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The Will Smith Wild Wild West Scene Director Barry Sonnenfeld Says He Deeply Regrets

Making good movies is hard. If there’s one thing that more than a hundred years of Hollywood filmmaking have shown it’s that making a good movie can be tough, but in the history of bad movies, there are a few that still stand out as being particularly terrible. 1999’s Wild Wild West is one of them, and director Barry Sonnenfeld still thinks about how the movie went so wrong. He still regrets one scene where he put Will Smith in drag.

There are several elements of the Wild Wild West movie that don’t work, but Barry Sonnenfeld recently told Mel Magazine that the part of the movie he regrets over all others is the scene where Will Smith becomes a belly dancer in order to seduce and distract Kenneth Branagh’s Dr. Loveless. Sonnenfeld thinks that, up until that scene, the movie is actually working reasonably well, but then the wheels come off the bus. He explains... 

I never wanted to see Will in drag, I thought it was prurient, unnecessary, silly and in there only because Peters loved it and refused to let us take it out. We really lose the audience from there till the end of the movie because of the stupidity of that weird harem dance. I cringe every time I think about it. also: But then it’s like, ‘Oh wait a minute, I’m gonna forget all that because there’s a harem girl who I didn’t invite — I’ve no idea how she got here — but boy she’s sexy, and who wants to take over America when there’s a girl in a green harem outfit next to me?’ It. Made. No. Sense.

The scene basically comes across like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and that’s not inherently a bad thing, but as Barry Sonnenfeld says here, the scene is just out of place in this movie. None of it makes any sense.  

One may then wonder if Barry Sonnenfeld, the movie’s director and one of its producers, didn’t like the scene, why is it there? Sonnenfeld says Jon Peters, the movie’s other producer, loved the scene and insisted that it remain in the movie. This isn’t the first time that Jon Peters has been at the center of controversy on this film. Kevin Smith has told a very famous story about his time working on an ill-fated Superman reboot, where Peters insisted a giant spider be involved. After that movie fell apart, a giant spider appears in Wild Wild West another Peters project. 

Jon Peters has become a somewhat infamous producer over the years, so much so that Paul Thomas Anderson's new movie, Licorice Pizza, actually includes Bradley Cooper in the role of Peters himself, in what is, one hopes, a satirized version of the hairdresser turned Hollywood producer. .

Whether a movie like Wild Wild West, based on a television series that most of the audience likely didn’t even know, was ever going to work is an open questions, but it’s difficult to argue that the movie we got was one of the biggest flops in recent memory. Not including Will Smith as a belly dancer certainly would have helped, however. 

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.