I’m surprised no one has set the record straight yet about why Universal passed on Robert Rodriguez’s Barbarella remake since there’s been so much bullshit reporting about it. “He’s getting a bum rap here,” one Uni exec told me about media claims that the studio backed out of the project because Rodriguez was making casting decisions based on his dick. Yes, Robert wanted his girlfriend of more than a year Rose McGowan to play the role made infamous by Jane Fonda. But Universal was hot for Rose to star as far back as July after seeing the screen test she did with Rodriguez.
It was “a rather spectacular screen test of Rose playing the role of Barbarella that also demonstrated Robert’s vision and visual style for the movie,” a Uni source described to me. “We all saw that it would work and signed on.” The studio read a treatment. Then a draft. Then another draft. “And all of us got our arms around the real movie Robert wanted to make. It had grown in its ambition. Robert’s visualization of a sci-fi universe flushed out in set pieces and sequences started to become apparent. It was a much larger film than we had originally discussed.” And it came with a larger cost, moving from under $60 million to over $80 million. That gave Uni pause. With the WGA strike looming, and every studio in panic mode to get projects into production, the Universal execs decided the price tag was no longer in their comfort zone. Rodriguez shaved the budget down to $72 mil, but that was still more than the studio wanted to spend. Still, Universal Pictures boss Marc Schmuger had worked with Rodriguez back on El Mariachi and Desperado, and knew Robert was ingenious when it came to making big box office movies at affordable costs. So that’s why the studio told Rodriguez to try and set it up elsewhere — but if he could go back to the original cheaper pic, “that would be great with us”.