“The Biggest Failure of My Life”: ‘The Mummy’ (2017) Director Alex Kurtzman Looks Back at His Tom Cruise Film

Universal Pictures

Hollywood creative Alex Kurtzman has looked back at 2017’s The Mummy, his first tentpole feature as director following small-scale dramedy People Like Us (2012). Things… didn’t go well with the planned franchise starter, with abysmal reviews and a box office result that – despite an okay-looking $US409 million gross on the surface – was undone by a production and global P&A spend that shot up to around $US345 million.

With Tom Cruise in the lead, The Mummy was supposed to kick off Universal’s Dark Universe, a planned franchise that would explore the studio’s library of monsters – The Invisible Man, Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, among them. When the reviews and financials were clear, Universal scrapped the plan for a film universe that had also attached stars such as Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, and Johnny Depp.

Looking back, Kurtzman now describes his experience making The Mummy as “brutal”, calling it “the biggest failure of my life, both personally and professionally.” In an interview with The Playlist, Kurtzman said that while making The Mummy was a difficult period, he can now see it as a necessary step to becoming a better director.

“There are about a million things I regret about it, but it also gave me so many gifts that are inexpressibly beautiful,” Kurtzman said. “I didn’t become a director until I made that movie, and it wasn’t because it was well directed “” it was because it wasn’t. And I would not have understood many of the things that I now understand about what it means to be a director had I not gone through that experience.”

Kurtzman points to the “many cooks in the kitchen” that had a hand in The Mummy – and says that the experience has made him “a tougher person” and “a clearer filmmaker”.

While Kurtzman doesn’t name any one particular cook, it’s safe to assume that Tom Cruise had a big part to play in what was going down in the kitchen. A 2017 Variety report described the production as “a textbook case of a movie star run amok.” Cruise has long demanded a large amount of control on his tentpole projects and The Mummy, as Variety’s sources claimed, saw Universal “contractually guarantee Cruise control of most aspects of the project, from script approval to post-production decisions. He also had a great deal of input on the film’s marketing and release strategy.”

Whatever went down on the set of The Mummy and the many reasons for the film’s ultimate failure will mostly come down to hearsay and speculation. Regardless, it’s in the past for Kurtzman, who has been behind Paramount’s recent slate of Star Trek shows (writer/producer of Picard, Discovery, and the upcoming Strange New Worlds). His latest television project, the Chiwetel Ejiofor and Naomie Harris-starring sci-fi series The Man Who Fell to Earth, premieres on Showtime in the U.S. on April 24th and Paramout+ in Australia on April 25th.

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