Naming a film is not a task taken lightly, especially when many millions of production dollars are involved. See what some of your favorite films were almost called, and ask yourself if you would’ve hired a babysitter and paid for popcorn had cooler heads not prevailed.
Pretty Woman was based on a script written by J.F. Lawton called 3000 (the amount of money paid for a week’s worth of the hooker’s “company”). In the original story, Julia Roberts’ character was not only a prostitute, she was also a crack addict. When Disney bought the script, they hired new writers to lighten it up a bit, and they decided that 3000 sounded too science fiction-y, so a new title was chosen – one that luckily allowed the producers to use Roy Orbison’s signature tune to accompany the obligatory Julia Roberts-trying-on-clothes montage.
During the filming of Back to the Future, Universal Studios honcho Sid Sheinberg fired off a memo to all involved in the production stating that no movie with the word “future” in the title had ever succeeded at the box office. He suggested that the name of this project be changed to Spaceman from Pluto. According to writer/producer Bob Gale, Steven Spielberg “earned his executive producer credit” by stepping in and sending back a note that thanked the studio head for his “joke memo.”
Would I Lie to You? went through at least a half-dozen re-writes by as many writers before it finally hit the big screen in 1982 as Tootsie. The new title was suggested by star Dustin Hoffman (it was the name of his mother’s dog).
Boys Don’t Cry, for which Hilary Swank won an Academy Award, was originally called Take It Like a Man. The producers decided that The Cure’s song “Boys Don’t Cry” (along with its inclusion on the soundtrack) gave the project more of the “dark” atmosphere they were seeking.
The Beatles’ second feature film had been titled Help during the first few weeks of filming. When director Richard Lester was informed that that title had already been registered, the film became known as Eight Arms to Hold You. No one involved cared for that name, so luckily Lester found out that by adding an exclamation point to the word Help he could skirt around the copyright laws.
The 1940 classic The Grapes of Wrath was given the working title of Route 66 as a safety measure. Director John Ford needed to film many scenes along the historic highway, but John Steinbeck’s novel was not particularly appreciated in Oklahoma. Ford presented his project to local authorities as a documentary about the Mother Road in order to avoid trouble.
Anhedonia is the scientific term for the inability to experience pleasure. And up until the opening credits were finally filmed, it was the name Woody Allen had in mind for his 1977 “serious comedy” Annie Hall. United Artists finally talked him out of it, insisting that such an unmarketable title would doom the film at the box office.
Script writer Andrew Bergman originally called his 1974 Western spoof (and the lead character) Tex X, as a sly nod to Muslim leader Malcolm X. But director Mel Brooks was never enamored with that title. One morning when Brooks was taking a shower, the words “blazing saddles” popped into his head. Considering the classic bean scene, the new title seemed apropos.
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