Visiting the Hollywood Scientology Celebrity Center, J.D. Shapiro just wanted to meet girls. Instead, he wound up writing Battlefield Earth. After winning the "Worst Picture of the Decade" Razzie, Shapiro is apologizing. He blames it all on his penis.
If you are lucky enough to have forgotten L. Ron Hubbard adaptation Battlefield Earth, here is an awful clip that stands as a helpful reminder of the fact that Xenu does not exist, and if he does, he does not love you:
So, whose fault is that? In today's New York Post Shapiro—who also wrote Robin Hood: Men in Tights and, um, X-Treme Biography: Santa—blames this film's existence and resolute awfulness on two things: His penis and John Travolta. The only reason he was given the opportunity to write the movie was thanks to an ill-advised girl-hunting trip to the Celebrity Center:
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... 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."
Too bad Peaches Geldof wasn't there. The fact that Hollander liked Men in Tights apparently didn't deter Shapiro from continuing to talk with her:
Karen called me a few days later asking if I'd be interested in turning any of L. Ron Hubbard's books into movies. Eventually, I had dinner with John Travolta, his wife Kelly Preston, Karen—about 10 Scientologists in all. 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.
So, that's not creepy at all. Shapiro "researched" Scientology before writing the movie, but didn't seem to fit in very well (at one point telling fellow Scientologists he had a vision of L. Ron Hubbard saying "Pull my finger," which seems about right for the guy who wrote Men in Tights). Even so, MGM green-lighted a Battlefield Earth flick and Shapiro submitted a draft of what Travolta called "the Schindler's List of sci-fi." And then:
Then I got another batch of notes. I thought it was a joke. They changed the entire tone. I knew these notes would kill the movie. The notes wanted me to lose key scenes, add ridiculous scenes, take out some of the key characters. I asked Mike where they came from. He said, "From us." But when I pressed him, he said, "From John's camp, but we agree with them." I refused to incorporate the notes into the script and was fired. I have no idea why they wanted to go in this new direction, but here's what I heard from someone in John's camp: Out of all the books L. Ron wrote, this was the one the church founder wanted most to become a movie. He wrote extensive notes on how the movie should be made.
Shapiro says he's only seen the end result once, at the premiere, and only left his name on the project because of the fat check he received. "I can't help but be strangely proud of it," he writes. "Out of all the sucky movies, mine is the suckiest."
On behalf of moviegoers everywhere, we accept your apology, J.D. Shapiro. And to David Diamond and David Weissman, writers of Old Dogs: We're still waiting. [NYPost]