The Stepford Wives

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  • Directed By: Frank Oz
  • Written By: Paul Rudnick
  • Release Date: June 11, 2004
  • Domestic Distributor: Paramount
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken

Box Office Info:
Budget: $120 million Financed by: Paramount; DreamWorks
Domestic Gross: $59,484,742 Overseas Gross: $42,516,884

“I f-cked up.”
Director Frank Oz

This disaster of a production was a nightmare shoot that ended with everyone involved, from the actors to the producers, regretting involvement with The Stepford Wives.  Director Frank Oz ran a miserable set, who was at odds with most of the cast and all of the on set fighting and constant rewrites, pushed filming two months overschedule and massively over budget.  Paramount kept throwing money at this problem picture and sent this mess back for numerous reshoots after many test screenings posted awful scores.  Reshoots were being commissioned up until one month before the release date and what was supposed to be a subversive dark satire, was test screened to death and rendered a toothless comedy.

At an investor conference, Viacom Inc. co-President Tom Freston said: “Instead of spending $120 million on ‘The Stepford Wives,’ we could have made three pictures targeted at a younger audience that could be a lot more profitable.”  The expensive remake was majority backed by Paramount, which then brought on DreamWorks to co-finance and mitigate some of their risk.

Paramount dated The Stepford Wives for June 11, 2004 and despite all of the troubles and post production tinkering, a fantastic theatrical trailer was cut.  It bowed against The Chronicles of Riddick and Garfield: The Movie.  Even after poor reviews and gossip that made its way into the mainstream media about the production being a trainwreck, The Stepford Wives came in with a better than expected $21,406,781 — placing #5 for the weekend led by the holdover Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Audiences gave the film a poor C+ cinemascore and it sank quickly at the box office.  The Stepford Wives saw a 59.1% second weekend nosedive to $8,762,198 killing its chances at breaking out.  The domestic run closed with $59,484,742 — which would have been a respectable enough number for a movie like this, if the budget didn’t skyrocket to impossible to recoup levels.

The Stepford Wives pulled in mediocre numbers overseas, stalling at $42,516,884.  The worldwide cume was $102 million, which would return about $56 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would not even cover global P&A costs.  After ancillary sales, The Stepford Wives lost at least $80 million.

The Stepford Wives was one of three high profile 2004 remakes at Paramount which all flopped — the other two were The Manchurian Candidate and Alfie.  Paramount was also in a three year slump and the 2004 slate of pictures were mostly bombs and on November 2 studio head Sherry Lansing announced she would soon exit her post after 12 years on the job.  Producer Scott Rudin saw three Paramount titles do poor box office in 2004: The Manchurian Candidate, The Stepford Wives and Team America: World Police.

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  1. “I fucked up… I played it safe. For the first time, I didn’t follow my instincts. And what happened was, I had too much money, and I was too responsible and concerned for Paramount. I was too concerned for the producers. And I didn’t follow my instincts, which I hold as sacred usually. I love being subversive and dangerous, and I wasn’t. I was safe, and as a result my decisions were all over the place, and it was my fault totally.” – Frank Oz on The Stepford Wives.

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