Friday, January 13, 2012

Rejected by Warren Beatty

The things one can find on the internet, I swear!

Whilst searching for something rather simple - I was investigating where Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer would make the first Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress winners of the same film since Moonstruck in 1987 (for reason reason I spaced on The Piano and Shakespeare in Love) - I found myself coming across a website called TV Party. Obviously a relic from an earlier time, this website ran a few pieces by Billy Ingram on rejected movie poster artworks. You'll easily forgive and forget the website's design when you read some of the wonderful factoids behind the creations of famous posters like JFK (original designer replaced by Drew Struzan's son), Boomerang (Eddie Murphy wanted to be as James Bond-ian as possible) and The Prince Tides ("It looks like Barbra Streisand and her pet head!") amongst others. I'd really love to see the mock up The Firm poster that is discussed in this piece that had star Tom Cruise fuming and attacking it. Doesn't that just sound hilarious?

I particularly enjoyed reading the pieces on the posters for Normal Jewison's fabulous 1987 romantic comedy, Moonstruck. I consider the final design by Olga Kaljakan of Cher as she dances in front of a nighttime bespeckled New York City skyline to be one of the very best posters ever made and one of the most purely joyful pieces of imagery I can think of. It's interesting then to see two designs that we could very well had been stuck with. One is a take on the ol' giant floating head aesthetic, while another is, as the website calls it, Moonstrucktheearth! New York skyline remains in tact, as it bloody well should!

Final | Rejected | Rejected

That picture of Cher on the final poster (from a location shoot in Central Park by Annie Leibovitz) is actually three different photos combined. The head, the torso and arms, & the skirt and legs all came from separate shots.

Designing movie posters for a living in the late eighties/early nineties was very much like being back in kindergarten. Before computers became practical for daily graphics use, a typical poster designer would spend all day painting, drawing, xeroxing, rubbing down type, cutting out pretty pictures of movie stars and pasting them together with spray mount into a collage - all the while dealing with a room full of spoiled, petulant brats fighting over the glue and pictures. It was fun.

The most fascinating story is, as I'm sure you'll agree, the behind the scenes story of Barry Levinson's Bugsy. Produced and starring Warren Beatty, you can kind of get an idea of where it's going, but the usual perfectionist hijinx that you would expect from Beatty sounds absolutely absurd regarding the poster of Bugsy.

Rejected | Final | For Your Consideration

Hundreds of comps were created for 'Bugsy' over the course of three months, millions of dollars were spent, marriages were shattered and several people nearly died pulling all-nighters to come up with just the poster for Warren Beatty's gangster movie.

bugsy poster artOn these comps, we see Annette Bening, shot by Bruce Weber, prancing around the desert in a gold-lame dress. The nice thing about designing movie posters is working with great unit photography and incredible special shoot material by the world's finest photographers. Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz and George Hurrell were all brought in to do special photo shoots for 'Bugsy'.


After rejecting probably a thousand concepts for the poster (from several different agencies), art directors eventually ran out of viable ideas. We even desperately submitted Warren and Annette standing in front of dozens of dead bodies stacked up in the desert to resemble the Las Vegas skyline.

In the end, Tri-Star went with a tasteful Herb Ritts photo and a simple type treatment.

The reject Bugsy poster featured here, Beatty's preferred version with the glasses and a "prancing" Annette Bening, is definitely my favourite.

The one last poster featured that I want to discuss is the poster for Other People's Money, which the article's writer mentions was lucky enough to have Annie Leibovitz do a photoshoot with its cast, but then dumped everything from that session and replaced it with the design you can see below.

Final | Rejected Photoshoot

Naturally - as I am want to do - I recalled this piece on Desperately Seeking Susan that I wrote about a while back and how that film's iconic imagery was created purely by accident of its castmembers being in the same room as one another. Magic can happen.

One of the reasons I liked the Bridesmaids poster so much was that it was obvious all six ladies were in the same room as each other. Sometimes I'd prefer the cast members merely being in the same hemisphere! As evidenced by the picture featured to the left, the women of the cast actually assembled on a set and allowed a photographer to take photos of them - how novel! It's constantly baffling that films like this so rarely utilise this device when, ya know, they had to have been on set together at some point, right? The most egregious example of this that I can think of from recent years was the Rob Marshall-directed adaptation of Nine. There are scenes featured within where the film's mammoth cast of Oscar-feted actors - Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren and Kate Hudson amongst them - are all together and interacting with one another. The very first still released to media was of the entire cast (let's not forget Fergie!) grouped together for crying out loud! I know they all have busy lives, but shouldn't the way a film is marketed be part of that job? Taking a few roles of film to be used on a poster doesn't seem like too hard of a task to muster up some enthusiasm for, does it? Especially since the way a film is marketed directed correlates to whether it's a hit or not and they all wanted a hit, didn't they? I doubt they made Nine for the good times on set. In the end we got shit like this.

Read the article pieces part one, two, three and four. It's great fun.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Don't remind ANYONE of the Nine artwork, the posters were just awful and considering how weirdly some people make their choices to see movies I wonder if it hurt the film's chances (alas, I always liked Nine very much, so I can't help but feel bad for the way things went down).

I love the Bugsy one with Warren and the sunshades even though it makes me sad that the best performance in Bugsy (aka Annette) never caught on, but whatever. And, I actually like all three Moonstruck one even the bizarre dancing (?) one AND the floating head.

Went to your post which you linked to, saw this quote And for "If I Rise"? A song that is, I think quite literally, air. There is nothing there to even be considered a song, right? which is just golden.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Thanks for the link, great site and great post.

What amazes me about the origin of the Moonstruck poster is almost experimental photoshopping of three different Cher images, something which I never could have imagined looking at it.

Which certainly makes you wonder why technology has only made it seem worse.

Janice said...

LOVE that rejected Bugsy poster. (But if that was Beatty's "prefered" version, who the heck rejected it?)

In similar fashion to what you're talking about with Nine, I remember that Vogue(?) shoot with the cast of Nine where all the ladies were on the beach at the same time, arm and arm (we have the "behind the scenes" shots to prove it) and yet the actual cover that came out was clearly photoshopped and looked as though they had never been in the same place at the same time. (And badly photoshopped, at that. All the money in the world...)

Which is particularly strange given that the best part of the movie (besides Marion's perf IMO) was the black and white rehearsal footage they ran during the credits in which, once again, all the ladies were actually in the same place at the same time. Fun use of that footage, so it's amazing the marketing was such a disaster.