October 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India
In Hollywood once is not enough
‘Asoka’: A hit in the
In Hollywood once is not enough
Back in the early nineties when he had just made one of the most successful movies ever, someone asked Steven Spielberg if there would be a sequel. “Everybody is interested in a sequel these days,” Steven Spielberg had replied then. “Hollywood wants to turn a gentle sonnet into a cottage industry. These guys would like to use a formula until the carbonation and the fizz has gone out of it. That is why I won’t make a sequel.”
Three years later, Spielberg, the sorcerer of magical fables, succumbed to the temptation of making a sequel to his all-time 1993 hit, ‘Jurassic Park’.
The film was based on Michael Crichton’s ‘The Lost World’, the sensational sequel to ‘Jurassic Park’ that sold over 12 million copies. Spielberg predicted that ‘The Lost World’ would be as big a hit as the original. Nobody doubted those words. By the mid-nineties, such mind-boggling success was quite normal for one of the most stunning financial brains Hollywood has ever seen.
‘Jurassic Park’ made the cash registers ring like never before and by grossing $ 360 million earned the title of being the most profitable movie (at that time) of the century. ‘The Lost World’ too grossed upwards of $300 million.
Four years later, there’s a sequel of the sequel — ‘Jurassic Park III’ — directed by Joe Johnston, a prodigy of Spielberg. The master filmmaker who was so much against sequels has now agreed to accept a reported $ 4 million as ‘token’ fee to let someone else direct the film.
‘Jurassic Park’ and its sequels have made Spielberg a millionaire many times over. That is, if you didn’t count the profits which poured in from the merchandising which the film spawned. Apart from these, there were around 1,000 other authorised products which for almost a year netted $ 3 million a day worldwide and turned the film into a lesson in megabuck marketing. Not bad going for a film and its sequels.
Thus, it is not surprising that in an era of flops, Hollywood studios are turning to sequels for succour. There is a sequel to the 1968 hit, ‘Planet of the Apes’, Jackie Chan comes again in ‘Rush Hour 2’. Paul Hogan reappears after 13 years with ‘Crocodile Dundee’, Eddie Murphy is back in the remake of ‘Dr Dolittle 2.’ You can also taste ‘American Pie again’ — provided you liked the bland fare in the first place. If you haven’t had enough of ‘Lethal Weapons’, you the duo of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are soon going to be regaling you all over again.
Though a sequel to a hit usually ensure a good opening, there are no guarantees that it would be a blockbuster. The chemistry for a hit remains the same — a powerful storyline, good performances and a racy script.
Jackie Chan realises that. In fact he also realises that a sequel deserves far more care than the original. Which explains why his ‘Rush Hour 2’ is a bigger grosser than the original. The basic star cast remains the same — Chan and Chris Tucker. So does the action. But the gags are richer and the script racier. From the moment the movie opens, viewers know it’s a winner all the way.
Paul Hogan, too, has a windfall on hand with ‘Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles’. Hogan knew he had had a difficult job at hand — acting in and directing a sequel to a sequel. But he cleverly mixes his survival skills and good-natured charm into an eminently winning formula.
No, says Hogan, he hasn’t made the third Dundee because he needed money. “I’ve enough to last two lifetimes,” says the star who grossed over $ 650 million from ‘Dundee’ and its sequel in 1986 and 1989.
In fact, throughout the nineties, there had been a constant demand from fans for ‘Dundee’ number three. But Hogan says he just didn’t find a good enough script and so there wasn’t any motivation to do the film. And finally, the motivation came when he knew he had a whammer of a script all over again.
But where a one-movie wonder Australian star Paul Hogan comes up trumps, the usually awesome Eddie Murphy fails to impress again as Dr Dolittle the man who can communicate with animals. The original film that had Rex Harrison in the lead role was a worldwide hit. The 1997 sequel starring Eddie Murphy — despite its somewhat risque jokes — too caught the fancy of the moviegoers. But this third attempt is finding it hard to keep pace with the first two.
If Eddie Murphy is having a lean season at the box office, it is hard to guess what was actor-director Tim Burton’s motivation to make a sequel of ‘Planet of the Apes’. Though the lead pair of Estella Warren and the boyish Mark Wahlberg have given superlative performances their efforts are somewhat wasted as the film fails to lift the sagging box office returns.
‘Planet of the Apes’ takes you back to the time when primates ruled supreme. Despite its gizmos and heavy make-up ‘Planet of the Apes’ is completely out of sync with the times. Dozens of compugraphers, skin fabricators and other technicians have not been able to deliver a semblance of the 1968 hit that starred Charlton Heston.
When it comes to microchip entertainment, the big hit of the season must be ‘Jurassic Park 3’. The hype created by the film has turned the tables on the best Harvard Business School-trained professionals on how to make a venture profitable.
“If you give your average John Doe his shot of dreams, you can never be a failure,” says Spielberg. Indeed, it is a classic quote from a man who has followed this philosophy with an enormous degree of material success.
But, warns Spielberg, “There’s never the right formula when you are making a sequel. Just because the original film did good business is no assurance that the next one would be a hit as well. I sometimes marvel at a director like Francis Ford Cappola whose sequel to ‘The Godfather’ was better than the original version.”
Something what Spielberg himself has done. His sequels have been better than his originals. “If audiences continue to demand sequels to films like ‘Jurassic Park’, you can’t do much about it. After all, we are in the business of marketing. And if people want to see more of the same stuff, so be it!” (NF)
‘Asoka’: A hit in the
It is tough being Shahrukh Khan. He has just shot a home video for son Aryaan and has to complete the shooting for ‘Devdas’. He is also running around for the post-production of Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ and as producer, has to took into the promotion of his latest release, ‘Asoka’.
“Just watch, ‘Asoka’ is going to be the most successful of all my films,” says the 37-year-old actor who turned producer with ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’ not very long ago. The production banner, Dreamz Unlimited has two other partners — director Aziz Mirza and Juhi Chawla.
Shahrukh’s faith in ‘Asoka’ was sparked the moment ace cameraman-turned-director, Santosh Sivan discussed the project atop a running train while filming the famous ‘Chhaiya Chhaiya’ number of Mani Ratnam’s ‘Dil Se’ three years ago.
“At that time all I knew was that I would have to play an emperor,” he recounts. “Santosh’s presentation of the script is something else. It is thoroughly researched, but it is not a history lesson. The film is about the humanisation of Asoka and it is styled as a thriller.”
Many who have seen rushes of the film insist that it is Shahrukh’s “most mature” performance yet. But he differs: “I have become more childlike and silly. I realise I don’t learn from my mistakes because I think I don’t make any mistakes. I believe in instinct. All these years I have survived on pure instinct.”
The Khan has just completed his tenth anniversary in the industry. He has come a long way since his first shot for ‘Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman’ at Mumbai’s Juhu Convent Villa on June 26, 1991. Then came ‘Darr’ and ‘Baazigar’, followed by ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, ‘Pardes’, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’... and so on.
“From an outsider’s point of view, it has been 10 years of stardom,” he comments. “But for me, it is just work. So what if I have the biggest bungalow in town? The peripherals are not important, it’s the whole process of moving on in life that is important.”
Oddly enough, Shahrukh enjoys running himself down as a star: “Who am I, but a kid who got lucky? There was a time when stars were stars, they wore three-piece suits and went out to a restaurant. We... today’s actors are not stars. We are yuppie businessmen!”
Apart from his commitment to work, his loyalties are for Gauri, younger to him by five years, their son Aryaan, born on November 13, 1997 (“it was the first time I went to hospital and came out with someone alive”) and daughter Suhana (“she’s just about started recognising me”) born two years ago on May 22.
“You’ll never hear any true stories about my romances,” he shrugs. “Like my father, I am a simple guy. I just don’t have that larger-than-life quality about me. I may try to put up a larger-than-life image in public, but at home, I am a lamb.”
His friends say that part of this “self-effacing humility” comes from the belief that he isn’t good looking at all and that there are many young men who, given half a chance, would outdo him. In effect, this feeling has only helped him to do better and excel in whatever he does.
But ask him, and he relapses into philosophy: “I never had a dream or a goal in life. But I have lived so many dreams, crossed so many goals and I will continue to give back to the world till I have. But if some day, I won’t be given the resources or love to continue, I’ll know my time has come to stop!” (MF)
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