Warner Bros. (WB) is one of the biggest media conglomerates in Hollywood. It is home to some of the commercially and critically successful movies and TV shows. It has even taken some risks when it comes to its financial investments. Even so, the company almost robbed cinephiles of an award-winning Clint Eastwood movie.

Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood in Cry Macho | Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2004, Eastwood graced the silver screens with the sports drama film Million Dollar Baby. The movie was a hit, but its premise made WB somewhat wary of its success when it was in the early stages. Former President and COO of the company Alan Horn once admitted in an interview that he was unsure of the movie’s success and so, initially told Eastwood that they could not move forward with it.

Former WB President Alan Horn Doubted Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby‘s Potential

Alan Horn
Alan Horn | Source: The Hollywood Reporter on YouTube

For those unversed, Million Dollar Baby follows the story of an underdog boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) who seeks the help of a reluctant, hardened trainer named Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) to become a professional fighter. The two form a close bond as she rises through the ranks, but an injury in the ring renders her quadriplegic.

The movie is undoubtedly great, but it’s not something that people would prefer to watch more than once. The reason behind this aversion to watching it for a second time is the fact that its third act is rather depressing. What begins as the inspiring journey of an aspiring sportswoman turns into something so tragic that it is almost too excruciating to watch.

Warner Bros. is known to usually let long-time studio collaborator Eastwood do as he pleases with his projects, but this one particularly made Horn doubtful. In a tell-all exit interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the former WB President said:

Clint came to me in his low-key way. He had not cast anybody. I read it and I thought, ‘Well, I just don’t see it.’ I thought, ‘I don’t know if women want to see a woman fight.’

Horn was justified in his decision to decline because two decades ago, Women’s MMA and boxing were nearly not as popular, and the fact that the movie had such a tragic twist only added to the doubts regarding its potential.

Alan Horn Ultimately Accepted Clint Eastwood’s Proposal for the Movie

Million Dollar Baby morgan freeman
Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood in a still from Million Dollar Baby | Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Eastwood told Horn that he would never ask the studio to do anything that it did not want and took it to other studios. Unfortunately, the Mystic River director had to deal with rejection from those studios as well. Ultimately, he reached back to WB through his agent Leonard Hirshan, who requested the studio to take another look at the project.

Lakeshore Entertainment agreed to cover half the budget. Horn told The Hollywood Reporter that he was not exactly opposed to the project:

So I said, “I’m just not saying no.” The movie killed me. I said, “Does she have to die in the end?” Clint said, “I’m afraid so.” I said, “Does she have to bite her tongue off?” He said, “That’s the way we have to go.” I said, “Does she have to lose the fight?” But it shows that William Goldman was right: No one knows anything.

The movie went on to earn $216.8 million against a production budget of $30 million and won four of the seven Academy Awards it was nominated for. This once again proved that Eastwood knew what he was doing and that taking risks is not always bad.

Million Dollar Baby is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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