Steve Martin wrote Three Amigos (1986) (originally called The Three Caballeros) with Saturday Night Live Creator Lorne Michaels and Singer-Songwriter Randy Newman in 1980. Randy Newman also contributed 3 original songs for the film, but to this day, this remains to be the only screenplay he ever co-wrote. They planned on having Martin, Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi play the 3 main roles, but the movie got stuck in the creative process for a few years. Steven Spielberg considered directing this film in 1981, but chose ET instead. His cast would have been Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Robin Williams.John Landis came on board to direct and Chevy Chase and Martin Short were cast. If Martin Short were unable to do it, Landis said that he would have cast Rick Moranis in his place. Landis was a favorite director of Lorne Michaels and had previously directed Saturday Night Live alum movies; Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, and Spies Like Us.
The first part of the movie deals with a studio and the 3 amigos being fired. Fran Drescher filmed several scenes for this, but all of them were cut from the final film. Interestingly, there’s some fun references in the film at this time, like when the 3 amigos sneak back into the studio they cross a billboard advertising the movie, The Dueling Cavalier, which is the movie made by Don Lockwood and Lena Lamont in the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain.”
I have to add that the actor who played “El Guapo” was Alfonso Arau, and he is hilarious in the movie. He would actually go on to a successful directing career, directing Like Water For Chocolate, A Walk in the Clouds, and TV versions of Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons and John Grisham’s A Painted House.
Overall, I love this film, but I do wonder what film we would have had if John Landis were allowed to finish the post production of the film, but the studio was worried about the negative publicity as John Landis was going through court proceedings regarding the deaths of actors Vic Marrow, Renee Chen, and My-ca Dinh Le on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. That was an incredibly tragic accident, but I do think John Landis has proven himself to be a fantastic director and would have made an even better version of Three Amigos if he had been able to finish the film himself.