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54 is a 1998 film starring Salma Hayek, Ryan Phillippe, and Neve Campbell. It also stars Mike Myers as Steve Rubell, the notorious cofounder of Studio 54, a New York City disco club famous in the late 1970s and the setting for the film. The film also features Sela Ward, Breckin Meyer, Sherry Stringfield, and Skipp Sudduth.
The film centers around Phillippe's character, Shane O'Shea, a young man from New Jersey who is handsome enough to become a bartender at Studio 54. While working at the club, Shane befriends Anita (played by Hayek), an aspiring singer, and her husband, Greg (played by Meyer). As Shane gets sucked into the hard-partying scene at Studio 54, and as his life spirals downward, so does Studio 54. The DVD release of this film is essentially a "director's cut", with additional and alternate scenes that were not included in the theatrical release.
Based on two short films he had made, Mark Christopher persuaded Miramax to back a movie about Studio 54. He spent five years researching the club and the time period and writing the screenplay. Miramax purchased the screenplay in 1997 and suggested only minimal rewrites at the time. Christopher shot the film in Toronto over two months in the fall of 1997. During the production, a Miramax executive was often found on the set and studio head Harvey Weinstein flew up from New York to give his approval.
Expectations were high with the hopes that the film would become a big summer hit. Christopher finished his cut of the film and the studio scheduled the film’s release for July of the following year. Early test screenings for the two-hour cut of the film were disastrous. Audiences found the characters unlikable and reacted negatively to the kiss between Shane and Greg. They also did not respond well to the happy ending for both of them and Anita. Christopher said, “Our goal was to keep the audience sympathetic to the characters, [and] any material that was removed from the film was removed because it was too challenging for some members of the audience." Miramax requested cuts be made and Christopher initially refused.
The studio forced the director to reshoot parts of his movie with only two months until its theatrical release, destroying the love triangle subplot between the three characters. Much of the cast was called back for two weeks of additional filming in New York without being told what they would be shooting. Breckin Meyer, for example, found out that his substantial part in the film had been cut down to a stereotypical best-friend role and a new scene was shot that portrayed his character as a thief. The kiss between his character and Ryan Phillipe’s was replaced with a conversation.
Christopher was initially complained to friends and colleagues about what the studio was doing to his movie but quickly took a more politically advantageous stance once the film came out. “We were both trying to make the best movie possible, and I think we’ve done that," he said at the time.
The film received almost universally middling-to-poor reviews and was a box office disappointment, grossing only $16M on an estimated budget of $13M. Top-billed Mike Myers (in what is essentially a secondary role, as Studio 54 co-founder Steve Rubell) garnered some of the film's only positive word-of-mouth, generating brief buzz that his performance would land him among those nominated for an Academy Award (though he ultimately was not nominated). Many critics were particularly disappointed with the film's fictional characters and storyline, believing that Studio 54's notorious, real-life past should have been explored instead.
- Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca. "The 411 On '54'", Entertainment Weekly, September 4, 1998. Retrieved on 2006-12-21.
- 54 at the Internet Movie Database
- Entertainment Weekly article about film's post-production problems
- Fan site dedicated to the Director's Cut
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