Trivia / Ishtar

  • Actor Allusion: Chuck's somewhat jealous comments about Simon & Garfunkel are funnier since they're being delivered by the star of The Graduate.
  • Big Name Fan: Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright admitted that they liked the film, while Martin Scorsese named it as one of his favourite movies of all time. Really.
  • Box Office Bomb: Famously so. Its budget was $55 million, it only scraped up $14,375,181.
  • Creator Killer: The failure of Ishtar killed Elaine May's directing career, though she's still done well as a writer for such films as The Birdcage and Primary Colors, both directed by her former comedy partner Mike Nichols.
  • The Danza: Carol Kane as Carol.
  • Development Hell / Keep Circulating the Tapes: The closing credits mention a soundtrack album on Capitol Records, but it never got released, except for two songs issued as a 45 rpm single. This website has mp3's of most of the songs.
  • Dueling Movies: With Spies Like Us.
  • Dueling-Stars Movie
  • Executive Meddling: The production costs are substantially higher than they should have been, due to this. In addition to the location costs, Beatty and May had a conflict during the shoot over the way May was directing the film, and Columbia executive Fay Vincent insisted that each scene be shot twice according to how both saw each scene.
  • Fake Nationality: Obviously not applicable since Ishtar isn't a real country, but Isabelle Adjani (Shirra) and Aharon Ipalé (The Emir) both had North African connections despite being citizens of other countries. Adjani is French but her father was Algerian, while Ipalé was Israeli but actually born in Morocco.
  • Playing Against Type: Dustin Hoffman is known for playing nerdy outcasts, and Beatty is known for playing good looking womanizers. Here, Warren Beatty plays a shy dope who's terrible with women, and Hoffman plays the womanizing character. Many fans of the movie see this as an intentional joke, and part of the film's humor style, but May claims that it wasn't a joke, and that the actors are not playing against type because Beatty really is from the South and Hoffman really is from New York.
  • She Also Did: Besides directing and writing, Elaine May also penned lyrics for several of the songs.
  • Troubled Production:Where to begin?
    • They decided to shoot the desert scenes in Morocco instead of the Southwest United States because the studio had money in banks there it couldn't repatriate. Filming began in the midst of unrest across the Middle East, adding security costs to the movie (some locations actually had to be checked for land mines). And no one in Morocco had experience supporting a big-budget studio production, so logistics got really screwy.
    • The lore from this one is great. There was the production assistant who went looking for a blue-eyed camel in the market. Not realizing how rare they were, and that he should have just bought it right then and there, he went looking for another one so he'd have a price to bargain with the first guy. By the time he figured that out, the first guy had eaten the camel. Then, of course, there was the time that director Elaine May supposedly suddenly changed her mind about wanting dunes in a scene. So the production had to spend $75,000 and ten days having a square mile of desert bulldozed flat.
    • May was sick with toothaches most of the time, and spent a lot of time arguing with Warren Beatty, her producer and star. She got pissed at him for constantly taking the side of Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in disputes, and didn't get along much with Isabelle Adjani, the female lead, who also happened to be Beatty's girlfriend at the time. Dustin Hoffman says there were periods when Beatty and May wouldn't talk to each other. Some of the crew said that any other director would have been fired for pulling the attitude she pulled on him. Eventually they compromised by shooting every scene twice, one her way and one his. "This was the kind of film where nobody would say 'Sorry, we can't afford that,'" said the guy in charge of the budget.
    • May liked to shoot lots of film. She supposedly demanded 50 retakes of a scene where some vultures landed next to Beatty and Hoffman. Ultimately she shot 108 hours of raw footage.
    • When they returned from Morocco to shoot scenes in New York, under union rules, an American cinematographer and crew had to sit around on paid standby for Storaro and his crew. During postproduction, May and Beatty fought frequently in the editing room, and May often left it to Beatty to direct the actors during looping sessions. The joke was (and some people say it was not a joke) that Bert Fields, their mutual agent, was the one with the real final cut on the film. And editing took so long (release was planned for Christmas 1986, but the film only hit theaters 6 months later), that May only turned in a print of the film when the studio threatened legal action.
  • Working Title: Blind Camel
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Trivia/Ishtar