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Film / What Just Happened

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What Just Happened is a 2008 satirical comedy-drama film directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis and Michael Wincott.

Ben (De Niro) is a Hollywood film producer whose latest feature, a grungy thriller titled Fiercely that stars Sean Penn (playing himself) and is directed by a drug-addled Jeremy Brunell (Wincott), looks slated to become a critical and financial disaster, mainly on account of the fact that the dog in it dies. Ben's woes are further aggravated by the fact that Bruce Willis (also playing himself), who is appearing in his next feature, refuses to shave his beard and the fact that his wife is sleeping with screenwriter Scott Solomon, a friend of his. After much strife, Ben finally succeeds in convincing Jeremy to cut out the dog getting shot and in getting Willis to shave his beard. But come the film's premiere at Cannes, will everything go right?


This film provides examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Fiercely manages to become a moderate success and Ben just barely manages to cling to his career.
  • Shoot the Dog: Played with in-universe, with Fiercely:
    • Played straight by the initial edit, which depicts Penn's character and his dog both being shot dead by rival gangsters.
    • Averted by the second edit, in which Jeremy and Ben manage to cobble together some outtakes into an alternate ending whereby the dog runs up to Penn after his character's already been shot dead.
    • Turned up to eleven by a third edit that Jeremy secretly does just before Cannes, whereby not only do Penn and the dog get shot dead, the film follows it up with a full minute of their bodies being bloodily shot to pieces.
  • Tagline:
    • "In Hollywood, everybody can hear you scream."
    • "If it happened in any other movie you wouldn't believe it!"
    • "Qui a dit que le cinéma était une grande famille?note "
    • Advertisement:
    • "Admit nothing."