Was There Really THAT Much Trouble In Stepford?


Mister D: There has been a lot of negative posts coming out of the Post lately about this movie, but I’ve let some of them slide right by. For journalistic sake, I’m keeping this one for my weblog. My weblog was meant to capture everything about Miss M…good or bad…because that’s the way I kept my physical scrapbook. Plus, like I’ve said in the reviews sections…I think it’s good to see all that a “star” has to go through to remain on top and/or keep going. Most of us run away at the first sign of disagreement…

New York Post

The Stepford Wives” should have been amazing. That was the word around Hollywood when people heard the list of all-stars attached to the project – Nicole Kidman (news), Matthew Broderick (news), Glenn Close (news), Christopher Walken (news) and Bette Midler (news), plus producer Scott Rudin, director Frank Oz (news) and screenwriter Paul Rudnick, the brain trust behind the 1997 hit “In & Out.” But something went very wrong with “Stepford,” almost from the start of last year’s production in New York.

As early as the second day, Kidman was spotted complaining about Rudnick’s script right in front of the crew.

“She was holding a script and pointing at it and shaking her head,” an on-set source recalls.

“They were trying to placate her, but it was obvious she disapproved.”

And things got worse, as the production’s greatest strength – its collection of superstars – backfired.

“There were just too many egos,” says a source.

“Fourteen different people were saying what they wanted, and no one was willing to blink.

“That’s why a shoot that was supposed to take three months wound up taking eight.”

That may also be why the movie, despite many funny one-liners and a hilariously over-the-top comic performance from Close, seems unlikely to be the big summer hit Paramount wants.

“Stepford” is a remake of the classic 1975 thriller of the same name, about a couple from New York (Broderick and Kidman) who move to a Greenwich-like Connecticut suburb, where, as Close’s character puts it, there’s “no crime, no poverty and no pushing.”

As anyone who’s heard of “Stepford Wives” knows, the women in this town are just a little too perfect – they’re robots, in fact, programmed to be perfectly obedient.

In contrast, almost nobody was obedient on the “Stepford” set.

Every major player had an opinion about how the movie should go. Some wanted the movie to be a manic satire of the suburbs; others wanted a sci-fi thriller like the original “Stepford”; and there seems to have been a contingent that insisted on adding schmaltzy redemption scenes at the end.

“There were too many cooks,” as one insider puts it.

Caught in the middle of this maelstrom of malcontent was beleaguered director Oz, who had a hard time keeping all the monstrous egos in check.

Oz, who started his career as the voice of Miss Piggy and Yoda, became a respected comedy director with such films as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

“He’s a very nice guy,” says a source, “the kind who asks people on the crew what they did over the weekend, which is pretty rare for directors.”

But he’s had trouble with actors before, most famously on the set of 2001’s “The Score,” when Marlon Brando (news) allegedly refused to take direction from him, forcing Robert De Niro (news) to act as an intermediary.

Before long, ego clashes erupted all over the Stepford set.

Walken was furious because the script called for his character to die at the end of the movie, and he had massive yelling matches with Oz in the director’s office.

The legendarily oddball actor reportedly threatened to quit “Stepford” more than once.

“They were at each other’s throats,” an on-set spy told Page Six last September.

As the shoot dragged on, many of the stars grew frustrated, including Kidman, who signed up for “Stepford” when Rudin persuaded her it would be an easy lift after her intense, Oscar-winning performance in “The Hours.”

“Scott said to me, ‘Do this movie, and it will feel like summer camp,'” Kidman recently told Ladies Home Journal.

But it didn’t. “The Hours” shoot took only three weeks, and “Stepford” grew into the second-longest production that Kidman has ever done, after Stanley Kubrick (news)’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”

“It was a long time,” Kidman told reporters at a press conference on Thursday, “and I don’t do well with long times.”

Neither, apparently, does Midler, who juggled the extra “Stepford” shoots with rehearsals for her “Kiss My Brass” concert tour.

She threw numerous on-set tantrums and frequently griped about production delays. “Bette got snippy,” a source recalls, “but she was saying what everyone else felt.”

The whole mess came to a head during a month-long shoot last September at Queens’ Kaufman Astoria Studios, as Oz and company struggled to find the right path through the movie’s climactic scene, which takes place in a ballroom during a dance.

More than a hundred actors and twice as many crew members wound up sitting around for days as the director sweated over the important plot twist at the end of the scene.

Oz spent two weeks shooting the scene so it ended one way, and then a couple more weeks doing it another way.

Meanwhile, the clock ticked, actors waited and tempers frayed.

Then came the final straw, when Oz got word from the Paramount studio executives in L.A. that they didn’t like how the ballroom scene was shaping up.

A fed-up Oz walked off the set on a Wednesday morning, and the production shut down for the rest of the week.

Oz returned to the set and finally finished production last December – but that wasn’t the end of his problems.

All spring, he slaved away in the editing room – while fielding calls from nervous Paramount execs – and just last month he brought the actors back to reshoot some footage for the movie’s elusive ending.

“We had a couple different endings, but that’s all very normal,” Oz told reporters on Thursday.

“I reshot the ‘What about Bob?’ ending. I reshot the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ ending. It’s always confusing to me when people ask [about reshoots] as if we shouldn’t have done that.

“Because in the old days, in the studio days, they always budgeted in reshoot time and additional shooting time.”

But Rudin didn’t take Paramount’s demands in stride.

About three months ago, says a source close to Rudin, the exasperated producer essentially abandoned “Stepford,” telling associates that he just didn’t care anymore.

Meanwhile, leaks about the troubles with “Stepford” have sullied the movie’s reputation in Hollywood.

Most industry observers expect the film to bomb, and Paramount hasn’t changed any minds because it won’t let most journalists see a finished print until Tuesday’s New York media screening.

Even Kidman hasn’t seen it yet, and she won’t be at tonight’s invitation-only premiere in L.A. because she’s presenting an award at the Tonys at Radio City.

Kidman’s publicist says scheduling problems prevented her from attending a screening last week – but in L.A., rumor has it that Kidman doesn’t want to see “Stepford” because she doesn’t want to lie to reporters who ask if she likes it.

Maybe she just didn’t want to relive bad memories.

“By the time ‘Stepford’ wrapped,” an insider says, “everyone was just so ready for it to end.”

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