Universal Almost Canceled The Battleship Movie, And It Will Cost $200 Million

By Katey Rich 2010-08-13 10:43:06discussion comments
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With Ouija and Candyland and Monopoly movies on their way whether you like it or not, many of us have been looking to Peter Berg's Battleship as the one potential board game movie that could make us not wish for the sweet relief of death. After all, Berg's a director with good credentials, and his idea to add an alien element to the traditional naval battle story at least made it clear we wouldn't see people shouting "F-5!" into periscopes for two hours.

But any big-budget movie is a gamble these days, especially at Universal, a studio that lost a chunk of money on expensive projects last summer and, as sorry as I am to say it, will probably not make back the reported $80 million it cost them to make Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (even though it's the best wide-release movie this weekend and you should see it at all costs). As reported by THR today, as the Battleship budget ballooned toward $200 million earlier this summer, the studio considered pulling the plug on it entirely. Universal chief Adam Fogelson denies this, of course, and convincingly counters every one of the article's claims about why the project would be a financial disaster for the studio. Here are some highlights:

On the relative inexperience of stars Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna: "Taylor is on the short list of actors in this range. Rihanna has no shortage of opportunities and choices." On the fact that it's based on a damn board game: "You're talking about a property that worldwide has more awareness than most, if not all, of Hasbro properties that preceded it. Worldwide, more people have played Battleship than played with Transformers."

On the reportedly gigantic budget: "It's a big bet like many, many big bets from many studios. We will be nowhere near the high point and nowhere near the low point of what people are spending."

On Berg's credentials as a director: "He has a very strong passion and affinity for this material. He is a fan of the history and the current state of the military. He knows that world really, really well, and he is inspirational when he is talking about it."


The piece is a great read overall, especially if you're fascinated, as I am, by all the rationalizations and negotiations that go into launching a movie as big as this one. It's interesting that Universal has been on the defensive about Battleship practically since day one, inviting a cadre of bloggers to meet with Berg on an actual battleship back in December, and now sending Fogelson to THR to keep the pitch going.

As the first of the "board game movies" to actually get going Battleship obvious faces a fair amount of backlash, but no more than Michael Bay did when he started with the Transformers movies. The THR piece reveals some real trouble behind the scenes if they were considering pulling the plug entirely, but still, you've got to wonder why Universal is pushing back so hard against buzz that isn't so much "bad" as "we'll wait and see." With production starting in Hawaii in just over two weeks, that wait is a least getting shorter.
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