Why Nicolas Cage’s The Wicker Man Failed According to Its Director

Famed filmmaker Neil LaBute shares his view on the failure of The Wicker Man remake in an exclusive interview with MovieWeb.

The Wicker Man Nicolas CageWarner Bros.

Nicolas Cage’s remake of The Wicker Man was roasted alive by audiences and critics during its release in 2006, and director Neil LaBute has a few thoughts on why. For many, Cage’s film didn’t come close to capturing the atmosphere of the wild-haired Christopher Lee and his followers who chanted as Edward Woodward’s character is sacrificed in the 1973 original. Playwright and famed filmmaker LaBute (Nurse Betty, 2010’s Death at a FuneralBilly & Billie) was tasked with helming the reimagining of the dark and tense story, and the writer/director offered up his thoughts on why his horror movie ended up failing in an exclusive interview with MovieWeb. He began:

There were a lot of cooks in that particular kitchen. And when you have people who have a lot of different opinions, and a lot of different approaches, you can often just bland out that broth a little bit.

While 1973’s The Wicker Man boasts fantastic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which accounts for its 91% Tomatometer rating, the 2006 film splatted with only 15%. Audiences also enjoyed the original movie (82% score), but LaBute’s cinematic effort continues to hold only a 17% audience approval score.

Even with a cast that also featured the talents of Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski and James Franco, LaBute’s The Wicker Man failed to recoup its $40-million budget (per Box Office Mojo). In the end, the remake only managed to amass $38.8 million worldwide during its theatrical run.

Finding The Wicker Man’s Tone

Nicolas Cage with Basket of bees in The Wicker Man
Warner Bros. Pictures

1973’s The Wicker Man is one of the best horror movies of all time, so following it up with a remake was never going to be simple. And filmmaker Neil LaBute admits that finding the right tone for his version of The Wicker Man in 2006 wasn’t an easy task to accomplish either. LaBute said in the same interview with MovieWeb:
“You have this thing in your head, and you end up creating this other thing. And the distance between those two is less than or greater than each time out. It’s a little different, that distance, but in this particular case [of The Wicker Man], there were a lot of people with input into what it is. Is it horror, is it a comedy? I mean, of course, there were elements of everything. You can’t have a guy running around in a bear suit without expecting a few snickers. But knowing that we were going to kill him in the end, we thought we could allow for that.”

Nic Cage has shown some of his best work in dark and gritty films. From crime thrillers to horror, here are some bleaker films you may have missed.

And while that imagery of Nicolas Cage’s character, Edward Malus, wearing the bear suit might have made some laugh, the actor himself wanted to take things even further. In fact, Cage and LaBute’s comedic vision for The Wicker Man was never fully realized.

And Cage wanted to use an idea that he got from Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death. Cage said previously in an interview with The New York Times:
“Do you remember an old movie by Roger Corman called The Masque of the Red Death? Vincent Price and Patrick Magee. Patrick Magee gets tricked into wearing an ape suit, and a dwarf throws brandy on it and lights him on fire. What began as absurd and comical became horrifying because insult was added to injury. In The Wicker Man, I was trying to get this whole trajectory to go along with the absurdity by having them light me on fire in the bear suit. That really would have been horrific.”

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