Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops
Watching a terribly overhyped movie go up in flames can be better than watching the fiery car chases in it, and Fiasco allows film enthusiasts to savor every bad script decision, every poor casting choice, and every astonishing cost overrun behind the greatest big-screen misfires in the annals of post-studio system Hollywood.
The history of the American film is rife with major failures and financial disappointments. But true screen disasters as grand and historic as a Popeye, an Ishtar, or a Cutthroat Island are rare. It took the astounding combined talents of superstars like Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Arthur Penn, Robert Duvall, and Lillian Hellman to make a movie as stupefy-ingly awful as 1966's The Chase. As Parish explains, it takes a very special combination of forces to create hundred-megaton bombs such as Shanghai Surprise, Last Action Hero, and The Postman—productions with the destructive power to level studios, obliterate careers, and, in some cases, completely transform the way business is done within the industry.
In Fiasco, James Robert Parish brings us behind the scenes of fifteen of the most sensational failures in modern Hollywood history. Beginning with an account of the "Mother of All Megaflops," the 1963 Taylor/Burton escapade Cleopatra, and concluding with the tragicomic story of the 2001 Warren Beatty clinker Town & Country, he regales us with accounts of awesome financial might in the service of blind vanity, towering hubris, titanic egos, and monumentally bad business judgment. And he draws upon his encyclopedic knowledge of the business to chronicle the turning points and industry upheavals—some of them engendered by aprevious era's film fiascos—that helped sire these "Iconic Flops."
How did Robert Evans, in his insatiable ambition to produce a blockbuster on par with The Godfather, allow himself to become embroiled in a financing scheme that resulted in the grisly gangland-style murder of a would-be producer on The Cotton Club? How did bringing married superstars Sean Penn and Madonna into the picture transform what began as a promising, relatively modestly priced project into the galaxy-class money pit, Shanghai Surprise? Why did industry moguls allow Kevin Costner's outrageous ego to run disastrously amok twice in two years, first on Waterworld and then The Postman? What role did Scientology play in the making of the ill-starred Battlefield Earth? With his trademark wit and Hollywood insider's nose for the deep dish, Parish provides answers to these and other questions. And in the process, he helps answer the question on the lips of generations of movie buffs: "How in the world did that picture ever get made?"
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Meet the Author: James Robert Parish
James Robert Parish is a former entertainment reporter and publicist and the author of numerous books on Hollywood, including The Hollywood Book of Breakups and It's Good to Be the King.