John McTiernan defends his work on The 13th Warrior

John McTiernan says Michael Crichton’s contributions to The 13th Warrior were far less significant than people make them out to be.

McTiernan 13th Warrior

The 13th Warrior has a storied history–which we actually covered in a previous installment of “WTF Happened to This Movie?!”–with the most heated aspect of the production being director John McTiernan being replaced by writer Michael Crichton, who wrote the source novel (1976’s Eaters of the Dead). But now, John McTiernan is speaking out against just this, saying The 13th Warrior is undoubtedly his movie.

John McTiernan recently sat down with filmmaker Fabrica Du Welz (the 2016 Chadwick Boseman actioner Message from the King) to discuss a number of his works, with the conversation inevitably turning to 1999’s The 13th Warrior, particularly the debate over who directed which scenes and who truly deserves credit. “The difference between Michael and I amounts to three shots…Yes [it’s my film]!” he said. “[There’s] a tiny amount of stuff added in…” McTiernan then pulled back slightly, delicately broaching Crichton himself but recognizing he may have had deeply embedded regret over that aspect of his career. “Look, Michael is dead and I don’t want to say unpleasant things about him but he had a need. He was an extraordinary novelist and he failed as a filmmaker. And he had an emotional need about that.” McTiernan is referring to Crichton’s mostly lousy attempts at directing, such as 1984’s Runaway and 1989’s Physical Evidence.

Although John McTiernan is the credited director of The 13th Warrior, many do believe Michael Crichton’s contributions were far greater than McTiernan would ever let on. According to numerous sources, Crichton worked heavily–and uncredited–on reshoots and re-editing, in addition to bringing composer Jerry Goldsmith on board. Even one of the promotional posters reads: From the Author of “Jurassic Park” and the Director of “Die Hard”, giving Crichton a higher credit than McTiernan.

Despite directing some of the best action movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s, John McTiernan’s contributions have greatly decreased. In fact, he hasn’t directed a movie since 2003’s Basic, although reports came out last year that he is set to make his return soon. Special shout-out to World of Reel for posting this fascinating interview.

What is your take on who really directed The 13th Warrior, John McTiernan or Michael Crichton? Do you like the movie? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.