In the 1980s, Hollywood director Robert Zemeckis was a nobody; though he felt that he possessed talent in making hit movies, the early films he produced were flops. Not only that, but he was a very demanding and uncompromising person, known for screaming and yelling at his crew.
No one wanted to work with him, and the movie he was pitching next to Hollywood executives about time travel was repeatedly turned down and discarded.
Hollywood had not gained trust in Zemeckis, who was approached by Michael Douglas to produce a romantic film, which performed so badly at early screenings, that one big-wig in the audience told his own studio to fire Zemeckis from another film he was working on with them at the time. Fortunately for Zemeckis, Michael Douglas did bring him luck.
The movie turned out to be a hit; audiences loved it and, as a result, Zemeckis did get the green light to produce the time travel movie he was passionate about. You may have heard of it – Back to the Future. With a budget of $19M, the film grossed $390M in box office sales alone and birthed a whole series of movies.
After that, even with Zemeckis’ talent on display, he still received very little credit for it within Hollywood. When he read a story about a low-IQ child who ends up living a miracle-type existence, though, he knew there was something there.
Because Kevin Costner was the hottest name around at the time, he landed a role originally reserved for a comedy actor named Tom Hanks, who wanted to transition to dramas and, therefore, Hanks became available. When he read the script about the boy, who despite having a low IQ lives a life of adventure, he believed in it so much that he sunk his own money into it, lowered his salary and negotiated performance-based compensation derived from future proceeds, as did Zemeckis. Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis jointly thought this script could be turned into a blockbuster.
The film, Forrest Gump, became the highest-grossing movie in 1994 and won several Oscar awards.
The studio boss hated it during production, kept trying to cut its budget and thought Hanks’ voice was corny and would aggravate crowds, whom she thought were fed-up with this niche, after the success of The Rain Man (Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman) several years back.
She was wrong, big-time. At that period, Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount, was a hotshot and, as you can see, her instincts were misguided, while Hanks’ and Zemeckis’, as well as the film’s executive producer, who fought tooth and nail for it, were dead-on and the rest is history.
People on the ground will always have different opinions than those sitting at headquarters.
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They devote more time to studying the nuances and understanding the forces at work and they devise plans of how to make things work. Heads of studios are beholden to shareholders, who count on them to succeed in a business, where flops cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Likewise, getting into Afghanistan was a big decision, one that a president would make, with an enormous amount of consequences and pulling out of there was a major decision as well, just announced by Joe Biden.
We’re not going to all agree on whether or not it was wise and we may need to wait years, perhaps decades, to fully understand its results; some say that 2,500 American soldiers were able to keep the country in order, while the retreat is now costing 7,500 additional troops to deploy and execute the rescue. Others say that there is never a perfect time to leave a vacuum, but that it’s not America’s problem in the first place; the truth is that it’s complex.
Forrest Gump‘s script lay dormant for years, before the studio ever deemed it worthy. The author of the original book was taken off the project, since the script is nowhere near the original book; the two are very different. The movie could have been done years prior, but no one picked up the glove.
What the U.S. originally wanted to achieve in the Middle East and what actually transpired are two starkly contrasting outcomes. The immediate result, though, is undeniable; war in the Middle East is back on.
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