Entertainment

Enormous Flop 'London Fields' Is So Bad Even Its Director Hates It

london fields movie
Same, girl. | GVN Releasing
Same, girl. | GVN Releasing

If a well-loved book is considered "unadaptable," and celebrated directors like David Cronenberg and David Mackenzie have signed on only to step away from the project months later, it's probably best to just let it alone. But someone out there just had to adapt London Fields, widely regarded as Martin Amis' best novel of intrigue, sex, murder, dark comedy, and unreliable narration. You'll be shocked to learn that it went quite poorly.

Not only is London Fields one of the worst-reviewed movies of the year, with a 0% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's also a near-record-worst flop for a wide release, opening at just $169,000 last weekend. It's the Tulip Fever of 2018. Add to that a troubled production history, a bunch of lawsuits, Johnny Depp in an apparently uncredited role, and two different versions of the movie opening in theaters last weekend, and we have ourselves the spookiest horror story of the season.

Amis' book, set in 1989's version of 1999, is told from the perspective of a washed-up writer looking for his next story. He finds it in the seemingly clairvoyant femme fatale Nicola Six, who believes she will be murdered on her birthday by, possibly, one of two men, a darts-playing grifter or a bored upper-class banker. The writer realizes a story good enough for publication is playing itself out right before his eyes, so he arranges regular meetings with Nicola to take notes on the plot. It starts out darkly funny, and then becomes just dark, the paranoia and post-apocalyptic setting catching up with them.

Now, please watch the movie's absolutely terrible trailer:

The trouble with the movie started at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, when the movie was supposed to premiere. It was pulled after director Mathew Cullen and producer Christopher Hanley couldn't resolve a fight about money, and the stars of the film, including Amber Heard (who plays Nicola Six) and Billy Bob Thornton (who plays writer and narrator Samson Young), refused to promote it at the festival.

Then the lawsuits started piling up: According to a roundup from The Hollywood Reporter, Heard was sued for not doing her duty to promote the movie; she countersued by claiming that the film exploited her with a body double in its racy scenes -- which may have been because her then-husband Johnny Depp got jealous. Hanley, for his part, sued pretty much everyone involved in the movie for "conspiring to undermine" it. Plus, an investor sued last year, claiming that the rights to the screenplay had been wrongfully transferred to "Nicola Six Limited," a company controlled by the film's producer. 

But the most outrageous lawsuit may be the one filed by Cullen against Hanley and the film's other producers. It alleges a litany of misdeeds, including nonpayment of actors and crew. The most bizarre allegation, however, is that the producers went around Cullen to create their own version of the film's final cut, which supposedly included, among other things, "incendiary imagery evoking 9/11 jumpers edited against pornography." Obviously, Cullen was not happy about this version of the film. 

All of this hardly matters now, though, because the movie is simply very bad. "I've read the reviews," Cullen told THR for their postmortem. "I agree with them." In the aftermath of the TIFF drama and ensuing lawsuits, Cullen somehow wrangled together his own version and got the OK to release it in theaters alongside the official version, in a bid to get his vision out there while probably confusing plenty of people who don't realize they're all seeing different cuts of the movie.

Not that many people are going to see it at all. Like the death of Nicola Six, the failure of London Fields had already been foretold far, far in advance.