Pressing Problems

Will “Waterworld’s” bad press hurt its box office? Probably not, most sources suggest. The list of pictures that have been mired in logistical problems, cost overruns and bad press is not difficult to come by. There was “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “The Godfather, Part II,” “Last Action Hero,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “Ishtar” and “Apocalypse Now.”

While some flopped, others did well, and still others were stuck somewhere in the middle.

The finished product is almost always a filmmaker’s best defense. If a movie is good, the public will go. If it’s not, they won’t.

“At the end of the day, all that matters is whether the movie is good,” says Tom Pollock, MCA Motion Picture Group chairman. “Bad press is painful when you’re living through it, but it’s ephemeral. What lasts is the movie.”

Gray Frederickson, co-producer of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” agrees.

“If a movie isn’t really good, it probably is hurt by the press. However, if the movie is great, I don’t think the press hurts it. Look, it hurt ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ but it didn’t seem to hurt ‘Apocalypse.’

“There were a lot of nightmare stories about the movie, and they were all told,” he said. “There was even a parody of it in a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch about Martin Sheen going up the river to get Francis, who had gone crazy up in the jungle making ‘Apocalypse Now.’

“We were wiped out by a typhoon, we had to shut down and go back,” he said. “There were problems, but they were blown out of proportion. I don’t think we had the problems like ‘Waterworld’ has, though those may be blown out of proportion as well.”

“Waterworld” has been written about the world over – from its production difficulties to its estimated 166-day shoot to its nearly $180 million budget to the personal life of its star, Kevin Costner.

“Apocalypse Now” was shot over 150 to 160 days and went $15 million over budget, to $45 million. The project spent two years in post-production before its 1979 release.

“The length of time we shot in the Philippines, the delays, the two years in post all got press,” Frederickson recalled. “The wonderful stories that we on the film knew about were never told.”

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