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Peter Berg: 'I Thought I Could Pull Off 'Battleship' Without a Big Star'

Peter Berg
Peter Berg

The director talks about why his last film didn't work and his economical follow-up, "Lone Survivor."

Lone Survivor director Peter Berg is opening up about why his last film, Universal's Battleship, was such a costly disappointment.

Having made the nearly $625 million hit Hancock with Will Smith, Berg thought he knew how to create a blockbuster movie and figured he didn't need Smith to make a hit.

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"I felt I had a new understanding of what went into making a blockbuster," he tells The New York Times Magazine. "I got a taste of a film's global power. But I discounted the effect of Will Smith on Hancock's success. I thought I could pull off Battleship without a big star."

But he also points out that the special effects in the $209 million film were so expensive, there was no money left to pay a star like Smith.

When asked whether Battleship, which only made a little more than $300 million worldwide, hurt him, Berg says, "It didn't help." But he claims that Lone Survivor, which he made on the cheap, will allow him to "buy back [his] reputation."

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As for the lesson he learned from Battleship, he says, "I don’t want to tackle that kind of economic project for quite a while."

Berg also takes the Times along as he films Survivor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, scouting locations designed to stand in for Afghanistan and brainstorming how he's going to film various scenes.

Universal is releasing Survivor on December 27. Berg has been trying to make the movie, about a group of Navy SEALs' failed mission to capture a Taliban leader, for five years. And he was still searching for producers to contribute to the film's $40 million budget before its 42-day shoot began last fall. He directed the film for scale and got most of his crew and stars, including Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg, to work for cheap.