When Waterworld came out it was the most expensive film ever made at the time.
It was 1995. The film’s star Kevin Costner would remember it well, but he’d probably rather forget it.
The movie flopped so badly, all these years later Waterworld is still considered one of Hollywood’s biggest cinema follies.
It’s also when Costner’s career went down the toilet, after he had only just been plucked from obscurity in the late 80s for his breakout role in The Untouchables, beforegoing on to star in several blockbusters and winning two Academy Awards in 1991 for Dances With Wolves.
And of course, there was everyone’s favourite romantic classic The Bodyguardwith Whitney Houston in 1992.
Then came Waterworld *shudder*, starring Costner as the Mariner, a man with gills looking for dry land in an ocean-covered dystopian future.
The two hour-and-16 minute movie was completely and utterly destroyed by Hollywood’s top critics, who labelled it an embarrassing, confusing cinematic disaster.
It famously cost $A325 million — the most amount of money that had ever been spent on a movie at the time, and more than double the original budget.
The film only grossed $A122 million in the US but eventually managed to break even with a worldwide total of $A366 million, largely thanks to home entertainment sales.
On top of its financial fail, the production was also plagued by damaging reports in the lead up to the movie’s release, mainly around Costner’s creative clashes with director Kevin Reynolds, who he’d already teamed up with several times before.
Reynolds ended up leaving during post-production and Costner finished editing the film himself.
Afterwards the veteran director made a snide comment about Costner to Entertainment Weekly: “In the future Costner should only appear in pictures he directs himself. That way he can always be working with his favourite actor and favourite director”.
You would think it couldn’t have gotten much worse for the big budget flick. But it did.
Costner’s adorable little child co-star was stung by a jellyfish while filming, a hurricane hit Hawaii and sunk the boat set that had to be rebuilt, and the original composer was fired because Costner didn’t like his music, costing the production company bucketloads of money.
Then there was an incident where Costner almost died during a sequence when the craft he was tied to drifted out to sea. It reportedly took nearly half an hour for rescue crews to reach and untie him.
His stuntman also nearly died during underwater scenes, after coming up too quickly from a dive and suffering from decompression sickness, also known as “the bends” which can be fatal.
And, would you believe, it actually gets even worse.
During filming, reports linked Costner to a stunning – and married – Hawaiian hula dancer. Of course, Costner was also married and had kids.
Only a few days later, his wife of 16 years and the mother of his children, Cindy Costner, announced their “amicable” divorce.
It reportedly followed a year of marital problems but rumours of Costner’s affair with a hula dancer was rumoured to be the nail in the coffin.
To put a big fat ‘Raspberry’ on top of such a trainwreck run, Costner and Reynolds were both nominated for Razzie awards for worst actor and worst director, respectively.
Despite its horrid reputation, Costner, in the occasional rare moment he talks about it, has fiercly defended the film.
He has gone as far as to describe it as “beloved” and “a joy to look back upon”.
“I know that people might think of Waterworld as a low point for me. It wasn’t,” Costner told Hollywood Elsewhere on the film’s 20th anniversary.
“It could have had a better, more obvious outcome. The thing I know is that I never had to stand taller for a movie when most were going the other way.
“The movie with all its imperfections was a joy for me. A joy to look back upon and to have participated in.”
Waterworld continues to be a successful attraction at the Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles, and remains relevant because it’s still being talked about after all these years.
Not sure what this says about human nature but for those who haven’t seen it, you sort of want to now. Right?
Or those who have seen it and lived to tell the tail (sorry), don’t act like you wouldn’t watch this car crash all over again.
Whether you think it’s a misunderstood classic or it’s so bad it’s actually good, Waterworld is available on Foxtel from today (Jan 19) for your viewing pleasure — or displeasure.