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J.D. Shapiro Says Sorry for Writing "Battlefield Earth: The Movie"

The anti-Academy Awards, the Razzies, awarded the movie Battlefield Earth "Worst Picture of the Decade." Having seen it, I can't disagree too much. Interestingly, the original screenwriter J.D. Shapiro wrote an open letter in the New York Post apologizing and trying to explain the debacle of Battlefield Earth.

To summarize the letter, Shapiro says he got involved when he went to a Scientology center to try to meet women. While he was there, the Scientologists found out he was a screenwriter and asked him to write a pitch for a movie based on their founder's epic novel, Battlefield Earth. He did, and a studio exec liked it. Shapiro wrote a first draft of the screenplay that (according to him) was dark and complex. John Travolta himself called it the "Schindler's List of sci-fi." Shapiro claims the project went downhill when Travolta attached himself to the project and began recommending changes. Shapiro started getting studio notes that took out key scenes, added comedy, and ultimately made no sense. Shapiro says he was fired when he protested. He would have had his name removed from the movie altogether, but he made too much money (literally). And he never did get any women from it.

Of course, we only have his word for all this. Knowing writers' capacity for self-delusion, and the fact that Shapiro's other writing credits include Robin Hood: Men in Tights, I'm skeptical that his original draft was that great. I mean, it was based on Battlefield Earth, a crappy novel to begin with. If anyone knows where to find that original draft, I'd like to see it. Interestingly, there's a review of what claims to be the real first draft of the Battlefield Earth screenplay, written by first-time author Corey Mandell. From the review, it sounds pretty much verbatim of what the final script turned out to be. I wonder where the chronology works out; did Shapiro write a first draft that was thrown out and replaced with Corey Mandell's? Or did Mandell just polish up Shapiro's? Or is Mandell Shapiro's pseudonym?

What's your take on the screenplay and the apology? Let us know in the comments.


  1. True or not it's a good story and I'm definitely warming to the guy. J.D. should have turned up to collect his award and read out the letter, it would have gone down well - remember Halle Berry's acceptance speech for Catwoman?

  2. That would have been classic. LOL. There's a picture of him holding his Razzie in the article, but it doesn't say if he had any choice words.

  3. JD should do what that actor did (who was that guy?) who gave money back to anyone who saw his movie.
    "...She said as a Sea Org member, you can't have sex unless you're married. I asked her if she was married. She said yes. So I said, 'Great! That means we can have sex!'" At least the guy sounds like he has a good sense of humor.

  4. Yeah, he had some good lines. I imagine him saying that, then telling his friends later that he said that, then him writing the article and thinking, "I gotta put that in. That was a good one."


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