Elaine May’s 1987 film, Ishtar is infamous for being one of Hollywood’s great financial disasters. Originally budgeted at $27.5 million, Ishtar’s budget ballooned to $55 million – almost unheard of at the time. It grossed under $15 million at the US box office.
A Columbia Pictures release, much of the film was shot in Morocco because Columbia’s owner, CocaCola had money trapped in the country. The film became a quagmire of arguments and a tangle of creative decisions.
Ishtar sees Beatty and Hoffman play Lyle and Chuck, two hapless middle-aged schmucks who dream of being the next Simon and Garfunkel. Their struggle in the music business offers some delicious laughs, laughs which are tinged with sadness (people like this exist). I like to revisit Ishtar every year or so-just for that opening New York set portion of the film. It’s a shame that the film will forever be remembered for its excess and extravagance.
This image, which is obviously a publicity shot, sees Beatty and Hoffman relaxing on the film’s Moroccan set.