Excess Baggage

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    • Directed By: Marco Brambilla
    • Written By: Max D. Adams, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
    • Release Date: August 29, 1997
    • Domestic Distributor: Sony
    • Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Walken, Harry Connick Jr.

Box Office Info:
Budget: N/A Financed by: Sony
Domestic Gross: $14,515,490 Overseas Gross: $2,208,295

excess baggage 1997
Max Adams’ Excess Baggage screenplay won the Austin Heart of Film Festival screenplay contest in 1994 and she sold the spec to Sony.  The dark comedy was rewritten and retooled into toothless fluff as an Alicia Silverstone vehicle.

The very brief window of time that saw Alicia Silverstone’s meteoric rise into super-celebrity began when music video director Marty Callner saw the actress in the trashy thriller The Crush (1993) and then cast her in numerous Aerosmith music videos — which turned her into a MTV star.  Her popularity from the Aerosmith videos led Amy Heckerling to cast her in what would become her signature role in the picture Clueless (1995).  Once Clueless became a hit, Silverstone was plastered all over the media landscape and she became the IT girl of the mid ’90s.

It can not be overstated the amount of heat that was around Silverstone after Clueless.  She was not being primed into a major star, she was basically crowned a major star and became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood with the ability to choose her own projects.  Columbia chairman Mark Canton signed the 18 year old to a huge $10 million deal for two films.  Sony also gave her a three year first-look deal for her production company.  She was quickly attached to Excess Baggage, which she would also produce.  This project was then rushed into production after she was chosen to play Batgirl, in what was expected to be the surefire blockbuster Batman & Robin — as she was contractually required to top-line the Sony production first.  Budget estimates were never reported by Sony or the trades of the day, so disregard that unverified $20M price tag floating around. 

Then in 1996, the media which was so infatuated with the young actress, put her through the grinder with incessant rancor about her weight and then stories began to leak about the production of Excess Baggage being an uncontrollable disaster.  There were reports of vicious shouting matches between Silverstone and director Marco Brambilla and producer David Valdes quit during production when things were veering out of control.  Numerous writers were brought in to salvage this including Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Aaron Sorkin and Mark Haskell Smith.  Brambilla never directed another feature after Excess Baggage, but he saw success doing video art installations.  His only other picture was the big budget Demolition Man (1993).

Along with being excoriated in the press, Silverstone had to suffer the humiliation of Batman & Robin which was released just two months before Excess Baggage.  Sony had set the date initially for August 15, 1997 but pushed the movie back to the sleepy end of summer frame on August 29.  Despite her embarrassing turn as Batgirl, her celebrity status was as overexposed as it had been since ’95 and nothing was indicating that her fanbase had moved on before Excess Baggage opened.

It bowed against Hoodlum and Kull the Conqueror.  She’s So Lovely was booked into moderately wide release that weekend.  Excess Baggage landed terrible reviews and tanked with $5,124,650 ($6,309,583 from the 4-day Labor Day frame) — placing #6 for the weekend led by the holdover G.I. Jane.  It then plummeted 55% to $2,854,180 in its second session.  The box office for Excess Baggage closed with only $14,515,490.  Overseas numbers were a mere $2,208,295.  The worldwide gross was $16.7 million and Sony would see returned about $9.1M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — far below P&A expenses and the unreported budget would be all red ink.

Alicia Silverstone’s second Sony picture never materialized after this bombed and her career quickly fizzled.  She played second banana to Brendan Fraser in Blast from the Past (1999) and after that flopped, she never had another studio picture built around her name.

In December 1997, Sony brokered a huge broadcast rights deal with the ABC network for 13 movies for just over $50 million.  The deal primarily revolved around the hits Air Force One, My Best Friend’s Wedding & The Fifth Element — and Excess Baggage was packaged with 9 other less desirable movies: Buddy, Sunset Park, Mary Reilly, Matilda, Cops and Robbersons, Poetic Justice, Jury Duty, The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo and Immortal Beloved.

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