Proof Of Life

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  • Directed By: Taylor Hackford
  • Written By: Tony Gilroy, William Prochnau
  • Release Date: December 8, 2000
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse

Box Office Info:
Budget: $65 million (estimated) Financed by: Castle Rock; Bel-Air Entertainment
Domestic Box Office: $32,598,931 Overseas Box Office: $30,162,074

The budget for Proof Of Life was an estimated $65 million and some reports of the troubled shoot peg the budget closer to $80 million.  It was co-financed by the Warner Bros housed Castle Rock and Bel-Air Entertainment.   Bel-Air was formed in March 1998 as a 5-year equity partnership between Warner Bros and the French conglomerate Canal Plus and WB retained worldwide rights for the films, except for France, Spain and Germany, which went to Canal.

The production of Proof Of Life was tabloid fodder, with an on set relationship between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe that led to her divorce with Dennis Quaid.  There were also reports of altitude sickness from shooting in the mountains, an actor’s stand-in was killed when a truck he was in accidentally veered off the side of a mountain, landslides, uncooperative weather and so on.  As the film was being prepped for release on December 8, as a possible awards contender, the Warner Bros marketing department was trying to sell the picture by barely mentioning the love angle — since the real life drama between the actors was eclipsing interest in the movie.  After the movie tanked, director Taylor Hackford told reporters that the actors’ affair hurt the picture: “It had an indelible and very destructive effect on the release of the film in the US, because the real life story overpowered the film.”  When Russell Crowe was told of Hackford’s complaint, he responded, “He said that?  He’s a f-cking idiot. No seriously – what a knob.”

Proof Of Life opened seven months after Gladiator catapulted Crowe to the A-list and whether or not the real life soapy romance hurt the box office, mixed to poor reviews certainly did not help.  The film opened against Vertical Limit and the wretched Dungeons & Dragons movie.  Proof Of Life tanked with $10,207,869 — placing #3 for the weekend led by How The Grinch Stole Christmas in its fourth frame.  It declined 47.3% the following session to $5,382,656 and sank 54.9% in its third weekend to $2,428,859.  The domestic run closed with a very disappointing $32,598,931.

Proof Of Life fared as poorly overseas and pulled in just $30.1 million.  The worldwide cume was $62.7 million and Warner Bros would see returned about $34.4 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would not even cover global P&A costs or any of the budget.

In 2002, Warner Bros closed Castle Rock’s physical production departments and the company would no longer have any of its own public relations and 16 of Castle Rock’s 46 employees were fired and the rest absorbed into Warner Bros.  Factoring into Castle Rock’s reduced operations, were the box office losers Proof Of Life, Murder By Numbers, Hearts In Atlantis, The Majestic and also at this time Warner Bros was prepared to finally release Castle Rock’s long delayed and expensive disaster The Adventures Of Pluto Nash.

After a string of box office disappointments from Bel-Air: “Pay It Forward,” “Sweet November,” “Proof of Life,Ready To Rumble and Rock Star, Canal Plus was going to pull out of the arrangement in 2002 and Bel-air had no films in their pipeline — except the delayed Collateral Damage waiting for a release and the perpetually shelved Chain Of Fools, which was dumped straight to video in 2005.

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