Early on in Mel Magazine’s look at the comically doomed production of the 1999 Will Smith/Kevin Kline vehicle Wild Wild West, writer Ralph Jones makes one absolutely correct assertion, and it’s one that will not surprise you: The tie-in title track was, without question, the best part of that movie.
We’re including the video here because it is the best possible soundtrack for “The Inside Story Of How Wild Wild West Spun Out Of Control,” a wild, wild piece of writing full of little quotes and tidbits that are just perfect. Perfect. Wonderful, perfect sentences you never knew you needed to read, perfect little pieces of a thoroughly entertaining whole. Perhaps at this point, you might think we’ve used the word ‘perfect’ too many times, but read this brief excerpt and see if you feel the same way. To set the scene, screenwriters Brent Maddock and Steven Wilson—two of the six writers credited on the film—are meeting with Jon Peters, who produced Wild Wild West alongside director Barry Sonnenfeld:
When he explained there would be a scene in which Jim West rides on horseback through the night in order to meet the president, Peters stopped him. “Horse?” he said. “Horses are boring.”
There was a long pause. Maddock said, “Well, we’re setting this in 1868; this is a Western.” Peters said, “You know what’s cool? Motorcycles.” Maddock told him there weren’t any motorcycles in 1868. “Yeah, you could have motorcycles,” Peters responded.
At one point, Peters said to Maddock, “You see the pool there? I was in the middle of that pool one day and swimming up behind me comes Steven Seagal. He gets me in a headlock. And you know, he’s such a pussy…” Peters then proceeded to claim that he asked Seagal, “Wanna take me down? Wanna take me down?,” got out of the pool and had a martial arts battle with him, which Peters won. “All of the four, five young men executives who worked for Jon Peters are sitting around,” says Maddock, “and the only thing I’m thinking is, How are these guys keeping a straight face?”
Yeah, you could have motorcycles.
Jones’ story paints the production of Wild Wild West as an affair doomed by competing egos, far too many cooks, poor communication, and an unwillingness of the part of several of the more up-and-coming artists to say, “hey, that sounds really stupid” to the powerful producers with whom they were working. It does not, however, make it seem like it was ever boring. Assless pajamas! The story of how the Will Smith bellydancing scene made it into the movie! Kenneth Branagh showing up to the table read with a very enthusiastic southern accent locked and loaded, which led an executive to suggest that Sonnenfeld should “fire Branagh and cast whoever this guy was”! Sonnenfeld pissing Kevin Kline off by talking about all the plays Branagh had done!
It’s well worth your time. The movie, however, is not.
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