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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

finally! someone apologizes for ‘Battlefield Earth’!

J.D. Shapiro, one of the screenwriters of Battlefield Earth, has apologized for his crime: he was only looking to get laid.

It wasn’t as I intended — promise. No one sets out to make a train wreck. Actually, comparing it to a train wreck isn’t really fair to train wrecks, because people actually want to watch those.

It started, as so many of my choices do, with my Willy Wonker.

It was 1994, and I had read an article in Premiere magazine saying that the Celebrity Center, the Scientology epicenter in Los Angeles, was a great place to meet women.

I’m not sure what this says about Shapiro — does he seriously think so little of himself that he imagines that the only women who will sleep with him are the ones who honestly believe that 10-billion-year-old aliens living inside them are what’s keeping them from fame and fortune and happiness?

The behind-the-scenes tidbits Shapiro offers are priceless:

A few days after I finished the script, a very excited Travolta called, told me he “loved it,” and wanted to have dinner. At dinner, John said again how much he loved the script and called it “The ‘Schindler’s List’ of sci-fi.”

Read that again: The Schindler’s List of sci fi.

But maybe it was:

My script was very, VERY different than what ended up on the screen. My screenplay was darker, grittier and had a very compelling story with rich characters. What my screenplay didn’t have was slow motion at every turn, Dutch tilts, campy dialogue, aliens in KISS boots, and everyone wearing Bob Marley wigs.

Shapiro goes on to explain that he refused to incorporate all the changes Travolta’s people wanted, and was ultimately fired from the project.

So it seems as if we actually haven’t gotten an apology from those truly responsible for this debacle.

Still, Shapiro knows how to own a disaster:

Now, looking back at the movie with fresh eyes, I can’t help but be strangely proud of it. Because out of all the sucky movies, mine is the suckiest.

This has been your OMG Thought for the Day.



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  • Kenny

    Good for him! :D

  • Paul

    That they believe there are 10 billion year old aliens living in us is actually the least of what worries me about them.

    I do sometimes wonder how a bad movie gets made and no one notices that it’s bad until it’s too late. Maybe the movie production method is too fragmented. Almost everyone is so concentrated on their own little piece that no one really sees that it doesn’t hang together.

  • Kenny

    Paul, I actually wondered about that today. I think you are right. Movies are probably highly compartmentalised to avoid details being leaked by low ranking members of the production team… Battlefield Earth might be a good example… with decent editing, it might have emerged as a hilariously campy sci fi romp, and maybe a lot of people involved lower down thought that that was actually what they were doing?
    In saying that, by the time they actually start shooting it, it’s already too late for major changes. They have budget and a schedule, and they have to do their best to stick to both. I’ve heard actors say they knew the movie was going to tank, but that due to contractual obligations they obviously had to see out the production, and in some cases take part in promotion.

  • Lisa

    yeah I agree. I think it’s so hard to get a movie up and running, that when it actually starts to shoot, and it’s going badly, it’s hard to change it mid -stream.

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