This month, Battlefield Earth, an absolute bomb of a movie based on the novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, won the Golden Raspberry Award, or Razzie, for “Worst Movie of the Decade.” J.D. Shapiro, the film’s (first) screenwriter, who also wrote the screenplay for Robin Hood: Men in Tights, has subsequently written an open letter via The New York Post to apologise. His article opens:
Let me start by apologizing to anyone who went to see “Battlefield Earth.”
Clearly anything as heavily reliant on Scientology mythos and involvement is bound to start stinking up the place pretty quickly, but Shapiro is quick to point out that his original screenplay was very different to the movie that eventually got made.
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.
However, I have the utmost respect for the guy’s reasoning:
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.
Trying to get laid eventually led Shapiro to an offer to write a movie and lunch with John Travolta. Anything that starts with you trying to get laid and leads to John Travolta should automatically set off every warning bell you’ve ever had, but there you go.
It’s a long and very amusing story – follow the link above to read the whole thing, it’s well worth it – but a few key lines really stand out for me. There’s this:
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.”
After a couple of rounds of changes to Shapiro’s original screenplay he was expecting everything to be wrapped up when:
I got another batch of notes. I thought it was a joke. They changed the entire tone. I knew these notes would kill the movie. The notes wanted me to lose key scenes, add ridiculous scenes, take out some of the key characters. I asked Mike where they came from. He said, “From us.” But when I pressed him, he said, “From John’s camp, but we agree with them.”
I refused to incorporate the notes into the script and was fired.
Shapiro kept his name on the movie to get paid, and no one can blame him for that. And he is also pretty philosophical about it:
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.
I like this Shapiro guy.
(Thanks to Chris for putting me onto this story!)