In a rare spectacle, two big-budget, star-studded movies fought it out at the box office last weekend.
"Beverly Hills Cop II," directed by Tony Scott and starring Eddie Murphy, came up the big winner. In its first six days, Paramount's cop comedy grossed more than $40 million. Its four-day Memorial Day weekend gross fell just short of the record $33.9 million racked up by "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in 1984.
"Ishtar," directed by Elaine May and starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, got knocked for a loop. Last weekend, Columbia's camel comedy took in just $3.4 million, for a two-week total of $9.1 million.
Movie making is about more than winning or losing. But the thrill of a hit and the pain of a flop are still the basic emotions in show business. Director Scott and actor Hoffman talk about both.
As crazy as it sounds, until last Saturday night, "Beverly Hills Cop II" director Tony Scott was still worrying whether he had a hit--or a miss.
On Saturday--and again Sunday night--the British-born director watched moviegoers watch "Cop" in Mann's Chinese theater and "was thrilled with the result," he said in an interview.
"To be honest, once the picture's over and gets out there, there is a sense of relief and personal satisfaction--much like when I was a painter and finished a painting. But it's great when you see other people enjoying your work."
Audiences loved "Cop," spending more than $40 million on tickets during its first six days in release, a figure that broke a slew of box-office records (highest three-day gross in history, largest one-day gross in history, highest number of prints in circulation, highest opening day this year).
The overwhelming attendance may have wounded a lot of film critics' egos as well, for "Cop" got worse reviews than "Ishtar" (see accompanying story). Newsweek's David Ansen described it as a movie "that doesn't need to be seen; it needs to be sedated." The Times' Sheila Benson said "it isn't a sequel, it's a heart attack." Most reviews found "Cop" either too noisy, too similar to the original, too slick or all of the above.
Scott responded to his critical drubbing with a colorful, unprintable British vulgarity, which he wished upon his critics.
"They thought 'Hunger' (his first feature film, which starred Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie) was an esoteric art movie. After those reviews came out, I couldn't get arrested in this town."
But Hollywood has a short memory and after directing last year's top moneymaker, "Top Gun," and now "Cop II," Scott acknowledged that directing offers are anything but scarce. He is already working on his next film, "Presidio," which he described as a "tough action movie" that would be "deeper and darker" than "Cop II."
Like his director-brother Ridley ("Blade Runner," "Alien"), Tony Scott was an award-winning commercial director in England before coming to the attention of American movie producers. Directing "Cop II" was a fulfillment of his wish to do a comedy and to work with Eddie Murphy.
However, he did have a few misgivings. "As a director, I was ambivalent about taking on a sequel and the film was a daunting prospect because the original had been so successful. But I loved Eddie and the boys and felt I could do a different movie."
Spurning critics' complaints that his movie was only a clone of the original, Scott said his "Cop" is "much tougher, faster and glossier. I tried a different focus on the characters. I capitalized on their redevelopment, especially of Rosewood (Judge Reinhold). Plus, I think I made this one more contemporary."
He also disagreed with suggestions that he's somehow sold out by doing two such commercial films back-to-back. "I don't see it that way," Scott says. "I think I've been lucky. Thanks to (producers) Don (Simpson) and Jerry (Bruckheimer, who also produced "Top Gun"), I've been able to do two hard-core entertainment films that are \o7 each\f7 different. The similarity is that the passion I brought to both was the same; making a film to me is like fighting a war."
Given Scott's tremendous box-office victory with "Cop II," he was asked why he thought "Ishtar," also a comedy, also with very big stars, is faltering.
"One is a good movie and one is not, I guess" he said, offering his opinion in theory only, since he hasn't yet seen "Ishtar."
He added, "One appeals to the public and the other does not. Don and Jerry really have a finger on the popular pulse; they have an understanding of moviegoers."