Released in July of 2004, Catwoman is one of the most notoriously awful movies ever made. This gargantuan box office flop cost $100 million to make, and it grossed a mere $40 million at the North American box office. Critics hated it, delivering some of the most savage reviews of the year. The movie earned seven Razzie Award nominations, winning four (Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay). The only thing about Catwoman that was deemed praise-worthy was how hot star Halle Berry looked in the incredibly revealing leather costume she wore for big chunks of the movie. On that count, everyone agreed.
Berry plays Patience Phillips, a mousy graphics designer who becomes a feline superhero and vows to foil a cosmetics company that is manufacturing toxic face cream. Yes, really. As wretched as the picture is, there's also something kind of fascinating about it. So many creative decisions were so fundamentally misguided that Catwoman serves as a textbook example of how not to make a comic book-based movie. In that spirit, we proudly present some behind-the-scenes trivia about the production. We aren't going to try to convince you that the film is good, or even misunderstood. It is neither of those things. That said, we think that knowing these factoids will give you a much greater understanding of how this legendary turkey came to be.
Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About The Disastrous Catwoman Movie.
15 Two different actresses were initially going to star
Halle Berry ended up playing Catwoman, but she wasn't the original choice. At first, Michelle Pfeiffer -- who famously portrayed the character in the 1992 blockbuster Batman Returns -- was going to reprise the role in a spinoff, also to be directed by Tim Burton. The filmmaker ended up waffling on the project, eventually deciding to move on to other things instead. Pfeiffer, meanwhile, wanted to spend less time acting in order to focus on parenting.
From there, Ashley Judd stepped up to the plate. She'd become a hot property in Hollywood, thanks to the hits Double Jeopardy, Kiss the Girls, and A Time to Kill. Judd said in interviews that she planned to play the character as a very "ambivalent" person and expressed excitement about the role. An inability to get a workable script delayed production, though, forcing her to drop out and paving the way for Berry to step in a few years later.
14 The director didn't care about staying faithful to the comics
There's one basic rule to follow when bringing a beloved comic book character to the screen: try to be faithful to that character. Doing otherwise is pointless. The character became popular for a reason. Where's the wisdom in being untrue to whatever the appeal is? Filmmakers should break that rule at their own risk, as Catwoman helmer Pitof (yep, just the one name) found out the hard way.
The director acknowledged in interviews that, while he did check out Catwoman on the pages of a couple comic books, he wasn't overly concerned with replicating her depiction on the big screen. His philosophy was that the character needed to work in the context of a film, and trying to be too slavish to anyone else's interpretation would be boring. Pitof also felt that Halle Berry was going to define the character in a whole new way. Of course, neither Catwoman fans nor newcomers found his vision particularly satisfying.
13 Halle Berry collected a massive paycheck
Halle Berry had been around for over a decade before signing on to Catwoman. Hollywood knew she was talented, but didn't really know how to use her, leading to a series of forgettable movies (The Rich Man's Wife, Race the Sun, B*A*P*S) that did nothing for her career. Her luck changed considerably when, starting in 2000, she had a sudden string of hits, including X-Men, Swordfish, Gothika, and an Oscar-winning turn in Monster's Ball.
The combination of those pictures, plus the high-profile gig of playing a Bond girl in Die Another Day, dramatically elevated her status. She was, as they say in Hollywood, "having a moment." When the offer to play Catwoman came along, the actress used her newfound star power to command a paycheck reported to have been $12.5 million. It was the biggest payday ever for an African-American actress at that time.
12 The title role required an insane amount of training
Berry was quite serious about playing Catwoman. Regardless of how the final product turned out, she invested a lot of time trying to bring something interesting and authentic to the character. To accomplish this mission, she spent countless hours watching videos of cats, trying to find behavioral tics that she could utilize in her performance. A choreographer similarly helped Berry come up with some feline movements to give the superhero a distinct sense of physicality.
The actress additionally made sure to get in perfect shape -- partly to be convincing in the fight scenes, and partly to look good in that revealing leather catsuit. She took capoeira lessons so that she could do as much of her own stunt work as possible, and a g great deal of energy was also expended learning how to properly (and safely) use the whip that would be Catwoman's weapon of choice.
11 A male stunt double played Catwoman in some scenes
Superhero movies almost always have elaborate action sequences involving intricately choreographed fights or crazy stunts. Catwoman is no exception, as there are several action-heavy moments throughout the film. In them, the title character uses her feline abilities to her advantage, sometimes doing complex flips and landing on her feet. Halle Berry couldn't do these kinds of acrobatics, so stunt doubles were needed.
One of them, believe it or not, was a man. Hawaiian actor Nito Larioza, who was twenty-nine at the time, knew how to do things like run partway up a wall and execute a backflip. He was chosen because he was about the same height and build as Berry, and his skin tone was very close to hers. Larioza, an expert in martial arts, had to shave some of his body hair in order to look convincing in her costume, though. The stunt performer is no stranger to the superhero genre either, having worked on Iron Man, The Dark Knight Rises, and Man of Steel, among several other comic book projects.
10 A nasty divorce fueled Berry's performance
The filming of Catwoman marked a very difficult period for its star. At the time she left to begin production in Vancouver, Berry was experiencing serious marital problems. She had been married to Eric Benet, a popular R&B singer, for about three years. In a television interview with Oprah Winfrey, the actress revealed that Benet cheated on her repeatedly throughout their relationship. Right before filming on Catwoman began, she had had enough, filing for a legal separation.
The film's plot, of course, is about how Patience Phillips learns to find confidence in herself and start taking control of her own life once she puts on the suit. She told Winfrey that diving head-first into the part had a therapeutic effect, that she "needed to be Catwoman at that moment." Everything she was feeling and going through during that time was channeled directly into her performance, helping her to cope with the end of her marriage.
9 Benjamin Bratt was insecure about his looks
In the movie, Benjamin Bratt plays Tom Lone, the detective investigating a series of murders that an evil cosmetics executive (played by Sharon Stone) has pinned on Catwoman. Complicating matters, Lone has also begun dating Patience Phillips, unaware of her secret identity. Somehow, he never makes the connection that his girlfriend and his prime suspect look alike.
As we all know, Halle Berry spends large portions of the film wearing a very sexy outfit. While Bratt is no slouch in the looks department, he apparently had some trepidation about appearing next to his sulty co-star. According to Harley Pasternak, the personal trainer who helped Berry get into tip-top shape for the role, Bratt became concerned about his own appearance, despite the fact that he regularly worked out. She recommended some extra exercise techniques he could use to feel like he was looking his best.
8 Halle Berry sustained an on-set injury
With the high volume of action, fighting, and stunts, there was a great need for caution on the set of Catwoman. Having Halle Berry around only increased that need. She'd been injured on movie sets twice before, sustaining a minor eye injury while making Die Another Day and breaking her arm during the production of Gothika.
Despite all efforts to maintain everyone's safety, the actress was once again hurt. During a scene in which Berry was doing one of her own stunts, she hit her head on a piece of lighting equipment and fell to the ground. The crew rushed her to the hospital, where she was examined and treated. Fortunately, the injury wasn't serious, allowing her to go home eight hours later. Berry went on to suffer future injuries on the sets of The Call and Cloud Atlas, so it seems safe to say that she's a bit accident prone.
7 Berry adopted one of the cats used in the movie
No surprise here, but a lot of cats were needed as extras in the making of Catwoman, and the production brought in dozens of rescue cats for that purpose. Halle Berry, who previously considered herself to be more of a dog person, unexpectedly found herself falling in love with one of them. The cat, named Playdough, took a shine to her, and she to it. The actress ended up adopting the cat and taking it home with her.
Playdough became a companion not only to Berry, but also to her two children. Sadly, the beloved family pet recently passed away at the age of 16 from brain cancer. In a heartfelt Instagram post from May of this year, Berry credited the cat with helping to teach her kids "compassion and kindness and the importance of loving and caring for life's sweetest creatures."
6 A Britney Spears theme song was scrapped
Any movie with a $100 million budget is going to attempt to take advantage of promotional opportunities. These things frequently include soundtrack songs. As it happened, approaching the release of Catwoman, Britney Spears was about to release a single entitled "Outrageous." A deal was struck to have it serve as the film's official theme song.
An accompanying music video was also part of the plan. But while that video was being filmed, Spears hurt her knee, requiring surgery. It was determined that she could not continue, leading to the video -- as well as the entire deal -- being cancelled. Now without that high-profile promotional connection, the studio scrambled to find another song, eventually settling on "Scandalous" by the R&B act Miss-Teeq. They were less well-known than Spears, and the song didn't make much of a splash on the charts. Then again, neither did "Outrageous," which was released as a single, going only as far as #79.
5 The tie-in video game was just as bad
If soundtrack songs are a common tie-in, so are video games, especially when it comes to superhero movies. Games give players the chance to vicariously live as their favorite characters, fighting villains and utilizing superpowers. But as any gamer knows, titles based on movies are, more often than not, terrible. Enter the Catwoman game.
Published by EA, the game put you in the shoes of the title character, who was voiced by actress Jennifer Hale rather than Halle Berry. A few moments required the player to pull out Catwoman's whip and bash some bad guys. Too much of it, however, involved climbing up walls and swinging from poles. The controls were spotty at best, meaning that it was all too easy to fall, leading to an experience many found frustrating. Video game critics generally panned the release, which sold poorly.
4 A planned IMAX release became a disaster
IMAX releases have become a big deal for major movies. Because they give audiences an experience that can't be replicated at home, studios use them to help create a sense of excitement for a new title. Effects-heavy superhero movies are a natural for the format, so Warner Brothers felt that playing Catwoman in IMAX was the very definition of a no-brainer. They even came up with a witty poster slogan, "CATch her in IMAX."
Because of the non-traditional aspect ratio, it takes some time to properly prepare a movie for IMAX. That proved to be a real problem when Catwoman required reshoots and had some other delays. The visual effects fell behind schedule, meaning that they wouldn't be completed in time for the final cut to be mastered for the large-screen format. For that reason, the IMAX release was cancelled, less than a month before the movie was supposed to hit theaters.
3 Berry acknowledged the movie's awfulness in her Razzie speech
As previously mentioned, Catwoman was the big loser at the 2005 Razzie Awards. It received seven nominations, and took home four trophies. Among them, Berry was named Worst Actress. In a rare display of good sport-ism, she did something extremely uncommon: she showed up in person to accept the award!
That in itself is amazing. Even better is that, during her acceptance speech, she directly acknowledged Catwoman's awfulness. Standing onstage before the assembled audience members, the actress comically proceeded to thank Warner Brothers. "Thank you for putting me in a piece of [expletive] god-awful movie," she said. "It was just what my career needed." Then she thanked her agent for "convincing me to do projects even when he knows they're [expletive]." If you want to see Berry's hilarious speech in all its glory, you can view it on YouTube. Given how poorly the film was received, embracing its badness was a smart move that earned her considerable goodwill.
2 It destroyed the director's career
Catwoman was the second film from Jean-Christophe Comar, who goes by the professional name “Pitof.” He'd made one movie in his native France prior to his American debut, but primarily, he worked as a visual effects artist. Among the projects to which he lent his talents are Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, and Alien Resurrection.
Pitof intended Catwoman to be his entry point into big-time Hollywood filmmaking. He had a hot property, a major star, and a reported budget of $100 million. Not bad for someone who was, by and large, an untested director. The ultimate critical and commercial failure of the picture proved devastating to his career, however. With little else on his directorial resume that he could point to, everyone associated him with a massive flop and little else. Needless to say, no one in Hollywood was eager to work with him. Pitof hasn't directed another theatrical release since, just a lone TV movie called Fire & Ice: The Dragon Chronicles.
1 It actually got good reviews from a few major outlets
We all know that Catwoman was a box office bomb and a critical punching bag. In fact, many critics used cat puns in their reviews, with more than one making kitty litter jokes. The movie, which has a 9% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, was called “relentlessly gaudy” by the AV Club, “barely a film” by Richard Roeper, and “tired and dated” by Roger Ebert, who awarded it one star.
Believe it or not, a few critics actually liked Catwoman, and they weren't necessarily from obscure outlets, either. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed it “a pop culture investigation into the meaning of feminism,” while Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times said it had “sophistication.” Jan Stuart of Newsday, meanwhile, felt Catwoman was “campy smart-and-dumb fun.” While it may be easy to mock critics who liked the movie, it's actually really interesting to check out the reasoning behind their contrary opinions. Not that we agree with them. At all.
What are your thoughts on Catwoman? Anyone out there want to mount a defense of it? Hit us up with your take in the comments.
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