Finally, an Explanation for ‘Mortdecai’

Published on June 18, 2020

Mortdecai is not your average movie. No movie exists with more mustache jokes, that’s for certain. The comedy was another colossal misfire starring Johnny Depp, whose quality of movies and performances have been on a steep decline for some time now. Mortdecai, however, is a career-low for the once acclaimed actor. Now, all these years later after the critical and box-office came out, why exactly are we talking about it? Because the writer-director behind the fiasco, David Koepp, has finally explained what in the world happened to Mortdecai.

What is Mortdecai?

Mortdecia was a failed attempt of sorts at paying homage to classic screwball comedies and crime capers. The movie had a prominent cast surrounding Depp, including Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Goldblum. Who exactly is Charlie Mortdecai? A flashy and pompous art dealer out of money, so he takes an offer from MI5 to track down a stolen Goya painting. Hijinks and mustache jokes ensue and run rampant. Here’s the trailer to refresh anyone’s memory:

So, What Went Wrong?

What’s most strange about Mortdecai is that it’s from David Koepp. Koepp wrote Carlito’s Way, Jurassic Park, Panic Room, Spider-Man, and many other quality Hollywood classics. He’s a great craftsman who’s also directed solid popcorn thrillers, such as Stir of Echoes and Premium Rush. Koepp is fairly consistent as a storyteller, making Mortdecai all the more baffling.

Koepp’s Explanation 

Finally, the director behind the 2015 disaster has explained what went wrong during an interview with Collider while promoting his new movie, You Should Have Left:

That experience was a rough one. Look, [director] Brian De Palma (Carlito’s Way) said as that movie was coming out and clearly about to be a disaster, just commercially, critically, financially, physically, and personally, every way… Brian said to me, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had a major catastrophe. I should know. I’ve taken down two studios.” I can’t blame anybody else for that movie not working out. I think it was a movie with a lot of people making choices that just didn’t work. I also think, and this is in my defense part, if you don’t have one or two major catastrophes, you’re not mixing it up enough. I’ve always tried to work in other genres and things I might not be good at, and I think it’s safe to say, I found one with that.

So Many Questions Remain

As far as responding to a disaster goes, Koepp’s explanation is reasonable and satisfying. There’s no finger pointing, for starters. Koepp directed the movie, so he takes responsibility. He’s someone who’s had such a high level of success throughout his career that, luckily for him, he can learn from a disaster and move on in his career. Not every artist is afforded that chance, sadly. 

From the sound of it, the Lionsgate comedy may have been a case of too many very bad cooks in the kitchen. Personally, I’d love to be a fly on those walls, hearing execs fighting for more or less mustache jokes. Every scene has a line or moment that baffles the mind. It’s still hard to believe Koepp directed the panned comedy. He’s such a solid craftsman and storyteller, but in the case of Mortdecai, he threw everything in the kitchen sink, and nothing stuck. 

Even after Koepp’s explanation, so many questions remain about Mortdecai. It’s like a mystery of a movie that’ll never be solved, like the Stonehenge of bad cinema. Bad movies happen with the best of intentions all the time, of course, but we still want to know how that bad movie happened with no details spared. Hopefully, Koepp is saving those stories for the memoir.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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