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Outtakes was most intrigued by Variety’s story last week of “Rambo III’s” ballooned budget. The trade publication reported the cost at $63 million!

Well, according to the same publication, here are the all-time sky-high budget busters (that is, before such niceties as prints, advertsing and marketing):

1. “War and Peace” (Mosfilm, 1966)--$100 million-plus.

2. “Annie” (Rastar/Columbia, 1982)--$51.5 million.

3. “Cotton Club” (Evans/Orion, 1984)--$51 million.

4. “Inchon!” (One Way Productions, 1980)--$46 million.

5. “Ishtar” (Columbia, 1987)--$45 million.

6. “Cleopatra” (20th Century Fox, 1963)--$44 million.

7. “Star Trek” (Paramount, 1979)--$42 million.

8. “Dune” (De Laurentiis/Universal, 1984)--$42 million.

9. “Legal Eagles” (Universal, 1986)--$38 million.

10. “Heaven’s Gate” (United Artists, 1980)--$36 million.

So, is “Rambo III” the most-expensive American film ever made? By our computations, “Cleopatra” rules--topping the $100-million mark in 1988 dollars.


George Lucas’ “Willow,” opening May 20, may be wending its way onto the list. Business Weeks puts its budget at $40 million; Wall Street Journal says it’s $35 million.

An accounting note: Apart from “Star Trek,” the films all wound up with domestic rental figures lower than their budgets.

Variety figures may not be gospel but they’re the best figures available for public consumption. (Officials don’t talk freely about the subject of bucks.) “Reds,” a paltry 11th in this poll at $35 million, has been pegged as high as $60 million by some sources. An ex-Paramount exec recently told us that he estimated “Reds” cost at between $50 and $55 million but that no one would ever know its exact cost because it had “the most complicated international financing package anyone had ever seen.”

We recall that at the time of the U.S. release of “War and Peace,” the production chief of Mosfilm was asked about his budget and replied something like this: “We spent whatever it cost.”