Several really great movies had their names changed right before release. Here are a few of my all time favorites: The 13th Warrior, While You Were Sleeping, Field of Dreams and Blade Runner.
The movie based on Michael Crichton’s novel, Eaters of the Dead was changed at the last minute to The 13th Warrior (1999). It’s the best single name change for a movie that I can think of, but to the dismay of the studio, did not help the film at the box office, which is a real shame, because the finished film is fantastic. It’s my favorite viking film ever.
They had a lot of problems with the film in production. The film was directed by John McTiernan, but after they were finished, the film got previewed by an audience and didn’t do well. Michael Crichton then took the film into hand and re-shot many scenes and re-edited the film, even going so far to recast the main villain to be a much younger and deadlier foe. Another thing that was changed completely was the score. The original score was composed by Graeme Revell and the new score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The studio lost faith in the film and after a lengthy post production, finally dumped the film into theatres with virtually no marketing. It was held off from release for two years.
The next one that I can definitely appreciate was originally titled Coma Guy and was changed at the last minute to While You Were Sleeping (1995). This one was Sandra Bullock’s breakout role and made her America’s sweetheart. It was a bit of a sleeper hit when it was released and no one was ready for the success of the film. The movie was directed by Jon Turtleltaub.
I love this movie, but I’m not so sure if I would have watched it with the original title, so good move studio. I loved the cast and thought they did a perfect job filling the roles. Early on in the process of casting a lot of famous faces were considered for the main roles of Jack and Lucy. Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Geena Davis and Jamie Gertz were considered before Sandra Bullock got the role of Lucy. Matthew McConaughey, Russell Crowe, James Spader, Dylan McDermott, Harrison Ford, Patrick Swayze, Dennis Quaid, and Pierce Brosnan were considered for the role of Jack before Bill Pullman was cast.
My 3rd favorite for title change was Shoeless Joe, which was finally changed to Field of Dreams (1989). I don’t think Shoeless Joe was a bad title, but it failed to convey what the film was ultimately about. Field of Dreams was directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Now this one has an unusual story behind the name change. When the studio previewed the film, of course the audience hated the original name, thinking it sounded like a movie about a guy with no shoes. So the studio made the name change to Field of Dreams and called Phil Alden Robinson and let him know. He was upset and called the writer of the book, W.P. Kinsella and “broke” the bad news to him. W.P. Kinsella was thrilled because his original title of the manuscript he turned into the publishers was called, Dream Field! The publishers had changed the title for publication, thinking Dream Field was too vague.
When it comes to underrated films, this would probably top my list, which is fitting because the magazine Premiere named this film as Top Twenty of Most Underrated Films of All Time, but was also included in the list, 1001 Movies You Must See before You Die, by Steven Schneider. Last film to have the legendary Burt Lancaster. What a great movie.
The last title change that I’ll mention is the original Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was changed to non-other than Blade Runner (1982). This one is 4th for me because I really do LOVE this title, but it doesn’t fit a movie poster very well. I’ve come to love the title, Blade Runner, over the years. Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott, based on a short story of the original title by Phillip K. Dick. I will say there’s a caveat, although because I was NOT a fan of the original film. The studio’s overlay of Harrison Ford’s voice ala’ Film Noir was not necessary. My brother and I prefer the Director’s Cut that came out a decade later.Speaking about the voice-over, for many years Harrison Ford refused to talk about the film, but he did contribute to the 2007 DVD documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner (2007), claiming he has reconciled with Ridley Scott and made his peace with the film. In fact, Ford says the thing he remembers most is not the grueling shoot or the arguments with his director, but being forced to record the voiceover which executive producers Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin insisted be in the film. Ford doesn’t actually mention any names, but in discussing the voiceover which was used in the theatrical cut, he says it was written by “clowns”. In actual fact, Darryl Ponicsan was initially hired to write it, but his version was tossed out. Then Roland Kibbee was hired and his version is the one that was used.
It may not be a favorite film, because of these things, for Harrison Ford or the director, Ridley Scott, but it is, however the favorite film of Rutger Hauer. This was in part to one of the most brilliant improvised moments ever caught on film. Rutger Hauer’s speech as he “dies” was pieced together by the actor on the spot and is brilliant. Originally, Roy Batty was to have a lengthy monologue just prior to his death, as written by David Webb Peoples. Rutger Hauer felt this didn’t help in creating any dramatic impact in the scene, so he removed much, keeping the pieces he liked, and then added the last two lines, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”