Negative criticism is hard to take, especially from the entire general public. Few know what it's like for millions of people to hate something you made. Movie directors are among those few, and although some can remain equanimous (or at least feign equanimity) under an onslaught of horrible reviews, many lash out in a variety of ways. Here's how some directors reacted to bad feedback.
- Photo: Wellspring
After Roger Ebert dubbed 2003's The Brown Bunny “the worst movie in the history of the Cannes Film Festival,” Vincent Gallo (the movie's director, writer, producer, and lead actor) wished prostate cancer on the legendary critic. Ebert's response: “I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.”
Ebert ended up giving a re-cut version of the film three stars, but he did in fact succumb to cancer in 2013. It had no connection to his prostate, however.
- Photo: The Godfather Part III / Paramount Pictures
Francis Ford Coppola felt pain for his daughter after she was blamed for ruining The Godfather Part III, especially because he pushed her into the movie:
Sofia had been in some little films for me, as all my children had. She was in Peggy Sue Got Married as the sister. So, I asked her to come in, and she tested for it [The Godfather Part III]. She didn’t particularly want to do it. She was in school, but she did it… And then they came after Sofia so much that it was just like the story: The bullets that killed the daughter were really meant for the father. I felt that I did this to her.
Of course, Sofia went on to have a wonderful career of her own, but it must have hurt her terribly to be told, “You ruined your father’s picture,” when in fact, she hadn’t - in my opinion. At any rate, the whole subject of The Godfather III was painful for me.
As for how the panned-actor-turned-acclaimed-director feels about The Godfather III, Sofia said that, although the attention was embarrassing, it didn't destroy her because she had other interests besides acting.
Still, it was an offer she should have refused.
- Photo: Lionsgate
Even before his Gods of Egypt was released, Alex Proyas fielded criticism for casting White people as Egyptian gods. “The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse,” Proyas wrote in 2015. “I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”
After Gods of Egypt premiered to near-universal hatred, Proyas retracted his remorse in a Facebook rant (only part of which is excerpted):
NOTHING CONFIRMS RAMPANT STUPIDITY FASTER… Than reading reviews of my own movies. I usually try to avoid the experience - but this one takes the cake. Often, to my great amusement, a critic will mention my past films in glowing terms, when at the time those same films were savaged, as if to highlight the critic's flawed belief of my descent into mediocrity. You see, my dear fellow FBookers, I have rarely gotten great reviews… on any of my movies, apart from those by reviewers who think for themselves and make up their own opinions. Sadly, those type of reviewers are nearly all dead. Good reviews often come many years after the movie has opened.
I guess I have the knack of rubbing reviewers the wrong way - always have. This time of course they have bigger axes to grind - they can rip into my movie while trying to make their mainly pale a**** look so politically correct by screaming "white-wash!!!” like the deranged idiots they all are. They fail to understand, or chose to pretend to not understand what this movie is, so as to serve some bizarre consensus of opinion which has nothing to do with the movie at all.
Proyas, who rose to prominence with The Crow and Dark City and came crashing down with Gods of Egypt, had a point about critics constructing an unflattering narrative about a director that unfairly taints their work, but that doesn't explain why the vast majority of critics and audience members disliked his flick.
- Photo: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back / Miramax Films
Cop Out was the first film Kevin Smith directed but didn't write. Twelve years later, it's still the only film he directed but didn't write, which is presumably due to its 18% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes' “Tomatometer.”
None too happy about that, Smith took to Twitter to harangue his critics, equating them (unfavorably to Smith, it seems) to bullies of a mentally challenged person and proposing a system where critics would have to pay to see his future projects:
Seriously: so many critics lined-up to pull a sad & embarrassing train on #CopOut like it was Jennifer Jason Leigh in LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. Watching them beat the sh*t out of it was sad. Like, it’s called #CopOut; that sound like a very ambitious title to you? You REALLY wanna sh*t in the mouth of a flick that so OBVIOUSLY strived for nothing more than laughs. Was it called “Schindler’s Cop Out”? Writing a nasty [r]eview for #CopOut is akin to bullying a r*tarded kid who was getting a couple chuckles from the normies by singing AFTERNOON DELIGHT…
Realized whole system’s upside down: so we let a bunch of people see it for free & they sh*t all over it? Meanwhile, people who’d REALLY like to see the flick for free are made to pay? Bullsh*t: from now on, any flick I’m ever involved with, I conduct critics screenings thusly: you wanna see it early to review it? Fine: pay like you would if you saw it next week.
We don't like the cop out, but we kind of like the idea of critics putting their money where their mouths are. However, the endlessly quotable Roger Ebert offered a good counterpoint: “Kevin Smith thinks critics should have had to pay to see Cop Out. But Kev, then they would REALLY have hated it.”
- Video: YouTube
To avenge David Ayer and all other filmmakers who got metaphorically KOed by bad reviews, Uwe Boll literally KOed some critics!
The German director fought and beat five different critics in an organized boxing event the likes of which we might never see again. Dubbed “Raging Boll,” the first match was in Spain on September 5, 2006, against Carlos Palencia Jimenez-Arguello, owner of the Cinecutre website. Boll won by decision. The next four matches took place in Vancouver, Canada, on September 23, 2006.
Boll's first contender was Richard “Lowtax" Kyanka, the now-deceased founder of Something Awful, whom he knocked out in the first round. Next he took down Ain't it Cool News movie critic Jeff Sneider with a second-round technical knockout (Sneider wasn't so cool after the bout; he vomited on the street and had to be treated by EMTs).
Afterward, Boll knocked out Rue Morgue's Chris Alexander in the second round before scoring a same-round technical knockout against 17-year-old Chance Minter, who was as much of a critic as a YouTube commenter.
In the post-fights press conference, Boll announced a critical change of heart:
I like now the critics… Everybody who was in the ring showed [guts]. Nobody dived.
However, like Kevin Smith, Boll curbed criticism of his films with a specific straw (Ger)man: “If you make a movie like House of the Dead, a zombie movie, what are they expecting? Schindler’s List?”
For those unable to keep the savage “squads” straight, Suicide Squad is the one from 2016 with a 26% Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” rating, while The Suicide Squad is from 2021 and boasts a 90% on the Tomatometer.
David Ayer directed Suicide Squad and responded to negative reviews as if he was considering the first word of his film's title. “It was sh*t. Yeah, it was sh*t reviews. I got my throat cut…" he told Entertainment Weekly. "It’s like going to the boxing ring and getting knocked out is how it felt. And I had to go into the ring again.”
He survived his next few films, partly due to the lessons he learned from Suicide Squad's critics:
…I understood the pitfalls, I understood the dangers, I knew where the alligators hide, you know? And so I made damn sure I didn’t repeat any mistakes.