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Cutthroat Island (1995) | Waterworld but even floppier

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Speaking to Kim Masters on KCRW, Harlin says that Carolco had been so mismanaged that it was broke before Cutthroat Island ever went into production. According to him, between Carolco’s imminent demise and the fact that distributor MGM was being sold, there was never going to be an appropriate marketing budget for an atypical adventure film being released at Christmas. (The film hit on December 22, 1995.)


The filmmaker does seem to admit his own complicity in a way when he says,

It was a good reminder, I think, in a way, that when you start believing in yourself too much, and thinking that you’re invincible, that you’re a genius, that someone brings you down and says, like, “OK, you’re definitely not a genius, and you’ve had a good run, but you have to be humble and play by the rules.”

But knowing that Carolco was bust, he asked to be let out of his contract with the company:

I’ll tell you another detail that people don’t know about. Originally, Michael Douglas was supposed to star in Cutthroat Island. And he walked away. At that point I was left there with my then-wife, Geena Davis and myself, and a company that was already belly-up. We begged to be let go. We begged that we didn’t have to make this movie. And I don’t think I’ve ever said this in any other interview. We begged that we not be put in this position.


Geena was scared mindless about headlining this film. We felt that a pirate movie with a female lead was suicidal, but we were contractually obligated. And we were so concerned about the script at that point that I personally spent a million dollars of my own money, I hired Mark Norman, who had won an Oscar for writing Shakespeare in Love. So I tried to hire the best writer in the business. Because, again, Carolco said, “we don’t have money. We don’t care if the script is not good, or if it doesn’t work any more because it was written for Michael Douglas and now it’s not that story any more.” So I spent a million dollars of my own money to hire Mark Norman to write that script. We did the best we could under the circumstances. So, was it painful when it all came crashing down? Yes. Did we learn a lot? Yes.



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