Wes Anderson has admitted that his 1996 directorial debut Bottle Rocket was a “disaster”.
The Oscar-nominated director, who recently helmed the short Netflix film The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar, made the confession while talking to attendees at the Lumière Film Festival (via Variety), and added that he wouldn’t have made it had he known how much audiences were going to hate it.
The film centres on the character of Anthony (Luke Wilson) just as he’s released from a mental hospital, only to find that his wacky friend Dignan (Owen C. Wilson) is determined to begin an outrageous crime spree.
Anderson said of the film: “I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and no one could convince me that we shouldn’t do it, my confidence was the highest, then. When we finally made it and showed it to an audience, they hated it. I was so shocked, it was a disaster.”
He continued: “But that changed me: Had I known that before, I probably wouldn’t have made that movie, and I’m glad of that, because the blind confidence you have when you’re young, you need it!”
Anderson recently explained how he first “blamed the audience” for the poor critical reception to the film. The Asteroid City director said during the 2023 Venice Film Festival that “when we screened the movie publicly, we didn’t screen it in an encouraging environment. We blamed the audience.”
He continued: “The confidence I had was too much, and it was quite shaken by this experience. It was a terrible way to first screen a movie. We had 86 people in the audience, I think, and by halfway through about 20 were left, and I watched them leave. You watch somebody get up and you say, ‘Maybe this one’s just going to the bathroom. But they’re taking all their bags with them…’”
Anderson said the experience still sticks with him today, adding: “From now, any time I’m screening a movie, it’s terrifying. You can screen a movie in a film festival environment. When you screen a movie at a film festival, and it’s the benefactors of the festival and the officials and the delegates of something, that’s one experience, and the other one is the young people who really want to see the movie, and that’s the room that’s more fun to be in if you made the movie because you can feel it.”
Bottle Rocket was co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson. The feature cost $5 million but grossed $500,000 at the U.S. box office when released in theatres
“When we were making Bottle Rocket, I felt like I really knew what I wanted it to be. And it helped that I had a partner, I had Owen Wilson,” Anderson said at Venice. “We’d written it together, the two of us were a team, so that goes a long way in that situation.”
Back in June, Anderson said that Netflix was the perfect place for The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar — and the three accompanying shorts — because it’s “not really a movie”.