dolittle dragon scene

The post-mortem for Universal’s big-budget disaster Dolittle continues, as the film continues to flounder at the box office and lose millions for the studio. More reports have emerged of the behind-the-scenes troubles that plagued Dolittle, which has struggled to break even with its costly $175 million budget. However, surprisingly, this wasn’t a case of too much studio interference or bad test screenings, but of a star who pitched the idea of a dragon farting in his face.

A new report from The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Robert Downey Jr. was the one who came up with the idea around the film’s emotional climax involving Dr. Dolittle giving a dragon an enema. THR writes:

The wild card appears to have been Downey. Despite a course having been set for the film’s third-act climax, Downey charted a path for a new direction. Several sources say it was the actor-producer who came up with the idea of the dragon colonoscopy/enema moment at the last minute. He and his reps declined to comment for this story.

Downey Jr.’s epiphany came after several writers boarded than exited the project to punch up the film’s comedy. Universal was reportedly unhappy with Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan’s original cut, which “was said to not feel like a family movie; it lacked comedic elements and, considering it was about talking animals, a fair amount of special effects.” Gaghan’s original ending also featured a dragon, but rather than the instantly infamous scene in which Dr. Dolittle fixes the dragon’s constipation, it was focused on the death of Dolittle’s wife. “It felt like a morose father-son story, and there wasn’t a big animal presence,” an insider told THR.

In drops Seth Rogen — for a little while. Universal turned to the comedian for advice on making the film funnier, but Rogen was too busy with other projects to stay involved. The studio next turned to Chris McKay, director of The Lego Batman Movie, but after he assembled edits and storyboarded sequences and worked with Downey, McKay also stepped away to direct his own feature. The game of screenwriter telephone ended with Jonathan Liebesman, who had previously worked with McKay on reshoots for 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was the trio of Gaghan, Downey Jr., and Liebesman that ushered the production through the expensive reshoots, which added the broad comedic elements and multiple fart jokes.

So it’s possible that Downey Jr. couldn’t totally be blamed for the commercial and critical failure of Dolittle, though THR reports that both he and his wife and Dolittle producer Susan Downey held primary creative control. As one person involved in the post-production process told THR, “When Iron Man tells you something, you listen to Iron Man.”

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