Earlier in the month, Movieline got a major exec to spill his real feelings about a few of his studio’s recent flops. What he said was not only surprisingly honest, but somewhat brutal to the filmmakers and actors who made those movies, and perhaps shocking for film fans to hear.
Ronald Meyer has been the president of Universal Studios since 1995. If you thought that his job and the purpose of his studio was to make good movies… well, you’re wrong. “It’s great to win awards and make films that you’re proud of and make money, but your first obligation is to make money and then worry about being proud of what you do… That’s the sad part.”
This shouldn’t come as news to anyone, but it seems odd for the head of a major studio to make such a blatant confession. It’s interesting to hear him deem this as “sad.” Even as the head of the studio, he still doesn’t have any power to change things for the better by trying to make consistent quality films. With this bleak talk coming from the top of the ladder, it’s clear that the Hollywood studio system will never change. Money will always win out over quality. Until now, I was under the misconception that studios strove to make good movies (even if that doesn’t always work out) that would receive critical acclaim and accolades. It turns out that those things are simply viewed as an added bonus on the rare occasions that they happen.
“We make a lot of shitty movies… Every one of them breaks my heart,” Meyer says. He then went into a film-specific bashing session that makes me wonder if he’ll be around for much longer. “One of the worst movies we ever made was Wolfman… The script never got right… [the cast] was awful. The director was wrong. Benicio stunk. It all stunk…”
About recent dud ‘Cowboys & Aliens‘, Meyer says that the film… “wasn’t good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn’t good enough. All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it.”
He’s even more blunt about ‘Land of the Lost‘: “[It] was just crap… I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong.”
While we all probably agree with his thoughts, it’s still strange to hear the man ultimately responsible for the work trashing it like this. But amidst his negative confessional, Meyer talks about one flop that he believes simply failed due to the public’s close-mindedness. “Scott Pilgrim, I think, was actually kind of a good movie. [Addressing a small section of the audience, cheering.] But none of you guys went! And you didn’t tell your friends to go! But, you know, it happens.”
In closing, Meyer gives the closest thing to an apology: “Cowboys & Aliens didn’t deserve better. Land of the Lost didn’t deserve better. Scott Pilgrim did deserve better, but it just didn’t capture enough of the imaginations of people, and it was one of those things where it didn’t cost a lot so it wasn’t a big loss. Cowboys & Aliens was a big loss, and Land of the Lost was a huge loss. We misfired. We were wrong. We did it badly, and I think we’re all guilty of it.
President Meyer, if you should get fired for these statements, I want to thank you for going ‘Jerry Maguire‘ all over Hollywood and laying it out like it is. While this may not change a thing, at least you weren’t afraid to speak your mind and show some integrity. May success follow you into the indie movie market!
You can read the rest of the interview at Movieline.