In 2003, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was released in our French cinemas. A complicated adventure that prompted both comedian Sean Connery and director Stephen Norrington to retire. We will explain everything to you !
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen : a critical and commercial failure
Adapted from Alan Moore’s cult comics, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tells the story of 7 adventurers with extraordinary powers, including The Invisible Man and Dorian Gray, led by cowboy Allan Quatermain. Gathered in secret circumstances, they all board Captain Nemo’s Nautilus to sabotage a conference bringing together the greatest heads of state.
Released in 2003the feature film met with impressive critical failure. Stephen Norrington’s adaptation is taken down by the trade press. On the box office side, it’s hardly better since for a budget of 78 million dollars the film recorded a gross of 179 million dollars. It must be said that the filming was not easy for the filmmaker, who decided to retire after this bad experience.
A complicated production
Stephen Norrington, hailed from the success of Bladeis employed by New Line Cinema to stage The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. From the start, the filmmaker wanted to stay true to the dark tone of Alan Moore’s comics. But the 20th Century Fox, which distributes the feature film, asks Stephen Norrington to stage a work for the general public, rated PG-13. To support this desire, the studios hire Sean Connery as Alan Quartermain. The British comedian agrees to star in the blockbuster because he regrets having turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. The actor is afraid of missing out on a new commercial triumph and agrees to shoot in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
However, the Fox wants to smooth the work of Alan Moore. The studio then decides to put Alan Quatermain’s drug problems to the side, and adds Tom Sawyer to the cast to appeal to American audiences. Changes that did not please Alan Moore who then asked not be associated with the project. In issue 302 of MadMoviesreleased in December 2016, Stephen Norrington explains that:
Over the course of the rewrites (20 in total!) the scenario has become more and more conventional. Screenwriter James Robinson and I tried to resist, but in the end we were mere performers.
The production of the film takes place in the same dynamic of opposition between producers and artists. Fox cut the film’s budget, which goes from 85 million to 78 million dollars. Filming began in August 2002 in Prague. But that summer the Czech capital is the victim of huge floods. A natural disaster that destroyed part of the sets, delayed filming and caused a financial loss estimated at $7 million.
The rocky relationship between Sean Connery and Stephen Norrington
But the worst during the filming of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemenit was the relationship between Sean Connery and Stephen Norrington. The two men argued regularly on the set of the film, especially because of different artistic. Stephen Norrington notably said that:
We had a few arguments, and the worst one was in Malta, about a prop that was left behind in LA Connery was mad at me for different reasons, and the bad vibes wore me down and made me sick. So I invited him to stick his fist in my face to get it over with, while appreciating in advance the money I was going to collect in court! In the end, we didn’t fight, we just yelled at each other. Then I went back to my hotel room and submitted my resignation. Fox threatened to sue me, so I went back to work the next morning.
Once the film is finished somehow, Stephen Norrington refused to promote it. Worse, after his experience on The League of Extraordinary Gentlementhe director retired from the Hollywood industry and took early retirement. He then participated in the Burning Man festival for 10 years and then returned to his first love: animatronics.
Sean Connery has also, for his part, decided to retire. Tired of the Hollywood system and the constant pressure from producers and directors, the immense British actor therefore withdrew from the sets. In an interview given to Times in 2011 he said about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen :
It was a nightmare! The experience marked me a lot. She made me think about showbiz. I got tired of it…