Battlefield Earth was voted the worst movie of the early 2000s by The Razzies and it deserved it. In fact, the John Travolta movie is so bad, that even the movie’s writer apologized for it.
In a 2008 apology letter published by the NY Post, screenwriter J.D. Shapiro said:
Let me start by apologizing to anyone who went to see “Battlefield Earth.” It wasn’t as I intended — promise. No one sets out to make a train wreck. Actually, comparing it to a train wreck isn’t really fair to train wrecks, because people actually want to watch those.
He blamed his involvement in the film on his libido, which led him to the Church of Scientology looking for chicks.
It was 1994, and I had read an article in Premiere magazine saying that the Celebrity Center, the Scientology epicenter in Los Angeles, was a great place to meet women.
H never actually became a Scientologist and seems to blame them for ruining his script.
My script was very, VERY different than what ended up on the screen. My screenplay was darker, grittier and had a very compelling story with rich characters. What my screenplay didn’t have was slow motion at every turn, Dutch tilts, campy dialogue, aliens in KISS boots, and everyone wearing Bob Marley wigs.
Shortly after that, John officially attached himself to the project. Then several A-list directors expressed interest in making the movie, MGM had a budget of $100 million, and life was grrrrreat! I got studio notes that were typical studio notes. Nothing too crazy. I incorporated the notes I felt worked, blew off the bad ones and did a polish. I sent it to the studio, thinking the next I’d hear is what director is attached.
And that, apparently, is when things began to go horribly wrong.
Then I got another batch of notes. I thought it was a joke. They changed the entire tone. I knew these notes would kill the movie. The notes wanted me to lose key scenes, add ridiculous scenes, take out some of the key characters. I asked Mike where they came from. He said, “From us.” But when I pressed him, he said, “From John’s camp, but we agree with them.”
I refused to incorporate the notes into the script and was fired.
I HAVE no idea why they wanted to go in this new direction, but here’s what I heard from someone in John’s camp: Out of all the books L. Ron wrote, this was the one the church founder wanted most to become a movie. He wrote extensive notes on how the movie should be made.I
It’s worth noting that he doesn’t actually take any responsibility for it being bad. In Shapiro’s head, it seems, he wrote an amazing movie and then everyone ignored what he wrote and made some other thing which is terrible but still had his name on it.
Somehow, I doubt that’s true. Sure, maybe they did a terrible job with his script but I doubt his script was all that great to begin with.
Even the script being terrible is, perhaps, not entirely his fault. It’s not like the L. Ron Hubbard sci-fi book the movie is based on is actually all that good either.
Since Battlefield Earth, Shapiro hasn’t done much. He’d probably say the movie is to blame, but he hadn’t done much before it either. His most notable and not terrible work before Battlefield Earth is the script for the Mel Brooks Robin Hood parody Men in Tights. His most notable work since Battlefield Earth is, well, nothing.