battlefield-earth

This month, Roger Christian’s Battlefield Earth won the Razzie for “Worst Movie of the Decade,” an award that screenwriter J.D. Shapiro (Robin Hood: Men in Tights) accepted in person. Today in the New York Post, Shapiro offered a mea culpa, explaining how it is he got involved with the “suckiest movie ever” and what it’s been like for him to deal with that legacy.

The post begins with Shapiro apologizing for the movie and explaining, “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.” Hit the jump for some more quotes from the letter, and how Shapiro’s penis ended up being the proximate cause of one of the worst cinematic abominations of all time.

Shapiro recalls what started it all:

It started, as so many of my choices do, with my Willy Wonker. 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.

Willy convinced me to go check it out. Touring the building, I didn’t find any eligible women at first, but I did meet Karen Hollander, president of the center, who said she was a fan of “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” We ended up talking for over two hours. She told me why Scientology is so great. I told her that, when it comes to organized religion, anything a person does to reward, threaten and try to control people by using an unknown like the afterlife is dangerous.

Despite Shapiro’s remarks about organized religion, Hollander called him asking him if he’d be interested in writing a movie adaptation of one of L. Ron Hubbard’s books. Shapiro wound up at a dinner with 10 Scientologists, including John Travolta and his wife. Shapiro described the scene:

John asked me, “So, J.D., what brought you to Scientology?” I told him. John smiled and replied, “We have tech that can help you handle that.” I don’t know if he meant they had technology that would help me get laid or technology that would stop Willy from doing the majority of my thinking.

Terrifying.

Against all odds, Shapiro continued to ingratiate himself with the Scientologists to the point where he finally agreed to write a pitch for Battlefield Earth. “A few days after I finished the script, a very excited Travolta called, told me he “loved it,” and wanted to have dinner,” Shapiro writes. “At dinner, John said again how much he loved the script and called it “The ‘Schindler’s List’ of sci-fi.” As we all know, Battlefield Earth didn’t quite attain that status, but, similar to Schindler’s List, it did end up containing some horrible atrocities.

Interestingly, Shapiro insist that his original version of the script was changed dramatically, to suit Scientologists like Travolta:

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.

Shapiro ended up ashamed of the final product, but didn’t take his name off of it because of the financial implications. But after all these years, Shapiro can’t help but be somewhat proud: “looking back at the movie with fresh eyes, I can’t help but be strangely proud of it. Because out of all the sucky movies, mine is the suckiest.” As for whether or not Scientology ended up getting him what he wanted in the first place…

What do you think? No way do you get any action by boldly going up to a woman and proclaiming, “I wrote Battlefield Earth!” If anything, I’m trying to figure out a way to bottle it and use it as birth control. I’ll make a mint!

Check out NYPost for the entire, awesome letter by Shapiro.

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