The casualty: director Michael Cimino
Behold what's arguably the biggest career-killer of them all.
Prior to the film's legendarily problematic production, director Michael Cimino was one of several filmmakers coasting through the 1970s on waves of critical praise and Academy Award recognition, thanks to the 1978 classic-in-the-making The Deer Hunter. In Heaven's Gate, about the animosity shared between European immigrants and land barons in Wyoming in the 1890s, Cimino saw the chance to create something truly epic, so much so that, through bullying, a shitty attitude, and other poor filmmaking tactics, he pushed the film way over budget, into the $44 million range (a huge sum back in 1980).
When the film premiered in November 1980, audiences hated it, as did several prominent critics who reviewed Heaven's Gate in time for its one-week theatrical run at one New York City theater. In April 1981, the film reopened with nearly an hour's worth of scenes cut; in the end, though, Heaven's Gate only grossed a paltry $3 million.