There’s a very interesting interview with Renny Harlin on KCRW where he uses anecdotes from the mid-90s concerning Cutthroat Island as a way to market his new film, 5 Days of War (starring Rupert Friend, Val Kilmer, Heather Graham, and Andy Garcia). It’s a mildly defensive but mostly humble reflection from the director of the time when his career was at its peak and suddenly kneecapped by a true-blue Hollywood disaster.
If you remember earlier in the year, we ran a list about films that were cockblocked by other films, and one of the early entries focused on the failure of Cutthroat Island and how that affected Mistress of the Seas. You can read that here, and keep it in mind as you listen to Harlin speak. There’s also a lot of inside baseball and blame punting on the demise of Carolco, the seemingly hit-making company that quickly crashed and burned after successes like Total Recall and Rambo. Harlin claims the company was bankrupt well before he got started on Cutthroat Island, and that it was already-contributed foreign investor money that kept the project moving and forced his hand to be involved. The studio definitely filed for bankruptcy after Cutthroat Island, but it’s certainly true that the company could have had its finances well into the toilet before filing, and before Harlin directed one of the biggest flops of all time. A flop he claims to have begged to escape…
I’ll tell you another detail that people don’t know about. Originally, Michael Douglas was supposed to star in Cutthroat Island. And he walked away. At that point I was left there with my then-wife, Geena Davis and myself, and a company that was already belly-up. We begged to be let go. We begged that we didn’t have to make this movie. And I don’t think I’ve ever said this in any other interview. We begged that we not be put in this position.
There’s still some pride and anger kicking around in Harlin’s head, but he seems to have mostly moved on nearly 20 years later. Ultimately that should be the path as any director can be in charge of a movie that ends up being a flop, they just usually don’t have that much money and studio ego behind them.
You can listen to the interview below, and know that the juicy stuff starts about 19 minutes in. Thanks to /Film for catching this.
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