YouTube
YouTube

25 Facts About Lethal Weapon

YouTube
YouTube

On March 6, 1987, moviegoers met Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs, an unlikely pair of Los Angeles cops, played by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, respectively. With Lethal Weapon, screenwriter Shane Black wrote a progenitor of the buddy-cop genre, expertly combining an action-thriller with dark humor. For a script that took only six weeks to write, Black earned a whopping $250,000 paycheck—and then another $150,000 after the movie was produced.

The Richard Donner-directed movie grossed more than $120 million worldwide (more than half of that domestically) on a $15 million budget. With a franchise comprised of four films, it generated almost $1 billion in ticket sales worldwide. As Lethal Weapon makes its way back to audiences, this time via the small screen, here are 25 dynamite facts about the Lethal Weapon series.

1. THE FIRST SCRIPT WAS THROWN IN THE GARBAGE.

Shane Black was 23 years old and trying to become an actor when he wrote the first draft of Lethal Weapon in less than six weeks. Not knowing what a huge hit he had on his hands, at one point Black gave up and threw the script into the trash. "I thought it was dreadful," Black admitted.

2. SHANE BLACK SET OUT TO WRITE AN “URBAN WESTERN,” MIXED WITH FRANKENSTEIN.

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

“What I was looking to do at that time was write a urban western,” Black said. For Riggs, Black used one of his favorite films, Dirty Harry, as a template. “That’s what I was thinking about for that character, sort of the Frankenstein who everybody reviles ... for what he did, for what he’s capable of, for the things he still believes in. Because we think that we’re all placid and tame, but in fact violence intrudes in a horrible way and then they have to knock on Frankenstein’s cage and say, 'Well we kind of need what you do even though we hate and revile you. Please come out and kill these people for us,' and it’s the old gun slinger."

3. LEONARD NIMOY WAS OFFERED THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR.

Richard Donner ended up directing all four of the Lethal Weapon films, but that only happened after Leonard Nimoy—who had just shown his directing chops behind the camera on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and 3 Men and a Baby (1987)—turned down directing Lethal Weapon to concentrate on The Good Mother (1988).

4. DONNER TONED DOWN THE SCRIPT'S VIOLENCE, AND WAS INFLUENCED BY JOHN WAYNE.

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

''I tried to make it more like an old-fashioned western,'' Donner told The New York Times. ''Sure there were a lot of deaths, but they died like they died in westerns. They were shot with bullets, they weren't dismembered. I like action and a strong story line. I like to turn my head away in suspense, not in disgust. I think the audiences feel like I do, and that's why people like the film and come back to see it a second time.'' This contrasted with Frank's descriptions of the deaths in the script, where "the head disintegrates in a bloody spray." Donner claimed John Wayne fans would recognize some of the punches thrown by Mel Gibson and Gary Busey from the John Wayne film Red River (1948).

5. THE MOVIE WORKED BECAUSE OF “REAL CHARACTERS.”

In a 2012 reunion interview with Empire Magazine, Mel Gibson said buddy-cop movies prior to Lethal Weapon “were all a little two-dimensional. The heroes would grunt; they wouldn’t express themselves much. But Riggs and Murtaugh were real characters.”

“It’s the humor, mixed with the action and the special effects,” Danny Glover added. “All that came together at that particular time. And the chemistry between the two of us was undeniable.” Donner agreed: “You don’t find [chemistry] in real life very often, much less on the screen," said the director. "But it works. People care about them.” Gibson described filming Lethal Weapon as “pure fun,” and Donner said “there was uncontrollable laughter at times.”

“And it’s been emulated so much and referred to so often,” Gibson said. The 1993 film Loaded Weapon 1 (a sequel, thankfully, wasn’t made), starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson, parodied Lethal Weapon 1 through 3. “If something works and people are sending it up and knocking it off, you’ve got to be flattered,” Gibson told Empire.

6. THE ORIGINAL FILM HAD A DIFFERENT OPENING AND ENDING.

The first time we see Riggs in Lethal Weapon is at his beachfront trailer, with his dog, smoking and drinking while walking around naked. In an earlier draft of the script, Riggs drinks with dock workers who torment a dog, and Riggs makes “mincemeat” out of the guys. The original ending (above) featured Riggs and Murtaugh saying goodbye to each other, and Riggs telling Murtaugh not to quit the force, because he’s too old. But in the theatrical ending, Riggs shows up at Murtaugh’s house on Christmas. “If you think I’m going to eat the world’s lousiest Christmas turkey by myself, you’re crazy,” Murtaugh tells him. “I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m not crazy,” Riggs responds. Riggs and his dog agree to stay for dinner. 

Besides the re-shot ending, a couple of scenes were left out of the film (they were included in the Director’s Cut), one in which Riggs attacks a sniper who’s shooting at a playground, and a scene where Riggs pays a prostitute to watch TV with him.

7. THE ACTORS WERE TRAINED IN THREE DIFFERENT FORMS OF MARTIAL ARTS.

To prepare for their roles, the actors learned a trio of martial arts techniques, including Capoeira, Jailhouse Rock (a fighting technique that originated in United States prisons), and Jiu-Jitsu. Gary Busey recalled also learning Taekwondo as well. Busey's interest in martial arts began when he was taught these forms for Lethal Weapon.

8. LOOK CLOSELY AND IT TURNS INTO A MESSAGE MOVIE.

YouTube

If you pay attention to stuff in the background, you’ll notice a “Free South Africa, End Apartheid” sticker on the Murtaughs’ fridge in the first film, and other messages like anti-NRA and anti-tuna posters. “If you can make a good entertainment and sneak a message in, super,” Donner told Empire. “Sometimes people do it ass-backwards: make message films and then sneak the entertainment in.” Viewers definitely noticed; because of the sticker and South African-themed plot of the second film, Donner received death threats.

9. MURTAUGH WASN’T WRITTEN WITH A PARTICULAR ETHNICITY IN MIND.

Nowhere in the script does it mention Murtaugh's ethnicity. “We just got the best actor that we could for the part, and it happened to be he was black,” Donner said during a 1987 press conference for the move. In the interview with Empire, Donner explained that it was casting director Marion Dougherty who suggested Glover. “She said to me, ‘Did you see The Color Purple? What about Danny Glover?’ And my first reaction was, ‘But he’s black!’ And then I thought, ‘Whoa, f*ck, here’s Mr. Liberal. What a brilliant idea...’ I felt stupid. It changed my way of thinking.” 

10. GIBSON AND GLOVER BONDED IN REAL LIFE.

Friendship—both on- and off-screen—is one reason the four films were so successful. “It parallels the police relationship,” Gibson said of his relationship with Glover. “A lot of those guys become friends or become dependent on each other. They get a bond through desperation. Because we used to go out on night patrols, you get this feeling of vulnerability. It’s the same with the film. It’s kind of a feeling of desperation in a way. It’s scary when you embark on something like that because you’re exposing yourself in a way, so a bond forms. And he’s a good actor and a nice guy. So it normally happened; it was easy.”

11. DISNEYLAND (AND MICKEY ROURKE) SPROUTED JOE PESCI’S LEO GETZ.

The loquacious, foul-mouthed Leo Getz makes his first appearance in Lethal Weapon 2, spouting the catchphrase “okay, okay, okay.” The origin of the repetitive expression occurred when Mickey Rourke and Pesci went to Disneyland. “Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons were singing at Frontierland, so we stopped to ask for directions from these blond-headed, blue-eyed kids,” Pesci told Empire. “I think they were Mormons probably. And the first word out of this kid’s mouth was, ‘Okay!’ Then he hit me with about 12 more: ‘No, no! Okay, okay, okay!’ We thought it was really funny.”

12. GARY BUSEY THOUGHT ABOUT A SHARK WHILE PREPPING HIS BAD GUY ROLE.

The actor played Mr. Joshua in the first Lethal Weapon, and is one of Donner’s favorite villains in the series. “I always build a back story for my characters, to get in the mood of it,” Busey told Empire, For this role, he went to an unusual place. “Mr. Joshua, he would walk through his grandmother’s blood to get a postage stamp and never look at her. I had this look, here,” Busey said, and then took off his sunglasses. “It gave me the eyes of a shark, which has no life. It’s neat doing that.”

13. RIGGS WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE IN THE SECOND MOVIE.

“We were always teetering on the brink of bumping Riggs off,” Gibson told Empire, and the idea almost manifested in the second film. During the period when Black wrote the sequel, he said he was “a real wreck psychologically.” “They put me on the sequel and it was one of the hardest scripts I’ve ever written,” Black told Creative Screenwriting. “I was so terrified of it, at the end of the process I looked at the script and thought, I’d really blown it. I wrote it with a friend of mine, a guy named Warren Murphy. They said they didn’t like that the character died at the end, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve failed everybody, I screwed up, I blew it. My writing sucks.’” Black said when he re-read his script, he realized it wasn’t so bad. “There’s no question the draft of Lethal Weapon 2 that I wrote, death and all, is my best work.”

14. THE CARPENTER'S COMMENT ABOUT THE CONDOM COMMERCIAL WAS IMPROVISED.

In Lethal Weapon 2, Jack McGee played "Carpenter" in the scene where everyone gathers around to see Murtaugh's daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe) in a condom commercial. During rehearsal, Gibson set McGee up by asking what he thought of what he had just seen. "I said, 'I thought she was great. She made me wanna go out and buy rubbers right now.' Danny Glover, in the rehearsal, spit his f*cking sandwich across the room, and it wound up staying in the movie." Fun fact: The year before Lethal Weapon 2's release, McGee played "Carpenter" in Scrooged.

15. $10,000 OF LETHAL WEAPON 2'S BUDGET CAME FROM CONDOMS.

In a product placement deal, the makers of Ramses condoms paid more than $10,000 to showcase their product in Lethal Weapon 2.

16. CARRIE FISHER HELPED WRITE LETHAL WEAPON 3.

After Carrie Fisher's success in adapting her own semi-autobiography Postcards From the Edge (1990) to film, the actress was hired as a script doctor for several major movies. In addition to punching up the dialogue for Lethal Weapon 3, she worked on Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), Outbreak (1995), The Wedding Singer (1998), and even the Star Wars prequels.

17. RENE RUSSO BLEW HER AUDITION.

Rene Russo would not have gotten the part of Lorna Cole in Lethal Weapon 3 (or Lethal Weapon 4) if she had been judged solely on her first audition. "I was bad," Russo told the Chicago Tribune in 1992. "I could feel I was dying." Donner thought she "lacked the edge" needed for Cole.

“I went back and showed him my street girl and told him that when I said, ‘get against the f*cking wall,’ people were going to believe me,” Russo told The Independent. She told the Los Angeles Times, “When I did Lethal Weapon, they needed someone who could say 'you' with a gun and mean it—and because I was able to do that, I was pigeonholed in that way.” Though she liked playing tough, Russo says should would have liked to have done more romantic comedies.

18. ORLANDO ASKED THAT ITS CITY HALL BE BLOWN UP FOR LETHAL WEAPON 3.

In 1991, a new, $36 million City Hall opened in Orlando, Florida, but the old one needed to be demolished. Local producer Ross Testagrossa contacted Lethal Weapon 3 producer Joel Silver, who was looking for a building to blow up. On October 25, 1991, the building imploded. “We did the explosion in pieces,” Donner told Empire. “When you guys ran out of the building, we blew all the glass. And you were really there when the big detonation happened. I’m sure you felt that blast.”

“We were jumpy as hell,” Gibson admitted. “We knew the building was coming down and we were ready to sprint. When we took off, I thought, ‘I’d better slow down for [Glover]’—but he actually ran right past me.”

It wasn’t the only Florida building to be demolished for the film: The old hotel that blows up during the closing credits was the scheduled-for-demolition Soreno Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. The city's name was misspelled in the credits.

19. LEO GETZ AND LEE BUTTERS WERE NOT IN THE ORIGINAL LETHAL WEAPON 4 SCRIPT.

Pesci was re-signed at the last minute for $1 million for three weeks of work. Chris Rock (Detective Lee Butters) did not join until Gibson was three-fourths through his latest draft. Writing on the script continued during filming.

20. LETHAL WEAPON 4 WAS MADE FASTER THAN THE OTHER FILMS.

A Den Of Geek article explained Warner Bros. was desperate for a hit, so they ordered a fourth installment—but it had to be ready in six months. Production didn’t begin until January 1998 but the movie needed to be released in July. After production ended, editor Frank J. Urioste had only four weeks to edit the movie, doing it digitally on an Avid for the first time. Luckily for Warner Bros. the film grossed $285 million worldwide, slightly less than Lethal Weapon 3’s 1992 haul of $321 million worldwide.

21. JET LI MADE HIS HOLLYWOOD DEBUT IN LETHAL WEAPON 4.

Jet Li had never been in an English language film, nor had he ever played a bad guy before portraying Wah Sing Ku. Li told CNN that a lot of Asian audiences and reporters didn't like the idea of him acting as a villain. In his next Hollywood film, 2000's Romeo Must Die, he got to play a good guy.

22. JEFFREY BOAM WROTE A LETHAL WEAPON 4 SCRIPT ABOUT NEO-NAZIS.

Jeffrey Boam, who wrote the second and third installments of Lethal Weapon, was tasked with writing a draft for the fourth film, too. It involved Neo-Nazis as the enemy, as well as a terrorist attack. The producers passed on Boam's script and opted for one penned by Murder One creator Channing Gibson, who had only worked in television previously.

23. SHANE BLACK LIKES SETTING HIS MOVIES DURING CHRISTMASTIME BECAUSE “IT’S UNIFYING.”

Lethal Weapon takes place at Christmastime, as do several other Black-penned films, including The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. “Christmas is fun,” Black told Den Of Geek. “It’s unifying, and all your characters are involved in this event that stays within the larger story ... It grounds everything. At Christmas, lonely people are lonelier, seeing friends and families go by. People take ... stock of where their lives are at Christmas. It just provides a backdrop against which different things can play out, but with one unifying, global heading. I’ve always liked it, especially in thrillers, for some reason. It’s a touch of magic.”

24. INSTEAD OF A FIFTH FILM, AUDIENCES ARE GETTING A TELEVISION SERIES.

For years, Lethal Weapon 5 was reportedly in the works; in 2014 it was titled Lionhunters, and Chris Hemsworth and director Justin Lin were attached. Mel Gibson turned down reprising his role, as did Donner. “I would like to think that Mel turned it down because I wasn’t involved,” Donner told the Los Angeles Times. “Knowing Mel, I would like to think that. Would that be the kind of thing he does? It sure would be.” In February 2016, Fox greenlit a pilot for a TV adaptation, starring Damon Wayans as Murtaugh. The series, which features Clayne Crawford as Riggs, kicks off tonight on Fox.

25. BUT IF THERE WAS A FIFTH FILM, IT WOULD INVOLVE A MOTOR HOME.

Black reportedly wrote a treatment for a fifth film, but Donner didn’t see it. The director told Empire what his version would be like: “The two crazies decide to cool their lives, but it’s impossible for them to stay out of situations. It starts with Riggs and Murtaugh out in the country in a motor home. They’re on a trip and they stop to get gas, but Roger forgets to put the brake on. So the motor home rolls through a village, annihilating everything, and they get in serious trouble. It had a lot of heart, a lot of family. Rene [Russo], Darlene [Love], they would all have come back.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Walt Disney Pictures
10 Facts About Hocus Pocus
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a Hocus Pocus sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court." While you get those cards ready, here are some facts about the original, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.

1. THE STORY ORIGINATED AS A BEDTIME STORY.

The story for Hocus Pocus came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to Muppet Magazine (why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. THE WRITERS USED PROPS TO PITCH IT TO STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Bette Midler in 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)
Walt Disney Pictures

To pitch the story to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. IT WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT.

Though it’s a cult classic now, Hocus Pocus didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly was particularly put off by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. BETTE MIDLER LOVES IT.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”

5. KATHY NAJIMY LOVES IT, TOO.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. IT COULD HAVE STARRED LEONARDO DICAPRIO.

The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

7. SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS RELATED TO A WOMAN FAMOUSLY ACCUSED OF BEING A WITCH.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. THORA BIRCH REVISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICAN BEAUTY.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for American Beauty.

9. THE KIDS WEREN'T HUGE FANS OF THE CATS.

The kids all hated working with the cats. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a different purpose—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL CAST REUNITED FOR A 20TH REUNION.

Most of the cast participated in a 20th anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios