Ever since bursting onto the Hollywood scene in the 1980s, Dutch cinematographer, director, and film producer Jan de Bont has been a part of many iconic movies, in the capacity of cinematographer, on Die Hard and Basic instinct, and as a director on Speed and Twister. In an interview with Uproxx, de Bont revealed that despite his years of experience, his time directing the 2003 movie Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life broke his will as a director.
“It was not such a great experience. But more from the reason how the studio tried to really interfere with it in a way. And the thing itself is that the makers of the game were also involved. And they never told me that they, also, have a say in the story. Suddenly there were all these changes that have taken, and who had to be what, and what cast. And then suddenly it became such a big scene. Everything was a big deal. And then the very first day of shooting, it was in Greece, on the Island. The very first day, we got a call, ‘Oh, I want to congratulate you on your first day. And by the way, you have to cut $12 million out of your budget.’ The very first day! And in those days, $12 million, that’s like four scenes.”
The heavy amount of interference from the studio on the sets of Tomb Raider was a new experience for Jan de Bont, who was used to a much more hands-off relationship with his producers. Despite the struggle to juggle his personal vision with what the studio wanted him to do, de Bont persevered with his directorial duties. But the whole experience made him realize he would have to jump through the same type of hoops every time he sought to make a big-budget Hollywood film.
“Basically you say, wait a second, every movie’s going to be like this? Where the studio has a say in what will be done, what scenes have to be in, and even what kind of shirts somebody has to wear at one point? They didn’t like the buttons on one shirt! I still remember, I got a call, “I didn’t like the buttons on the shirt.” I don’t even remember. What was the guy’s name? The male lead in that movie? Man, I forgot his name. But then, “Wait a second. You’re calling me because you don’t like the buttons on the shirt?” That was so absurd. Really. And then also having to really constantly deal with budget issues.”
In the end, de Bont chose to walk away from the Hollywood studio system of filmmaking, although he continued to work as a cinematographer and producer on various projects. While he prefers not having to deal with the kind of issues that made Tomb Raider so difficult, de Bont regrets the films he was never able to make as a result.
“There were films that I wanted to work on, and unfortunately they also did not get made. None of them got made. I said, wait a second, is this too much work? This is too difficult. Because I felt this wasn’t a traditional period, where studios were taking a much bigger part in the making of the movie. And it became… that’s not worth it. You know?”
This news was originally published at Uproxx.