Moving Pictures
Apr 12, 2024, 06:29AM

Give John Waters Money

Anyone who doesn’t think his first movie in 20 years won’t be a huge hit is out of their fucking mind.

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David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola, and John Waters were all publicly insulted this week by a culture and conglomerates of moneymen that won’t finance or promote their new films. Lynch had a rumored series (allegedly called Wisteria) scuttled by the pandemic and then rejected by Netflix before he was turned down again for an animated project called Snootworld; Coppola’s winery paid for Megalopolis, already produced but with no buyers; Waters has cast Aubrey Plaza as Marsha Sprinkle in his Liarmouth, but he still can’t get the money together to get production going.

Lynch has emphysema, and 2020 might’ve been his last chance to get something live action made. But how can the studio that produced The Gray Man for hundreds of millions of dollars turn down something like Snootworld? For Megalopolis, an anonymous studio head was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s so not good, and it was so sad watching it. Anybody who puts P&A behind it, you’re going to lose money. This is not how Coppola should end his directing career.” Watching some of Coppola’s 21st-century films can be a bracing experience, so it’s not hard to imagine how grotesque and amateurish this movie might be. And there have been so many bloated bombs recently, but most of them franchises—maybe everyone was just reminded of Damien Chazelle’s Babylon.

“There’s no way to position this movie.” How about from the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now? I’ve seen one post-millennium Coppola film, Alex Lei many more, but most people haven’t. You haven’t seen Youth Without Youth. You haven’t seen Twixt. You don’t know how bad he can get. But there’s an audience for late-Coppola, just as there’s an ever-growing young fanbase dedicated to late-Bob Dylan. Go figure, I can’t.

The biggest mystery is Waters. Since his last film in 2004, he’s become more beloved and famous than ever; besides the mass phenomenon of Hairspray in all its forms, Waters is a celebrity, a prolific author, talk-show guest, and touring lecturer, a bit of a modern Mark Twain; on his last visit to Paris, he was greeted on a bridge by a man on a bicycle with, “Welcome to Paris, Mr. Waters.” Two years ago, he published Liarmouth, his first novel, and announced a movie adaptation last year right before the strikes. Last month, Plaza’s casting was only rumored; now confirmed, yet Waters still doesn’t have a go picture.

A24, Neon, Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics—all of these companies should be licking Waters’ shoes right now. There should be a bidding war. They have no idea how dumb they are: a new Waters movie in 2024 America would level the box office. Speaking strictly business, Liarmouth can’t miss; the pop culture of 2024 is aching for him, unlike every other year of his professional career. When he released the NC-17 A Dirty Shame, Karl Rove by way of George W. Bush, was successfully campaigning against gay marriage. In the 2020s, corporations from Nabisco to Raytheon spend June talking about how much they love gay people, swapping rainbows into their logos for the month. It’s been cool to be queer for years now—which means it won’t be soon enough, and then all you film studios will have REALLY missed the boat!

There’s no way Liarmouth will be a garish “indie home movie experiment,” and it’ll certainly be more accessible than anything David Lynch makes. So who isn’t coughing up the $5 million? Or is it $10 million? $15 million? Who gives a shit? This will be a major cinematic event: the world is ready for more John Waters.

—Follow Nicky Otis Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith


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