Supernova

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  • Directed By: Walter Hill (uncredited)
  • Written By: William Malone, Daniel Chuba, David C. Wilson
  • Release Date: January 14, 2000
  • Domestic Distributor: MGM
  • Cast: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robin Tunney, Lou Diamond Phillips

Box Office Info:
Budget: $70 millionFinanced by: MGM
Domestic Box Office: $14,230,455Overseas Box Office: $597,626


Supernova had a very tortuous road to the big screen.  Originally designed as a low budget sci-fi schlocker in 1990, the project was retooled over the years and morphed into a big budget production.  The project was based at the very troubled MGM run by chairman Frank Mancuso and in November 1997 Australian director Geoffrey Wright was signed onto the project, but he left over ‘creative differences’ in February 1998.  Walter Hill took over directing duties in March and filming began about one month later.

Once Hill commissioned a cut, reshoots were necessary, but MGM insisted that Hill test the cut to an audience to see what worked and what didn’t.  Since the vfx heavy film had practically no effects work done yet, Hill refused to screen the movie, but the studio went ahead anyway and the test scores were disastrous.  Hill then walked away from the movie and demanded his name be removed.

Director Jack Sholder was hired for reshoots and overseeing a new cut.  Sholder had helmed the cult favorite The Hidden (1987), but his career was in the crapper by the time he was hired to salvage this mess.  Sholder’s cut tested better than Hill’s edit and then there was a shakeup in management at MGM and UA and Sholder was then removed from the project.  Frank Mancuso was ousted and replaced by Alex Yemenidjian in April 1999.

After looking at the films that were in post production or completed, the new management that took over the studio took a $140 million write-down on the movies they deemed awful and had no chance at commercial success.  One of those pictures was Stigmata (1999), which actually ended up being one of MGM’s few profitable movies.  MGM tried to partner with another studio to release it, but only Paramount was interested in buying the foreign rights, but Paramount refused when MGM insisted they also invest as co-financier into the troubled Supernova — which MGM had already written off completely.

Enter Francis Ford Coppola.  As part of the new MGM’s United Artists board, Francis Ford Coppola decided he would attempt to fix the problem picture Supernova.  This brought speculation that Walter Hill would keep his name attached if he approved Coppola’s cut.  However, Coppola’s new additions to Supernova were mostly nonsensical, including taking a scene with a naked Robin Tunney (who is white) and digitally making her black to make audiences think it was Angela Bassett.  Additional time and money was wasted with Coppola tinkering around with this stinker and also trimming it from a R rating to a PG-13.   The estimated final budget on Supernova was $70 million.

Walter Hill did not approve this new edit of Supernova and petitioned to the DGA to have his name removed.  The DGA had recently retired the pseudonym Alan Smithee and the director credit was awarded to the pseudonym Thomas Lee.

MGM finally unloaded Supernova on January 14, 2000.  It bowed against Next Friday and the nationwide expansions of The Hurricane and Girl, Interrupted.  MGM did not screen the movie for critics and when reviews eventually posted, they were terrible.  Supernova was booked into 2,280 theaters and bombed with $5,778,639 — placing #8 for the frame led by Next Friday.  Audiences hated the movie and gave it a D cinemascore and it sank 63% the following weekend to $2,496,598.  The domestic run quickly closed with $14,230,455.

Supernova was dumped overseas and the recorded gross was just $597,626.

3 Comments

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  1. “….taking a scene with a naked Robin Tunney (who is white) and digitally making her black to make audiences think it was Angela Bassett.”

    That might be one of the strangest sentences I’ve ever read.

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