We don’t like to post a lot of gossip here at MovieVine, but sometimes things are said that absolutely need to be reported. Case in point: Universal’s chief executive Ron Meyer recently spoke at the Savannah Film Festival and pulled a stunt that would make Network‘s Howard Beale proud.
Universal’s been having some trouble over the last few years, making offbeat and weird films that cost a lot of money and never quite connected with audiences. When asked how he felt about these films and how he faced a studio hemorrhaging cash, Meyer said:
“We make a lot of shitty movies and every one of them breaks my heart. We set out to make good ones. 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. 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.”
“[A critical hit is] great when it happens. But we did A Beautiful Mind, and I don’t know that we’d do A Beautiful Mind again. That’s the sad part. 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.”
At one point Meyer was asked about the major flopping of Cowboys and Aliens. He responded with:
“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.”
“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. [a small section of the audience cheered, and Meyer confronted them] 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.”
These quotes are getting a lot of press, and putting aside the fact that he’s wrong about a few of these films’ value*, I think there’s something to be said for Meyer’s complete and utter honesty. He’s earned the right to be so forthcoming of course, being the longest running studio head currently active. The 67 year old admits that “they’re not hiring 67-year-old guys to do this job anymore,” and perhaps he’s close to officially leaving the studio. That explains these quotes that certainly burn down some major bridges in Hollywood, and the honesty, while refreshing, does indeed bum me out.
For a while Universal was gutsy and green-lit cool, interesting movies. The studio took chances and treated their talent well. Critics have dug their work, and most of their films failed at the box office but did well enough on DVD. They gambled, and the return isn’t as big as they’d hoped, but as a fan of Scott Pilgrim and similar Universal pics, I’m disappointed to see Meyer turn on the talent involved behind the scenes rather than quietly push forward or re-calibrate the studio’s efforts. Universal could ave gone the distance, but Meyers seems to have thrown in the towel. Its a real shame.
Quotes via MovieLine
*Babe: Pig In The City is AMAZING.