13 Sharp Facts About Hook

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People of a certain age remember it fondly, but Steven Spielberg's Hook was not well-received when it was released in December of 1991. Critics found it overlong and curiously lacking in imagination, and though it was profitable, it wasn't the mega-hit everyone expected from a Spielberg movie about a grown-up Peter Pan played by Robin Williams. (It was the sixth highest-grossing movie of 1991. Among Spielberg movies, it ranks 15th out of 30.) Home video earned Hook some more young fans, and it eventually became something of a cult favorite for '90s kids.

1. THE FILM WAS DELAYED, APPROPRIATELY, BY STEVEN SPIELBERG'S DESIRE NOT TO BE AN ABSENTEE FATHER.

Steven Spielberg had been thinking about a live-action version of Peter Pan through the first half of the 1980s, but put it on hold in 1985, when his first child, Max, was born. "I guess it was just bad timing," the director later said, according to Joseph McBride's Steven Spielberg: A Biography. "I didn't want to go to London and have seven kids on wires in front of blue screens swinging around. I wanted to be home as a dad, not a surrogate dad."

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY A 3-YEAR-OLD'S DRAWING.

Screenwriter Jim V. Hart had been trying to find a new angle to the Peter Pan story for years when, in 1982, his 3-year-old son produced a drawing. "He said it was a crocodile eating Captain Hook," Hart recalled in Steven Spielberg: A Biography, "but that the crocodile really didn't eat him, he got away ... So I went, 'Wow, Hook is not dead. The crocodile is. We've all been fooled.'" A few years later, Hart's son brought up the subject of Peter Pan again, asking whether he'd ever grown up. "I realized that Peter did grow up, just like all of us Baby Boomers who are now in our forties," Hart said. "I patterned him after several of my friends on Wall Street, where the pirates wear three-piece suits and ride in limos."

3. MICHAEL JACKSON WAS SPIELBERG'S FIRST CHOICE FOR THE LEAD.

Vinnie Zuffante/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Michael had always wanted to play Peter Pan," Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. "But I called Michael and said, 'This is about a lawyer [who used to be Peter Pan],' so he understood at that point it wasn't the same Peter Pan he wanted to make." However, Vanity Fair reported in 2003 that Jackson had paid a witch doctor to put a curse on Spielberg (among others), so perhaps there was lingering resentment.

4. NICK CASTLE WAS PAID $500,000 NOT TO DIRECT IT.

The director of The Last Starfighter and The Boy Who Could Fly (not to mention an episode of Spielberg's Amazing Stories) was working with screenwriter Hart to get the movie made at Columbia-TriStar when Sony bought the company and put someone new in charge—Mike Medavoy, who'd been Spielberg's first agent. Medavoy sent Spielberg the Hook script for perusal, and Spielberg jumped at the chance to direct it. Castle was taken off the project with a $500,000 settlement and a "story by" credit along with Hart. (As the story goes, Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams weren't willing to make the film with Castle anyway, so it wasn't a matter of Spielberg "stealing" a movie from another director.)

5. IT WAS ALMOST A MUSICAL.

The most famous previous adaptations of Peter Pan (the Disney cartoon and the Broadway show) had been musicals, so Spielberg had that in mind for his version. John Williams wrote several songs for it before the idea was discarded, later incorporating their tunes into the musical score. Two songs (with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) did make it into the final film: "We Don't Wanna Grow Up" and "When You're Alone." 

6. PRINCESS LEIA WROTE SOME OF IT.

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Though Spielberg liked Hart's screenplay overall, he thought the characters of Captain Hook and Tinkerbell were underwritten. To work on Hook's dialogue, he brought in a writer named Malia Scotch Marmo (who later helped on Jurassic Park, too). For Tinkerbell, Spielberg called on Carrie Fisher—actress, novelist, and screenwriter. Marmo got a writing credit, but Fisher remained uncredited.

7. IT WENT WAY OVER SCHEDULE AND WAY OVER BUDGET.

Spielberg had been a careful and conscientious director ever since the disastrous excesses of 1941, but he let the size of the Hook production get the better of him. Shooting was supposed to last 76 days; it lasted 116. It was supposed to cost $48 million; it cost somewhere between $60 and $80 million. Hoffman and Julia Roberts's perfectionism were contributing factors, along with the general difficulties of working with children, employing huge live-action special effects, and coordinating scenes with hundreds of extras. Still, Spielberg accepted all the blame himself. "It was all my fault," he said. "Nobody else made it go over budget."

8. GWYNETH PALTROW GOT HER PART THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY: CONNECTIONS.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who was 18 years old at the time, was cast as the teenage version of Wendy when Spielberg—her godfather and a close family friend—noticed she looked like Maggie Smith, who plays the elderly Wendy. Spielberg said he realized it when the Paltrow and Spielberg families were driving home from seeing The Silence of the Lambs

9. GLENN CLOSE HAS A CAMEO.

Glenn Close plays the (male) pirate who displeases Captain Hook and gets locked in a chest with a scorpion. 

10. THE KIDS ARE NAMED AFTER HANSEL AND GRETEL.

Peter Banning's kidnapped children are called Jack and Maggie, which are nicknames for John and Margaret. The German equivalents of those names, Johannes and Margarete, have the familiar diminutives of Hansel and Gretel. 

11. IT HAS MORE HOFFMAN THAN YOU REALIZED.

In addition to playing Captain Hook, Dustin Hoffman provides the voice of the airline pilot when the Bannings fly to England—appropriate, of course, because he says, "This is your captain speaking." Young Peter Pan is played by Hoffman's son, Max, then not quite 7 years old, and Max's older brother, Jake, appears as a Little League player. 

12. JULIA ROBERTS WAS HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME.

Her million-watt smile notwithstanding, America's sweetheart was miserable for much of the shoot because of problems in her personal life. She'd recently had a nasty breakup with Kiefer Sutherland, was beginning a new romance with Jason Patric, and was generally frail and exhausted. Defending her, Spielberg said, "Her biggest problem was timing. Her personal life fell apart, and she reported to work on the same weekend." She freaked out one day on the set when someone called for "Kieffo" (the name of Hoffman's stunt double) and Roberts misheard it as "Kiefer," i.e., Sutherland. "Call security. How did he get on the lot?" she asked the set coordinator, who cleared up the confusion. 

13. THE SET WAS CRAWLING WITH STARS, EVEN ONES WHO WEREN'T IN THE MOVIE.

One of Hollywood's top directors working with some of its biggest stars on one of the most expensive sets ever built—naturally, everyone wanted to stop by Sony Pictures Studios and see what all the fuss was about. Among the celebrities sighted on set were Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Mel Gibson, Prince, and actual royalty: Queen Noor of Jordan. 

Additional sources: Steven Spielberg: A Biography, by Joseph McBride

15 Uncensored Facts About Midnight Cowboy

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

On May 25, 1969, United Artists released the film Midnight Cowboy, starring Jon Voight (Texas transplant Joe Buck) and Dustin Hoffman (the sleazy Ratso Rizzo) as street hustlers in New York City. It was the first studio film to receive an X-rating (the studio refused to edit anything out), and it became the first X-rated movie to be nominated and win a Best Picture Oscar (A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango in Paris followed suit with X-rated nominations). Hoffman and Voight were also nominated for Oscars, and screenwriter Waldo Salt and director John Schlesinger ended up winning gold statuettes for the movie. After the movie became a success, the MPAA demoted its rating to an R.

Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy, the controversial film managed to gross $44 million—about $200 million by today’s standards. The movie saved the careers of its actors, producers, and Salt, who had been blacklisted and fallen on hard times. It also produced a hit song, Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Here are 15 facts about the landmark film.

1. John Schlesinger was reluctant to hire Dustin Hoffman.

Like everybody else, the filmmakers associated Dustin Hoffman with Benjamin Braddock, the clean-cut twentysomething he played in The Graduate. “The truth was, I saw The Graduate as a setback, because I was determined not to be a star,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. Hoffman was doing Off Broadway performances during the casting of Midnight Cowboy, so Schlesinger checked him out in a play. Hoffman frequented an automat with fellow thespians Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall; one night Hoffman showed up there with a scruffy beard, disheveled clothes, and a Bowery accent. Schlesinger said to Hoffman, “Why Dustin, you do fit right in,” and he got the part.

2. Mike Nichols tried to talk Dustin Hoffman out of doing the movie.

Dustin Hoffman appears on the set of the film 'Midnight Cowboy' in 1969 in the USA
Dustin Hoffman stars in Midnight Cowboy (1969).
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Hot off the heels of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, Hoffman could’ve kept his romantic lead image up, but instead he opted to take a supporting part in Midnight Cowboy. “Mike Nichols, in fact, called me up,” Hoffman told Peter Travers. “And he says, ‘Are you crazy?’ He says, ‘I made you a star. This is an ugly character. It’s a supporting part to Jon Voight.’ He says, ‘What are you doing? Why are you sabotaging?’” But Hoffman stuck to his guns and took the role. “I love the fact I was trying to remain a character actor and that was my desire,” he said.

3. Jon Voight was cast only after the original actor was fired.

Jon Voight auditioned for the role of Joe Buck and really wanted the part, but the producers chose Michael Sarrazin, whose major claim to fame is the 1969 Jane Fonda film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “Sometimes I would be offered a role and I would recommend somebody else—I was that kind of person,” Voight told Box Office Mojo. “Yet this one stopped me because the thing I was excited about for this piece wasn’t going to happen. I felt quite sick about it.”

Fortunately for Voight, the producers changed their minds when Sarrazin demanded more money. “It came back to looking at our screen tests back to back,” said Voight. “Apparently, Marion Dougherty, who was the casting director, was in the room and said, ‘Well, there’s no doubt who's the best actor.’ John Schlesinger said, ‘Who?’ And she said, ‘Jon Voight.’ Then, Dustin was called in to look at the tests and apparently he said, ‘When I look at my scene with Michael Sarrazin I look at myself—when I looked at my scene with Jon Voight, I look at Jon.’ That was a huge compliment. I think between these comments, that’s what tipped the balance and then John [Schlesinger] came forward, so I was very fortunate.”

4. Voight worked for scale.

Voight was so desperate to play Joe Buck that he worked for scale: “‘Tell them I'll do this part for nothing,’” Voight told The Telegraph. “They took me at my word, and they gave me minimum for Midnight Cowboy.” At the end of the shoot, they sent him a $14.73 bill for meals on the last day of filming.

5. Hoffman thought the movie would ruin his career.

The actor attended a preview of Midnight Cowboy and noticed “people walked out in droves.”

“Twenty minutes into that movie, Jon Voight has a gay sex scene in the balcony with a kid who was played by Bob Balaban, and people would get up at that point and just walk out of the theater,” Hoffman told Larry King. “We said, ‘We have big problems’ when we heard we got an X-rating and we thought this could end everybody’s career. As a matter of fact, I was talked into doing a movie I wished I hadn’t done, because they had me so frightened that I had buried myself and reversed whatever good The Graduate did.” Hoffman’s agent forced him to star with Mia Farrow in the romantic drama John and Mary to make him “look like a respectable person.”

6. Voight knew the film was destined to become a classic.

Voight and Schlesinger wrapped filming in Texas and Voight noticed how red the director’s face was. Voight thought Schlesinger was having a heart attack and asked him if he was okay. “He looked up at me and said, ‘What have we done? What will they think of us?’ After all, we had made a film about a dishwasher who lives in New York and f*cks a lot of women,” Voight told Esquire. “In the moment he’d finished it, he was shaking. All of a sudden, he saw it as banal and vulgar. He’s having an anxiety attack and I grabbed his shoulders to shake him out of it. I said, ‘John, we will live the rest of our artistic lives in the shadow of this great masterpiece.’ He said, ‘You think so?’ I said, ‘I’m absolutely sure of it.’ The only reason I said such an extravagant thing was because I wanted to get him out of it and nothing would take him out of it but that. But the statement turned out to be true.”

7. Voight and Hoffman were competitive with each other.

What made the chemistry between Hoffman and Voight work so well is they were constantly competing with one another. Hoffman became a movie star before Voight did, and that brought some jealousy to the set. “We were like Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, two fighters going at it,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew the movie depended on the bond between us. All through shooting, we’d say to each other, out of the side of our mouths, like a fighter in a clinch, ‘Buddy, is that the best you can do?’”

8. Hoffman placed pebbles in his shoe to acquire Ratso’s limp.

“Why pebbles? It’s not like you’re playing a role on Broadway for six months where you’re so used to it, limping becomes second nature,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “The stone makes you limp, and you don’t have to think about it.”

9. Schlesinger came out during the movie’s production.

In the late 1960s, one's sexuality wasn't often discussed in the open. But the British director fell in love with Michael Childers, who worked as his assistant on the movie. “We were one of Hollywood’s first out couples,” Childers told Vanity Fair. “He took me everywhere. I felt a little bit uncomfortable at times, but John never did. He said, ‘F*ck ‘em.’”

“John was totally torn up, because part of him wanted to just embrace this, and another part of him was in terror,” the film’s producer, Jerome Hellman, said. “He had these fantasies that if he were openly gay on a film set, that if he tried to give the crew an order, they would turn on him. I said to him, ‘John, look, you’re the director. It’s your movie. I’m the producer, but I’m your partner. There’s nobody who can challenge your authority. If someone speaks out of line to you, they’ll be fired the same minute.’”

10. The famous “I’m Walkin’ Here” line was improvised.

The scene in which Joe and Ratso attempt to walk across the street and almost get hit by a cab was filmed guerilla-style, with a camera in a van across the street. “It was a difficult scene, logistically, because those were real pedestrians and there was real traffic, and Schlesinger wanted to do it in one shot—he didn’t want to cut,” Hoffman explained. “He wanted us to walk, like, a half a block, and the first times we did it the signal turned red. Schlesinger was getting very upset. He came rushing out of the van, saying, ‘Oh, oh, you’ve got to keep walking.’ ‘We can’t, man. There’s f*cking traffic.’ ‘Well, you’ve got to time it.’”

They figured out how to properly time the walk but then almost got run over by a cab. “I guess the brain works so quickly, it said, in a split of a second, ‘Don’t go out of character,’” Hoffman said. “So I said, ‘I’m walking here,’ meaning, ‘We’re shooting a scene here, and this is the first time we ever got it right, and you have f*cked us up.’ Schlesinger started laughing. He clapped his hands and said, ‘We must have that, we must have that,’ and re-did it two or three times, because he loved it.”

11. Hoffman threw up on set while trying to cough.

Talk about Method: Ratso has a deadly cough (consumption), and in a particular scene Hoffman got sick in real life. “Because I was so nervous that I was going to come across fraudulent and not have the right cough, I tried to do the cough as realistically as I could,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “Each time, I tried to do it more realistically until, finally, I did it so realistically I threw up all over Jon. My lunch came up. All over his cowboy boots. Jon looked down. He said, ‘Man, why’d you do that?’ He thought I did it on purpose.”

12. Schlesinger didn’t think anybody would make the movie today.

In 1994, the director found himself at a dinner party with a studio executive. “I said, ‘If I brought you a story about this dishwasher from Texas who goes to New York dressed as a cowboy to fulfill his fantasy of living off rich women, doesn’t, is desperate, meets a crippled consumptive who later pisses his pants and dies on a bus, would you—’ and he said, ‘I’d show you the door,’” Vanity Fair reported in 2000.

13. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl pays tribute to Midnight Cowboy.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's 2015 Sundance hit Me and Earl and the Dying Girl features two friends who turn The Criterion Collection movies into film school comedies. One of those films is Midnight Cowboy, renamed as 2:48 p.m. Cowboy. In the film, Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) portray Ratso and Buck, respectively.

Midnight Cowboy became my favorite movie,” Cyler said in a featurette on Greg and Earl’s films. “Now I can’t stop watching it. I’m addicted to it. I’ll be in my trailer. ‘RJ, whatcha doing?’ ‘Watching Midnight Cowboy with some ramen noodles right now.’ It’s just so quirky the way the parody was made, and not just because I got to wear a beautiful cowboy hat.”

14. There’s a speakeasy bar in Austin named after the film.

Midnight Cowboy the bar is located inside a former oriental massage parlor that was busted by the FBI, hence the seedy name. It has a red light—not a sign—outside to mark the place. In order to drink there, you need to make a reservation online, and when you get there, you buzz the box and give the password “Harry Craddock.” They have rules, though: no talking on your cell phone inside the bar, and no “excessive displays of public affection.”

15. A Chicago theater turned it into a stage production.

Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre puts on a lot of literary adaptations, and in 2016 they presented a stage version of Midnight Cowboy, based on the book.

Updated for 2019.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour Opening in Northern Ireland in 2020

Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

In a move that only a super-popular series could pull off, it was announced last year that HBO’s Game of Thrones would be getting its own 110,000-square-foot tourist attraction in Northern Ireland (where much of the show has been filmed) featuring scenes, sets, and props from Westeros. And of course, fans were instantly interested.

While the initial plan was to open the attraction this year, that date has been pushed back and an expansion on the original concept has been added.

Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Ireland has partnered with Game of Thrones's creators to convert the studios into an exhibition. The sets were used for filming scenes in Winterfell and Castle Black, but the display will include props, costumes, live-action cosplayers, and set pieces representing all of the show’s locations.

While other interactive fan events have already been held, such as the display at SXSW and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, this will be the most extensive and in-depth experience for diehard fans of the series.

When asked about the possibility of bringing a similar attraction to the U.S., Jeff Peters, HBO’s vice president for licensing and retail, told The New York Times that there were no set plans yet, but, “it’s possible. We get pitched all the time, and we’re open to a lot of different opportunities.”

[h/t The A.V. Club]

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