The 'Troubled Production' and Why It Doesn't Always Mean Guaranteed Failure

World War Z is in trouble. As reported in June, Paramount's adaptation of Max Brooks' novel has seen its release date slip, suffered from rumours of on set strife, spun wildly over budget and had accusations of creative mismanagement thrown at it from numerous quarters, some of them residing inside the production. But is a situation like this inherently a recipe for an awful film? It's tempting for press publications to paint the picture as doomed to fail from the off but is this a fair reading?

The short answer, if you take The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen as your touchstone, is yes.

In an article which must now make painful reading for anyone involved, Entertainment Weekly reported ahead of that movie opening, that Sean Connery had labelled the script 'a bit far-out' but then compared taking the job as his antidote to turning down both The Lord Of The Rings and The Matrix. The studio (Fox) hoped that the film would 'launch a new action franchise and [we have] signed most of the cast for at least one potential sequel'.

What happened has now become an infamous disaster, heralded even above some of Hollywood's older disaster stories.

Talking after the fact, Connery's more famous quote about the film is in relation to the director, Stephen Norrington, who 'on the first day I realised was insane'. The production seemed to go downhill from there. As documented on Box Office Prophets, Connery and Norrington eventually came very close to blows, locations were changed at the last minute, the budget spiralled, the source of the final edit was called in to question and the director failed to attend much of his agreed press commitments. The film was, basically, a disaster. Norrington has failed to direct a single movie since.

And yet, there's a silver lining from even a disaster as complete as The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. On a budget of $78million it turned in a worldwide gross of $179million. Not mega money in Hollywood terms but hey, that's a tidy profit from a film universally agreed to be awful. It points to what it is possible to snatch even from the jaws of disharmony and strife.

The easiest example to draw on to further prove this point is Apocalypse Now, a famously troubled production, which is credited with inducing, variably; madness, a heart attack and several tropical diseases. The film currently sits at thirty-five on IMDb's Top 250 and, eventually, including re-releases, made $83million domestically, more than twice its budget.

Perhaps less well known but of more contemporary relevance is the on-set trouble during Three Kings, an under-rated classic, which again did decent business ($107million worldwide) and was generally well received. All this despite on-set trouble between star George Clooney and director David O. Russell.

The final product of World War Z will undoubtedly be displayed for all to see at some point and, at that time, it can be assigned a box; overcame the odds, troubled classic, artistic failure, box office failure, disaster.

If you're looking to pre-assign it though, here's a tip. The film's budget currently stands at $170million. Brad Pitt's last three mainstream blockbuster-type films (Inglourious Basterds, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Ocean's Thirteen) took worldwide grosses of $321 million, $333million and $311million respectively. I wouldn't be too keen to write World War Z off completely just yet, despite how good a read a 'Troubled Production' story might be.


  1. What an interesting article. I didn't know about the troubled production of this League movie, but I was unlucky to watch it and it was terrible. However, I really feel sorry for the director, whoever he is, because it's so hard to revive your career after a fiasco like this one.

    I hope that World War Z will do good, both in box office and critics' reviews, since I'm looking forward to the film. I haven't read the novel, but I like the idea.

    1. I like the idea of WWZ too and yeah, I hope it turns out OK. If it delays any longer then I might try and get hold of the book before it appears in cinemas.

      LXG is one of the only films I have ever turned off midway through. I went back and watched it again years later but yeah, I think it's up there with the worst films ever made. I shocks me that its IMDb rating is as high as 5.6.

  2. Really enjoyed the book was unsure how they were going to make this a successful film. Sounds like they went ahead without thinking it through fully and are now just trying to sort their mess out. I for one really hope it turns out well. Brad Pitt Vs zombies? What's not to like?

    1. Agree completely, lots to like in there but it does sound like a lot of the problems are down to simple bad planning. I'm not sure if its been test screened or not yet. When you have the end being re-written that's often the case but not heard anything about there being 'negative buzz' around any tests.