Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter‘s Alex Ben Block quoted Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer as saying that some of his recent remarks about “shitty” movies were taken out of context in a Jen Yamato Movieline piece from the Savannah Film Festival. Yamato’s article ran on 11.3.11.
Benicio del Toro in The Wolfman
“I was quoted as saying Hollywood make[s] shitty movies,” Meyer told ABB. “What I said is we make some good movies and some shitty movies. [But] nobody ever sets out to make a shitty movie.”
I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. Studio guys decide to make shitty movies all the time if they believe that this or that shitty movie will make money. Even if a studio chief wants to only make quality films no matter what, he/she knows that there’s only so much talent out there, and that Sturgeon’s Law is more or less true — i.e., “90% of everything is crap.”
Actually that isn’t entirely correct, movie-wise. About 5% to 10% of films each year are excellent-to-very-good. The next 15% tend to be seen as okay, fairly good, half-decent, passable. The next 20% are not-so-hot, disappointing and/or tolerable but irritating. The bottom 50% or 55% are outright garbage.
All studio chiefs know that their job requires them to make money for the studio, and that means punching out a lot of Jimmy Dean link sausage and insipid CG Comiccon slop and whatever else might make a buck. Millions of people have no taste in movies. Look at all the dough being made by The Hunger Games, a mediocrity if there ever was one.
“We make a lot of shitty movies,” Meyer said in Savannah. “Every one of them breaks my heart. We set out to make good ones. One of the worst movies we ever made was The Wolfman. Wolfman and Babe 2 are two of the shittiest movies we put out, but by the same token we made movies we believe in. We did United 93, which is one of the movies I’m most proud of. It wasn’t a big moneymaker, but it’s a film I believe every American should see and it showed you what people can do in the worst of times and how great the human spirit is and all that, so there are moments that can make up for all the junk that you make.”
Yamato asked Meyer “what happened with well-publicized financial disappointments Scott Pilgrim, Land of the Lost, and Cowboys & Aliens?”
“Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t good enough,” Meyer answered. “Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn’t good enough. All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it.”
“Land of the Lost was just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong.”
“Scott Pilgrim, I think, was actually kind of a good movie. [Addressing a small section of the audience, cheering.] But none of you guys went! And you didn’t tell your friends to go! But, you know, it happens.”
“Cowboys & Aliens didn’t deserve better. Land of the Lost didn’t deserve better. Scott Pilgrim did deserve better, but it just didn’t capture enough of the imaginations of people, and it was one of those things where it didn’t cost a lot so it wasn’t a big loss. Cowboys & Aliens was a big loss, and Land of the Lost was a huge loss. We misfired. We were wrong. We did it badly, and I think we’re all guilty of it. I have to take first responsibility because I’m part of it, but we all did a mediocre job and we paid the price for it. It happens. They’re talented people. Certainly you couldn’t have more talented people involved in Cowboys & Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens.”