‘Hook,’ ‘Elysium,’ and ‘The Underneath’: Great Directors Talk Their Greatest Misfires

What we’re watching: a video examining creative failure.
Hook Hoffman
TriStar Pictures
By  · Published on June 26th, 2017

As important as a filmmaker’s successes are to understanding their creative mind, so too are their failures. It’s important to know how the same guy who made Jaws could think Hook was a good idea, or how a director who wowed sci-fi audiences with the novelty of District 9 could bore them with Elysium, or how a revered slapstick comedian thought a drama about a clown leading children to their deaths in the Holocaust was something people would want to see.

Every film, every story, every song, every work of art each start the same way: as a spark of passion. The creator happens upon an idea or an image or an emotion and from that – usually with the help of a few hundred people and several million dollars – you get mainstream entertainment. But like all sparks, some catch and some don’t, some start conflagrations that flame out too fast and some build slow-burns that simmer over time.

In American culture in particular, failure isn’t permitted. It’s a shameful thing, a thing to be avoided best it can be and if one should encounter failure, it’s a thing to be swept under the rug and never spoken about. But our failures affect us just as much as our successes do, and it could be argued they affect us more. Success is a reward, it’s recognition, but failure is a challenge, it is an opportunity for redemption. Steven Spielberg’s first film after Hook? Jurassic Park. Sometimes it takes a misfire to get your aim back.

In the newest intriguing video from Andrew Saladino’s Royal Ocean Film Society, “I Lost the Magic,” creative failure is examined right at the source: Spielberg, Blomkamp, and Jerry Lewis talking about the projects above, as well as Steven Soderbergh on The Underneath, Danny Boyle on The Beach, and Billy Wilder on Buddy Buddy. The result is a fascinating look at how the surefooted stumble, and more importantly, how they recover.

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