‘Ishtar’: How Hollywood Decided That One Box-Office Flop Spoke for All Female Directors

“If all of the people who hate ‘Ishtar’ had seen it,” Elaine May famously said, “I would be a rich woman today.” On Wikipedia’s list of the biggest box-office disasters, with losses over $100 million (at current dollar values), “Ishtar” doesn’t even rate a mention.

That’s because the movie lost about $91 million — more in the range of a box-office dud like “Cats.”But to this day, Elaine May’s 1987 comedy adventure about two floundering singer/songwriters meandering around the Sahara — played by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman — is considered one of Hollywood’s great box-office debacles, rivaled only by Michael Cimino’s studio-destroying “Heaven’s Gate,” with its loss of $126 million.Here’s why “Ishtar” outlasted so many bigger money-losers as the poster child for a troubled belly-flop.Media CoverageFrom in front, “Ishtar” was a troubled production.

One red flag went up when May (who directed the hit

Read full article