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George Harrison: The Madonna Movie He Produced Was ‘Doomed’ Before It Was Done

One of the movies George Harrison produced was almost canceled before Madonna agreed to star in it. George said the movie was doomed before its completion, but not because of anything he did. The film bombed at the box office and helped shape Madonna's reputation as an actor.

In addition to his work with The Beatles and his solo material, George Harrison gave the world several films. He produced one of Madonna‘s most notorious movies: Shanghai Surprise. During an interview, George said he felt the movie was “doomed” before its completion. The film helped Madonna to earn an incredibly insulting award.

Madonna lying on a couch
Madonna | Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

George Harrison revealed 1 of his movies was nearly canceled before Madonna agreed to appear in it

During the 1980s, Madonna made headlines for dating and later marrying Sean Penn. The couple made one film together: Shanghai Surprise. According to the book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters, the quiet Beatle discussed how Madonna was cast in the movie.

“The director and the producer already had it [together], and it was talked about whether to do it or not,” he recalled. “And they started, they thought, well, if it was done in a certain way it may be quite interesting, and then somebody thought [of] the idea of Madonna being in it, I don’t know who, and the producer reckoned he knew Sean Penn because he’d done other films with him.

“At that time, it seemed, well, maybe if that kind of thing happened with Madonna, it may be worth doing, he added. “And it got to about one day away from being scrapped — I thought ‘Forget it’ — and then we got a call saying, ‘Oh, Madonna is going to be in this film!'”

George Harrison blamed the failure of ‘Shanghai Surprise’ on the press

According to Yahoo! Movies, Shanghai Surprise received lots of negative press while it was being filmed. George felt this negative press ruined Shanghai Surprise‘s chance of becoming a hit.

“Anyway, the rest, really, is history — with all the stuff that went down, during it and around it,” he said, according to George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters. “The film really was doomed even before it was finished being made, largely by the press that had preceded it.”


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The way the world reacted to ‘Shanghai Surprise’ and other Madonna movies

Shanghai Surprise was not a financial success. According to Box Office Mojo, the film earned a little over $700,000 during its opening weekend. It ultimately earned about $2 million worldwide. Considering the film’s budget was $17 million, it wasn’t a great investment.

Judging by the Golden Raspberry Awards, critics weren’t very happy with Shanghai Surprise either. The Golden Raspberry Awards is an award show that hands out trophies to the worst that cinema has to offer. According to MTV News, the Golden Raspberry Awards named Madonna the worst actress of the 20th century. This was based on her work in Shanghai Surprise, Who’s That Girl?, Bloodhounds of Broadway, Madonna: Truth or Dare, Body of Evidence, and Four Rooms. While Shanghai Surprise wasn’t a critical or commercial hit, it remains an interesting connection between George and Madonna.