Did You Know George Harrison And Madonna Made a Movie Together?

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You know the late George Harrison as one of The Beatles. You know Madonna from … well, from being Madonna.

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But did you know they were once involved in a movie together? And did you know the movie was called Shanghai Surprise?

Don’t feel bad if not. The flick was a massive flop.

Shanghai Surprise actually starred Madonna with soon-to-be-ex-husband Sean Penn. Usually, when it comes to acting, whatever Penn touches turns into cinematic gold. But not even Penn could save this not-so-pleasant surprise, with Harrison in the role of executive producer.

Of course, the turbulent personal lives and relationship between Penn and Madonna didn’t help matters.

Shanghai Surprise went into production in 1985 and began shooting in early 1986,” wrote 20th Century Danny Boy, a blog covering the entertainment industry. “Location work was done in both Asia and London, but sadly the production was dogged by problems, rumors and innuendo, with reports of fights, Penn giving orders to the director, Madonna being petulant, theft of property and more. The more work that was done, the more intense the media scrutiny and more problems became apparent.”

Other than that, it was a smash hit.

Oh, also, Madonna and Penn were supposed to be the featured guests at a press conference to promote the movie. But the press conference was canceled at the last minute.

Shanghai Surprise (1986)

“By all account the first thing Harrison did was to sit both Madonna and Penn down and lay down the law,” 20th Century Danny Boy relayed. “Ignoring their complaints of ill treatment he pointed out that, as a Beatle, he had suffered more at the hands of the media than they ever would. And he was right.  It’s unknown just how much advice Madonna and Penn took to heart, but in an authorized biography of Penn he mentions the conversation as being useful.”

But not useful enough to save the movie.

No matter, Shanghai Surprise still got made and released, even if no one really noticed. Critics ripped it and potential audiences ignored it. This despite all the big names.

Madonna and Penn were newlyweds at the time. The movie was a little bit of comedy, a little bit of action and a little bit of drama. None of those things worked.

“The movie opened so poorly in its first wave of playdates (late August in the Northeast and Midwest) that MGM has made severe cuts in its marketing budget,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported back in October 1986. “One MGM exec was quoted in the trades as saying this was necessary because ‘the interest in the film has been non-existent.'”

Or as the Lexington Herald-Leader put it in a headline for a review of the movie: “Shanghai’s Surprise is that it’s so bad.”

For the record, Madonna and Penn divorced about three years after the movie was released. Harrison went back to sticking to music. He later died on a property owned by fellow Beatle Paul McCartney in November 2001. Geroge Harrison was 58.

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