Hollywood Flashback: In 2000, Mel Gibson Discovered 'What Women Want'

What Women Want Still - REX - H 2019
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The $70 million production ($102 million today) went on to make $374 million worldwide ($545 million) and spawned a remake: 'What Men Want,' starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, which hits theaters Friday.

While women may want many things, according to 2000's What Women Want, what they wanted was Mel Gibson in drag.

The Hollywood Reporter said that "seeing the charismatic performance (and the opportunity to witness Mad Max have a close encounter with L'Eggs) will prove to be what audiences want on the holiday viewing menu." 

THR was right: Director Nancy Meyers' $70 million ($102 million today) rom-com went on to make $374 million worldwide ($545 million). It has now spawned a remake: What Men Want, starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, opening Feb. 8. The original film's plot: Ad exec Gibson, after nearly getting electrocuted via hair dryer while trying out feminine products and clothing, is able to hear women's thoughts.

In its review, THR referred to the plot device as "rickety" but said it worked well enough, noting, "Gibson manages to Mel-evate the material to a crowd-pleasing level." (He was even rewarded with a Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actor in a comedy or musical — which he lost to George Clooney for O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

"I loved the movie, just loved it," recalls Sherry Lansing, then-president of the Paramount Motion Pictures Group. "We had so many premieres and screenings, and every time it made me laugh. It's proven to be an iconic film, or they wouldn't be remaking it."

One of those premieres was at Westwood's Mann Theatre with a party afterward at the Hammer Museum, a benefit for Stop Cancer, the charity Lansing had founded with Armand Hammer. That event raised $600,000, a big number at the time. In 2008, Lansing moved on to co-found Stand Up to Cancer with a number of other prominent women in the industry. Since then, the organization has raised more than $600 million for research on a cancer cure. Turns out that's what women really wanted.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.