"I heard Marlon Brando was going to be doing this movie and it didn't really matter what I was going to be doing, it didn't matter how much I was going to be making, nothing mattered,” Perlman told Yahoo Entertainment during a Role Recall interview (watch above, with The Island of Dr. Moreau starting at 2:40). “The only thing that mattered was that me, along with every actor since 1950, was looking for an opportunity to just sit there and watch this mother f**ker. Like how do you do what you do?”
But the price was high, Perlman would admit years later. “Because the movie was a f**king mess.”
By all indications, that’s no hyperbole. The Island of Dr. Moreau, released 25 years ago on Aug. 23, 1996, is considered one of the most notorious movie flops of all time.
Based on the 1896 novel of the same name by H.G. Wells, the sci-fi horror film about a mad scientist mutating animals into human-like creatures called Beast Folk was marred by a seemingly endless spate of behind-the-scenes drama. Bruce Willis was originally cast in the film, but had to drop out, reportedly because of divorce proceedings with Demi Moore. Val Kilmer took his place, and The Doors actor was also served divorce papers while filming in Australia.
Director Richard Stanley was fired after only four days of filming and replaced by John Frankenheimer, who clashed often with Kilmer. (The actor, who had developed a reputation for being difficult to work with, unveils captivating home video showing his side of the story — which included frustration that Frankenheimer himself was threatening to quit — in the new documentary Val.)
And then there was Brando, the On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire acting titan nearing the end of his career, whose role was diminished after he retreated to his private island following the suicide of his daughter Cheyenne. Even once on set, Brando would spend hours inside his trailer when he was supposed to be filming — and refused to learn his new lines as the script was being rewritten, instead requiring an earpiece to be fed them.
The film would ultimately be considered Brando’s worst, but even the GOAT at half-speed was still enough for Perlman to cherish.
“It was a mess. It was a complete mess,” says the Hellboy and Sons of Anarchy actor, who played Sayer of the Law, a blind goat-like hybrid.
“Except there was Marlon, and there was Ron. I studied the guy. I just studied him.”
Stream The Island of Dr. Moreau on Amazon, if you dare.