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Columbia Pictures

30 Sweeping Facts About The Karate Kid

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

You'd better start practicing those crane kicks again! More than 30 years after Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence faced off in one of cinema's most iconic showdowns, The Karate Kid is making a comeback. A sequel to the hit 1984 film (which has already spawned a few sequels, plus a remake) is making its way to YouTube Red as a new series, currently titled Cobra Kai, with both Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles.

According to Variety, "The 10-episode, half-hour series, coming to YouTube Red in 2018, picks up 30 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament. A down-and-out Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) seeks redemption by reopening the infamous Cobra Kai karate dojo, reigniting his rivalry with a now successful Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi."

While we await more detail on the series, let's take a look back at the movie that started it all.

1. PAT MORITA WAS INITIALLY TURNED DOWN FOR THE ROLE OF MR. MIYAGI.

In the early 1980’s, Pat Morita was best known for his comedic work as Arnold, the restaurant owner on Happy Days. According to the 2013 book The Films of John G. Avildsen, Morita was Avildsen’s first choice for Miyagi; however, producer Jerry Weintraub felt that audiences would not take him seriously in the role due to his background in comedy. After Morita grew a beard and added a Japanese accent to his screen test, an impressed Weintraub had a change of heart and Morita was given the part.

2. DANIEL LARUSSO WAS ORIGINALLY DANIEL WEBBER.

Wait. What?!? It sounds blasphemous, but in original versions of The Karate Kid script, Daniel LaRusso's last name was Webber.

3. JOHNNY LAWRENCE WAS DONALD RICE.

While we’re at it, let’s get this out of the way, too: Johnny Lawrence’s name was originally Donald Rice.

4. "YOU’RE THE BEST" WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR A DIFFERENT MOVIE.

Although "You're the Best" will be forever tied to the montage of fight scenes during the All-Valley Karate Tournament, Joe Esposito’s song was originally written by Bill Conti and Allee Willis to be used in Rocky III. It was ultimately replaced with Survivor’s "Eye of the Tiger." Esposito revealed this information in a 2008 interview on the Adam Carolla Show where he said that "You're the Best" was turned down for use in the movie Flashdance as well, and was replaced with Michael Sembello’s "Maniac." The '80s truly had an embarrassment of riches when it came to montage songs.

5. FREDDY REALLY DID TAKE A SOCCER BALL TO THE FACE.

As Daniel and his new friends play soccer on the beach, his eye is caught by Ali Mills, the beautiful blonde from the Hills. Coolly trying to impress her, Daniel shows off his soccer skills only to have the ball knocked away by Freddy (played by Israel Juarbe). Watching closely, you’ll see that poor Freddy takes a direct hit to the face as he brings Daniel back to reality.

6. DANIEL’S ICONIC SHOWER COSTUME IS FORESHADOWED IN MIYAGI’S WORKSHOP.


YouTube

At the Halloween dance, Daniel mentions that his shower costume was made by a friend. The assumption that he’s referring to Mr. Miyagi is confirmed in the previous scene where parts of the shower costume can been seen hanging in the background as Miyagi prepares jack-o-lanterns in his workshop.

7. MANY OF THE FILM'S LOCATIONS ARE STILL INTACT AND LOOK MOSTLY THE SAME.


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A few sources provide fascinating photos of the current state of many filming locations used in The Karate Kid. For the most part, these California-based locations are still recognizable and look very much the same as they did back in the mid-1980s. For a complete look at these filming locations, visit itsfilmedthere.com or the Karate Kid Site at fast-rewind.com.

8. IT TOOK A WHILE TO DISCOVER THE FILMING LOCATION FOR MR. MIYAGI’S HOUSE.


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Although most filming locations from The Karate Kid had been found long ago, Mr. Miyagi’s house eluded avid location hunters for a long time.

Taking the art of finding filming locations to a whole new level, in 2014, one fan did some major sleuthing to finally confirm the location of Mr. Miyagi’s house, which was demolished in the late 1980s. 

9. MR. MIYAGI’S WORKSHOP WAS ACTUALLY A PARKING LOT.


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While the apartment complex itself looks very much the same in real life as it does in the film, one exception is the portion representing Mr. Miyagi's workshop. Opening to the exterior of the building, this area of the complex was actually an open parking area which was walled off for the sake of the film. Comparing a shot from the film to an image taken from Google Maps Street View, this transformation is very clear.

10. TWO RUN-INS WITH JOHNNY WERE DELETED FROM THE FILM’S FINAL CUT.

The original Karate Kid script includes two confrontations between Daniel and Johnny which were eventually cut from the film. The first takes place in the school cafeteria, just after Daniel has bought lunch for Ali. Seeing them about to take a seat, Johnny hurries over just in time to sneak a piece of blueberry pie onto Daniel’s chair. Standing up with his pants covered in blueberries, Daniel is equally embarrassed and livid. In a brave act of revenge, Daniel smears what is left of the pie across Johnny’s shirt and mayhem ensues. A photo from this scene can be found on the back of the B.B. Hiller novelization of The Karate Kid.


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The other scene occurs later in the film and also takes place at school. Coming up from a drink at the fountain, Daniel finds himself face to face with Johnny and stands up for himself once again by questioning the practices of the Cobra Kai.


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The original script reveals this exchange:

Daniel: We both know you can kick my ass seven ways from Sunday. So why do you still bother?
Johnny: Maybe ‘cause I like to.
Daniel: You ever think he might be wrong?
Johnny: Who?
Daniel: Your teacher.
Johnny: Watch your mouth, asshole.

11. MR. MIYAGI GAVE DANIEL A SWEET RIDE.


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Casual viewers of The Karate Kid know that Mr. Miyagi gives Daniel a cool yellow car for his birthday. Classic car enthusiasts may recognize this smooth ride as a 1948 Ford Super DeLuxe Club convertible.

12. CHUCK NORRIS DID NOT DECLINE THE ROLE OF JOHN KREESE.

It is widely rumored that Chuck Norris was initially considered for the part of Cobra Kai Sensei John Kreese, but turned down the role as he did not want to be associated with a character that represented martial arts in such a cruel and aggressive way. Norris has stated that he was never offered this role but likely would have turned it down for these reasons if he had been. Likewise, director John Avildsen does not recall Norris being offered the role.

13. SENSEI KREESE WAS A MILITARY VETERAN.

Upon Daniel’s first visit to the Cobra Kai dojo, he is faced with a wall full of awards recognizing the accomplishments of the students and their sensei. Among the plaques and trophies is a photograph showing Sensei Kreese wearing full military fatigues and recognizing him as “Karate Champion” and a U.S. Army captain from 1970-1972. Kreese’s military service is referenced again later in the Karate Kid trilogy when viewers are introduced to Terry Silver—a Vietnam veteran and successor to Kreese as the Cobra Kai sensei.

14. DANIEL WENT TO WEST VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL.


YouTube

Although the name of Daniel's school is never mentioned in the film, it is subtly referenced in a scene at his locker, just before he tells Ali about the "agreement" he has made with the Cobra Kai. A sticker inside the locker door suggests that Daniel attends West Valley High School.

15. ROCKET COMPUTERS WENT BANKRUPT.

Daniel and his mother moved to California as a result of her new job with Rocket Computers (“Flight to the future!”). The original script reveals why Freddy had “never heard of it” and also sheds some light on why it seems that Mrs. LaRusso might be an employee of the restaurant across from the Cobra Kai dojo.

As she shares with Daniel:

“They went bankrupt!...[But] listen to this. I walk out of Rocket with the beginning of Excedrin headache one through ten about to come on, and I’m going back to the car when this woman comes flying out of this restaurant, The Orient Express, and she’s screaming, ‘I quit! I quit!’ Right behind her is this guy and he’s yelling just as loud, ‘You can’t quit! You’re fired!’ It’s one minute to noon, people are coming in to lunch, I’m the first but only applicant — I got the job!”

When Daniel questions her new position as a waitress, his mother clarifies that she is not a waitress. She is a hostess.

16. MRS. LARUSSO READS VINTAGE MAGAZINES.

Mr. Miyagi stops by the LaRusso's apartment to fix the faucet and finds Daniel practicing karate. While Miyagi was surprised that Daniel was trying to learn karate from a book, it is also surprising that the magazine underneath the book was published in April 1969.

I guess this then-15-year-old Easter issue of Family Circle explains the bunny cake clipping seen hanging on the refrigerator door (although it doesn’t explain why the LaRussos were planning for Easter in September).

17. PAT MORITA DID NOT PERFORM THE CRANE KICK.

The tournament semi-finalists included Johnny Lawrence, Bobby Brown, Daniel LaRusso, and a character credited only as "Karate Semi-Finalist," played by black belt Darryl Vidal. Vidal shows off some flashy moves before being eliminated by Johnny, who advances to face Daniel in the final.

Vidal is now a 10th degree black belt and one of the most respected teachers in the sport. His involvement with The Karate Kid was not limited to the action seen in the tournament. Earlier, in one of the most memorable scenes from the film, Mr. Miyagi performs the crane kick from atop a wooden post on the beach as Daniel observes from a distance.

But it was not actually Morita on the post—it was Darryl Vidal, serving as his stunt double. These details are confirmed in the DVD commentary track and Vidal himself provided this information to the Karate Kid Site at fast-rewind.com: "I am the stunt double for the scene where Mr. Miyagi is on the post on the beach. It isn't noted in the cast list at the end where I am just listed as the semi-finalist. I am dressed in a body-suit, and bald-head wig."

18. DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS HAVE AMAZING T-SHIRTS.


YouTube

Although Daniel hides his “No More Mr. Nice Guy” tee under a button-up, Freddy proudly wears his “Makin’ Bacon” shirt for all the world to see.

19. HAPPY GILMORE’S GRANDMA LIVES IN DANIEL’S APARTMENT BUILDING.


YouTube

Entering his new apartment building for the first time, Daniel stops to speak with a woman who reveals she is from Parsippany, New Jersey. Moments later, she provides Daniel with some less-than-clear directions to Mr. Miyagi’s workshop. You may recognize her as Frances Bay—the character actress who played Happy Gilmore’s grandmother.

20. A BAND FROM THE SOUNDTRACK APPEARS IN THE MOVIE.

The Karate Kid soundtrack includes the song "No Shelter" by the band Broken Edge. The band can be seen in the film playing on stage at the Halloween dance.

21. PAT JOHNSON WAS AN EXPERT, A REFEREE, AND A TOY

Pat Johnson was responsible for the choreography of The Karate Kid's fight scenes. Johnson, a well-known karate expert, also played the part of the referee in the film's final match. When the Remco line of Karate Kid action figures hit shelves in 1986, a figure based on Johnson as the tournament official was included in the Competition Center set.

22. THE KARATE KID INCLUDES SOME FAMOUS FAMILY TIES.


YouTube

Dutch, a member of the Cobra Kai, was played by Chad McQueen—on of legendary actor Steve McQueen.

Early in the film, Freddy invites Daniel to a beach party with his friends. Among those friends was Chucky, played by Frank Burt Avalon, who happens to be the son of singer and beach film veteran Frankie Avalon.


YouTube

At the Halloween dance, Daniel has a raw egg smashed on his head by a guy dressed as a chicken. The chicken boy was played by Todd Lookinland—brother of Mike Lookinland, Bobby of Brady Bunch fame.

Larry Drake, later of L.A. Law, is credited as "Yahoo #2," and you may also recognize Larry Scott from the original Revenge of the Nerds in the role of Jerry.

Lastly, although uncredited, actor Andrew Shue appears briefly as an arbitrary member of the Cobra Kai. He is the brother of Ali Mills herself, Elisabeth Shue.

23. IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE BRUISES HIS CHIN


YouTube

In the DVD commentary, Ralph Macchio suggests that the bruise seen on his chin is real—a result of a roundhouse kick that struck him during the Halloween night fight against some teens dressed up in skeleton costumes.

24. PAT MORITA'S GIVEN NAME IS USED IN THE CREDITS.

As previously mentioned, Morita was well-known prior to The Karate Kid for his comedy work on several TV shows, including a recurring stint as Ah Chew on Sanford and Son. Producer Jerry Weintraub suggested that Morita's credit in the film include his given name—Noriyuki—so as to sound more "ethnic." Therefore, the role of Mr. Miyagi is credited to Noriyuki "Pat" Morita.

25. THE TOURNAMENT VICTORY WAS NOT THE END.

The Karate Kid was not intended to conclude with Daniel's victory over Johnny at the tournament. The opening scene in the sequel The Karate Kid Part II, which sees a parking lot confrontation between Kreese and Miyagi, was the original film's original ending. Both B.B. Hiller's novelization of the film and early copies of the script conclude with Miyagi tweaking Kreese's nose and the members of the Cobra Kai dropping their belts around their defeated leader.

26. DANIEL SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISQUALIFIED ... MAYBE.

In an amazing breakdown written for overthinkingit.com, Matthew Belinkie considers the legality of the crane kick within the rules of a typical karate competition. According to Belinkie, competition rules prohibit participants from striking their opponent using "full power."

Going on to discuss this matter with an expert in karate competition, he confirms that in most cases, Daniel would have been disqualified as a result of the maneuver.

27. MANY OF THE ACTORS ARE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

Several of the original cast members are active on social media sites. Ralph Macchio chimes in on Twitter along with Martin Kove, William Zabka, and Tony O’Dell. On Facebook, Ron Thomas actively promotes his real-life dojo and martial arts training. If you follow any of these guys, you’re sometimes treated to behind-the-scenes gems like this.

28. THE MAIN CAST REUNITED FOR AN AWESOME MUSIC VIDEO.

What do you get when you combine Dennis Haskins from Saved By the Bell, the core of The Karate Kid cast, and the band No More Kings? You get the amazing 2007 music video for a song called "Sweep the Leg."

29. RALPH MACCHIO HAS POKED FUN AT HIS ENDURING KARATE KID CHARACTER.

In 2010, Ralph Macchio appeared in a video for Funny or Die as he humorously attempted to shed his "good guy" image.

30. A COMPLETE REHEARSAL OF THE FILM IS AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE.

Hold on to your seats, Karate Kid fans. If you weren't aware of this already, prepare to have your minds blown. An entire rehearsal of The Karate Kid is available to view on YouTube. Included in the run-through are several dialogue variations and a few scenes that didn't make it to the final cut of the film. If you're a diehard Karate Kid fan, you'll definitely want to check this out for yourself.

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35 Movies Roger Ebert Really Hated
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When Roger Ebert hated a film, he didn't mince words. On what would have been the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer's 76th birthday, here are some movies he absolutely loathed (including a couple of surprises) and his dry assessments of their value.

1. ARMAGEDDON (1998) // 1 STAR

“The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained. No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out. ... Armageddon reportedly used the services of nine writers. Why did it need any? The dialogue is either shouted one-liners or romantic drivel. ‘It’s gonna blow!’ is used so many times, I wonder if every single writer used it once, and then sat back from his word processor with a contented smile on his face, another day’s work done.”

2. THE BROWN BUNNY (2003) // 0 STARS

"I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny."

When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny."

3. JASON X (2001) // HALF STAR

"'This sucks on so many levels.' Dialogue from Jason X; rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself. Jason X sucks on the levels of storytelling, character development, suspense, special effects, originality, punctuation, neatness and aptness of thought."

4. MAD DOG TIME (1996) // 0 STARS

"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line  ... Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor."

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) // 1.5 STARS

"Once again, my comprehension began to slip, and finally I wrote down: 'To the degree that I do understand, I don't care.' It was, however, somewhat reassuring at the end of the movie to discover that I had, after all, understood everything I was intended to understand. It was just that there was less to understand than the movie at first suggests."

6. DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO (2005) // ZERO STARS

"[The title character] makes a living prostituting himself. How much he charges I'm not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie. Deuce Bigalow is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes ... Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

7. MR. MAGOO (1997) // HALF STAR

“Magoo drives a red Studebaker convertible in Mr. Magoo, a fact I report because I love Studebakers and his was the only thing I liked in the film. Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly.”

8. SPICE WORLD (1997) // HALF STAR

"Spice World is obviously intended as a ripoff of A Hard Day's Night which gave The Beatles to the movies ... the huge difference, of course, is that the Beatles were talented—while, let's face it, the Spice Girls could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts."

9. GOOD LUCK CHUCK (2007) // 1 STAR

"There is a word for this movie, and that word is: Ick."

10. FREDDY GOT FINGERED (2001)// 0 STARS

"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

11. CORKY ROMANO (2001) // HALF STAR

Corky Romano is like a dead zone of comedy. The concept is exhausted, the ideas are tired, the physical gags are routine, the story is labored, the actors look like they can barely contain their doubts about the project.”

12. CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2000) // HALF STAR

Charlie’s Angels is like the trailer for a video game movie, lacking only the video game, and the movie.”

13. MANNEQUIN (1987) // HALF STAR

“A lot of bad movies are fairly throbbing with life. Mannequin is dead. The wake lasts 1 1/2 hours, and then we can leave the theater. Halfway through, I was ready for someone to lead us in reciting the rosary.”

14. EXIT TO EDEN (1994) // HALF STAR

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t get Rosie O’Donnell. I’ve seen her in three or four movies now, and she generally had the same effect on me as fingernails on a blackboard. She’s harsh and abrupt and staccato and doesn’t seem to be having any fun. She looks mean. ...  What were your first thoughts the first time Rosie turned up in the leather dominatrix uniform? Did you maybe have slight misgivings that you were presiding over one of the more misguided film projects of recent years?”

15. HOCUS POCUS (1993) // 1 STAR

“Of the film’s many problems, the greatest may be that all three witches are thoroughly unpleasant. They don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels. A good movie inspires the audience to subconsciously ask, ‘Give me more!’ The witches in this one inspired my silent cry, ‘Get me out of here!’”

(What can we say? Ebert was occasionally wrong.)

16. TOMMY BOY (1995) // 1 STAR

“No one is funny in Tommy Boy. There are no memorable lines. None of the characters is interesting, except for the enigmatic figure played by Rob Lowe, who seems to have wandered over from Hamlet. Judging by the evidence on the screen, the movie got a green light before a usable screenplay had been prepared, with everybody reassuring themselves that since they were such funny people, inspiration would overcome them.”

17. THE VILLAGE (2004) // 1 STAR

“Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”

18. THE LOVE GURU (2008) // 1 STAR

“Myers has some funny moments, but this film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents. Every reference to a human sex organ or process of defecation is not automatically funny simply because it is naughty, but Myers seems to labor under that delusion. He acts as if he’s getting away with something, but in fact all he’s getting away with is selling tickets to a dreary experience.”

19. SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL (1989) // 0 STARS

“What planet did the makers of this film come from? What assumptions do they have about the purpose and quality of life? I ask because She’s Out of Control is simultaneously so bizarre and so banal that it’s a first: the first movie fabricated entirely from sitcom cliches and plastic lifestyles, without reference to any known plane of reality.”

20. SUMMER SCHOOL (1987) // HALF STAR

“You see it, you leave the theater, and then it evaporates, leaving just a slight residue, something like a vaguely unpleasant taste in the memory.”

21. CLIFFORD (1994) // HALF STAR

“It’s not bad in any usual way. It’s bad in a new way all its own. There is something extraterrestrial about it, as if it’s based on the sense of humor of an alien race with a completely different relationship to the physical universe. The movie is so odd, it’s most worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.”

22. NORTH (1994) // 0 STARS

"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Alan Zweibel wrote this film, and he got a chance to confront Ebert about the review. In a bathroom.

23. 200 CIGARETTES (1999)// HALF STAR

"Maybe another 200 cigarettes would have helped; coughing would be better than some of this dialogue."

24. DEATH TO SMOOCHY (2002) // HALF STAR

"In all the annals of the movies, few films have been this odd, inexplicable and unpleasant."

25. SAVING SILVERMAN (2001) // HALF STAR

"Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve."

He included a critique of Neil Diamond, who makes a guest appearance in the movie: "As for Neil Diamond, Saving Silverman is his first appearance in a fiction film since The Jazz Singer (1980), and one can only marvel that he waited 20 years to appear in a second film, and found one even worse than his first one."

26. THE JAZZ SINGER (1980) // 1 STAR

From rogerebert.com:

"Diamond's whole presence in this movie is offensively narcissistic. His songs are melodramatic, interchangeable, self-aggrandizing groans and anguished shouts, backed protectively by expensive and cloying instrumentation. His dramatic presence also looks over-protected, as if nobody was willing to risk offending him by asking him to seem involved, caring and engaged.

"Diamond plays the whole movie looking at people's third shirt buttons, as if he can't be bothered to meet their eyes and relate with them. It's strange about the Diamond performance: It's not just that he can't act. It's that he sends out creepy vibes. He seems self-absorbed, closed off, grandiose, out of touch with his immediate surroundings."

27. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994) // 1 STAR

"Most of the people look as if they would rather be in other movies. The movie basically has one joke, which is Ace Ventura's weird nerdy strangeness. If you laugh at this joke, chances are you laugh at Jerry Lewis, too, and I can sympathize with you even if I can't understand you. I found the movie a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot. Kids might like it. Real little kids."

28. STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT (1992) // HALF STAR

"Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! is one of those movies so dimwitted, so utterly lacking in even the smallest morsel of redeeming value, that you stare at the screen in stunned disbelief. It is moronic beyond comprehension, an exercise in desperation during which even Sylvester Stallone, a repository of self-confidence, seems to be disheartened."

29. THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (2005) // 1 STAR

"Of course you don't have to be smart to get into The Dukes of Hazzard. But people like Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds should have been smart enough to stay out of it. Here is a lame-brained, outdated wheeze about a couple of good ol' boys who roar around the back roads of the South in the General Lee, their beloved 1969 Dodge Charger. As it happens, I also drove a 1969 Dodge Charger. You could have told them apart because mine did not have a Confederate flag painted on the roof."

30. GODZILLA (1998) // 1.5 STARS

"Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica. It's a rebuke to the faith that the building represents. Cannes touchingly adheres to a belief that film can be intelligent, moving and grand. Godzilla is a big, ugly, ungainly device to give teenagers the impression they are seeing a movie."

31. THE BUCKET LIST (2007) // 1 STAR

"The Bucket List is a movie about two old codgers who are nothing like people, both suffering from cancer that is nothing like cancer, and setting off on adventures that are nothing like possible. I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens."

32. DIRTY LOVE (2005) // 0 STAR

"I would like to say more, but—no, I wouldn't. I would not like to say more. I would like to say less. On the basis of Dirty Love, I am not certain that anyone involved has ever seen a movie, or knows what one is."

33. BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000) // HALF STAR

"This movie is awful in so many different ways. Even the opening titles are cheesy. Sci-fi epics usually begin with a stab at impressive titles, but this one just displays green letters on the screen in a type font that came with my Macintosh. Then the movie's subtitle unscrolls from left to right in the kind of 'effect' you see in home movies."

34. THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS (2000) // HALF STAR

"This is an ideal first movie for infants, who can enjoy the bright colors on the screen and wave their tiny hands to the music."

35. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) // 0 STARS

"John Waters' Pink Flamingos has been restored for its 25th anniversary revival, and with any luck at all that means I won't have to see it again for another 25 years. If I haven't retired by then, I will. ... Note: I am not giving a star rating to Pink Flamingos because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object."

Reviews via RogerEbert.com.

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10 Big Facts About Last Action Hero
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Last Action Hero was a funky disaster. What began its life as an homage to the absurdity of '80s action movies called Extremely Violent became more or less a live-action cartoon starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as an action movie character who learns he’s an action movie character before saving the real world. There are golden tickets that let people and fictional beings cross over from one world to the next, a slew of intentional errors to remind us that we’re watching a movie, and an animated police detective cat voiced by Danny DeVito. Somewhere in the filmmaking process, it devolved into a spoof in the envelope of a love letter.

It was a hard-charging flop that’s earned back some cult appeal for audacity, with all of its fun-loving potential on screen next to all the eyebrow-raising nonsense. Here are 10 facts about the action movie too insane to succeed.

1. THE PRODUCTION ITSELF GOT META EARLY ON.

Original screenwriters Zak Penn and Adam Leff wrote what would become Last Action Hero as a film that would work both as an adrenaline-fueled action ride and as a goof on adrenaline-fueled action, but the sources they drew inspiration from soon invaded the project. Action icon Jack Slater’s name was originally Arno Slater as a nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who then took the role of Arno Slater. Penn and Leff studied all of Shane Black’s scripts (the Lethal Weapon movies and The Last Boy Scout) to get the satirical rhythm right, but then Black was hired to rewrite their script. They also used Die Hard and other John McTiernan-directed movies as a baseline for the movie’s style, and then McTiernan was hired to direct their movie. Their comedic love letter was taken over by titans of the very genre they were mocking, who were then put in charge of mocking themselves.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE SIMPSONS.

Beyond the Schwarzeneggerific action flicks, Penn and Leff launched the project because of an unlikely source: Matt Groening’s irreverent cartoon. “The weird thing is that The Simpsons inspired it in the first place,” Penn said. “We thought, ‘if this show can destroy genres even as it embraces them, why can’t we do it in live action?’” By the time Last Action Hero hit theaters, The Simpsons was already spoofing Schwarzenegger and his action movies with muscle-headed Rainier Wolfcastle, the star of far too many McBain movies, and the show that gave Penn and Leff the creative license to write their film later roasted Last Action Hero directly. In “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” Bart Simpson tells Wolfcastle his last movie sucked, Wolfcastle admits there were script problems, and Chief Wiggum quips, “I’ll say. Magic ticket my ass, McBain!”

3. CARRIE FISHER, WILLIAM GOLDMAN, AND LARRY FERGUSON ALL DID REWRITES.

Penn and Leff were replaced by Black and David Arnott, who were replaced by novelist and Oscar winner William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Goldman earned a hefty $1 million fee which, according to Black, was to provide a safety net for producers. If it flopped, they could claim they did everything they could, including hiring a world-class writer to whip the screenplay into shape. Turns out they’d need all the excuses they could marshal. With Schwarzenegger and the studio still unhappy with the script, they called in other voices to polish the dialogue, including Carrie Fisher and Larry Ferguson, who was fresh off of The Hunt For Red October. The studio then tried to rehire Black to punch up some action sequences, but he refused. “It just made people breathe easier throwing money at this enormous behemoth,” Black said. The multitude of writers was a major reason the movie ended up so disjointed.

4. THE SCHEDULE DOOMED THE MOVIE FROM THE OUTSET.

Regardless of any problems finding the right script (rewrites are common on all big movies), the movie had almost zero chance because there simply wasn’t enough time to make it. From the greenlight to Columbia Pictures’s expected release date of June 18, 1993, McTiernan and company had a bit over nine months to put together a wannabe blockbuster with a massive budget, lots of explosions, and a ton of VFX.

Robert Greenberg, who was hired to do the CGI, said, “I don’t think a production of this scope has been pulled together on such a short schedule,” echoing a sentiment McTiernan (and others) would have later while explaining its failure.

As the project barreled toward a release date that the studio refused to change (even after a disastrous public feedback screening they claimed was “absolutely sensational”), the crew was working 18-hour days, six days a week. It got so bad they had to bring in a masseuse, and the final cut was done mere days before they had to ship prints to theaters. Last Action Hero was also released a week after Jurassic Park, which was … not so good for it.

5. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER GOT AC/DC TO WRITE A SONG FOR IT.

Last Action Hero was the first movie Schwarzenegger executive produced, and he had approval on every detail—right down to the marketing. Knowing that Jack Slater would need an explosive, memorable anthem, Schwarzenegger personally sought out AC/DC, but instead of asking for the rights to one of their hits, he asked them to write something new. Thus, “Big Gun” was born. It’s an uncomplicated, face-melting rock song and the most memorable element of the entire movie. With all the other miscalculations over the movie’s tone, the production schedule, and the release date, at least Schwarzenegger got this one right.

6. THEY HIRED A CHEAPER VERSION OF ALAN RICKMAN.

Charles Dance in 'Last Action Hero' (1993)
Columbia Pictures

Just as Schwarzenegger was the model for the beefy, gun-toting hero, the villainous Benedict was based on Alan Rickman’s steely Hans Gruber from McTiernan’s Die Hard. The young boy (played by Austin O’Brien) who travels into the world of Jack Slater’s movies even breaks the fourth wall by referring to Benedict as Rickman at one point in the script. So, naturally, the production tried to bring Rickman on board, but he turned them down. They hired Charles Dance for the role instead, and when Dance discovered he was a less expensive second choice, he showed up to set wearing a shirt proclaiming, “I’m cheaper than Alan Rickman!” which almost definitely fit with the meta vibe of the production.

7. THERE WAS AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF CAMEOS IN IT.

Schwarzenegger also called in a lot of favors from co-stars and connections he’d made while ascending to the very top of global Hollywood stardom. Sharon Stone shows up as her Basic Instinct character alongside Robert Patrick as a Terminator 2 T-1000 in a background shot. Schwarzenegger’s then-wife Maria Shriver appears as herself, Danny DeVito voices the police cat, and Joan Plowright plays a teacher showing a class her real-life late husband Laurence Olivier’s version of Hamlet (“You might remember him as Zeus in Clash of the Titans”). Plus, Leeza Gibbons played herself doing celebrity interviews, Tina Turner plays the mayor of Los Angeles, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jim Belushi, and Chevy Chase are in the audience for the premiere of Jack Slater IV. Tony Danza, MC Hammer, Little Richard, and James Cameron also pop up. There are even more, but the best is Ian McKellen playing Death, emerging from the screen from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

8. THERE IS ALSO AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF REFERENCES TO OTHER MOVIES.

References are to be expected with any spoof, but Last Action Hero smothers you with them. IMDB lists 68 references, which means there’s a reference to another movie every two minutes. They range from King Kong to The Wizard of Oz to Serpico to E.T., but of course the bulk of the callbacks evoke movies from Schwarzenegger, Black, and McTiernan. There are nods to Commando, The Running Man, Die Hard, Total Recall, Raw Deal, and an advertisement for Terminator 2 (with Sylvester Stallone starring instead of Schwarzenegger). But the sharpest homage comes after Frank’s (Art Carney) house blows up when a black cop says with resignation, “Two days to retirement,” referencing Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.

9. IT WAS BOTH ART CARNEY'S AND TORU TANAKA’S FINAL FILM.

Carney got his start in radio in the late 1930s before becoming a star on The Honeymooners and winning an Oscar for Harry and Tonto in 1974. In Last Action Hero, he plays Jack Slater’s favorite second cousin, whose death he’s avenging in Jack Slater IV because he’d avenged all his closer relatives in previous films. It was his last movie, and his last line was, “I’m outta here.”

It was also the last credited appearance for Toru Tanaka (a.k.a. pro wrestling’s Professor Tanaka), who appeared in action movies in bodyguard and warrior roles. His inclusion in Last Action Hero as “Tough Asian Man” might also be considered a callback to The Running Man in which (spoiler!) Schwarzenegger also fights and kills his character.

10. IT WAS THE FIRST MOVIE TO BE ADVERTISED ON A NASA ROCKET.

The advertising campaign for Last Action Hero was boisterous to say the least. There was the four-story-tall Jack Slater/Schwarzenegger inflatable at the Cannes Film Festival (which they also erected in Times Square), but they went even bigger by painting the movie’s logo on an unmanned NASA rocket. The first attempt at space-based advertising reportedly cost $500,000 and literally didn’t take off. As with everything else in this doomed project, the COMET rocket that was set to launch in May to promote the June release of the movie was delayed for technical reasons and didn’t head for the stars until after the movie had flopped.

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