What happened to the man who made "Sky Captain"?
June 30, 2010 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2005) is an amazing film with a great production history. But it's director, Kerry Conran, seems to have dropped of the face of the earth. What happened?
posted by Faze to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, I debate your premise. But regardless of whether Sky Captain was good or not, it had an unbelievably huge budget for a directorial debut and then failed to make any money. I imagine that a director can become persona non grata pretty quickly after that.
posted by 256 at 1:29 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a shame, really. I thought the movie was great fun, and clearly a labor of love for Kerry Conran. I met him at a Sci-Fi Museum premire of Sky Captain, and he seemed like a really swell guy.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]




Yeah, Sky Captain bombed at the box office (possibly because, IMO, it seemed to have been marketed to the wrong audience), and I believe all the money that was promised for sequels immediately dried up, along with any interest in him as a director for other projects (he may have been dropped by his agent, as well). So he went from being hot to cold really quickly. Hollywood is not known as an industry for being very forgiving about these things, especially if you've basically come out of nowhere to begin with.
posted by scody at 1:37 PM on June 30, 2010


I just wanted to say it's funny because I sat down to re-watch this film last weekend with my fiance and daughter and we had the exact same discussion - whatever happened to Kerry Conran?

I think everyone here has it pretty right on.
posted by kbanas at 1:42 PM on June 30, 2010


Huh. I checked Nexis for you and there is nothing. Total silence.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:43 PM on June 30, 2010


He made a coke commercial a few years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 1:45 PM on June 30, 2010


So he went from being hot to cold really quickly. Hollywood is not known as an industry for being very forgiving about these things, especially if you've basically come out of nowhere to begin with.

I've heard the general concept referred to as movie jail.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:55 PM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's not that it bombed at the box office. It did. Oh yeah, it did.

It's that the "digital backlot" idea quickly lost its uniqueness. In 2005, the idea that one guy in a garage could make a big-budget looking film was Wow! But everyone does this now, or can do it now. And they're better directors than he is.

Moreover, his production designer, Kevin Conran (his brother) went on to do visual work in other projects.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2010


Maybe he's, you know, working on something that doesn't cost $70M? I thought this was going to be about some mysterious disappearance, but it seems like he just hasn't gotten to direct another Hollywood film yet.

Hollywood is not known as an industry for being very forgiving about these things, especially if you've basically come out of nowhere to begin with.
Counterpoint: M. Night Shamalayan. OK, so his first movie was actually outstanding and made lots of money. But Hollywood is actually known for giving established people the chance to fail over and over and over again, rather than taking a chance on a newcomer. It doesn't actually make sense in terms of making good movies or even making money, but bombing with a known name is a defensible move that might let you keep your job after.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:23 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Its worth noting that only one of Shyamalan's films has bombed at the box office, Lady in the Water, the others have varied from profitable to hugely profitable, even where the critical reception has been poor.
posted by biffa at 2:43 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The same question was asked in 2008, with some comments on bankruptcy and a vague comment on disappearing ("After a vacation jaunt to Asia to recouperate from the movie, they were never heard from again."), and a comment that "Kerry [was] making the Hollywood rounds" in 2009. Vague speculations at best, but there you go.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2010


The Sixth Sense is Shamalayan's third film. His first I don't think played theatrically, and Wide Awake looks like it lost several million (maybe it made some back with DVD, though).

In general, though, I think your suggestion is correct. Those first two didn't have any hype and so their failures were less noted. Conran tanked very loudly.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2010


But Hollywood is actually known for giving established people the chance to fail over and over and over again, rather than taking a chance on a newcomer.

Right, absolutely -- that's what I was trying to imply by my "especially if you've basically come from nowhere." Even if Conran had been a first-time director, but had ALSO worked on at least a few other films in other capacities before Sky Captain so that he had certain amount of credentials/connections -- that is, Hollywood's non-monetary capital -- I suspect he'd have still gone on to other work, even if it wasn't immediately high-profile. (Doubly so if he'd actually directed any previous features.) But combine his lack of non-monetary capital AND the withdrawal of actual capital after his first film bombs, and yeah, no one in town's going to exactly be chomping at the bit to give him a second chance.
posted by scody at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2010


It's the same thing that happened to Kinka Usher, who directed one film--Mystery Men, which cost $68 million and grossed less than half that--and then pretty much disappeared.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, Mystery Men was one of the worst movies despite having many good actors, while Sky Captain was a pretty great movie although not exceptional. And had a few good actors, too.

It almost feels like Hollywood is particularly sensitive to a good movie tanking. There's a very large number of movies that do badly. But when a good movie does really badly, they think "he really has got no luck at all, bury him!"
posted by rainy at 4:48 PM on June 30, 2010


Wow. I thought Mystery Men was quite good. I thought it redeemed itself through DVD sales.
posted by scuza at 7:15 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Then there's the Boondock Saints guy...
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:45 PM on June 30, 2010


Note that wikipedia says total losses equalled $80 million due to theater costs and other costs not included in the "production cost." That's a lot of money.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:48 PM on June 30, 2010


The comments to that coke commercial he shot include:

"Kerry is my cousin and´╗┐ his parents were just at our house this weekend . They said he has three movie's coming out in the near future."

Comment is listed as from 9 months ago. So I guess things are ok.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:52 PM on June 30, 2010


Follow-up question: so what the heck do failed Hollywood directors do once they're persona non grata?

Like, if I decided to stop being a scientist, what the hell can I do? Will fast food chains hire a former Hollywood director? I know, sure as hell, that they won't hire ex-scientist with PhDs. Hell, even scientists with MScs. It broke my heart to see an acquaintance who just got his MSc get one (1) job offer at <$35k, in the most expensive city in Canada.
posted by porpoise at 10:17 PM on June 30, 2010


It almost feels like Hollywood is particularly sensitive to a good movie tanking. There's a very large number of movies that do badly. But when a good movie does really badly, they think "he really has got no luck at all, bury him!"

Well, yes, that's really it. If a bad movie tanks, you can say "oh, well, we know what happened there, let's fix it for the next one", but if a good movie tanks, all you can say is that something intangible went wrong. Without a readily-identifiable fix at hand, how can you justify doing it again? When you staff your movie with good, experienced people, and cast it with good, experienced actors, and ditto editors, and publicity, and so on, and it fails despite being good...well, all eyes turn to the new director.
posted by davejay at 12:00 AM on July 1, 2010


The Boondock Saints got a sequel in 2009...
posted by A189Nut at 2:59 AM on July 1, 2010


And Kinka Usher is doing fine
posted by A189Nut at 3:01 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like the guy who wrote that Movie Jail link did end up working in fast food. That's probably what happens if you're a one-shot wonder. If one of the big names becomes persona non grata, I bet he just lives off his enormous savings for years.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:18 PM on July 1, 2010


Sky Captain certainly had a creative vision which got enthusiastic reviews, so wouldn't there at least be demand for him as an art director or concept guy? Or in TV? Or as a director on a pure animated film? Brad Bird's Iron Giant didn't do well either, but that didn't stop Pixar from hiring him.

I know Hollywood is bottom-line-driven, but with the right production (and marketing) around him, what would preclude him from being any less successful than any other newish filmmaker? If some guy's first film made a ton of money, but his latest project is seen as having no artistic or commercial appeal, does he still get the greenlight?

Now that I think about it, I've never seen Sky Captain get played on TV anywhere. Seems like it'd do well with kids, and I'm guessing it wasn't marketed that strongly to them originally (although I thought its retro style would appeal to older folks as well).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:57 PM on July 1, 2010


Brad Bird's Iron Giant didn't do well either, but that didn't stop Pixar from hiring him.

It probably didn't hurt that Brad Bird and John Lasseter were friends from art school.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:03 AM on July 2, 2010


And Kinka Usher is doing fine

Well, he's apparently still doing commercials, if that's what you mean, but even most of the ones on his site are several years old, at least--that iMac model came out in 2002, for example.

Mystery Men was visually stunning, and it had a great script and great actors, but I didn't think that Usher was a very good comedy director--a lot of the lines seemed to get "swallowed up", they didn't come out very well until someone got the DVD and had a chance to sit down and really listen for them. That's true of at least one other cult movie, one that more or less failed on its initial release, but became a big hit with repeated viewings: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Its director, Jim Sharman, also has a very limited film resume, even though he's had a long and successful career as a theatrical director in Australia and elsewhere--in fact, he did the original production of The Rocky Horror Show.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:29 PM on July 3, 2010


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