Doug Ellin is busy bringing Entourage to theaters, but he hadn’t directed a feature film in 17 years. His last film, 1998’s Kissing a Fool, starring David Schwimmer and Jason Lee, wasn’t the hit he hoped it would be. In some ways, he’s still not over it.
In an interview with GQ, Ellin let the f-bombs fly as he remembered Roger Ebert’s scathing review: a one-star rating that, Ellin claimed, nearly ruined his career.
“F—in’ Roger Ebert is like, ‘Doug Ellin needs to go to screenwriting school,'” Ellin said. “And I’m like, I worked my f—in’ ass off. It wasn’t like it was Schindler’s List. I made it the best I can, and I sold it to Universal, and my producers f—in’ love me. They hired me to take this movie and make sure it f—in’ got seen. And I did that. And then, from then on, it was this snowball of hell. I probably made a million dollars the year before Kissing A Fool comes out, and the year after it, zero. Nothing. I wanted to kill Ebert.”
Ebert didn’t exactly tell Ellin to go to screenwriting school. In the review, he criticized the “pea-brained” characters and ridiculous plot. “I wonder: Do they know anyone that dumb in their own lives, or do they just think the rest of us are clueless?” Ebert wrote.
The section Ellin likely remembers, though, comes at the end, when Ebert concludes:
If James Frey and director Doug Ellin, who wrote this screenplay, didn’t have an outline from a script workshop tacked to the wall in front of them, then they deserve an Oscar for discovering, all by themselves, a basic story formula that was old, tired and moronic long before they were born.
Still, Ebert wasn’t the only critic who hated the film. EW’s Lisa Schwartzbaum, after calling it “a coarse, tedious, unfunny, utterly disposable romantic comedy,” gave it a D-.