With a hat-trick of flops that lost about $200 million in one single year, Eddie Murphy, who gets $15million to $20 million per movie, became the costliest loser in Hollywood last year.
Among the flops -- Showtime, I Spy and The Adventures of Pluto Nash -- the last named film, which cost about $100 million, suffered the most. It grossed just about $5 million. In his two decade-long career, Murphy has survived several low periods but at no time has he faced this kind of failure.
Star power could not also save the Harrison Ford movie K-19: The Widowmaker, for which he was reportedly paid $25 million, from earning less than $60 million worldwide The movie, centering around a submarine crisis in Russia that could have led to a nuclear war, cost about $110 million. Paramount Pictures, which distributed K-19, suffered another major flop with Shekhar Kapur's misguided Four Feathers, which grossed less than $20 million in America. Distributed abroad by Miramax, the movie has flopped in the handful of European countries where it opened recently.
Among the other stars who suffered major debacles last year is Adam Sandler whose critically acclaimed Punch-Drunk Love grossed just about $18 million in America. The animated Adam Sandler's 8 Nights earned a disappointing $25 million. The movie, which received some of the most negative reviews of the year, has flopped abroad, too.
Bruce Willis, whose $70 million Hart's War was a sure fatality, was among the unlucky stars. But his fate was far less eventful than that of Robert De Niro who had three flops, Showtime (with Eddie Murphy), Analyze That (with Billy Crystal) and City By The Sea.
Nicolas Cage, whose The Windtalkers, directed by the usually redoubtable John Woo, lost about million, was not really a big loser. He played dual roles in Adaptation, the medium budget movie (about million) that won excellent reviews and is emerging as a potential hit. But Sonny, the gritty, million movie with which he debuted as a director, got mostly scathing reviews. The movie revolves around a young man, Sonny (James Franco) who is trained to follow the family tradition as a male prostitute for wealthy women, and who struggles to free himself from his seemingly predetermined life.
Sonny will be forgotten in no time, but Adaptation could also become a cult hit. Directed by Spike Jonze, the inventive, mysterious and clever movie revolves around a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) who has been hired to adapt a book by a writer Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). There is plenty about orchids in the book, he feels but where is the drama?
As Charlie struggles with his creative problems, his audacious brother Donald (also played by Cage) who has no moral qualms, sets out to turn the book into a potboiler movie.
Though stars such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise featured in big hits last year, some of the most profitable films of the year did not depend on big names.
These included the expensive movies like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Two Towers as well as low budget films, costing million to million like Barbershop, Jackass and Drumline. And the million mega hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which had not even one minor star or a well-known actor.
Tom Hanks was a big winner among the stars who had a lucky time in 2002.
Hanks was also the producer along with his wife Rita Wilson of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of the most profitable films ever made. The comedy, which has grossed $225 million in America, has earned about $75 million in a handful of countries abroad. It could end its run with as much as $400 million.
As a gangster who has to fight hard to protect his son, Hanks gave a superlative performance in Road To Perdition and as an FBI agent determined to nab a master criminal in Catch Me If You Can, he received very good reviews too. Both Perdition and Catch Me If You Can were produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks.
Spielberg, who also directed Catch Me If You Can scored another hit with Minority Report. The movie, starring Tom Cruise, has grossed $330 million worldwide. Still running in several parts of the world, the sci-fi movie, made for $120 million, is expected to end its run with $360 million.
Catch Me If You Can, which has earned about $62 million in its first week in America, is shaping into a solid hit.
As an ever resourceful and greatly successful conman, Leonardo diCaprio received critical kudos for Catch Me If You Can, his first film for Spielberg. He also received acclaim for playing a young man out to avenge his father's murder in Martin Scorsese's Gangs Of New York, which is shaping into a medium sized hit, eyeing a $70 million haul in North America.
The movie, which brought together diCaprio and Scorsese for the first time, cost more than $100 million (some estimate its cost to be $120 million) and has to do very strong business abroad to break even. It has received five Golden Globe nominations including in the best director and best picture categories. The Golden Globes, which are watched by over 10 million people on television, are given by Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
diCaprio wasn't nominated for Gangs. Instead Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a ruthless gangster, received the nod. However, he was lucky with Catch Me If You Can. His was the only Golden Globe nomination the movie received. Having been absent from movie theaters for more than two years, diCaprio has created movie history with two big budget movies opening widely in a span of ten days.
Though there are also a handful of movie stars including Pierce Brosnan who are currently seen in more than one film, diCaprio is far more visible than any one of them. His two movies are being shown in nearly 4,000 theatres and they are very new.
On the other hand, Brosnan's James Bond thriller Die Another Day, a solid hit, is in its sixth week while his smaller film, Evelyn, about a father's fight to get custody of his children from Irish religious authorities, is being shown only in about 100 movie houses in its third week. It is considered a flop even for a small budget ($5 million) movie.
For Mel Gibson, who plays a deeply disturbed father who overcomes his cynicism and anger to find faith again, Signs, directed by M Night Shyamalan, was a big boon. It is the most successful film of his career, with a $410 million worldwide gross.
Mike Meyers, with the help of director Jay Roach, scored a big hit with Austin Powers in Goldmember, a spoof of James Bond movies. He also proved that vulgarity and creativity could coexist to produce a hilarious film. The movie has grossed about $330 million worldwide.
It was also an excellent year for Meryl Streep, who too was absent from the movie houses for about two years. Her work in Adaptation, which has received 6 Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture and Actor, brought her a nomination too as a supporting actress. She received a nomination in the Best Actress category for The Hours, competing with costar Nicole Kidman and others.
Streep has a bigger role in The Hours than in Adaptation. Based on Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film interweaves the stories of three troubled women in three eras. One of them is a book editor in New York (Streep), another a young mother in California (Julianne Moore) and the third is the author Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman).
Cunningham, who brought the stories of these women together, has said he was utterly surprised that the psychologically complex novel became a bestseller. He should be surprised even more at the raves the movie is getting and the promise it is going to be profitable.
'Streep is subtle and devastating,' wrote Kenneth Turan in Los Angeles Times, who also praised Kidman for being 'galvanizing'. The movie was 'splendid', he asserted because of masterful writing (script by David Hare) and directorial intelligence (Stephen Daldry). Produced by Paramount Pictures and Miramax, it has received 7 Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture.
Sandra Bullock proved with Two Weeks Notice, in which she stars with Hugh Grant, that she is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
The movie, which has grossed $60 million in two weeks, is headed for a $90 million gross in North America. Described in the advertisements as a comedy about love at a last glance, the movie is doing strong business despite the competition from another romantic comedy, Maid In Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. The story of a hotel maid who is mistaken by a wealthy man to be a woman of class, the movie is headed for a $85-$90 million gross, making it the most successful film of Lopez's career.
Julianne Moore, who received the Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for playing a seemingly happy 1950s housewife whose life takes a dramatic turn, in the art-house hit Far From Heaven, is steadily increasing her reputation. She could be tomorrow's Streep or Jodie Foster.
Continuing his lucky streak, two-time Oscar winning actor Denzel Washington made debut as a director with Antwone Fisher, the inspirational story of a young man who overcomes his personal problems with the help of a psychiatrist. Washington, who played the psychiatrist, extracted a wonderful performance from newcomer Derek Luke playing the title character.
Earlier in his life, Luke was a sailor prone to violent outbursts. On the verge of being kicked out of the navy, he is sent to a naval psychiatrist. Slowly, the young man breaks down and reveals to the psychiatrist a childhood choked with abuse. As he turns his life around, he also determines to find the family that abandoned him as a baby.
The movie, made at $20 million, is expanding its run in the second week of January, after having started only in a handful of theaters. It is getting excellent reviews and shaping into a medium-range hit. For Washington, Antwone Fisher is the third hit in a row, following Training Day and John Q.