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Brian Grazer suspected 'Cowboys & Aliens' would be a dud

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Zade Rosenthal

Despite an impressive list of names both in front of and behind the camera —including starring roles for “James Bond” and “Indiana Jones”—Cowboys & Aliens flopped critically and commercially when it opened in 2011. But even one of its producers was confused about why exactly the film was being made.

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival as reported by The Atlantic, producer Brian Grazer detailed the incredulous reaction he had to the expensive sci-fi western hybrid that starred Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and Harrison Ford. “I don’t like cowboys or aliens,” Grazer joked about his initial decision to board the project. “But there were a lot of superstars involved with it — Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, the director of Iron Man, Jon Favreau.”

He recalled an early meeting about the film, however, and his puzzlement over just the name itself. “I said, ‘We aren’t really calling it [Cowboys & Aliens], are we,'” he said. “[The others said] ‘Yeah, of course we are!’ I was going, I don’t get this at all.”

Grazer’s hesitations proved right in the end — the film ended its run with a little over $100 million domestically, which, while not a small cume, came in well below many of the other films the talent involved had previously worked on. 

Grazer continued on a little more broadly to discuss his process for choosing projects, especially ones he may not think will turn out great in the end.

“There are so many decision you make, and you’re trying to do excellence. We know what excellence is,” he said. “We know what better food is versus not good food. But there’s a rationalizing process — that’s good enough. Anytime the light bulb goes, that’s good enough, it’s s—ty!”

Read the rest of The Atlantic‘s report to hear Grazer discuss other projects, including his work in TV with Arrested Development.

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