Candor is a rare commodity among powerful people in Hollywood — always has been, always presumably will be. But then there’s this fascinating Movieline report from the Savannah Film Festival, where special guest Ron Meyer (President and COO of Universal Pictures) dropped this little truth bomb: “We make a lot of shitty movies. Every one of them breaks my heart.”
“We set out to make good ones,” Meyer continued. “One of the worst movies we ever made was 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… It’s great to win awards and make films that you’re proud of and make money, but your first obligation is to make money and then worry about being proud of what you do.”
Meyer also took the opportunity to offer up appraisals of some of the studio’s bigger financial belly-flops. He is refreshingly not full of crap!
Cowboys & Aliens: “Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t good enough. 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… 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.”
Land of the Lost: “Land of the Lost was just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong… 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.”
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: “Scott Pilgrim, I think, was actually kind of a good movie.” However, he hastened to add (in response to an audible cheer from part of the audience), “But none of you guys went! And you didn’t tell your friends to go! But, you know, it happens.”
The aforementioned Wolfman: “The script never got right… the director was wrong. Benicio stunk. It all stunk.”
Reading these comments, blunt and honest and pretty much spot-on with regards to the qualities and defects of his own product, makes you wonder if the Savannah Film Festival panel was Meyer’s version of the truth-telling manifesto in Jerry Maguire. Chances are, however, that the studio head’s comments won’t end up having the career-ending ramifications of Tom Cruise’s sports agent; Meyer has been in charge of Universal for 16 years, making him the longest-serving studio head of his generation. That kind of time buys you the power to take some shots.