It’s been a rough month for female action flicks and for women named Davis. First, Geena Davis bailed out of her pirate pic, Mistress of the Seas, and now director Tamra Davis has been booted off her distaff Western, Bad Girls, starring Madeleine Stowe, Drew Barrymore, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Andie MacDowell.
On July 24, Davis — the director of 1993’s rap parody, CB4 — was fired from the project after only nine days of filming and replaced by Jonathan Kaplan (Unlawful Entry). Producers André Morgan and Al Ruddy cited the usual ”creative differences.” There was speculation that Davis was mounting a feminist take on the Wild West while the studio wanted a sexier version of the $43 million-grossing Young Guns. But Davis charges that the producers left her high and dry when the film ran into trouble, and a number of people associated with the production agree that she was ambushed. ”Tamra had nothing to work with,” says Stowe. ”There is no director, given the kind of production she was given, who could have come up with what they wanted.”
When Davis, 31, first jumped into the saddle in February ’93, Bad Girls was a $6 million indie devoid of stars. Then Ruddy and Morgan lassoed a pickup deal with Twentieth Century Fox (the studio declined to comment on the movie), turning Bad Girls into a high-profile project with name actresses.
The budget was upped to $16.5 million — a figure insiders claim was still insufficient for a star-studded Western, something Davis may have realized too late. ”The producers were trying to get a real Western at an unrealistic price,” says a production source.
”This was not [a movie] out of control,” counters Morgan. ”The picture just grew in size and scope and length of schedule. Nothing went wrong.”
But nothing went right either, according to sources, who say that cast and crew didn’t have enough time to prepare. Davis was handed a 75-page script rewrite just days before shooting began, and the actresses got only one day’s worth of weapons training and a minimal amount of rehearsal. Shortly after filming started in Sonora, Calif., on July 15, Davis fell behind schedule. The studio was worried about the low output and was expressing dissatisfaction with some performances.
Davis knew she needed help. ”They weren’t getting what they were expecting,” she says, ”because I wasn’t getting what I was expecting.” She asked the producers to replace the cinematographer and the lighting crew, who weren’t keeping up with the schedule. ”Morgan showed up,” recalls Davis. ”I assumed he came to work out the problems. Instead he fired me.” Says Morgan, ”When you don’t share a common vision, I’m not sure what good it does to change the cinematographer.”
In addition to Kaplan, executive producer Lynda Obst (Sleepless in Seattle) was brought in. The budget is now more than $20 million, and filming is scheduled to resume Aug. 16. Was the plug pulled on Davis so fast because a female director is an easy target, or is the Western just a bad-luck genre for young filmmakers? In June, first-timer Kevin Jarre was replaced on the set of Tombstone, which stars Kurt Russell. Davis, meanwhile, is putting the experience in perspective. ”I feel like the parents of Baby Jessica,” she says. ”You have a child and you nurse her and suddenly she’s taken away. You have to hope (the new parents) take care of her. And put yourself in a position where it can’t happen again.”