Cutthroat Island cost almost $100 million to make, and when it came out in 1995, it managed to earn slightly more than $10 million domestically. It was directed by Renny Harlin, who was basically Michael Bay before Michael Bay was Michael Bay, and starred his then wife Geena Davis. The film bankrupted Carolco, the production company, which had previously made Basic Instinct, Cliffhanger, and Terminator 2.
Recently, while promoting his newest crappy movie, 5 Days of War, Harlin talked about the Cutthroat Island fiasco with Kim Masters on KCRW, and for the first time, he says he knew Carolco was going bankrupt before the film came out, and says he actually begged not to make it. I hope you’re writing this excuse down, M. Night Shyamalan. What’s that? I just wasn’t European enough to understand? Hmm, not the way I would’ve gone, but I guess that works too.
“I’ll tell you another detail that people don’t know about. Originally, Michael Douglas was supposed to star in Cutthroat Island. And he walked away. At that point I was left there with my then-wife, Geena Davis and myself, and a company that was already belly-up. We begged to be let go. We begged that we didn’t have to make this movie. And I don’t think I’ve ever said this in any other interview. We begged that we not be put in this position.”
“Geena was scared mindless about headlining this film. We felt that a pirate movie with a female lead was suicidal, but we were contractually obligated. And we were so concerned about the script at that point that I personally spent a million dollars of my own money, I hired Mark Norman, who had won an Oscar for writing Shakespeare in Love. So I tried to hire the best writer in the business. Because, again, Carolco said, “we don’t have money. We don’t care if the script is not good, or if it doesn’t work any more because it was written for Michael Douglas and now it’s not that story any more.” So I spent a million dollars of my own money to hire Mark Norman to write that script. We did the best we could under the circumstances. So, was it painful when it all came crashing down? Yes. Did we learn a lot? Yes.” [transcript via SlashFilm]
Hmm, I’m no legal expert, but I don’t think you can force someone to direct a movie. Unless you kidnap his wife like in a Renny Harlin movie. In any case, still no word on whether he also begged not to have to make Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea, Driven, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Cleaner, Mindhunters, 12 Rounds... Pretty much everything he directed except Long Kiss Goodnight. The Long Kiss Goodnight is the bomb. And was totally Renny Harlin’s idea, I’m sure.
…Crap, I just alienated everyone who didn’t grow up in the 90s, didn’t I. (*walks away, sheepishly dragging spray-painted overalls while Arrested Development plays*)
Here’s what 5 Days of War looks like, in case you were curious. If I ever see a helicopter attack in real life, I’ll probably think, “Hey, hey, hey, slow down there, cowboy. How come no one’s shredding on the guitar?”