All-Star Cast: In a weird way, this may have actually contributed to the film's failure. The characters in the novel are almost uniformly self-serving, amoral, and unsympathetic. The filmmakers chose to cast actors like Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, and Bruce Willis, whom audiences then found some of the most likable actors in Hollywood.
Exemplified in Siskel & Ebert's review of the film:
Roger Ebert: You know, one of the- in a movie that is filled with so many disappointments, the biggest disappointment for me was the Bruce Willis character.
Gene Siskel: Absolutely!
Roger Ebert: They really- they really missed a chance here. I mean, why do they get so tied up with the notion that they have to fill up a movie with stars that they don't look at a book and see who this drunken, British, freeloading, little guy was? And why not get somebody who can play that fascinating character instead of having a big lump of-of dead space there, taking up so much screen time?
Creator Killer: Brian De Palma's career never fully recovered from the film's failure; his best-regarded effort since is Carlito's Way while his most commercially-regarded effort after is Mission: Impossible.
Executive Meddling: Way too much with the film adaptation, as The Devil's Candy recounts. Excessive amounts of Doing It for the Art caused trouble too; the shot of Maria's plane arriving in New York City warrants a whole chapter's worth of recounting for how much trouble the second-unit crew took to get it exactly right.
Old Shame: Morgan Freeman considers this film the one major nightmare of his career.