“Are you out of your mind?”: Kevin Costner Shot Up the Budget of a Movie by 35 Times to Make it One of the Biggest Disasters in Hollywood

This Kevin Costner film is one of the most expensive box office disasters of all time!

kevin costner


  • Kevin Costner's Waterworld became a major financial disaster in the 1990s, with its budget ballooning 35 times beyond initial estimates.
  • Initially a $5 million project, Waterworld ended up costing $175 million because of production delays, weather issues, and an extended shooting schedule of 166 days instead of the planned 96.
  • The film grossed $264.24 million worldwide but was a domestic box office flop, earning only $88.24 million and receiving harsh reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 47% from critics and 43% from audiences.
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While most know Kevin Costner for all the masterpieces he has led to date which include credits like Yellowstone and Dances with Wolves, not many know that the actor cum producer has led some epically disastrous projects as well. And while these projects didn’t necessarily drown because of his acting, one of them did, in fact, end up in the dump because of its bloated budget.

Kevin Costner in a still from Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1. | Credit: Warner Brothers.
Kevin Costner in a still from Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1. | Credit: Warner Brothers.

This dates back to the 1990s, when having budgets for a project in tens of millions was already considered high, let alone one in hundreds of millions, like Waterworld, which was, pretty much, one of the biggest disasters in Hollywood. The reason behind this was Costner himself, who ended up shooting up the budget by a whopping 35 times than what was required!

Kevin Costner Shot Up Waterworld‘s Budget By 35 Times!

Back in 1995, a Mad Max-knockoff kind of action/sci-fi movie made its way from the waters to the theatres after many barriers and delays in its production, development, and release phases. This film was named Waterworld and had Kevin Costner leading it as the mysterious wanderer Mariner.

Waterworld. (1995) | Credit: Universal Pictures.
Waterworld. (1995) | Credit: Universal Pictures.

This wanderer is actually on a post-apocalyptic Earth where no dry land remains and everything is water. He rescues a woman and her daughter who seem to know where the only piece of mythical dry land remains in that aqua world, the story of which sees high-sea escapades ensue.

But as interesting as this story seems in theory, it wasn’t exactly what one would call a masterpiece, especially at the box office. And a major reason behind this was the tragically majestic budget that the movie ended up sporting because of everything it had to go through.

In a now-archived interview with Starlog magazine, Peter Rader, the screenwriter who developed the film’s script, reportedly got candid about how it was made.


As he shared (via SYFY):

I started thinking about other visions of the future, and I guess I was thinking about planets whose moons were all water. I thought, ‘What about a future where the entire planet is flooded?’

A still from the movie. | Credit: Universal Pictures.
A still from Waterworld. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

While that didn’t exactly sound like a bad idea, the entire problem was with the fact that such a project would, inevitably, require some big bucks to be made. That’s why Rader also faced rejection for his idea at first.

According to what he shared in the interview:


I said, ‘Hey [producer] Brad [Krevoy], how about we do the whole movie on water?’ He said, ‘Are you out of your mind?! A movie like that would cost us $5 million to make!’ I ended up writing it on my own, because I really fell in love with the idea. And it ended up as Waterworld.

But while $5 million wouldn’t have been that big of an amount, what made matters worse was that this was going to shoot around 35 times to actually be made.

Costner in a still from the movie. | Credit: Universal Pictures.
Kevin Costner in a still from the movie. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

As per Fast Company, the budget was reportedly set at $100 million (which was still high at the time) as the entire set was done building in around 18 months (designer Dennis Gassner called it “18 months of hell,” because of what they had to go through to make it, as per PEOPLE).

But even this budget skyrocketed by $75 whopping million more, standing at a $175 million budget at last (as per Fast Company) along with a vastly bloated shooting schedule that went from the originally planned 96 days to at least two months more, eventually concluding in 166 days.


Then there were the issues with the weather, which had a $5 million floating set sinking along with multiple people suffering from seasickness and other diseases every day. All in all, not only did the film face these innumerable crises, but it also had to face a depressing box office run.

Kevin Costner’s Waterworld was a Depressing Box Office Issue

A still from the 1995 box-office disaster. | Credit: Universal Pictures.
A still from the 1995 box-office disaster Waterworld. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

When it comes to what the film ended up bringing in from the box office, the numbers were hardly a breakthrough when talking about its domestic performance. According to The Numbers, its domestic box office run allowed it a revenue of a mere $88.24 million.

But this was made up for through the international box office, which managed to bring in a whopping $176 million, overall standing at a worldwide box office revenue of $264.24 million.


So, in a way, the Costner-starrer did manage to break even with the disastrous budget that had it earning its way into the list of some of the most expensive movies ever made (as per SYFY).

A still from the 1995 critically panned disaster. | Credit: Universal Pictures.
A still from the 1995 critically panned Waterworld. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

Then there were all the reviews the movie received, which were nothing short of brutally critical when considering the score it holds on Rotten Tomatoes, which stands at 47% from critics and an even lower 43% from audience scores.

All in all, the movie was more or less a flop, a critically panned box office disaster that could have performed much, much better and prevented such catastrophe from ensuing had it decided on a much, much lower budget, somewhere close to what producer Brad Krevoy assumed for it.


You can still stream Waterworld on Peacock, though.


Written by Mahin Sultan

Articles Published: 1291

Mahin Sultan is a News Content Writer at FandomWire. With more than a year's worth of experience in her field, she has explored and attained a deep understanding of numerous topics in various niches, mostly entertainment.

An all-things-good enthusiast, Mahin is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Commerce, and her love for entertainment has given her a solid foundation of reporting in the same field. Besides being a foodie, she loves to write and spends her free time either with her nose buried in a good book or binging on COD or K-dramas, anime, new movies, and TV serials (the awesome ones, obviously).

So far, Mahin's professional portfolio has 1,000+ articles written on various niches, including Entertainment, Health and wellbeing, and Fashion and trends, among others.