Can a movie that made $52 million more than its budget be considered a bomb? In the case of the steampunk spider soirée Wild Wild West, yes. In 1999, Will Smith was just about the coolest person alive. He didn’t complete an EGOT, but Smith was a multi-platinum artist coming off a hit TV show and three of the more widely entertaining blockbusters of the era: Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men In Black, and the underrated Enemy of the State.
Then Wild Wild West happened.
I was 11 years old when Barry Sonnenfeld’s action-comedy-drama-Western-whatever remake of the mostly forgotten CBS show of the same name was released, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Smith was my favorite actor; he could no wrong. But even I knew there was something wrong with Wild Wild West, with its unnecessarily high budget ($170 million!), lame gags, and surprisingly confusing plot. Also, that damn spider. It was a bad movie, and unlike 1999’s other misfire, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which you damn with faint praise by saying “it’s not as terrible as Attack of the Clones,” no one has anything nice to say about Wild Wild West. Especially Will Smith.
While speaking at the Cannes Lions session earlier today, James West (remember the name) himself said, “I had so much success that I started to taste global blood and my focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win and be the biggest movie star, and what happened was there was a lag — around Wild Wild West time — I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it.”
“Smoke and mirrors in marketing and sales is over. People are going to know really quickly and globally whether a product keeps its promises,” Smith continued. “I consider myself a marketer. My career has been strictly being able to sell my products globally, and it’s now in the hand of fans. I have to be in tune with their needs and not trick them into going to see Wild Wild West.”
Instead, we were tricked into seeing The Legend of Bagger Vance, Seven Pounds, and After Earth. At least Wild Wild West had a great theme song.
(Via the Hollywood Reporter)