#244 | Last Action Hero

One of the most notorious Box Office bombs of the nineties, Last Action Hero was the kind of disaster that went beyond everyday failure and swiftly became the stuff of industry legend. All the classic tropes were there – hubris, studio interference, round after round of re-writes. It’s fair to say that just about everything that could have gone wrong, did.

Which is the shame, because Last Action Hero initially held a great deal of promise. It was written by Zak Penn, an avowed comic book and action fan who would go on to pen the scripts for several of the better X-Men movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the height of his career, and increasingly interested in roles that played around with his tough-guy image.

Unfortunately, the film quickly got stuck in development hell. Penn’s original screenplay was reworked by Shane Black, an icon of the action genre, but also the purveyor of the exact types of films Penn was hoping to affectionately satirise. Further re-writes followed – at some point Carrie Fisher took a pass at it, and Penn and his original co-writer Adam Leff quickly found themselves relegated from their own project.

Despite these ill-omens, the studio had high expectations that Last Action Hero would become the dominant Box office hit of 1993. They had good reason to be optimistic – Schwarzenegger’s most recent movie Terminator 2 had just become one of the most successful films of all time. A summer 1993 release date was set in stone.

Then, Spring of 1993 rolled around and the film was still far from ready. Reshoots, yet more rewrites, rushed editing, accidents on set and disastrous early test screenings piled up like a slow-moving car wreck. Still the producers refused to move the date, lest they tacitly confirm what everybody already knew – Last Action Hero was a bust.

To make matters worse, the release date came just one week after the actual biggest movie of 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Last Action Hero had cost almost twice what Jurassic Park had on its way to the big screen, but ended up grossing a paltry $50m to the dinosaur movie’s $400m. It was the first truly resounding flop of Schwarzenegger’s mainstream career.

On this week’s podcast, we go into more details on what exactly went wrong with Last Action Hero, and discuss whether the movie is really as bad as its reputation suggests. Along the way we discuss the incomprehensible plot, bizarre celebrity cameos and a scene-stealing turn from a glass-eyed Charles Dance.

We also brainstorm some highly productive drinking games, check in with our regular listeners for their reactions and pitch some sequel ideas for the unlikely event that this film ever makes a return to the big screen. If you enjoy the show, please hit subscribe to receive a new episode every Monday morning, and consider leaving us a review on your preferred podcatcher.

Next week, we stay in the 90s action genre for a film that is arguably no less silly than Last Action Hero, but was undeniably much, much more successful. Until then, happy listening and remember – Schwarzenegger should never be trusted with this much dialogue!