tim Robbins, Daniel Day Lewis and Gabriel Byrne all said no. Michael Douglas said yes, but his list of demands read like a Tolstoy novel so they brought in Modine. This is, to me anyway, a clear Christopher Lambert situation. Sure he can’t see a fucking thing, he cares too much and I am willing to bet that he is a close talker, but I would believe he was a pirate. You put pirate clothes on Modine and you have a middle school teacher on Halloween.
Director Renny Harlin is making his return to our screen as we previously reviewed Driven. He and Gena Davis were married just before the production of the film and through the films dubious promotions it was framed as being their honeymoon. Harlin, at some point became convinced that Davis was destined to be a major action star. This was his first attempt to make that happen, his second, The Long Kiss Goodnight, followed the very next year. I don’t have any hate toward Davis but she sort of hit the America’s sweetheart thing out of left field and should have realized she was playing with house money. I guess when you have the same guy who directed Die Hard 2 and Ford Fairlane in your ear you warm up to the idea.
This is the film that is blamed for the collapse of Carolco. The story, however, is a little more complicated. Harlin and Davis would want out very early on, supposedly after Douglas fell through. They couldn’t out of contractual obligations. Mario Kassar had made a series of hard line moves as a last ditch effort to not lose the studio. He had secured a great deal of foreign investment and knew that it was his last push so the contracts were heavy handed to say the least.
Originally Cutthroat Island was one of two, and the more modest of the two, mega blockbusters by Kassar’s design. The second was called Crusade and it was to be a second team up of Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger. The foreign investments fell short of projections and Crusade was ditched, while production for Cutthroat Island would resume and the second film would be Showgirls. This approach does not make the least bit of sense to me. From Kassar’s view, he would have lost several million in advances. He had paid Joe Eszterhas $2 million for a spec script and probably had some nonrefundables involved with Harlin. However, If you are about to make the most expensive movie ever made alongside a mega pirate picture, then funding dictates only enough to make said most expensive film or a pirate movie in tandem with some crap that hasn’t been thought up yet, you make the damn gonzo picture and save the farm. Harlin has since made the claim that even Crusade and Cutthroat both becoming blockbusters wouldn’t have saved Carolco.
As it turns out Cutthroat would make $10 million against a reported budget of $98 million. The budget number would, after bankruptcy be properly reported as $115 million. Showgirls would scrape back $20 million against a $45 million dollar budget. Years removed, this remains one of the worst films ever made while Showgirls has experienced a critical revival of sorts. I would have thrown $160 million at Schwaz.
Odd Post Note: Oliver Reed was cut from the film due to bar fights and mooning Gena Davis.
Well that's it folks. Thank you for the years of listening to our prelude episodes. We'll still be doing the weekly main episodes with a few tweaks, but this will be better for you and us. We hope you enjoyed all the cold opens, the Wild Cards, the Sam's Boring Bullshits, the Streaming Do's and Don'ts and all the laughs along the way.