• Assembling a group of young actors (plus James Earl Jones and Robert Forster) for a stagy drama that revolves around a poker game, allowing for plenty of exaggerated guy's-guy chatter about excrement and sex
• Letting the always-grating Matthew Lillard mug like crazy, while his fellow poker players Erik Palladino, Ryan Reynolds, and Dash Mihok set their emotion controls to "mope"
• Trying to overcome the single-location story by having something contrived happen every goddamn minute
Defender: Writer-director Jeff Probst, co-story-creator and mentor Jim Gulian, and producer Katy Wallin-Sandalis
Tone of commentary: Endearingly enthusiastic, then self-congratulatory, then surprisingly pissy and profane. Probst says at the start, "We really want this [commentary] to encompass as many facets of making a movie as possible," so he begins by telling a lot of anecdotes about how he had the idea for the story while he was in a writing workshop, and how the script landed in the hands of Stephen Baldwin—which prompts Probst to do a not-bad Stephen Baldwin impression—which drew enough heat to get pre-production rolling. But about two-thirds of the way through the track, after he's praised everyone involved with getting the film made, Probst turns a corner and launches into a profanity-laden rant about his every petty Finder's Fee-related gripe, from his trouble getting the film distributed to his strained relationship with Palladino. ("Everyone knows we butted heads," Probst says, apparently speaking to the half-dozen people who were aware that the Survivor host had directed a movie.)
What went wrong: Probst got the green-light while he was in the middle of the first season of his better-known gig—"If you don't know, I host a show called Survivor," he helpfully says—and had to shoot before the second season started, which meant he had 17 days to guide a cast of seasoned professionals, nearly all of whom had suggestions about how the movie should go. "What was your lowest point?" Jim Gulian asks late in the track. Probst replies, "Every frickin' day," adding, "I don't think I took a shit the whole time I did this movie," and, "That set smelled! The actors smelled! The B.O. was worse than Survivor."
Comments on the cast: Probst was amazed that he landed Jones, saying, "If you're writing an older, heroic black guy, that's who you think of." But then he's generally—and kind of sweetly—amazed that any of these Hollywood stars and semi-stars were calling him up on the phone to talk about taking a part in this movie. (Probst, quoting Forster: "My daughter and I are watching that damn Survivor show. Hell of a show.") But he isn't too star-struck to talk about his younger cast members as though he was sitting with them at the poker table: "Lillard… I could kick his ass right now. And I have a busted leg."
Inevitable dash of pretension: Gulian on Probst's script: "You took the hero's journey and spun it on its head. It's the hero's journey into hell." Probst on Probst's script: "This movie is about truth. This movie is about finding out whether you're going to stand up and be a man and do the right thing, which is something I battle in my whole life every single day."
Commentary in a nutshell: "I used that Baldwin ticket to get me in so many doors."