The Mummy Director Talks How The Tom Cruise Movie Was Beneficial For Him Despite Being His 'Biggest Failure'

Tom Cruise in 2017's The Mummy
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe franchise collapsed at the same place it began: with 2017’s The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise (one of two movies he appeared in that year, the other being American Made). This take on the classic horror franchise was primarily met with negative reviews and was considered a commercial disappointment, and director Alex Kurtzman considers it his “biggest failure.” That being said, he still found helming The Mummy to be beneficial for some key reasons.

In addition to sitting in The Mummy’s directorial chair, Alex Kurtzman also hashed out the story with Jenney Lumet and Jon Spaihts. Kurtzman and Lumet are now making the press rounds plugging their latest collaboration, the Showtime series The Man Who Fell to Earth, which is serves as a legacy sequel to the same-named 1976 movie starring David Bowie. While speaking with The Playlist, Kurtzman addressed his “painful” time on The Mummy, saying:

I tend to subscribe to the point of view that you learn nothing from your successes, and you learn everything from your failures. And that was probably the biggest failure of my life, both personally and professionally. There are about a million things I regret about it, but it also gave me so many gifts that are inexpressibly beautiful. I didn’t become a director until I made that movie, and it wasn’t because it was well directed – it was because it wasn’t.

Following nine years after the release of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the last entry in the Brendan Fraser-led Mummy film series (could that get a relaunch someday?), this new version of The Mummy starred Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet, the title character who Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton, Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny Halsey and others had to battle across the globe. The Mummy also laid foundation for the wider Dark Universe, specifically through Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde and the secret society known as Prodigium. In addition to The Mummy’s ending teasing a sequel, other movies that were set to exist in the Dark Universe continuity included Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Invisible Man

Alas, the combination of The Mummy’s poor critical reception and only making $410 million worldwide resulted in Universal Pictures writing off the Dark Universe as a “failed” experiment and turning it into a general banner encompassing standalone movies focused on the studios classic monsters. Despite his regrets with how The Mummy turned out, Alex Kurtzman is thankful he was able to direct the movie, as the mistakes he made there have informed how he’s tackled later projects. In his words:

And as brutal as it was, in many ways, and as many cooks in the kitchen as there were, I am very grateful for the opportunity to make those mistakes because it rebuilt me into a tougher person and it also rebuilt me into a clearer filmmaker. And that has been a real gift and I feel those gifts all the time because I’m very clear now when I have a feeling that doesn’t feel right – I am not quiet about it anymore. I will literally not proceed when I feel that feeling. It’s not worth it to me. And you can’t get to that place of gratitude until you’ve had that kind of experience. Look, if you look at history and you look at people who’ve made amazing things, every single one of them will tell you the same story which is that it came after a failure, so I look back on it now with gratitude. It took me a while to get there, but my life is better for it.

The Mummy is one of two movies Alex Kurtzman has directed, having made his directorial debut with 2012’s People Like Us. Along with The Man Who Fell to Earth, Kurtzman has kept busy in recent years with the Star Trek TV shows Discovery, Picard and Strange New Worlds, and he and Lumet also created the short-lived CBS series Clarice. As far as the new Dark Universe goes, 2020’s reimagined version of The Invisible Man kicked off that run, and upcoming entries under that banner include Renfield, the Ryan Gosling-led Wolfman reboot and Dark Army (assuming Paul Feig can get it made).

The Man Who Fell to Earth premieres Sunday, April 24 on Showtime, and Renfield, the next Universal Monsters movie on the docket, comes out on April 14, 2023. Take a look through the 2022 movie releases to figure out what you’ll be watching later this year.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.