The 10 Worst Examples of Screenwriters Turned Directors

by Bill Gibron

20 May 2014


5 - 1

#5 - Zig Zag (David S. Goyer)

David S. Goyer has earned the reputation as one of the go-to guys in Hollywood superhero movie adaptation. With credits for The Crow: City of Angels, Blade, and Batman Begins, his name is constantly quoted as quality, though his previous efforts (Demonic Toys, The Puppet Masters) would suggest otherwise. For his first turn behind the lens, Goyer adapted a novel by Landon J. Napoleon about an autistic boy who steals money from his boss to give his abusive dad. Naturally, Pops uses the cash to pay back a loan shark. Sounds like a winner, right? Those who’ve seen it confirm that it’s not.

#4 - Simon Birch (Mark Steven Johnson)

Another first time director. Another dream project. Another dismal failure. Thanks to the one-two punch of his old coot comedies Grumpy Old Men/Grumpier Old Men, Mark Steven Johnson got his box office begat chance at cinematic stardom. He decided to take on John Irving’s cloying novel about a deformed boy who believes that God has chosen him for a higher purpose. Eschewing subtlety for more over the top tearjerking schmaltz, the end result was so earnest and saccharine that it practically dared its audiences not to cry. Of course, when you looked beneath the surface, none of Irving’s insights or invention were evident.

#3 - Passion Play (Mitch Glazer)

This remains one of the most notorious titles on this list, a 20 year plus labor of love that ended up being laughed off almost every screen it ever appeared on. Mitch Glazer got his start writing for music magazines before partnering with original Saturday Night Live scribe Michael O’Donoghue for the Bill Murray smash Scrooged. With such success came the idea of bringing this weird romantic parable to the life. The narrative sees a musician (Mickey Rourke) rescuing an angel (Megan Fox) from an evil gangster (Bill Murray) The fact that the final twist is one of the most hokey in all of creative writing adds insult to aesthetic injury.

#2 - Winter’s Tale (Akiva Goldsman)

So slack and self-indulgent that even hipsters find it unbearable, this opening salvo in Akiva Goldsman’s continuing capitulation to his own talentless tendencies makes most of the movies on this list look like masterworks. Sure, the magic realism of Mark Helprin probably played better on the page. The Oscar winning screenwriter (for A Beautiful Mind) should have left it there. From the groan-inducing analogies and casting (Will Smith as the Devil???) to the mangled mythology on display, this good vs. evil gunk was about as romantic as a spinal tap, and twice as painful. Here’s hoping Goldman never gets another chance to soil the director’s chair ever again.

#1 - Towelhead (Alan Ball)

So you’ve just won an Oscar for your solid strip down of suburban angst, American Beauty. You’ve also created and guided the HBO hit Six Feet Under throughout most of its run. So what do you do for an encore? Why, you make a horrendous movie about intolerance, based on a novel by Alicia Erian. While a 13-year-old Lebanese girl being molested by a ex-military man sounds like the stuff of a real blockbuster (including nods to pornography and rape), someone should have stopped Ball before he made this atrocious affront. Passive pedophilia really has no place in the movies. That’s all this film had to offer.

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