Cowboys & Aliens was released in 2011 and it had all the ingredients to be a success. Primarily because it had both Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in leading roles. Unfortunately, it proved to be a flop, as its budget of $163 million only took back $174 million. In fact, Brain Grazer admitted to The Atlantic that he knew from the start that he shouldn’t have been involved in the production, but he was seduced by the cast and creative talented involved. He said:
I don’t like cowboys, or aliens! But there were a lot of superstars involved with it – Ron Howard; Steven Spielberg; the director of Iron Man, Jon Favreau. I remember having this one meeting, an early meeting, and they’re talking about the title, Cowboys And Aliens. I said, ‘We aren’t really calling it that, are we?’ [The others said] ‘Yeah, of course we are!’ I was going, ‘I don’t get this at all’.
Of course, in hindsight, Brian Grazer was proven right. Not only did Cowboys & Aliens fail to connect with its intended mainstream audience, but it was also horrifically drab considering the vast array of talent involved.
Mixed reviews stagnated the film as soon as it hit cinemas, and it eventually came in second place to The Smurfs over its opening day. Yes, by the end of the weekend Cowboys & Aliens had just beaten The Smurfs $36.5 million to $35.6 million, but that was much lower than anticipated. And, let’s not forget that The Smurfs is truly a cinematic abomination that not even John Oliver’s voice and Neil Patrick Harris’ innate charisma can salvage.
It also says a lot about how terrible Brian Grazer thinks Cowboys & Aliens turned out that he lamented this tepid western/sci-fi hybrid over the likes of the woeful Kevin James and Vince Vaughn tag-team comedy The Dilemma, the perennially dull The Da Vinci Code, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s laughable Robin Hood, and the painfully weak Tower Heist, which appears to have ended Eddie Murphy's comedy cinematic career for good.
Let’s not forget that it has not all been bad though. Brian Grazer has also played a key hand in turning Ron Howard into one of the most distinguished mainstream directors in Hollywood. Plus, in the world of television, he helped to introduce us to Tobias Funke and Jack Bauer, too, so he deserves a break.