Translating Hollywood Cliches


If you watch the TV talk shows, you know the routine. Someone involved with an upcoming film — usually an actor, but sometimes the director — does the Letterman/Conan/Leno circuit to talk up whatever the project is, usually offering very little insight into the filmmaking process and a lot of generic mumbo-jumbo. This babble may sound meaningless, but you can actually glean a lot of information from it if you know how to read between the lines. Allow us to help out with…

What Filmmakers Say, and What They Really Mean

What they say: “We really listened to the fans on this one.”
What they mean: “If this movie sucks — and believe me, it does — it’s your own fault.”

What they say: “This movie wasn’t made for film critics.”
What they mean: “This movie wasn’t made for people who see a lot of movies and are knowledgeable and passionate about them.”

What they say: “It’s not a remake; it’s a re-imagining.”
What they mean: “It’s a remake.”

What they say: “We didn’t plan on doing another sequel, but then we found a story that we really liked, and everything just came together.”
What they mean: “We didn’t plan on doing another sequel, but then the studio backed a dump truck full of money up to my house.”

What they say: “I sat down to read the script and was immediately drawn into this character.”
What they mean: “My agent described the character to me in a way that sounded like I’d get to wear a lot of pretty dresses if I signed on.”

What they say: “It’s the most amazing cast and crew. We really were just like a family.”
What they mean: “The kind of family that fights a lot and sometimes has sex with each other, that is.”

What they say: “This was a story that I just HAD to tell.”
What they mean: “This was a story that I just HAD to tell, according to my contractual obligations.”

What they say: “We tried to stay very faithful to the book, but of course you have to make some changes when you make a movie.”
What they mean: “Any similarities between this movie and the book it’s based on are purely coincidental.”

What they say: “Working with a legend like Meryl Streep [or whoever] was a dream come true. She was like a mentor to me.”
What they mean: “I’m fairly confident that by the end of the shoot, Meryl Streep knew what my name was.”

What they say: “The production was grueling. It was very physically demanding. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.”
What they mean: “The air conditioning in my trailer was on the fritz, I sometimes had to stand in the sun for a few minutes before my stuntman took over, and much of the $7 million I was paid will be eaten up by taxes.”