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A Lesson in Humility

Elektra‘s Screenwriter Wants You To Know That He Hates It As Much As You Do. Probably More.

Stu Zicherman is on the interview circuit for his new movie A.C.O.D., and in a recent interview Badass Digest took the opportunity to ask about his experience writing the 2005 flop and all-around awful movie Elektra. Because apparently they like rubbing salt into wounds over at Badass Digest.

Said Zicherman:

Elektra is one of the reasons I got into television. I spent a year writing the movie, and it was supposed to be this gigantic movie, and then they decide they’re not going to make an $80 million movie, they’re going to make a $30 million movie, they bring in a director we didn’t know, you get fired, someone else comes in and rewrites the entire movie, but you still get credit because you wrote the first draft. Then you go to the premiere in Las Vegas, and 30 seconds into the movie you’re like, ‘Oh, [expletive].’”

I’m not sure if I entirely buy his complete lack of culpability for Elektra‘s awfulness, and I have to admit my indie film-loving self twitched a little bit at the “It was supposed to be $80 million but they cut it down to $30!” excuse. Oh, the movie only had $30 million? Poor baby. Attack the Block was a sci-fi movie made on $13 million, and it was awesome because it started with an awesome story. And $13 million is still a ton of money! Studio films, pah. Get off my lawn!

Ahem. Indie-fueled curmudgeonlyness aside, them ditching his story (which may have, indeed, been awesome) and replacing it with a garbled mess while still keeping his name attached sucks, especially given how personal a project it was for him. I’d pat him on the back if he were sitting next to me.

Also probably in need of a retroactive Elektra-related sympathy hug: star Jennifer Garner. Says Zicherman:

“I literally, to this day, am still so embarrassed by that movie. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I know Jennifer Garner is too. She hired us to write the movie, which was pitched as something much more smart and sophisticated … it’s a blemish. “

Yyyyyep. “Blemish.” That about describes it.

(via: blastr)

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  • Kathryn

    Jennifer Garner was a miscast in Daredevil anyway. She really didn’t look badass or anything. In fact, she looked rather gormless.

    But yeah, Elektra wasn’t exactly brilliant. It wasn’t Dungeons & Dragons levels of bad, but it could have been better.

  • Anonymous

    I think what he meant by “it was supposed to be $80 million and it ended up being $30 million” is that he wrote a script for an $80 million movie and the studio tried to do the same film (or a silmilar one) for $50 million cheaper. $30 million is a lot of money but it’s very little when you expected to have 80.
    Btw, I agree with Kathryn about Jennifer Garner. Sometimes you need a girl next door type of actress, sometimes you need a cold badass type.

  • TheBoost

    The sort of film you can make for $80 million is very different than you can make for $30 million.

  • Anonymous

    The cold badass type is an older Elektra: the younger more gormless one would be a younger Angelina Jolie… The present day Angelina Jolie would have made a fantastic Elektra, btw… See Wanted for further info…

  • Kathryn

    R.E. The budget, that’s exactly how I interpreted it. Yes, it’s easy to go “boo hoo you only had $30m instead of the $80m because this film did it on less” – I mean Monsters had a budget of, what, $100k? And that was AMAZING. But that wasn’t a big cast film, it didn’t need to pay millions in actor wages *alone*, it didn’t have a special effects house behind it.

    But Zicherman wasn’t writing a budget indie flick, nor even a moderate budget film. If he’d been told to write a script for an $80m film and they dropped the budget, of course it’s going to affect the film. To us it’s an obscene amount of money, I mean ridiculously obscene, but for those producing the film? $80m to $30m is over HALF of your budget cut, and that will of course affect the quality of the film.

    And, quite clearly, it did.

  • iamuhura

    Disagree re: Jennifer Garner. If you saw her in Alias (esp S1-3), you could see she had totally had the chops to pull off Elektra*. Imagine her chagrin when the film tanked, and the vision of parlaying her tv spy character into action films became a crap covered death spiral. There was no place else to go for her but “girl next door” roles.

    *to be fair, I didn’t know anything about the character of Elektra going in. On the other hand, while that movie was terrrrrrrribad, it still made me want to learn more about Elektra. And at the end of the day, I’d watch Elektra again before Daredevil.

  • Anonymous

    What bugs me is that Elektra and Catwoman killed the Black Widow film that was in the works at the time and were used as the justification for not doing any female-led superhero flicks period.

    That’d be like saying nobody is ever allowed to do a male action film again because of Battleship.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t seen Alias so I’m unable to relate to your example. When I say “cold badass” though, I don’t mean whether or not she can pull off the action scenes (I saw her in The Kingdom and she was pretty good), I mean “cold” as in “hard to trust”. What’s particular about Elektra is that she often crosses the line into vilainy so you need an actress that could as easily play a vilain as a hero, even if she never becomes a vilain in the films. Garner, for better or worse, just has a face you trust.

  • Anonymous

    I always thought Catherine Zeta-Jones would’ve been perfect for the part but that’s probably part of my list of dream cast – like Jennifer Connelly as Wonder Woman – where the window has closed by now.

  • Tamara Brooks

    They neutered Elektra, saddled her with a schmoopy kid sidekick, and shot/edited the action sequences so terribly, you might as well have not hired actors who could fight (both Garner and main baddie Will Yun Lee are great at action sequences and most if not all of the henchmen have fight experience too). It truly was a travashamockery. I feel bad for everyone who signed up based on the first draft.

  • Pete Pfau

    Hell, Moon was made on $5 million. Total.

  • Addie/Annie D

    To be fair, I actually enjoyed the film. It wasn’t cheesy like most of the other Marvel movies were at the time.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly this. The fact Garner hasn’t made an action film after this makes “Elektra” that much more offensive. She’s incredibly physical. Not many actresses are capable of pulling off physical roles. She can. I hope JJ gets her into Star Wars Ep 7. We’re due for a strong female lead in those flicks. Jen Garner would make an excellent Jedi.

  • Jerilyn Nighy

    Watch that documentary “Tales from the Script” on Netflix. The original screenwriter[s] very often take the blame for a string of rewrites with diminishing returns.

  • Ryan Colson

    Elektra would have been better if the Matt Murdock scene was included. Not tons, but better.

  • Seanna Tucker

    Thank you. As a screenwriter, I can only say so much.

    Not to mention, even after your original script is rewritten by a new screenwriter, the director and the producers can still cut pieces out or add in whatever they want, with or without your say-so. This is why a lot of writers wind up going into TV, since they have the opportunity to have producers credits.

  • Matt Graham

    Late to the party, but well said, Seanna.