Why’d it Bomb? Rules Don’t Apply (2016)

Kevthewriter wonders why Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply bombed.

Poor Warren Beatty. He used to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world and now he’s most well-known for mixing up La La Land and Moonlight. Of course, he did try to have a comeback last year. Unfortunately, it was Rules Don’t Apply, a movie that bombed horribly at the box office and received mixed to negative reviews from critics and audiences basically ignored altogether. You know how much they ignored it? Well, when I went to see it, I was literally the only person in the theater. Then, when I went to review the movie on the blog, it hardly had any views and no one commented on it. I’m not admonishing you for ignoring my review, don’t get me wrong, I’m just pointing out how little people cared about this movie.

But why did no one care about this movie? I think the problem was there was no real incentive for people to care about it. It was touted as Warren Beatty’s big comeback and also the movie about Howard Hughes he’d been trying to make for over 30 years. Problem is, Warren Beatty hasn’t acted in a decade and has barely been in the spotlight for 15 years. Thing is, though, the man has always been picky. Just a look at his IMDB shows a rather big gap between projects. In the 90’s, for instance, he only starred in 4 movies, all of which, from 1990-1998, came out within a few years of each other. And in the 80’s, he was only in 2 movies. But even by his standards, 15 years is a long time to wait when it comes to making another movie. By that point, I think the majority of people went from thinking “whatever happened to Warren Beatty?” to just assuming he retired to basically forgetting he ever was a big star in the first place. Therefore, when he finally made the Howard Hughes movie he always wanted to make, people were just indifferent to it.

Now I’m not saying that if you don’t act for years, or decades, you should just stay in retirement. I’m just saying you also shouldn’t just expect people to go see a movie because you’re in it. Look at all the big comeback stories when it comes to movies: Carrie, The Wrestler, Birdman. They weren’t just popular because an actor who used to be famous was acting and/or in a starring role again but because the movies themselves were considered great and, because of positive word of mouth, many people went to see those movies. As a result, Piper Laurie, Mickey Rourke, and Michael Keaton became famous again (though it didn’t last for Mickey Rourke because, well, he acted like Mickey Rourke but oh well…). On the other hand, look at Snatched, starring Warren Beatty’s friend Goldie Hawn. She, like Warren, hadn’t been in a movie for 15 years but, instead of being a big comeback vehicle for her, the movie came and went because the movie itself received negative reviews.

Same thing with Rules Don’t Apply. Had the reviews been better, more people might’ve come out to see it but, because the reviews weren’t hot, people stayed away. It also didn’t help that, while the movie had many celebrities in it, none of them were box office draws. It definitely didn’t help that the two young people he got to star in the movie, Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich, aren’t exactly big names (though that might change for Alden with the Han Solo movie).

Therefore, the reason Rules Don’t Apply bombed is because Warren got too cocky and thought that, after 15 years of being out of the limelight, he could sell a movie on his name alone when the truth is many people moved on from his brand and stopped caring whether or not he’d make another movie.


Posted on October 5, 2017, in Why'd it bomb? and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Beatty hasn’t been relevant for almost 27 years…

    [–] punish77 10 months ago
    I disagree with your statement that all of his movies except Roman Springs are “better than Bad Moms”. In fact, when Ishtar was released in 1987 it was considered up until that point the biggest bomb in movie history. Unfortunately, Ishtar was subsequently surpassed by (guess what) Town & Country (2001), which then became the biggest bomb in movie history. I think that Town & Country made about $6 million on a budget over $100 million. In fact, Ishtar and Town & Country are such infamous bombs, that people tend to completely over look Love Affair (1994), another huge bomb which made $18 million on a $60 million budget. The common thread in most of Beatty’s movies is that they run wildly over budget and take forever to make. Town & Country was a rom-com. It should have cost no more than $30 million; instead it cost over $100 million. Ishtar was basically a comedy, it should have also been low budget. Love Affair was a dramedy which should also have been low budget; instead it cost $60 million in 1994 dollars. And remember, those are just production budgets. They do not count marketing budgets. Moreover, you can not simply ignore these budgets. Bad Moms was a low budget raunchy movie which made a lot of money.

    Your statement that Warren “is a great actor” is absolutely ridiculous. He is the worst famous actor in history other than Elliot Gould or Keanu. His every performance is a variation on his shy, stuttering, clueless “dumb blonde” role. I can not think of one memorable scene that he has ever performed in 60 years.
    Daniel Day Lewis and Anthony Hopkins are great actors. Do you see Warren playing any of the Lewis roles?? But instead of debating this, give me some sort of context. Tell me who you think other great actors are, or better yet tell me who you think some bad actors are. Just name me one famous actor other than GOuld or Keanu who is a worse actor than Warren.

    History will not be kind to Warren. The internet, IMDB and videos has exposed his lack of production over the last 60 years.

    Lastly, and to show you that I am fair, I will concede that Warren can be effective at some elements of producing, since he always seems to get top talent for his movies and gets money out of either the studios or investors. One of the investors in Rules Don’t Apply is Terry Semel, who I believe ran Warners and funded Love Affair. So even though Love Affair was huge bomb, Warren was able to get more money out of Semel again for this project. That is impressive.



      Beatty has been talking about doing a Howard Hughes movie for decades — surely this can’t be the project he envisioned all that time? A fluffy romantic comedy with Hughes in a supporting role?


      reply 19 11/15/2016

      Not sure any long-gestating pet-project ever turns out well. Or not as well as the long-gestation would imply. Overthinking, tinkering, would-be perfectionism. Meanwhile, things change. Beatty was in middle age when this project was mooted, and now he’s old. Might be both comeback and farewell.


      reply 22 11/15/2016

      He was very pretty in his youth, but he could never act for s***. He was the pre-Clooney George Clooney, better known as a powerful player with a well-publicized “love” life than as an actor.

      It’s true if you look at his old films, which were so praised at the time, most of them were s*** and are unwatchable today.


      reply 32 11/20/2016

      Clooney is a much better actor.

      His acting in Shamppo was the same in Heaven Can Wait: a pretty boy who mumbles and fumbles.


      reply 35 11/20/2016

      It’s bombed spectacularly. Per Deadline:

      Warren Beatty’s directorial return Rules Don’t Apply is falling outside the top 10, likely in 11th place with an atrocious $310K at 2,382 theaters (that’s $130 a theater, ouch!) and a projected Wed.-Sun. run of $2.35M. An avid moviegoer told me yesterday that he visited the Hollywood Arclight last night and asked the clerk behind the counter what wasn’t selling. The first title out of his mouth? “Rules Don’t Apply“. Critics and audiences weren’t warm to Rules respectively with a 59% Rotten Tomatoes Score and B- CinemaScore. Beatty’s fans showed up with 54% of the audience over 50, 67% female with 32% citing Beatty as why they decided to go. What’s sad is that this Howard Hughes movie was a huge passion project of Beatty’s for more than two decades. The Oscar-winning director of Reds has been relentlessly doing screening Q&As around town to drum up the pic’s profile during awards season, and even had Rules Don’t Apply open AFI Fest. What’s not working here is that it’s a movie that’s out of its time. First anything that’s about Hollywood, that’s set in Hollywood rarely plays well outside of L.A.. Furthermore, Rules has an episodic rhythm, and for a semi-biopic about Hughes, it’s a comedy that largely focuses on its younger, beautiful protagonists played by Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich (in a short time, his profile will skyrocket further thanks to his lock on the title role in Disney/Lucasfilm’s Han Solo movie). Rules cost an estimated $25M before P&A; it’s a distribution de


      reply 39 11/24/2016

      He’s a terrible actor. Here’s proof.

      There are 3 versions on film of the same story, practically the same script in each

      (1) 1939’s Love Affair with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne,

      (2) 1957’s An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr,

      (3) 1994’s Love Affair with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning.

      As anyone who has seen one of these films, you should know there is a big, reveal at the finale which is supposed to be a huge emotion moment for the 2 leads. Of necessity to the plot, the camera focuses on the male lead as the surprise is revealed.

      Boyer played it one way, and Grant played the scene in a slightly different way. Both showing the appropriate sadness, happiness, relief, and concern. Well done.

      In Beatty’s version, although Annette Benning was doing her best, Beatty showed nothing. Nothing there. Blankness. The lights were on, but nobody was home. He could not do it. Just stood there.

      Don’t take my word. Watch the last 5 minutes of each film. Completely obvious.

      He’s a rotten actor.


      reply 46 11/24/2016

      Disagree with the Clooney comparison, he’s a less hyper, less phobic, less PMT version of Cruise and a terrible actor to boot!


      reply 56 11/24/2016

      [R3] – With regards to Warren and Streisand. I think they both became interested in controlling their work – producing and directing – rather than letting themselves be produced and directed by someone else. This made them very picky about projects and they turned down a lot of work. I would guess that Warren had less interest in acting and being a pretty boy, unlike say Redford. Streisand’s case is also a bit different, since her prolific cinematic period was when she was under contract to Ray Stark and once she was free her output slowed down. In addition she had a recording career which too had contractual demands, so I would guess that having private time was important to her.


      reply 73 11/25/2016

      Beatty was less interested than Redford in being a pretty boy? When did Beatty ever play a role that wasn’t precisely tailored to his good looks? Never. And Beatty never did anything for anybody else like Redford did with Sundance and his environmental concerns.


      reply 74 11/25/2016

      Beatty’s directorial control freakery hasn’t though resulted in films which you want to go back to every year or so. Kubrick he isn’t. Yes ‘Reds’ won big, but it’s rarely if ever mentioned in anyone’s top 25, even. ‘Bulworth’ was though I thought underrated.


      reply 78 11/25/2016

      In this day and age, “Rules Don’t Apply” should’ve gone straight to HBO, but I’m sure Beatty’s ego would never allow him to come crawling back to television because who do they think he is, Shirley Maclaine?


      reply 79 11/25/2016


    • I actually find Keanu weird. He’s usually a terrible actor but once in a while actually gives a great performance. As much as I hated The Neon Demon, he was great in it. As for Warren Beatty, I’ve only seen Rules Don’t Apply, Bulworth, and Dick Tracy and…he’s okay. Nothing special as an actor, which might be why he’s rarely mentioned among the greats despite having been on the A-list for decades from the 60’s to the early 00’s.


      • If you haven’t seen Beatty’s earlier movies, you haven’t seen him at his best.

        Liked by 1 person

        • True, though there’s a lot of classic movies I haven’t seen yet. Hell, I saw Taxi Driver for the first time a week or two ago.


        • I’m kind of mystified regarding how Warren Beatty was considered a big star in the first place. Hopefully somebody can back me up on this, but he has only really has three hits (“Dick Tracy” was really more of a base-level hit) in movies that he headlined or was the top star, in the last 55 years: “Bonnie & Clyde”, “Shampoo”, and “Heaven Can’t Wait”. And plus, depending on your point of view, Beatty can be an awfully one-note actor. He virtually plays the same shy fella with a deer in the headlights look,in practically every movie!


      • I agree with the sentiment that most young people probably don’t know much about Warren Beatty prior to this year’s Oscars mix-up. He isn’t like say Clint Eastwood or Robert Redford, other leading men from Beatty’s generation turned directors/producers. But unlike them, I get the feeling that Beatty still thinks that he could cut it as a leading man without much reservations. To give you an idea, Beatty from my understanding, plays Howard Hughes circa 1958, when he was about 53 years old (a good 25 years younger than Warren Beatty in real life).



      Ishtar. Where to begin?

      They decided to shoot the desert scenes in Morocco instead of the Southwest United States because the studio had money in banks there it couldn’t repatriate. Filming began in the midst of unrest across the Middle East, adding security costs to the movie (some locations actually had to be checked for land mines). And no one in Morocco had experience supporting a big-budget studio production, so logistics got really screwy.

      The lore from this one is great. There was the production assistant who went looking for a blue-eyed camel in the market. Not realizing how rare they were, and that he should have just bought it right then and there, he went looking for another one so he’d have a price to bargain with the first guy. By the time he figured that out, the first guy had eaten the camel. Then, of course, there was the time that director Elaine May supposedly suddenly changed her mind about wanting dunes in a scene. So the production had to spend $75,000 and ten days having a square mile of desert bulldozed flat.

      May was sick with toothaches most of the time, and spent a lot of time arguing with Warren Beatty, her producer and star. She got pissed at him for constantly taking the side of Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in disputes, and didn’t get along much with Isabelle Adjani, the female lead, who also happened to be Beatty’s girlfriend at the time. Dustin Hoffman says there were periods when Beatty and May wouldn’t talk to each other. Some of the crew said that any other director would have been fired for pulling the attitude she pulled on him. Eventually they compromised by shooting every scene twice, one her way and one his. “This was the kind of film where nobody would say ‘Sorry, we can’t afford that,'” said the guy in charge of the budget.

      May liked to shoot lots of film. She supposedly demanded 50 retakes of a scene where some vultures landed next to Beatty and Hoffman. Ultimately she shot 108 hours of raw footage.

      When they returned from Morocco to shoot scenes in New York, under union rules, an American cinematographer and crew had to sit around on paid standby for Storaro and his crew. During postproduction, May and Beatty fought frequently in the editing room, and May often left it to Beatty to direct the actors during looping sessions. The joke was (and some people say it was not a joke) that Bert Fields, their mutual agent, was the one with the real final cut on the film. And editing took so long (release was planned for Christmas 1986, but the film only hit theaters 6 months later), that May only turned in a print of the film when the studio threatened legal action.

      Beatty would admit in interviews years later that the only thing that kept him from firing May in mid-production was the fear that taking a film away from one of Hollywood’s only female directors would hurt his image as a women’s rights activist.

      Troubled Production / Film M To Z

      Ishtar veteran Warren Beatty was at the center of another troubled production and financial disaster in 2001’s Town & Country.

      The script was first brought to Beatty’s attention in 1998, with a planned budget of $19 million. However, Beatty commanded a salary of $8 million and demanded numerous script changes. Over $40 million had been spent on actor and writer salaries even before the cameras began rolling.

      British director Peter Chelsom’s previous credits consisted mostly of low budget, whimsical comedies, meaning he was ill-suited to direct the big-budget, all-star film and deal with the resulting egos. He and Beatty clashed frequently over various details in the script and the visuals.

      Filming began in 1998 but had to be shut down after five months so that cast members Diane Keaton, Garry Shandling, and Jenna Elfman could honor prior commitments. The shoot did not resume until April 2000 (requiring further increases in the actors’ salaries), with the final act of the film still being constantly re-written. A sequence in Sun Valley in which artificial snow was created to make up for the absence of real snow on the ski slopes was re-shot after over a foot of natural snow fell on the resort.

      The final production budget for the film was estimated at around $90 million; it was clear to all involved that it had no hope of breaking even, and just $15-20 million was spent on marketing and distribution for the film’s release in April 2001, leading to a paltry domestic box office take of $6.7 million and a worldwide take of $10.4 million. It would be a decade and a half before Warren Beatty made another film.


  2. One thing that I’ve noticed about Warren Beatty is that virtually all of his post-“Reds” projects struggled to recoup their budgets. Even “Dick Tracy”, which is the highest grossing movie of his career, was written off as an underperformer:

    Bulworth (1998) — Budget, $30 million. Box office, $29.2 million. This was the last film directed by Warren Beatty until 2016’s Rules Don’t Apply.

    Ishtar (1987) — Budget, $55 million. Box office, $14,375,181. Its failure, along with that of other films such as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Leonard Part 6, led to Coca-Cola leaving the film business, selling off Columbia Pictures to Sony, who also had Tristar Pictures. In addition, the troubled film ensured that director Elaine May would not take another movie credit for nine years, and she hasn’t had a directing job since.

    Love Affair (1994) — Budget, $60 million. Box office, $18,272,894. A failed remake of the famous romantic movie, which was previously remade as An Affair to Remember. It also served as the final theatrical appearance of Katherine Hepburn.

    Rules Dont Apply (2016) — Budget, $25 million. Box office, $3,652,206 (domestic). This was the first movie in 15 years that Warren Beatty has made.

    Town & Country (2001) — Budget, $90 million (not counting marketing costs), $105-110 million (counting them). Box office, $10,372,291. Warren Beatty has had no affiliation with any movie since, and it outright caused Buck Henry’s writing career to die out after To Die For put it on a lifeline; Henry would not write another screenplay until 2014. Also halted the writing career of the other screenwriter, Michael Laughlin.


    • With Warren Beatty, the ends simply don’y justify the means (that’s the ultimate downside towards being a perfectionist). As I alluded to prior, most of his movies (at least his post-“Reds” stuff) always seem to go over-budget and take forever to complete. For whatever the reasons many of his stuff post-1981 doesn’t really resonate with audiences.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: