Spielberg Tried To Warn Costner About Waterworld

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Waterworld (1995) is celebrating its 25 Anniversary this year. The film was considered a box office disaster when it opened in 1995. But, the years have been kind to the adventure film that starred Kevin Costner. I personally find it to be a fun film and have always enjoyed it. The biggest criticism the film faced was the budget got way out of control. That largely had to do with the film shooting on water and that having a major impact on its schedule and budget. The film’s screenwriter spoke to Yahoo about how Steven Spielberg tried to warn Costner about shooting on water. Spielberg obviously had a nightmare experience working with water on Jaws.

From Yahoo: 

Memo to all aspiring filmmakers: When Steven Spielberg tells you not to do something, you’d be wise to listen. Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds learned that lesson the hard way during the production of their 1995 action epic, Waterworld. Set in a dystopian tomorrow where the polar ice caps have melted, erasing “dryland” and bathing the world in water, the movie was conceived as an ambitious aquatic Western with a science-fiction twist. But when Waterworld washed ashore in theaters 25 years ago this summer, all anyone could talk about was the out-of-control budget and behind-the-scenes creative battles that culminated with Costner replacing Reynolds in the editing room. According to Waterworld screenwriter, Peter Rader, the source of the movie’s many troubles stemmed from one fateful decision: the choice to shoot the entire film on the open water rather than in a controlled environment like a studio water tank. (Watch our video interview above.)


“The complications of producing this movie in a practical environment were staggering,” Rader tells Yahoo Entertainment ahead of the film’s silver anniversary on July 28. The writer adds that Spielberg — who barely survived his own trial by water during  the legendarily difficult production of his 1975 blockbuster Jaws — warned Reynolds of those complications during a pre-production phone call. “Kevin said, ‘Steven, I’m doing this Waterworld movie, and we’re shooting on water. Do you have any advice for me?’ And Spielberg was unequivocal: ‘Do not shoot on water! You’re going to need a couple of shots on water, so use second unit for that. Do all of your coverage in a tank or a stage.’”


Despite Spielberg’s dire warnings, Reynolds and Costner decided to forge ahead with their plans to shoot on the Pacific Ocean waters in and around Hawaii. “Kevin Reynolds had this vision — and Costner supported him — which was that if we want to make this feel gritty and real, we have to do it on the water itself,” Rader explains. But things started to go wrong from the very beginning of the shoot, when a hurricane swept through the area and destroyed the pricey floating set that served as the primary location for the first act: a lonely atoll where Costner’s seafaring Mariner encounters a small outpost of humans — including his eventual traveling companions Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Enola (Tina Majorino) — that’s attacked by an army of oil-guzzling “smokers” led by The Deacon (Dennis Hopper).

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