Ron Meyer is a straight shooter. The president and COO of Universal Studios told an audience yesterday at the Savannah Film Festival that “we make a lot of sh—y movies,” according to Movieline. “Every one of them breaks my heart.” Two of the sh—iest? Babe 2 and The Wolfman. Other recent disappointments? Cowboys & Aliens (“All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it”) and Land of the Lost (“Just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong”).
When it turned out that one of Wolfman‘s producers, Savannah resident Stratton Leopold, was in attendance, the two commiserated:
Meyer: “It’s one of those movies, the moment I saw it I thought, ‘What have we all done here?’ That movie was crappy.”
Leopold: “I said the same thing before the reshoot. I said, ‘Why are we spending all of this? Let’s shoot two scenes to create some sympathy for the [hero] and that’s it,’ but… ”
Meyer: “We all went wrong. It was one of those things… like I said, we make a lot of bad movies. That’s one we should have smelled out a long time ago. It was wrong. The script never got right… ”
Leopold: “The cast –”
Meyer: “– was awful. The director was wrong. Benicio [Del Toro] stunk. It all stunk.”
Director Joe Johnston (Captain America) and Del Toro were not in attendance, obviously, and neither’s representative responded to a request for comment. But in his defense, Meyer only verbalized what many people who saw Wolfman and these other films already knew. And he’s proud of Universal’s better movies. “We did United 93, which is one of the movies I’m most proud of,” he said. “It wasn’t a big moneymaker, but it’s a film I believe every American should see and it showed you what people can do in the worst of times and how great the human spirit is and all that, so there are moments that can make up for all the junk that you make.”
But he admits that films like United 93 are the exception — and an increasingly vanishing one at that. “[A critical hit is] great when it happens. But we did A Beautiful Mind, and I don’t know that we’d do A Beautiful Mind again. That’s the sad part. 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 is the truth, sadly — since A Beautiful Mind won four Oscars, only six other Universal films, many of them shared projects with other studios, have been nominated for Best Picture — and that also might be how you remain in charge for 17 years, as Meyer has. And yes, Universal is planning a straight-to-video sequel to The Wolfman.