Trivia / Heaven's Gate

The film:

  • Box Office Bomb: As exorbitant as the price tag was, this wasn't actually the all-time most expensive film at the time of its release, as is commonly reported (Superman: The Movie and Star Trek The Motion Picture both had budgets just shy of $50m, and Cleopatra was nearly twice as expensive if you adjust for inflation). Unfortunately, it didn't make even a tenth of its budget back, making it inarguably the biggest box-office bomb that Hollywood had seen up to that point.
  • Control Freak/The Perfectionist/Prima Donna Director: Cimino. Stories were thrown around about him tearing down a model city because it didn't meet his specifics, refusing to shoot a scene until a cloud he liked rolled into frame and shooting over 1,000,000 feet of film. And those stories are considered scratching the surface.
  • Creator Killer: Killed Cimino's reputation and contributed to the collapse of United Artists.
  • The Danza: Jeff Bridges as John L. Bridges. Before filming Jeff learned that his great-grandfather John Bridges had been on the frontier around the same time the film was set, so he convinced Cimino to change the character's name.
  • Doing It for the Art: One of the few examples that just wasn't worth it.
  • Drugs Are Expensive: The use of cocaine was so prevalent among cast and crew that the film became nicknamed 'The Great Montana Snow Storm' in the film press. At least one critic attributes a significant part of the cost of the film to the sheer expense of the rampant drug abuse:
    "People wonder how a movie like Heaven's Gate could cost forty million dollars. I'll tell you. Twenty million for the actual film, and another twenty million, you can bet, for all that cocaine for the cast and crew."
  • Executive Meddling: The only successful instance was the studio brass forcing Cimino to trim the film from its initial runtime of just over five hours to around three hours, forty-five minutes for its one-week run in New York. When that engagement failed, Cimino askef for the film to be withdrawn and recut, and the resultant cut that played theaters in 1981 ran about two-and-a-half-hours, and somehow managed to be far worse. (Today, the most frequently screened version is the three hour-plus cut.) All other attempts to enforce this trope were either considered, but later dropped, or rebuffed by Michael Cimino.
    • The studio brass did consider sacking Cimino and replace him with Norman Jewison (or even David Lean, as hinted in the book Final Cut). However, Jewison wanted nothing to do with the film, so that never happened.
  • Follow Up Failure: Keep in mind that Cimino had just won two Oscars out of the five for The Deer Hunter.
  • Genre-Killer: For the New Hollywood era. Studios were already feeling the effects of giving carte blanche to any reasonably good filmmaker, regardless of how much they might have gone over budget or schedule. This film was the perfect storm of everything wrong with the era, and studios have since held a much tighten grip over creators out of fear that it may happen again.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: This was the film debut of Willem Dafoe.
    • Jack McCoy is leading the farmers into war.
    • Wormtongue supports Averill in their attempt to drive the mercenaries back.
    • Ivan Vanko is the inexperienced friend of Gabriel. This also is the 2nd movie Mickey Rourke stared in.
    • Winston Smith supervises the mercenaries despite him disagreeing with the plan to kill 125 civilians.
    • Kris Kristofferson is the college friend of John Hurt and orchestrates the final - and much more successful - attack the civilians launch at the mercenaries.
    • The Dude is the best friend of the local sheriff.
    • Although only a minor role, this was the debut for Jake Slicker as well.
    • The bearded member of the Stock Growers Association who calls the immigrants a "degraded gang of paupers" is played by rockabilly/country singer Ronnie Hawkins, whose former backing band went on to some success.
  • Protection from Editors
  • Troubled Production: Originally budgeted at $11 million or so, events occurred that shot its budget up to around $35 million (although some claim it could be as high as $44 million!) Adjusting for inflation, that's over $100 million. For example, after an entire set of a town's main street was built to his exact specifications, Cimino decided that the street looked too narrow. He ordered the buildings on each side torn down and rebuilt three feet back from where they were, even after one crew member pointed out that it would be easier and cheaper to just tear one side down and rebuild it six feet back. The cost of this decision alone? $550,000 and a massive toxic slick on a lake in Glacier National Park. You know that something's wrong when, after six days of filming, the project's five days behind schedule.
    • That said, tensions reportedly weren't high on set at all and a lot of people had good things to say about Cimino, some even commending him for his "artistic" efforts. Part of the problem however was that Cimino had closed sets off from the press. Eventually an undercover reporter wrote an article on how things were going having snuck in, choosing to paint a picture of chaos. Many consider the article a big Take That at Cimino that inevitably harmed the reputation of the film itself.