12 Facts About The Bodyguard That Will Always Love You

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Pop quiz! What was the highest-grossing film in the world in 1992? You guessed it—Aladdin! But the second-highest, ahead of Home Alone 2, Basic Instinct, Sister Act, and Batman Returns, was The Bodyguard, earning $411 million worldwide and giving pop superstar Whitney Houston another chance to sell millions of albums. (Which she did.) Kevin Costner was already one of the world’s top movie stars (it’s true!), and The Bodyguard added to his fame.

As the film turns 25 years old, let’s celebrate that quarter-century by diving into the origins, production, and aftermath of one of Hollywood’s most successful romantic dramas.

1. IT’S FROM THE WRITER OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK AND RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Bodyguard in the mid-1970s, before he came to prominence as the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Return of the Jedi (plus The Big Chill, Body HeatSilverado, The Accidental Tourist, and more). The Bodyguard would have been his first produced screenplay if it had been, you know, produced...

2. IT WAS INTENDED AS A STARRING VEHICLE FOR STEVE MCQUEEN AND DIANA ROSS.

Warner Bros. bought Kasdan’s script (after many other studios rejected it) back in the ‘70s, intending it as a vehicle for Diana Ross and Steve McQueen—the Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner of their day! (OK, not quite. McQueen was well past his prime by then. The Ross/Houston comparison is reasonable, though.) But the production never got off the ground. The story is that neither Ross nor McQueen would accept second billing under the other, which is plausible given what we know about them, but we can’t find any firsthand sources for it. Whatever went wrong, WB tried again a few years later with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross, but that fell through, too.

3. THE INTERRACIAL ROMANCE WAS A COINCIDENCE.

Considering that Ross and McQueen were originally going to be cast, and that Houston and Costner eventually were cast, you might think the script calls for the pop star to be black and the bodyguard to be white. But there’s actually no mention of race one way or the other in Kasdan’s screenplay, and the finished film doesn’t make an issue out of it, a detail praised by many critics.

4. THE SOUNDTRACK IS STILL A BESTSELLER.

Twenty-five years later, The Bodyguard is still the bestselling soundtrack album of all time, with more than 17 million copies certified worldwide. Only Michael Jackson’s Thriller, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon have sold more copies.

5. RACHEL’S MANSION ONCE HAD A HORSE’S HEAD IN IT.

The estate where Whitney Houston’s character lives was built in the 1920s and once belonged to William Randolph Hearst. It was also seen in The Godfather as the home of film producer Jack Woltz, who woke up one morning to find a horse’s head in his bed.

6. “I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” WAS COSTNER’S IDEA.

Houston was originally going to record a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” as the soundtrack’s lead single, but that was scrapped when the filmmakers learned that the same song was being featured in Fried Green Tomatoes. According to Dolly Parton, it was Costner (who was also acting as producer) who loved her 1973 song “I Will Always Love You” and asked if Houston could record it for the film. He was passionate, later saying, “I didn’t care if it was ever on the radio. I didn’t care. I said, ‘We’re also going to do this a cappella at the beginning. I need it to be a cappella because it shows a measure of how much she digs this guy—that she sings without music.’”

7. A CREW MEMBER DIED DURING FILMING.

Bill Vitagliano, a 33-year-old worker in the film’s transportation department, was crushed between two lighting-equipment cranes when one of them malfunctioned in an L.A. parking garage.

8. THE DIRECTOR TOLD HOUSTON NOT TO TAKE ACTING LESSONS.

The Bodyguard marked the singer’s debut as an actress, and she was self-conscious about her abilities. A few weeks before shooting began, she asked director Mick Jackson if she should take lessons. His reply: “No, that’s the last thing you should do.” He wanted her performance to be natural. She evidently did as she was told and did not learn how to act.

9. THE SECRET TO HOUSTON’S PERFORMANCE: JUDICIOUS EDITING.

Costner, in his capacity as producer, was protective of Houston and had promised to make her look good. His contract also stipulated that he could have the film re-edited if he didn’t like the director’s cut. Well, the director’s cut apparently didn’t do Houston any favors, and test-screening audiences rejected it. The director himself is quoted in a Houston biography as saying, “There was no chemistry” between Houston and Costner. “They looked like a couple of pals passing the time of day instead of the torrid lovers they were supposed to be.” Another round of editing eliminated some of Houston’s longer speeches and emphasized close-ups on her face.

10. IT WAS TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL.

The live version used the songs from the film plus eight other Houston hits (including “So Emotional” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) and debuted in London’s West End in 2012. The show subsequently toured around the world, including a current U.S. leg that will end in April 2018.

11. IT HAS NODS TO AKIRA KUROSAWA.

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan loved Kurosawa and named the film after one of the Japanese master’s classics, Yojimbo (English translation: The Bodyguard). He also included a scene where Rachel and Frank actually watch Yojimbo, and he wrote the lead role for Steve McQueen, who had starred in the remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven.

12. THERE WAS ALMOST A SEQUEL—WITH PRINCESS DIANA.

In late 1997, Costner said that at the time of Princess Diana’s death just a few months earlier, he’d been negotiating with her to star opposite him in a Bodyguard sequel. The New York Post reported that the role would have been “loosely based on her life,” quoting Costner as saying, “She said, ‘Look, my life is maybe going to become my own at some point. Go ahead and do this script, and when it’s ready I’ll be in a really good spot.’” Costner got a second draft of the script three days before Diana’s death.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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