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Trivia / Revolution (1985)

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  • Box Office Bomb: Produced on a budget of $28 million, and made barely over $1 million worldwide.
  • Creator Killer:
    • Along with the following year's Absolute Beginners, it pretty much destroyed Goldcrest as a force to be reckoned with in film making.
    • Director Hugh Hudson's career was also torpedoed by the failure of the film, having only directed two theatrically released films since then.
  • Deleted Role: Frank Windsor is credited as Gen. George Washington in the end titles but is not seen in the film. Somewhat bizarrely, Hugh Hudson blamed the casting of an English actor as the first American president for the vitriolic reaction the film received from American critics and its subsequent spectacular box-office failure.
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  • Fake American: German Nastassja Kinski as Daisy McConnahay.
  • Fake Brit: American Al Pacino as Scottish-born Tom Dobb and Canadian Donald Sutherland as Sgt. Maj. Peasy.
  • Genre-Killer: The film was so overwhelmingly despised by American audiences that it basically killed any interest in British-produced films — barring James Bond and films that were made in the UK and with British casts, but largely written, produced and/or directed by Americans — for well over a decade. It wasn't until the late-90s twofer of Trainspotting and The Full Monty that American audiences started paying any attention to British cinema again. It nearly even bordered on being an Industry Killer, as investors became scared of putting their money into UK films, which in turn caused Margaret Thatcher to pull the plug on virtually all tax reliefs related to the industry.
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  • Non-Singing Voice: Rather astonishingly, Annie Lennox was dubbed by someone else when her character sings a song near the end of the film.
  • Star-Derailing Role:
    • Al Pacino didn't appear in another movie until 1989 after this film bombed. Instead, he went back to theatre.
    • Annie Lennox has since admitted she found the experience very unpleasant and was put off appearing in more films in future.
  • Troubled Production: This American Revolutionary War movie proved almost as much of a struggle as America's actual war for independence.
    • The story began with Irwin Winkler, a talent agent turned producer, parting ways with erstwhile partner Robert Chartoff and striking out on his own. For his first movie without Chartoff, Winkler decided to make a movie about the American Revolution. Every major studio he approached turned down his pitch, but a Warner Bros. executive advised him to approach either an indie studio or a proven director. Winkler decided he might as well do both.
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    • Enter Hugh Hudson, who at the time was just coming off Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Believing Hudson's directorial style would suit his movie, Winkler went to Britain and arranged a meeting with Hudson. After a dinner with Winkler where they discussed the movie's premise, Hudson agreed to direct the movie. Afterwards, the duo approached Goldcrest Films, who Winkler had heard good things about and who had produced Hudson's movie Chariots of Fire. While Goldcrest seemed like a natural choice at the time, neither could have known at the time that there were complications behind the scenes. The studio's founder, Jake Eberts, had just recently been ousted, and the new bosses were trying to both clear the deck of lingering Eberts loyalists and figure out the company's complicated financial situation. New Chief of Production Sanford "Sandy" Lieberson believed a successful mid-budget picture could accomplish both by making enough money to give the Goldcrest some much-needed financial security and giving his faction enough clout to justify replacing the members of the pro-Eberts faction. Lieberson was also acquainted with both Winkler and Hudson, so when they presented him with what he saw as his opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, he jumped at the chance. Even after some other executives voiced their reservations about committing to the project, Lieberson ignored them and insisted on moving forward with the project. Since Goldcrest had recently taken out a loan with Midland Bank and needed a movie that could make at least five million pounds in profit to both pay it off and keep the lights on, Goldcrest somewhat reluctantly ignored complaints from in-house readers of the preliminary scripts and cut the check — though not without some changes to the story, the most major being the addition of a romantic plotline.
    • Multiple actors were considered for the role of leading man Tom Dobb, but Al Pacino — who at the time was involved with the London theater scene — was eventually cast to play him. Though initially reluctant, Pacino agreed to play the part in exchange for three million dollars and perks like a personal cook and a chauffeur-driven car. While this was expensive by Goldcrest standards, Pacino's star power secured a bump in the money Warner Bros. was willing to pay in exchange for distribution rights. However, this bump was immediately devoured by the production. Feeling more confident after having cast Pacino, Hudson cast Donald Sutherland as Sergeant Major Peasy, the closest thing the movie had to a main antagonist, and Nastassja Kinski as Dobb's Love Interest Daisy.
    • Even after casting was complete, however, there was still a good deal of arguing over the script. The Goldcrest higher-ups still weren't sure if the movie they agreed to make was supposed to be a prestige picture, a mainstream crowd-pleasing blockbuster, an Oscar Bait movie, arthouse fare, some combination of the above, or something else entirely. Warner Bros. distribution executives backed by COO Terry Semel wanted the film to be more of a "relationship" movie where the audience cheered the characters and saw them succeed in spite of it all, considering Hudson's take on the movie too grim and nihilistic. When Goldcrest eventually greenlit the movie without first consulting Warner, Semel felt betrayed and tried to hash things out with Goldcrest's top executives. After feeling stonewalled by the Goldcrest bosses, who he believed were more interested in championing Winkler and Hudson than coming to an agreement with him, Semel attempted a back-channel with Lieberson. Not only did this not have the effects Semel wanted due to Lieberson being effectively "on probation" until the movie's release, he discovered through Lieberson that the company was riddled with factions and the civil wars from Eberts' removal were still being waged, much to his horror. But despite Semel's less-than-positive opinions — not to mention serious creative differences with Goldcrest, Winkler and Hudson — Warner decided to proceed. Goldcrest, meanwhile, engaged in a bit of creative accounting to defer due payments. They secured financing from a Norwegian tax shelter (more on them later) to the tune of $4 million and a further $4.5 million from an US investment firm anxious to get into the movie business.
    • Now the clock began to tick. All Goldcrest films strove to get awards and used them to superheat their box office. Therefore, to make the film eligible for the 1986 awards to get good word of mouth, the film would have to be screened in at least select theaters by Christmas of 1985. Working backwards, given the post-production realities, it meant principal photography had to commence in February 1985 and pre-production had to begin no later than November 1984. Hudson balked, for the script was still being rewritten, but was told in no uncertain terms - get ready come November, or the picture cannot move forward. Hudson moved forward, and locations were prepped. Shooting on actual American Revolutionary locations was held to be impractical and costly, so a substitute for Colonial New York City, Manhattan and Philadelphia had to be found elsewhere, and someone thought they had hit the jackpot by picking King's Lynn, Norfolk as the site for Colonial NYC. Somewhere, someone calculated three million dollars would be saved by going to said town. Ely would double for Philadelphia and Dartmoor would play host to the Battle of Manhattan. In the excitement, costumes were made, wigs were rented and extras hired on location. But no one seemed to have bothered to check the weather.
    • As pre-production began, the weather was already showing signs of being uncooperative. Rain made itself known almost immediately. Upon arrival in the UK, Kinski was harassed by the British paparazzi, who sensed blood in the water over rumors that her marriage was disintegrating. To avoid the Tabloids, Kinski would make frequent flights to Continental Europe when shooting permitted. Despite these complications, things seemed to be looking up for Goldcrest. However, there were already signs of trouble to come. Lieberson announced that he would be exercising his option to relinquish his executive position at Goldcrest, and because he was the one responsible for aligning Goldcrest and Warner, this didn't bode well for any film that required the two to work in tandem to get released... such as Revolution (1985). Meanwhile, ousted Goldcrest founder Jake Eberts secured a deal with Warner for his new production company, Allied Filmmakers, which further strained the relationship between Warner and Goldcrest. And perhaps most serious of all, Goldcrest executives discovered that a miscommunication meant there was a multi-million dollar gap in the budget that would have to be footed by Goldcrest.
    • February 1985 came and went, without a "Revolution" script in good enough shape to proceed per its director, so the start of principal photography was pushed out to March, which meant less time to do post-production. It was allegedly at this point that Hugh Hudson suggested the film be pushed out by three months to give enough time to write up a script which would satisfy all. Goldcrest executives might not have agreed on much, but they all agreed the three-month extension was not feasible. The whole point of the picture was to get it into the theaters by December 1985 to get on the awards calendar, build up critical buzz and then make a big splash at Cannes in May 1986 as the awards were being announced. Furthermore, it was becoming clear "Revolution" was the only one of the trio of bigger- films set to be released by Goldcrest with much fanfare which was anywhere near ready to be filmed, as "Absolute Beginners" was stymied, as "The Mission" was decided to be held off until a release in '86 so as not to have it compete for the same set of awards as "Revolution." Since the financial outlay for both of those films would appear on the annual statements, "Revolution" would have to be released in the calendar year of '85 to make its profits offset the losses incurred in the making of the other two films, or risk making Goldcrest financial statements look worrisome for their creditors.
    • Hudson temporized and asked at least for the right to have a script guru on set to smooth out the script troubles. Lieberson tried to block this request from being carried out, but since he was now a lame duck, he was overruled by the higher-ups. This resulted in yet further changes to the script, which by now only vaguely resembled the movie Winkler and Hudson had pitched to Lieberson.
    • But there was a more immediate problem: Al Pacino and his disagreements with Hugh Hudson. Pacino thought of the movie as a star vehicle for himself and Kinski, while Hudson had always interpreted it as a picture first and foremoest about a historical event, with characters dropping in and out to tell their stories. The working relationship between the two only became more strained when Pacino tried to have a hand in the constant rewrites the script was constantly undergoing. Kinski, too, began to fight with Hudson, and communications between the two eventually broke down completely. Stories circulated around the set that Kinski was becoming an emotional wreck. By this point, filming had fallen so far behind schedule that multiple scenes not originally mean to take place in the rain were shot in the rain to compensate for delays. Moreover, when the weather cleared up, rain was simulated to keep scene continuity. Kinski fell ill, as did many others, and resulting production issues were exacerbated by the fact that Hudson spent the first month of shooting not doing significant scenes. Instead, he focused on crowd shots and small vignettes from the script which involved little to no close-ups and almost no dialogue from his star actors. After a month of filming, Pacino contracted pneumonia and had to take a break from performing.
    • On April 15, a Goldcrest executive appeared on set with freelance accountant Bobby Blues to discuss production troubles, the budget, and how to proceed. Once this discussion was done and the "Blues report" had been completed, Goldcrest higher-ups decided to remove the movie's designated associate producer Chris Burt from the set and replace him with someone capable of keeping Hudson and Winkler on a leash. They also sent Sandy Lieberson to speak with Hudson and Winkler and make sure they'd make the movie the way Goldcrest wanted it.
    • But before the screws could be tightened, it was discovered that Goldcrest didn't actually own the rights to the movie. They should have acquired the rights from Winkler, but he didn't own them either. It was Warner Bros. who owned the rights, due to an earlier in-house deal they'd made with Winkler. This meant that Winkler could've walked off the set at any time, leaving Goldcrest stuck making a picture they did not own and could not release without Warner granting the rights via a person who was no longer on the set. At this time, Eberts was in town negotiating with Goldcrest about using their European distribution channels to release one of his new company's movies, and so he heard about the mess Goldcrest had gotten themselves into. He was approached by his loyalists within Goldcrest about the possibility of staging a counter-coup. While he demurred, word got out, and Goldcrest became even more unstable.
    • Because of these developments, Goldcrest's bosses backpedalled on their decision to replace Chris Burt over Lieberson's objections. Lieberson was further incenced when he discovered that his vaunted re-budget was being ignored by Winkler and Hudson, who continued on as before. Thorougly fed up, Lieberson planned to have Winkler banned from the set until he agreed to play ball, but Winkler caught wind of the move and told Lieberson that if he was kicked off the set, Hudson and Pacino would walk off and take most of the crew with them. Fearing any action taken against Winkler could derail the entire movie, James Lee, leader of the "New Goldcrest Clique", elected not to punish him.
    • And so things went on as before, this time with Winkler and Hudson acting as a united front in making the movie the way they wanted to. Pacino, still not fully recovered, decided to tough things out for the sake of the movie, but refused to socialize with the crew. Meanwhile, Kinski flew off to Italy for a "mental health day", despite being on call at the time. Nobody realized she was missing until she failed to appear for a major setpiece, and her no-show cost the movie half a million dollars. When she did return, Winkler decided not to punish her, fearing she might walk off the set for good.
    • Eventually, James Lee himself went to the set to speak with Winkler, Hudson and Pacino. After many hours of discussion, he extracted a promise in writing that they would stick within the budget and make no further changes to the script. Two days after Lee returned to London, however, it became clear that Winkler and Hudson were ignoring these demands like they'd ignored all the others. By this point, it had become obvious that Winkler and Hudson had hijacked the movie and would do whatever they wanted. In desperation, Lee asked Terry Semel to come back to Britain and reign in the duo. While Semel wasn't concerned about the budget, due to Warner's exposure being minimal, he wanted to make sure the movie would be finished. So he visited the set and tried to persuade Winkler to reign in Hudson, which Winkler refused to do. Returning to London to talk with Goldcrest's executives before flying back home, Semel effectively told them they were on their own. By this point, Lieberson had stopped caring about the movie, and decided to wash his hands of the whole affair by leaving to oversee production on The Mission.
    • With the executives off their backs, Hudson's problems working with Pacino and Kinski became even worse. Hudson constantly argued with Pacino about Dobb's portrayal and characterization, with Pacino trying to effectively impose his own will on Hudson. But even this was preferable to his working relationship with Kinski, as the two were no longer on speaking terms. Not only were Pacino and Kinski refusing to cooperate with Hudson, they were also still suffering bouts of illness that never seemed to sync up. Both actors were also having severe relationship problems. Kinski's marriage was falling apart, and she could be heard crying in her tent on many occasions, while Pacino's relationship with his then-most recent girlfriend had shattered to such a degree that he would become enraged any time her name was spoken in his presence. In contrast, Donald Sutherland was praised for being punctual and easy to work with. But not even Sutherland could smooth things over. Meanwhile, Winkler was continuously flying out of the United Kingdom to concentrate on another project in France he was making concurrently, and also took additional hands-on duties working on Rocky IV, meaning nobody with any authority was on hand to mediate issues Hudson had with Pacino and Kinski.
    • Meanwhile, Midland Bank was breathing down Goldcrest's neck, expressing concern about the movies in production at the time, as well as a poorly-timed office move. When Goldcrest executives discovered they would need to increase their borrowing, they found that no European or American bank was was willing to help them. So they went hat in hand to Midland. Unexpectedly, they found that Midland was willing to help, under the expectation that helping with the overages would make Goldcrest look better to Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland so they would bite and take the whole Goldcrest mess off the Midland books. With a combination of further help from Midland and what can only be described as a crazed financial juggling act where they squeezed as much extra money as they could out of their properties and distribution deals, Goldcrest managed to finally cut a deal with Credit Lyonnais, receiving a loan of five million pounds to complete Revolution (1985) and a further twenty million to cover their loans with Midland in exchange for certain concessions.
    • Multiple on-set accidents occured, such as a very expensive piece of equipment falling off a cliff and a mysterious fire that destroyed the catering tent. Rumors circulated that these "accidents" were deliberate acts of sabotage from disgruntled locals.
    • Then a Norwegian fund agreed to help finance the movie, provided some scenes be shot in Norway. When production packed up and began moving to Norway, Hudson and Pacino put aside their differences to object, but James Lee shot them down and claimed their Norwegian backers had been making polite noise about doing more work with Goldcrest in a formal partnership. Lee even hinted that the Norwegian money could help Goldcrest acquire Orion Pictures.
    • Shooting in Norway was completed without significant incident, but on return to Britain, Hudson and Lee were told by Warner Bros. that the ending had to be changed to a more upbeat and triumphant one. Because they refused to release the movie unless and until the ending was changed, Hudson was forced to capitulate. The ending was reshot and the wrap-up of principal photography was finally in sight. But then the money ran out.
    • The Mission and Absolute Beginners were also suffering from delays and bloated budgets. This caused Credit Lyonnais to activate various clauses in the contract which required an immediate renegotiation with Goldcrest. Instead of giving Goldcrest $5 million to finish out "Revolution," they were now prepared to offer only $4 million, and to secure the funds, Goldcrest would have to give the bank the right to secure profits first, before all other creditors. Unfortunately, Midland Bank had already been promised first among equals position of profits from "Revolution" and had no intention of giving it away to the Dutch. Furthermore, the promised $20 million loan, which was to pay off Midland, was to be now $16 million instead, and broken out into $10 million to secure against viable film contracts and only $6 million were to be paid to cover the overages themselves. And lastly, Credit Lyonnais no longer wanted to share the risk of the loan alone, and would only agree to take over the whole of it in twelve months, with Midland Bank sharing the burden in the meantime. It fell to James Lee to go to Midland and kindly explain that instead of being paid off, they were asked to stand aside and give the first bite at the profits to the new guys and to also share the risk for the next year. The corporate finance director of Midland (Ted Harris) asked for 24 hours to come up with a response. On July 4, 1985, Midland told Goldcrest very politely to take a long walk. As did Credit Lyonnais. The credit was not extended. Goldcrest ran out of cash and was dead in the water.
    • Goldcrest began scrambling to find an intermediate if not long-term solution to these problems. But as they were wrangling with Midland and Credit Lyonnais to find a solution, the news of Sandy Lieberson's departure plans was leaked to the press. Not only that, they discovered James Lee's idea to combine the roles of Production Chief and CEO so he could occupy both positions, something even most of the company knew nothing about. After a very angry board meeting, Lee left the company and James Eberts was invited to take his position as head honcho back, which he accepted with some trepidations. While the movie was being edited, Hudson suggested adding voice-over narration to tie the movie together, but Eberts refused, saying he didn't want to prolong post-production in case more complications occurred.
    • In the end, the movie was an enormous failure. Mutilated by critics, an unmitigated box office failure, and nominated for four Razzies, the film was effectively moribund. And while Donald Sutherland and Irwin Winkler managed to escape with negligible damage to their careers and reputations, the other principal people involved with the movie weren't so lucky. Al Pacino felt so hurt by many critics singling him out that he disappeared from the big screen for four years, retreating back to theatre. He wouldn't make another movie until 1989, when he appeared in Sea Of Love, and Revolution (1985) is still considered a low point in his filmography. Stories about Nastassja Kinski being emotionally unstable and disappearing off to Paris and Rome during the shoot tarnished her reputation, and she wouldn't appear in another major film until 1994's Terminal Velocity. Hugh Hudson's career was effectively torpedoed by the movie's failure, and has only directed two theatrically released films since. And along with Absolute Beginners, it played a major role in the severe decline of not just Goldcrest Films, but British independent cinema in general. Even the idea of making a movie about the American Revolution took a beating, and it wasn't until the box office success of The Patriot that studios were convinced movies about the event could be viable.
  • What Could Have Been: Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Dustin Hoffman and Sam Shepard were all considered for Tom Dobb.

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