Netflix just released the latest season of The Movies That Made Us. It’s strange that I actually look forward to them, not because they focus on some timeless classics like Die Hard, Home Alone, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, but because they also shift the spotlight on the makings of films like Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman. I already know a lot about the making of the former group of films but the latter? I didn’t expect to be entertained by all of the production problems Dirty Dancing had. Then again, it’s easy to forget that even big blockbusters like Forrest Gump had to have production issues during its creation.
Now, I’m currently starting out the second season of The Movies That Made Us and, immediately, there were a lot of films that raced through my mind and how I would want Netflix to tell their production story. I know the series could focus on some of the big blockbusters like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, there are already some very entertaining documentaries that do cover those films. I would rather The Movies That Made Us folks feature on the films that have some interesting stories behind there.
There are dozens of them but I would like to suggest just five films Netflix can use in the future if they want to continue with The Movies That Made Us.
Who would’ve guessed a line as simple as “I’ll be back” be one of them most quotable lines in film history. Well, that’s just the power of the first Terminator film.
The Terminator was one of those lightning in a bottle kind of moments were everything seemed to come together perfectly. It had great special effects for its time. A great concept about time travel. And we have an unstoppable robot dressed up as an Austrian bodybuilder from the future. It made a ton of money but this was almost not to be so. For one thing, Arnold Schwarzenegger was almost not cast as the titular Terminator as the studios wanted someone more popular like Sylvester Stallone or OJ Simpson (yes, that OJ Simpson) to give life to the killer robot from the future.
There are also other interesting tidbits like James Cameron selling the right to Terminator for a single solitary dollar with the promise that he would direct it. Orion Pictures wanted to give Kyle Reese a robot dog sidekick at one time. Of course, the creation of the special effects would be a huge story in itself and even how, because of Arnold’s domineering appearance, the entire feeling and scope of The Terminator changed.
Apparently, there was a thing about making movies featuring killer robots in the 80s. But Robocop was a good guy and not a baddie like The Terminator!
A part of me would be incredibly curious how The Movies That Made Us would translate Robocop’s production into something that would be more palatable for general audiences. The film has a lot of satire about corporate bureaucracy and commercialism that gives Robocop a lot of its flavor. I would love to see if The Movies That Made Us could focus on them and, most especially, the production of the commercials playing during a lot of the background scenes.
There are also a lot of things to focus on Robocop, such as the casting of Peter Weller, how Paul Verhoven nearly passed on the script because of his poor understanding of American satire, various movie studios passing on the project just because it had a silly title, how it had to be reedited numerous times just to get an R-Rating and the like. I do want to see them do a whole segment on the Robocop suit because, as beautiful and as grand as it is, it nearly shut down production because Peter Weller couldn’t move in the suit! The costume was just too heavy to move the way he wanted to initially and he had to find a new style to move around in it. That in itself is worth a watch.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990 live-action movie)
This is an example how timing is everything… even terrible, rotten timing.
It should have been a sure thing. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the most popular cartoons out there during the late 80s. Turtle Mania was sweeping all throughout the world. You would think movie studios would be jumping at the chance to develop and produce a live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature film, right? Well, everyone didn’t want to make it! No one wanted to touch it because of flops like Howard the Duck and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Despite having a gold mine virtually delivered to them, they all passed on it! That’s the biggest story of the film!
But there are a few other pieces of the film’s production that would be worth telling. They might do a quick story on how Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, despite getting some encouraging advice from the one and only Robin Williams, hated being in the film. But the biggest secondary story would be how this is Jim Henson’s last full project and how he disliked how violent the movie was.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
A totally excellent adventure almost got a bogus ending.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure probably embedded the entire surfer speech style in popular culture and it certainly gave it its identity and our two lovable goofball main characters. However, it was this unique element that nearly caused the movie to not get a big theatrical release. During Excellent Adventures’ post production, the studio that was bankrolling the film filed for bankruptcy. And so Bill and Ted needed to find a new home but no studio was willing to carry it because potential producers thought the way the main characters spoke was just too ridiculous. Thankfully, after seeing some test audiences reacting to the film in a positive manner, it did get picked up.
A lot of the more interesting stories The Movies That Made Us can shine a spotlight on would be the casting of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as our lovable heroes. How George Carlin got roped into production totally by accident might be worth looking into as well. They can also talk about how they made the time machine a telephone booth to avoid comparisons to Back to the Future as well as how the characterizations of Bill and Ted changed from the start of conception to the final product.
Well, we wouldn’t have the modern superhero film if it weren’t for this one, right?
The production of Tim Burton Batman film has a very interesting history and it all stems back to around a decade before it was even released. Michael Uslan got the rights to make a live-action Batman film but return The Dark Knight back to his roots of being a vigilante who would strike fear into the hearts of criminals. The problem was all potential studios were more interested in making a Batman film akin to the campy 60s show! They didn’t want to see a super serious man dressed as a bat! That would be silly! I would love to see the entire journey of how things finally changed to get this grim and dark version of Batman finally into production.
There are also other stories, such as the then controversial casting of Michael Keaton, who was mostly known for comedies at the time, as Batman/Bruce Wayne and how fans were so upset at the decision. There’s also the matter of studio heads interfering with the film’s production, even going so far as to build a miniature behind Tim Burton’s back and rewriting the entire climax of the film, with stars Jack Nicholson not even knowing what was going on. There’s also the backstage politics of announcing Robin Williams as the Joker but only as a ruse to get Jack Nicholson to sign on the dotted line, causing a rift between Robin Williams and Warner Bros. that would last for years.
BONUS: The Blair Witch Project
Why only focus on cheery, big budget films? What about those horrific, shoestring productions?
Found footage films seems to be the way to go when it comes to creating low budget horror films. And all of them owe their thanks to The Blair Witch Project. While not the first movie to use this technique, it was definitely the first one to get mainstream recognition. There are a few stories The Movie That Made Us could focus on, such as how the concept was brainstormed for their love of occult documentaries and how much footage they had to dive into to actually get their movie all connected. Of course, the main story would be the marketing of The Blair Witch Project as something that really happened and not a piece of fiction.
The reason why The Blair Witch Project is only a bonus entry here is because I don’t really know much about the making of the film and, thus, I don’t really know how many interesting stories they can pull from it. In hindsight, maybe a horror movie like the Exorcist has a ton of stories to tell but there have been some documentaries made about the making of that film. I don’t think I’ve seen one for the Blair Witch Project.
What other films would you suggest for The Movies That Made Us? Let me know in the comments section below!