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Last week, beloved author Stephen King made an interesting admission: he’s only walked out of one movie as an adult, and it was Michael Bay’s Transformers back in 2007. While making this revelation on Twitter, he encouraged others to share the titles that saw them reach their own breaking point, and among the hundreds who replied to the prompt are some filmmakers and actors.
It’s not uncommon for people to hit a point watching a bad movie where they get the feeling “life is too short for this,” and you can evidently count The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden on that list (who has her own connection to Stephen King via having starred in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Mist). Holden recalled being a kid and barely able sit through any of Can’t Stop The Music – the pseudo musical biopic about The Village People that was released in 1980:
Can’t Stop The Music. I lasted 8 minutes and I was a kid…June 27, 2022
Steve Van Zandt – best known as the lead guitarist for The E Street Band and for his performances in The Sopranos and Lilyhammer – couldn’t quite remember the title of the movie that he couldn’t sit through in theaters, but based on his description it’s pretty easy to identify as 2007’s I Am Legend (funny that Steve Van Zandt and Stephen King walked out of movies the same year). Evidently it wasn’t so much the quality of the film that caused him to bail so much as his worry about what would happen to Will Smith’s canine companion in the story:
I forget the name of it. Some dystopian future flick with Will Smith. As soon as I saw he had a dog I left. I wasn’t that big a Will Smith fan to begin with, but I wasn’t about to hang around for an hour and a half being nervous about something horrible happening to the dog. https://t.co/Ha6uBHzQqcJune 27, 2022
Screenwriter Michael Starrbury, who wrote The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete and the fourth episode of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries When They See Us, revealed that his one walk out story didn’t actually see him get out of his seat and leave the theater. While watching 2004’s Van Helsing, Starrbury opted to walk out mentally by purposefully taking a nap:
I would have walked out of Van Helsing but it would have been like driving on Ambien, so I just took a nice nap. I don’t even know if the movie is bad, but I know I was bored AF. https://t.co/u77uIqmJKNJune 28, 2022
With his reply to Stephen King’s walk out prompt, commentator/host/reporter/actor Keith Olbermann’s Tweet took followers back to the year 1990 and the theatrical release of The Godfather Part III. It’s a different kind of walk out story, as Olbermann reveals that he only temporarily left the cinema, and ended up returning to his seat curious if the film could actually get any worse:
Godfather 3. Night after the premiere in LA. Then walked back in on the hunch it would get worse. And it did. Room full of Godfather fans who all cheered when the daughter got shot and laughed when mom screamed.June 27, 2022
Bruce Miller, the Creator/Executive Producer of The Handmaid’s Tale, also cited a theatrical experience from 1990, but one far more obscure than The Godfather Part III. Apparently the movie that caused Miller to hit his limit was Armando Acosta’s Romeo.Juliet, which is a William Shakespeare adaptation that was filmed using feral cats. The voice cast includes legends like John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave, Ben Kingsley, and Maggie Smith, but Miller felt (and still feels) it was unbearable:
I walked out of Romeo/Juliet. It was Romeo and Juliet retold with cats. Even today I feel I made the right decision.June 27, 2022
Oscar-nominated composer Shawn Patterson (The Lego Movie) replied to Stephen King with not just one walk out story, but two. The first he cites was 2018’s The Snowman – which was critically bludgeoned upon its release – and 2020’s Capone, which he views as “one of the biggest failures/disappointments in cinema [he’s] ever seen.”
The Snowman with Michael Fassbender. Capone with Tom Hardy. I would say Capone was one of the biggest failures/disappointments in cinema I’ve ever seen.July 3, 2022
Personally speaking, I haven’t ever walked out of a movie as an adult, but that’s principally because I’ve spent my whole adult life as a film critic, and I feel I have a professional responsibility to sit through everything I see to the end. That being said, I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never felt the desire (Morbius being the most recent source of inspiration).
The positive spin on all of this is that the urge to walk out of a film before it is over is generally a rare one, and we can always hope that every upcoming movie we see on the big screen will be one that pins us to our seats in fascination and delight.