The classic Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner movie Romancing the Stone is an ’80s gem. The film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and ended up as the eighth-highest grossing film of 1984. Let’s take a look back at the film and jump in with some fun facts about Romancing the Stone.
Facts about Romancing the Stone:
- There was supposed to be a 3rd movie in the franchise called The Crimson Eagle. Romancing the Stone spawned a sequel – the 1985 film The Jewel of the Nile. Turns out, there was supposed to be one more movie, The Crimson Eagle, Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) and Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) would take their two teenage kids to Thailand where they would find themselves blackmailed into stealing a precious statue. However the film was cancelled due the poor reception of The Jewel of the Nile.
- The movie was set in Colombia, but it wasn’t filmed there. In a case of life imitating art, reports of American kidnappings in Colombia forced production to be done in Mexico. Filming locations included Veracruz, Mexico and Huasca de Ocampo, Mexico. Parts of the film were also shot in Snow Canyon, Utah.
- Romancing the Stone was the first time Alan Silvestri and Robert Zemeckis worked together. Silvestri was initially hired for a temporary score for the movie, but Zemeckis liked his work so much that he kept him on as composer. They’d go on to work together on Forrest Gump, Cast Away, and the Back to the Future series among others.
- Romancing the Stone got Robert Zemeckis preemptively fired from the movie Cocoon. After viewing a rough cut of the film, studio execs at 20th Century Fox believed the movie would be a complete bomb. To hedge their bets, they fired Zemeckis from the then-under-development Cocoon with Ron Howard taking over as director.
- Romancing the Stone led to the making of Back to the Future. The movie ended being such a huge hit that it gave Zemeckis the green light to make Back to the Future.
- The movie was called a rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark. With some parallels to Stephen Spielberg’s 1981 hit Raiders of the Lost Ark, critics panned Romancing the Stone as a rip-off of the Indiana Jones franchise. The screenplay had actually been written 5 years earlier.
- The screenwriter for Romancing the Stone died six weeks before the sequel to Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, was released. Diane Thomas was a screenwriter working as a waitress in Malibu. She had the opportunity to pitch the script for Romancing the Stone to customer Michael Douglas who bought the rights and optioned them to 20th Century Fox. Thomas died in a car accident in October 1985 just weeks before the sequel to Romancing the Stone was released. In the Special Edition of Romancing the Stone DVD, Douglas stated that he had purchased a Porsche for Thomas as a present for her work with him on the film. Thomas was a passenger in the car, while her companion driving it caused the accident, killing her instantly. Thomas had been working on a sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark before she died.
- Michael Douglas was not the first choice for the movie. Christopher Reeve turned down the lead role as did Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and Jack Nicholson. Paul Newman was also offered the part of Jack Colton but felt there was unnecessary and excessive violence in the movie.
- Kathleen Turner was also not the first choice for the movie. The studio’s first choice to play Joan was Terms of Endearment star Debra Winger. When Winger didn’t work out, Fox turned to Turner who had shot to fame as the femme fatale in the 1981 noir Body Heat.
- Robert Zemeckis and Kathleen Turner didn’t really get along. Turner once said she had “terrible arguements” working with Robert Zemeckis: “He’s a film-school grad, fascinated by cameras and effects. I never felt that he knew what I was having to do to adjust my acting to some of his damn cameras – sometimes he puts you in ridiculous postures. I’d say, ‘This is not helping me! This is not the way I like to work, thank you!'”. Despite the troubles Turner, would later provide the vocals to Jessica Rabbit in Zemeckis’ movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
- Wonder Woman’s stunt double was used for that famous mud slide scene. Jeannie Epper, who was also the stunt double for Lynda Carter in the 1970s Wonder Woman television series, was the stunt double for Kathleen Turner during the mud slide scene.
- Filming was actually pretty dangerous. Filming in Mexico was plagued with rain, mud, bugs, and alligators. Not to mention that all of the stunts and action sequences were done live. After an action sequence involving an alligator, the gator managed to get free and swim away. Trainers tracked the gator down but one was attacked. The alligator took the trainer’s hand and spun and took him down and under the water. The crew managed to free the man and get him to the hospital and save his mauled hand.
- In the famous dance scene, Michael Douglas was not aware that he was being filmed. Douglas was dancing with Kathleen Turner and some extras, and was surprised to find Robert Zemeckis had been filming the entire time.
- The phrase “Romancing the Stone” is actually jewelers’ jargon. The phrase has taken on a few other meanings over the years including referring to masturbation or romancing someone whose not romancing you back but it’s origin refers to a step in preparing a gem for use in jewelry.
- There was almost a reboot. 20th Century Fox considered a reboot of Romancing the Stone with Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler in the roles of Joan Wilder and Jack Colton. In 2011, NBC bought the rites for a TV series adaptation that never saw the light of day.
Want to learn more? Check out these 15 facts about Top Gun.