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This summer is the 25th anniversary of the Kevin Reynolds-directed Waterworld, one of the most infamous summer blockbusters of all time. It's known as one of the most difficult productions on record, which eventually led to it becoming an incredibly expensive movie to make, which hobbled its box office chances out of the gate. And it seems that perhaps, a lot of the problems could have been avoided if only star Kevin Costner had listened to the advice of fellow director Steven Spielberg.
Waterworld screenwriter Peter Rader told Yahoo that, in the lead up to the production of Waterworld, Kevin Costner had an opportunity to ask Steven Spielberg, director of Jaws, for advice on shooting a movie on the water. As it happened, Spielberg did have a very strong recommendation when it came to filming on the water, don't. Rader explained...
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.’
And Steven Spielberg certainly knew what he was talking about. His own experience filming Jaws was also a nightmare that went significantly over budget and had to deal with a host of problems that certainly wouldn't have been as big had the production not been spending a lot of its time on open water. Spielberg tried to save Kevin Costner from this issue.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Kevin Costner didn't listen, and while the problems of Waterworld weren't exclusively due to filming on water, they certainly weren't aided by the decision. It certainly makes the movie look impressive in a lot of ways but it clearly wasn't worth the cost.
Jaws was ultimately able to overcome its troubled production because it was a massive hit. The movie is often credited with inventing the concept of the summer blockbuster. Waterworld did not have that kind of success. The movie grossed $264 million at the global box office, which is a solid number, especially for 1995, the problem was that the movie cost about $235 million to make and market. If Costner had taken Steven Spielberg's advice, if nothing else had been different, the movie would have been cheaper to complete, and thus might have been able to turn a profit, even if only a small one.
Waterworld has a reputation as a bad movie, and while it certainly has issues, it maybe doesn't deserve the harsh criticism it has received over the last 25 years. If nothing else, it's a movie that many still remember, even if for it's not for the best reasons, and that's better than being a film that gets forgotten.
It is however, a movie that teaches us many important lessons about filmmaking. The most important lesson being, always listen to Steven Spielberg.