The 5 Biggest Hollywood Risks That Paid off

The world of Hollywood often seems like a minefield of failures, controversies and serious debt, but every now and then, fate turns on its head and staying true to your cause can pay dividends. Sometimes the most ridiculous ideas result in the biggest return on investment – it purely comes down to chance as the studios and producers spin the roulette wheel and hope it lands in their favour. Let’s take a look at some of the most unlikely successes in Hollywood!

1) District 9

Released in 2009 and directed by South African director Neill Blomkamp, District 9 is a multi-national production involving Australia, New Zealand, USA, and South Africa. The film also featured Teri Tatchell as writer and the acclaimed Lord of the Rings team Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham as producer.
With a small(ish) budget of $30 million dollars (at least for a sci-fi action film) no-one really knew what District 9 was, and certainly didn’t expect it to be the massive hit it turned out to be. Grossing an incredible $210 million at the box office and four academy award nominations, it was a success that surprised many in Hollywood.

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2) The Matrix

Costing a whopping $63 million dollars to make, The Matrix was a huge risk for producer Joel Silver as directors and screenwriters Lan and Lilly Wachowski only had two movies to their name – neither coming close to the scope or scale of The Matrix. The film was released in 1999 and the rest is history, with the film grossing over $460 million dollars as well as spawning two hugely successful sequels, a series and three video games. Continue reading

Everyone’s Talking About: Black Dynamite

“He’s supercool and he knows kung fu, drives a $1,000 car and wears a $100 suit.” All hail Black Dynamite, the ’70s US kung fu cop forged from the movies of blaxploitation heroes such as Superfly, Shaft and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. When the Mob kills his brother and starts selling drugs in his community, Black Dynamite comes out of retirement to bust some dealer ass and clean the place up the only way he knows how.

Black Dynamite

Directed by Scott Sanders and written by and starring kung fu action star Michael Jai White, the movie nails all the elements of the blaxploitation genre – big afros, bad dialogue, nonsensical plots, continuity errors, gratuitous nudity and a funky soundtrack. Jai White was inspired to write the script when listening to James Brown’s ‘Super Bad’ and cobbled together a $500 trailer to try and get the film made.

The makers used the same techniques as the genre’s forebears and, despite working on a tiny budget, were meticulous in keeping that ’70s vibe, using stock footage from TV shows of the era and casting more than a few pornstars to add that extra bit of authenticity…

Black Dynamite has also courted a little controversy over its reinforcement of stereotypes. But not only is a sequel in the planning stages, an animated series is also on its way, meaning this badass is back on the block for a bit longer.

Interview: Director Joe Dante On The Hole

Shooting a horror movie with kids might not sound that exciting to the average gore fan, but when you have Gremlins director and Eerie, Indiana creator Joe Dante at the helm, you know it’s not going to be a howler.

“This was not unlike a number of other scripts I get sent,” Dante explains. “Horror movies with kids in them – I get a lot of those. Often they’re not very good because they’re predictable. But this one I found pleasantly unpredictable and I didn’t know where it was going. I didn’t know what was in the hole and I found that the answer was surprisingly poignant.”

After reluctantly moving from New York to the sleepy town of Bensonville, brothers Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) discover a mysterious hole under a trapdoor in their basement that has an unfortunate knack of unleashing their darkest fears. If that all sounds a little spooky for family viewing, Dante benefited from his convincing cast of talented young stars.

“The kids who are available come in clumps,” Dante says, on the casting process. “In any given season there may be a bunch of good kids, or there may be a bunch of Disney Channel rejects… and you just don’t want to go there. In this particular case there were a number of kids who were promising. Oddly enough Chris had the least experience, but he seemed to be more natural and more real.”

Dante has a pretty good past form when it comes to creating movies with a delicate balance between dark and light, and with The Hole, too, he didn’t want to end up with something that went too far towards the dark side. “I didn’t want it to be gory and horrible,” he continues. “The idea was that it was an adult story but we had to tell it in a way that was suitable for kids and yet parents would still understand the deepness of the drama. That was a bit of a tightrope walk.”

The crew worked hard to realise the childrens’ darkest fears, from clowns and ghosts to supervillain dads, all of which took their toll on Dante…

“Here I am years later after Gremlins and I’m standing on a freezing sound stage in Vancouver and working with this damn puppet and thinking, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’” he remembers, with a laugh. “It’s so complicated and involves lots of people with rods and green screens and composites.”

And although the mantra says ‘never work with children or animals’, there were more than enough new problems to deal with during the shoot. “We shot it in Vancouver in the coldest winter they’d had in 10 years and it was supposed to be summer,” he says. “There’s a scene in the movie where they’re walking down the street and we had to take the breath out! Every time they opened their mouths this breath would come out – it either looked like they were smoking cigars or it was freezing! We spent a lot of money taking out breath visually.”