The Horror of Selling Out
Harry Knowles talks about the films that could have been
By Richard Whittaker,
2:48PM, Tue. Jan. 22, 2008
Ever wonder why legendary film makers sometimes become hacks? Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News has a theory. "The reason that people like John Carpenter and John Landis aren't making the movies we want is that producers have no memory."[image-1]
The world's most famous film geek shared this with the audience at this weekend's Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. Landis had once told him his career never recovered from one bad choice. After Coming To America was a huge commercial success, he wanted to make something more like his breakthrough An American Werewolf in London. Red Night was a dream project, a Las Vegas-set horror about celebrity vampires feeding on the gamblers and wannabes. He had real stars of the strip, like a young Siegfried and Roy, and an aging Frank Sinatra, signed up to play bloodsucking versions of themselves. Instead, he took $25 million to direct Beverly Hills Cop III, and soon learned an important lesson he shared with Knowles. "Once they realize that you'll do something for money, they'll never let you do what you want again."
This explains how John Carpenter went from making a $50 million movie starring Jason Statham and Courtney Love called Ghosts of Mars to making a $16 million movie starring Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge called Ghosts of Mars.
The difference? When Knowles asked Carpenter, he had wanted Statham (who had great buzz from his turn in Guy Ritchie's Snatch) as lead character Desolation Williams. Prior to The Transporter, his martial arts prowess was basically unknown, and Carpenter saw an action hero. Love, on the other hand, was coming straight from Milos Forman's Man on the Moon.
Instead, he was stuck with a slashed budget, a model-turned-actress for his female lead, and a lead male that, as he explained, "couldn't say Earth."