It may only be July, but we already have a runaway favourite for worst film of the year. John Travolta’s Gotti, a long-in-the-making biopic of the New York crime boss John Gotti, has been savaged by critics. From the tortuous production history of this misbegotten passion project, to the crunchy grey wigs Travolta wears, Gotti was a checklist of ingredients for box-office calamity. Looking at the ignoble precedents for megaflops, here’s our step-by-step guide to making one of your own.
Get terrible hair. How many silver foxes died to be piled atop Travolta’s head in Gotti? Bad hair is often the sign of a bad movie, as Nicolas Cage has proved on numerous occasions. But the all-time film-sinking hair job remains Colin Farrell’s Alexander hair, a Goldilocks mane that made him look more like a Swedish beach bum than a feared pillager of the ancient world.
Cast your spouse. Kelly Preston hasn’t had much of a role to play lately except that of Mrs John Travolta. In Gotti, she gets to be Mrs John Gotti: the kind of casting call that doesn’t ring any alarm bells, no siree, about what kind of vanity project we’re facing. The ultimate example of marital nepotism, though, was Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away (2002). Failing to heed the lesson learned by Madonna’s first husband, Sean Penn (who starred with the material girl in 1986’s stinky Shanghai Surprise), Ritchie charged right in to give the old ball-and-chain a star vehicle he might direct: a romcom seen by practically no one, except derisive critics and Razzie voters.