Budget: $55 million
Domestic gross: $12.7m
Worldwide gross: $67m
Golden Raspberry Count: 1 Win (3 Nominations)
Ishtar director Elaine May had helped Beatty on several of his earlier productions, and Beatty knew it. So he thought he'd help give May the movie of her dreams. Which turned out to be a buddy movie in which the leads, a pair of singers, try to make a living in the Middle East but get caught up in a war.
Filming was a nightmare, and not just because Beatty, Hoffman and May were all multiple-take perfectionists. The set itself was based in North Africa, near a Palestinian base that had just been bombed by the Israelis. Which didn't bode well.
The on-set cock ups are too numerous to list, but include an animal trainer's futile search for a blue-eyed camel (the one he found was eaten before he could buy it), May's desire to shoot by sand dunes that didn't exist, plus her numerous toothaches and hatred of the sun (she wore a white veil and huge sunglasses most of the time). Then there were the personality clashes, which saw everyone fall out with everyone else. Except perhaps Hoffman, who often played the mediator.
To avoid firing May, hence making himself look bad, Beatty decided to shoot every scene twice. His way, and her way. Mysteriously, production costs doubled.
The film was popular when previewed, but the press didn't like Beatty. Neither did studio head David Puttnam, and the film died on release. Not because it was a bad movie, but because the people behind it simply didn't know how to work together. May, bless her, hasn't helmed a movie since.