By Cat Eldridge: Eighteen years ago today, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film premiered. It was bastardized off the first volume of the series of the same name by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. It was produced by committee, I think to keep anyone from being blamed for what happened, and Sean Connery is listed as one of the producers. I doubt he actually did anything.
Speaking of Connery, he one of the cast which also including Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Richard Roxburgh. The casting was one of the places where it went awry wrong from the source material as Pet Wilson’s Mina Harker character is a vampire even though in the novel she’s freed from the curse, the second is Shane West as Tom Sawyer, a casting done at the insistence of the studio as they wanted a character American audience would connect with. Apparently the studio had forgotten about the Bond series…
Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
It’s been a cursed film for some involved as director Stephen Norrington and screenwriters Kevin O’Neill and James Dale Robinson have not worked again on a live action feature length film. (In 2020, Robinson was credited as the writer for an episode, “Brainwave Jr.”, of the Stargirl TV series.)
Need I say that the critical response was hostile? Well it was. Ebert for one said it had “inexplicable motivations, causes without effects, effects without causes, and general lunacy.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a forty-four percent rating which I think is being generous.
It actually did well at the box office earning well over two hundred million by the time global earnings were tallied. And it’s been a steady seller on DVD. Maybe a lot of folks like a train wreck. If you’re interested in reading the source material, it’s available from the usual suspects for a reasonable twelve bucks.