The idea of an actor holding a grudge is about as old as Hollywood itself. But, when people envision said grudge, it’s usually between a pair of actors competing for a role or an actor and a director that can’t see eye-to-eye, not celebrated thespian John Malkovich and an animated children’s movie about talking dinosaurs. And yet, if rumors are to be believed, this is where we find ourselves.
Earlier this week, Newsweek culture writer Emily Gaudette tweeted a screenshot of an unsourced edit to Wikipedia that quotes Malkovich as saying he hates the film We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story and it’s the reason he “left this town.” Apparently, the actor was set to play the role of the film’s villain Professor Screweyes (this, at least, we know is true) but he left the project over disagreements with the animators. “It was completely bureaucratized. They took something that had art in it and put it in the laps of people that only cared about the bottom line.” Here’s the full excerpt from Wikipedia, per Gaudette:
For anyone who has actually seen We’re Back—a Spielberg-produced film that features John Goodman as a talking T. Rex dancing around New York City—it’s hard to imagine there ever being much “art” in the original product. Sure, it’s fun, but it’s no Secret Of NIMH. There is, however, a touch of darkness in the script, particularly when it comes to Professor Screweyes, the sadistic owner of the “Eccentric Circus” who delights in scaring people and has a metal screw for an eye. What’s more, there is apparently a deleted scene in which Screweyes tells his Joker-in-the-Dark-Knight-esque backstory that, according to the user who uploaded the clip, “was fully animated, and had the dialogue recorded - but was deemed too scary/disturbing for kids, so it was cut.” The scene contains a portion of Malkovich’s original performance:
So, we know John Malkovich was billed on the movie, the movie was originally meant to be darker, and Malkovich left the project soon after changes were made. But did he really hold a grudge and feel passionately enough about it to say so in an interview all those years later? The above quote posted by Gaudette was unsourced on Wikipedia and was therefore deleted, but the same text can be found elsewhere in the trivia section of the film’s IMDB page and on the We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story Wikia, which exists for some reason. The earliest existence of the story appears to date back to a 2009 thread on the Channel Awesome message boards. That post is quickly followed by another user noting that it “sounds suspiciously like what Sean Penn said regarding A Kid In King Arthur’s Court” and that “one of these stories is false.”
The Sean Penn story is equally unsourced and absent from other online archives.
As with most rumors, we’re left wondering what to believe and who to trust. We can only hope that next time John Malkovich sits down for an interview regarding his most recent project, the journalist cuts through the bullshit and gets right to the heart of the matter: Does he hate cartoon dinosaurs or what?