It takes a lot of time and effort for any filmmaker to simply get their foot in the door in Hollywood, let alone get to make movies. So imagine how much time and effort must go into getting to the point of making a great movie that will be admired for the ages and make millions at the box office.
Now imagine if you had all that, after years of hard work, and have that glory disappear almost overnight when your next film did not do so well. This could happen for a number of reasons, but it is usually because the follow up film simply wasn’t that good or incredibly unlucky at the box office. There is no certainty in Hollywood, no matter how many awards a filmmaker may have won.
The following filmmakers have faced this dilemma of being Hollywood’s next big thing, only for that to become a sense of false hope and snatched away from them.
1. Gus Van Sant
Hit movie: Good Will Hunting
Although Gus Van Sant had received acclaim for his previous independent films, Good Will Hunting was one of his few films to achieve both critical and commercial success.
It grossed $225 million upon its $10 million budget, and made the film’s writers and actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck stars who both won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for this film. Good Will Hunting allowed Van Sant to choose any project he desired.
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Psycho is one of the most famous movies ever made, so when Van Sant decided to do a shot for shot remake of it, this was always going to be a risky choice, which ultimately did not work in his favour.
Psycho was met with universal criticism, as many felt the remake was pointless as it tells the exact same story as the original with little deviation. The film merely broke even at the box office.
2. Martin Scorsese
Hit movie: Raging Bull
Scorsese begin to make a name for himself with hits throughout the 1970s, such as Taxi Driver and Mean Streets, and started off the 1980s with his acclaimed boxing drama Raging Bull. His previous film New York, New York was not a success, but Raging Bull knocked out anyone’s doubt in his future in cinema.
While it was a modest success commercially, it was a critical darling from the start. The film not only won Robert De Niro a Best Actor Oscar, but was also gave Scorsese his first Best Director and Best Picture nominations and is often listed as one of the best films ever made.
Flop: The King Of Comedy
Martin Scorsese is another director many movie buffs would never associate with the word “flop”, but even he has faced disappointment at the box office. Although New York, New York was his first flop, The King of Comedy‘s status as a commercial failure seems to be more well-known.
This film was a dark comedy about a wannabe comedian who stalks and kidnaps his comedic idol in order to achieve fame. Although The King Of Comedy is an excellent movie, it simply did not do well at the box office, making $2 million of its $19 million budget back. The movie has since gained a following.
3. Guy Ritchie
Hit movie: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch
Guy Ritchie entered the public eye with his hugely successful gangster film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The first film was made for £960,000, but made a whopping $28.1 million, putting Ritchie and British gangster films on the map.
This was followed up with another successful crime film, Snatch, which had a more Hollywood influence on it, as it starred Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Benicio del Toro alongside British actors.
Flop: Swept Away
Known for his tough gangster films, making a romantic comedy like Swept Away was always going to be a huge departure from his previous work. It was also a departure in terms of quality. The film was universally hated upon release.
The production of Swept Away was troubled in part to the constant tabloid reports about Ritchie’s marriage to Madonna, who was the film’s lead actress. For this reason, many people have dismissed the film as a vanity project for Ritchie’s pop star wife to show off her acting chops, which ended up being ridiculed. Ritchie returned to the gangster genre in the aftermath of Swept Away.
4. Roman Polanski
Hit movie: Tess
Although Tess was definitely not Polanski’s first hit movie, it was certainly one that got noticed by the Academy.
Winning three of the six Oscars it got nominated for, it tells the story of the titular peasant girl who is raped and impregnated and has to the deal with the burden of this in Victoria era England. It was a grand looking film that critics adored.
If the 1970s was the peak of Polanski’s career, then the 1980s was the beginning of his downfall, starting with Pirates. This was another period piece, but of the swashbuckling adventure kind that was released in 1986, seven years after Tess hit the screens. Unfortunately, Pirates washed up on the shore rather than the top of the box office.
It only made $1.64 million at the box office from a $40 million budget. Some may speculate that the failure of Pirates was a result of problems in Polanski’s personal life, mainly with the child molestation charges against him preventing him from ever going back to the United States. However, Polanski made hit movies after Pirates, which is especially fortunate given his exile from Hollywood.
5. Barry Sonnenfeld
Hit movie: Men In Black
Director Barry Sonnenfeld had success in the 1990s with his Addams Family movies and Get Shorty, but it was the action/science fiction/comedy blockbuster Men In Black that really made his career.
Along with Bad Boys and Independence Day, Men In Black also made Will Smith the big movie star he is today. The film made $589 million from a $90 million budget, and the film was given two sequels and an animated TV series.
Flop: Wild Wild West
Making another wild action/comedy special effects movie starring Will Smith would sound like a guaranteed hit for any filmmaker. Sonnenfeld was given an even bigger budget of $170 million to work with than he had with Men In Black, meaning the sky was the limit (which the film tried to reach with the giant mechanical spider).
Wild Wild West received mostly negative reviews for being over the top and unfunny, and did not make much of a profit. In fact, the film had to do expensive reshoots to make the film funnier, something that ultimately did not make any difference in the film’s final outcome.
Will Smith turned down the lead role in The Matrix to star in Wild Wild West, with Smith later commenting that it was the worst decision of his career. Sonnenfeld returned to safe territory with Men In Black II.
6. Andrew Stanton
Hit movie: Finding Nemo; WALL-E
Two of the Pixar’s biggest hits, Finding Nemo and WALL-E, were directed by Andrew Stanton. Both films were made for and more than earned hundreds of millions of dollars, so Pixar thought they were in good hands with Stanton.
Particularly as WALL-E is a science fiction film, it was assumed that Stanton had the magic touch when it came to the genre, greenlighting his next film.
Flop: John Carter
John Carter is a sci-fi/adventure epic set on Mars; that description in itself is an indicator of what an expensive movie it was. Perhaps the title, merely being a man’s name, was not grand or engaging enough to get people into cinemas.
While the film got mixed reviews from critics, it was still a massive commercial failure. It had a $350 million budget, but only made $284 million, nowhere near the amount of money Walt Disney Pictures needed to break even, let alone make a profit. Perhaps this is a sign that Stanton should stick to animated films.
7. M. Night Shyamalan
Hits: The Sixth Sense, Signs
No one could have predicted that The Sixth Sense was going to be such a success. It is one of the films to start the trend of having a twist ending that was popular in the 2000s.
Shyamalan’s follow up Unbreakable, while a fantastic movie, undersold at the box office, but gained a cult following. His third film, Signs, brought Shyamalan back into the spotlight and made millions at the box office.
Flops: The Village, Lady In The Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth
Despite his winning streak, Shyamalan did not have the sixth sense to predict that his following films would be disasters, both commercially and critically. Everything started to go downhill with The Village, a supernatural thriller that simply was not engaging, not to mention a predictable twist ending that Shyamalan was known for by this point in his career.
His later films The Lady In The Water and The Happening were just plain silly, and his sci-fi “epics” The Last Airbender and After Earth were both boring and forgettable.