Waterworld starring Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper was once a notorious Hollywood flop that has since gained a cult following since it’s release 25 years ago.
In a future where Earth is covered with water, the human race struggles to survive on dilapidated boats and makeshift floating cities called atolls. But some still cling to legends of a mythical place called “Dryland.” Seeking clues to its whereabouts, the evil Deacon (Dennis Hopper) attacks the atoll which houses young Enola (Tina Majorino) and her adoptive mother Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn). When a mysterious drifter/adventurer known as the Mariner (Costner) is caught up in their struggle, he finds himself catapulted into an explosive war of good vs. evil with the open sea as his battlefield. Only later will he discover Enola’s wondrous secret – a revelation that may change the destiny of all mankind.
“There isn’t really anything notable about Waterworld to suggest it truly deserves such a low reputation, other than the fact it was the most expensive film of all time and an appalling box-office bomb.” Ben Child, The Guardian July 2020
Due to his experience on Jaws Steven Spielberg was asked by Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds for filming advice. The only piece he gave was don’t shoot on open water. The advice wasn’t heeded and Waterworld was filmed just off Hawaii, with the majority of the film being shot on the open sea. Prior to filming, the crew underwent a traditional Hawaiian ceremony to ask for blessing from the gods. “We thought it would be a good omen,” said one crew member. The gods took as much notice as Reynolds took of Spielberg. Sets were destroyed by hurricanes. Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino and Kevin Costner all nearly died at various points whilst filming. Costner’s stunt double was washed out to sea and several extras nearly drowned.
The film quickly went over it’s $66 million initial budget. The cost of Costner’s hotel room and payment of $2.7 million on penalties to unions when food breaks came late didn’t help. There was gossip that Costner’s marriage broke up due to an on-set fling with a Hawaiian hula dancer as well as reports of him having a dust-up with director Reynolds.
The final budget made Waterworld the most expensive film ever made at the time. It did finally make a profit due to video and other post-cinema sales reaching a worldwide total of $264 million and The Waterworld show at the Universal Studios theme parks remains a big attraction today.
But out of all the bad press the film received, the one bit of reporting which riled Costner was that he had demanded special effects to digitally hide his receding hairline. “it’s just bullshit” he said.
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