June 15, 2024

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Warner Bros. Exec Worried Million Dollar Baby Was Too Depressing

When Alan Horn resigned as President and COO of Warner Bros in 2011, he gave a candid exit interview to The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters. In discussing his highs and lows as the head of the studio, Horn owned up to his reluctance to give Eastwood the go-ahead on “Million Dollar Baby.”

As Horn recalls, “Clint came to me in his low-key way. He had not cast anybody. I read it and I thought, ‘Well, I just don’t see it.’ I thought, ‘I don’t know if women want to see a woman fight.'”

Horn’s misgivings weren’t unreasonable. This wasn’t a martial arts action film. It was about the bloodsport of boxing. In the early 2000s, Women’s MMA was years away from taking off, while women’s boxing was a blip on the sports radar (Laila Ali was a celebrated champion, but, sadly, was not a significant ratings draw).

Eastwood respected Horn’s opinion, and received the chief’s blessing to take the project to other studios. Ultimately, the best the star-filmmaker could do was a potential deal with the production company Lakeshore Entertainment, which offered to cover half the budget. Given the film’s reasonable $30 million price tag, and Eastwood’s reputation for coming in ahead of schedule and under budget, this should’ve been sufficient to secure a greenlight.

Surprisingly, Horn was still gunshy.

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