Our series of 90s movie flops continues with the failed Westerns of the era:
Table of contents
1. Quigley Down Under (1990)
John Hill wrote Quigley Down Under in 1974 and it was optioned in 1979 by producer Mort Engelberg as a vehicle for Steve McQueen, but McQueen died the following year.
The Quigley rights were then picked up by CBS Films, but the project never came together. In the mid-80s, Warner Bros acquired the rights and attached Tom Selleck, but budget disputes led to WB dropping the option after 3 years.
Despite the script floating around for nearly 15 years, just two weeks after WB let the option expire – Quigley Down Under landed in a bidding war between Pathe, Disney, and oddly enough, Warner Bros. Pathe won the project for $250,000 and WB was tapped to handle domestic distribution. The budget was $20 million.
Quigley Down Under was first scheduled by WB to open during the summer of 1990, but when Pathe purchased the struggling studio MGM, they opted to use the lion to distribute Quigley.
The change in distributors pushed the release back to October 19, which was just 3 weeks before the public was gearing up for the far more hyped western Dances With Wolves.
Quigley landed mixed reviews and flopped with $21,413,105.
Pathe/MGM would see returned about $11 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross – which would cover P&A costs only and none of the budget.
2. Bad Girls (1994)
Director Tamra Davis (Billy Madison, Half Baked) began development on Bad Girls as a $6 million indie, but the project was eventually picked up by FOX and was retooled as a larger budget western at $16.5 million.
The project was so poorly produced that the actresses were given 1 day of weapons training, barely any rehearsal time and the producers handed Davis a 75-page rewrite of the script just days before filming.
The director was at the helm of a very disorganized and chaotic shoot and 9 days into production she was fired and replaced by Jonathan Kaplan.
All of the footage was scrapped and the production started over with an increased budget at just over $20 million.
Bad Girls was savaged by critics but FOX expected women to carry the picture to respectable box office numbers.
Women wisely avoided this stinker and young males showed up opening weekend instead. The film quickly bombed out of theaters with $15,240,435.
3. City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994)
After the box office smash City Slickers (1991) pulled in $124 million in the US, Billy Crystal was given the freedom to make what he wanted at Castle Rock. He wrote and directed Mr. Saturday Night (1992) which was not well received and bombed.
In need of a hit, he decided to mount a sequel to his profitable western comedy, and the dreadful City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold went into development.
Billy Crystal had complete control over the production, including final cut, and hired a director that would have to work under Crystal, who was making all of the creative decisions.
That director was Paul Weiland, who had only one feature credit to his name – the Bill Cosby movie Leonard Part 6, which is one of the worst pieces of garbage ever produced.
City Slickers II had a budget in the mid $40 million range and was dismissed by critics as a soulless cash-in.
Along with terrible reviews, City Slickers II opened into a market saturated with broad comedies: the western comedy Maverick, The Flintstones, Renaissance Man, The Cowboy Way, and Beverly Hills Cop III.
It fizzled out of theaters with $43,622,150. Crystal followed City Slickers II with a series of flops: Forget Paris (1995), Fathers’ Day (1997), and My Giant (1998), before landing a hit with Analyze This (1999).
4. Wyatt Earp (1994)
Kevin Costner was attached to the Wyatt Earp role in Tombstone (1993), but he departed that project when the original director wanted to keep the movie more ensemble-based and Costner wanted more focus on Earp.
Costner quickly paired with Lawrence Kasdan to produce their own Wyatt Earp film at WB, intentionally trying to derail the Tombstone production – but Tombstone survived the competing Costner movie and a very troubled production, to become a modest hit. Wyatt Earp ended as a complete box office disaster.
The script was first written as a 4 1/2 hour TV miniseries that was in development, but Kasdan reworked the screenplay. Kasdan and Costner were also deciding on producing Wyatt Earp as either a two-part movie or one long epic. The movie was released as a 3 hour 11 min standalone film.
Costner had a stellar run at the box office since his 1990 western Dances with Wolves and followed that with the hits Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, JFK, and The Bodyguard.
The returns on the Clint Eastwood directed and acclaimed A Perfect World were disappointing, but commercial expectations were high for the expensive $60 million Wyatt Earp.
If the running time was not enough of a deterrent to audiences, the poor reviews were and the VHS street date for Tombstone was June 22, just a few days before Earp opened in theaters.
The film tanked with $25,052,000 and was one of the biggest flops of the year.
5. The Quick and the Dead (1995)
After Basic Instinct (1992) turned Sharon Stone into a bankable A-lister, she attached herself to The Quick and the Dead in mid ‘93.
She would have her first producing credit on the project and Stone had the clout to hire low-budget splatter filmmaker Sam Raimi to direct his first big-budget studio picture.
She also pushed to have Russell Crowe cast in a lead role, which became his first American movie. He would also be on screens later in ‘95 in the flop Virtuosity.
The Quick and the Dead was expected to open in fall ‘94, but Tri-Star moved it after too many westerns were already scheduled that year: Bad Girls, City Slickers II, Maverick, and Wyatt Earp.
Also, executives were worried about Stone’s box office reliability, who had starred in the profitable but godawful movie Sliver and then the flop Intersection.
They were also hoping that the late 1994 release of The Specialist with her and Stallone would be a huge hit that would bring back considerable heat around the actress. The Specialist did mediocre business in the states and solid business overseas, but the movie was widely dismissed as a turkey and did little to help her career.
The Quick and the Dead was pushed to February 10, 1995, and landed mixed reviews. Audiences gave it a terrible C+ Cinemascore and it left theaters with only $18,636,537.
6. Wild Bill (1995)
Director Walter Hill became attached to Wild Bill in late 1993, as Tombstone was about to be released and studios had a slew of westerns in production (most of which were already named earlier).
Fresh with an infusion of capital from the French bank Credit Lyonnais, the financially distressed MGM/UA greenlit Wild Bill as their big-budget Western entry.
Hill made a $30 million arty western that the studio put little effort into marketing and gave Wild Bill a scaled-back release in 775 theaters.
Reviews were mixed to poor, audiences gave it a C cinemascore and Wild Bill bombed with just $2,193,982.