Last Action Hero
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|Last Action Hero|
|Directed by||John McTiernan|
|Produced by||John McTiernan
|Screenplay by||Shane Black
William Goldman (uncredited)
|Story by||Zak Penn
F. Murray Abraham
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Editing by||Richard A. Harris
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||June 18, 1993|
|Running time||130 minutes|
Last Action Hero is a 1993 American action-comedy-fantasy film directed and produced by John McTiernan. It is a satire of the action genre and its clichés, containing several parodies of action films in the form of films within the film.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, a fictional Los Angeles police detective. Slater is a fictional character even within the film, the hero of the Jack Slater series of action films. Austin O'Brien co-stars as a boy who is magically transported into a parallel universe inhabited by Slater and the other characters in the Slater film series. Schwarzenegger also plays himself as the actor portraying Jack Slater, and Charles Dance plays an assassin who escapes from the Slater world into the real world. The film was a financial disappointment in its theatrical release.
The story is an adventure that begins when a boy named Daniel "Danny" Madigan (O'Brien) is magically transported into the surreal world of an action film featuring his fictional hero, Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger). Slater is the hero of the Jack Slater film series, a fearless LAPD detective whose commanding officer Lieutenant Dekker (Frank McRae) frequently yells at him for breaking rules.
Since his father died, Danny has been skipping school to watch movies with his friend Nick, an old man who operates the run-down Pandora movie theater in New York City. Nick invites Danny to a private screening of Jack Slater IV and gives him a magic ticket originally given to Nick by Harry Houdini. Before the show, Nick tears the ticket in half, gives one half to Danny, and puts the other in the ticket box. A few minutes into Slater IV, Danny's ticket stub begins to glow, and some dynamite from within the film flies out of the screen, lands near Danny, and explodes. When Danny wakes up, he is in the back seat of Slater's car, being chased through Los Angeles in the world of Slater IV. He tries to convince Slater that they are in a film, but Slater sees nothing unusual about his world, which includes a cartoon cat detective named Whiskers (Danny DeVito), a black-and-white image of Humphrey Bogart, female officers dressed in outlandish battle armor, and various characters from other Schwarzenegger films (at one point, the T-1000 from Terminator 2 is clearly seen).
As Slater and Danny drive along the coast looking for the "bad guys", Danny recognizes, from the introduction to Slater IV, the mansion belonging to crime boss Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn). Despite Slater's skepticism, they go in and meet Vivaldi's British henchman Mr. Benedict (Charles Dance). After overhearing Danny discussing his role in the Slater film, Benedict follows Slater and Danny as they visit Slater's daughter, Whitney (Bridgette Wilson), raids the house with some thugs, takes the magic ticket from Danny, and escapes after a gun battle with Slater and Whitney. While inspecting the ticket at the mansion, he discovers a portal to the real world.
Eventually, Slater and Danny figure out that Vivaldi plans to kill his rivals at a rooftop funeral by planting nerve gas in the body. After a brief scene in which Whiskers saves Slater and Danny from betrayal by Slater's friend, Slater tells Danny to commandeer a construction crane, takes the body and escapes from the funeral, and disposes of the body into a tar pit with Danny's help at the crane. Whitney arrives in her truck immediately afterward, and Slater and Danny use the truck to crash into the villains' mansion shortly after Benedict irritably betrays and kills Vivaldi. In the ensuing struggle, Benedict and his butler fall through a portal into the real world, and Slater and Danny follow them. In the real New York City, Slater is disappointed to learn that he is a fictional character and resentful at having been given such a hard life by his film's writers, particularly Schwarzenegger himself. While talking with Danny's mother, he learns to be sensitive and loses interest in violent action.
Meanwhile, Benedict learns that in this world he can get away with murder and hatches a plan to wipe out Slater by killing Schwarzenegger. Slater correctly guesses Benedict's plan after Benedict uses the ticket to escape a car chase, leaving behind a newspaper with hand-drawn marks on some film advertisements.
At the premiere of Jack Slater IV, after a brief encounter with Schwarzenegger (himself), Slater confronts the Ripper (Noonan), the ax-wielding villain who killed Slater's young son in Jack Slater III and whom Benedict has brought to the real world. In a rooftop scene similar to the one in Slater III, The Ripper throws Danny from the roof before being electrocuted by Slater. Slater finds Danny clinging to the side of the building and pulls him to safety, but Benedict confronts Slater and shoots him in the chest while ranting about his plans to form an army of film villains (such as Dracula, Freddy Krueger, Hannibal Lecter and King Kong) and take over the world. Danny knocks Benedict to the floor, enabling Slater to get Benedict's gun and shoot Benedict directly in his explosive glass eye, blowing his head to smithereens, but the ticket flutters off the roof and lands in front of a movie theater showing The Seventh Seal. Death (Ian McKellen) walks through the resulting portal and follows Slater and Danny to Nick's theater, where Danny hopes to save Slater by transporting him back into the Slater film. Death advises Danny to find the other half of the magic ticket, which he does, and Slater and Danny are transported into Slater IV, where Slater's wounds are minor. On Slater's insistence, Danny returns to the real world. The film ends as Slater explains his new insights to Dekker, then drives into the sunset.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, Hamlet and himself
- Austin O'Brien as Danny Madigan
- Charles Dance as Benedict
- Robert Prosky as Nick
- Tom Noonan as The Ripper and himself
- Frank McRae as Lieutenant Dekker
- Anthony Quinn as Tony Vivaldi
- Bridgette Wilson as Whitney Slater and Meredith Caprice. Whitney is Jack's daughter, and Meredith is the actress who plays her in the Slater films.
- F. Murray Abraham as John Practice
- Mercedes Ruehl as Irene Madigan
- Jay Nijjar as Arnold Schwarzenegger's stunt double
- Art Carney, in his last film role, as Frank
- Charles Kalani, Jr. as Tough Asian Man
- Ryan Todd as Andrew Slater
- Jason Smith as Danny's Friend
- Danny DeVito (uncredited) as the voice of Whiskers
- Franco Columbu appears during the opening credits as producer of the new Slater movie.
- Tina Turner appears at the climax of Jack Slater III as the mayor of Los Angeles.
- When Danny and Slater arrive at LAPD headquarters, Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick appear outside the front door as Catherine Tramell (from Basic Instinct) and the T-1000 (from Terminator 2: Judgment Day), respectively. Stone had earlier played Schwarzenegger's wife in Total Recall.
- Sylvester Stallone as the Terminator on a poster promoting Terminator 2
- Model/actress Angie Everhart as a video store clerk
- During the premiere of Jack Slater IV in the real world, a number of celebrities appear as themselves. These include Schwarzenegger's then-wife Maria Shriver, Little Richard, Entertainment Tonight host Leeza Gibbons, James Belushi (who starred with Schwarzenegger in Red Heat), Damon Wayans, Chevy Chase, Timothy Dalton (James Bond at that time) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who worked with John McTiernan on the film Predator as the original Predator before dropping out)
- As Slater and Danny enter the movie theater to find Arnold Schwarzenegger, MC Hammer asks Slater about a deal to do the Slater V soundtrack.
- Ian McKellen makes a cameo as Death, after a screening of Ingmar Bergman's film, The Seventh Seal comes to life.
- Before the Hamlet sequence, in which the Laurence Olivier version is played on a projector, the teacher who introduces the film is Joan Plowright, an English actress and Laurence Olivier's third wife.
- After the house explosion, a dying cop paraphrases a line used by Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 3 and a short piece of music from that film's soundtrack can be heard playing in the background. Similarly, following the car crash, Danny refers to Die Hard and an excerpt from that film's theme also briefly plays. Composer Michael Kamen wrote the score for both these other movies, while director John McTiernan also directed Die Hard.
- During the argument between Jack and the Lieutenant, the TV behind the lieutenant plays Predator, another Schwarzenegger film also directed by John McTiernan.
- In the video store sequence, a shelf contains VHS copies of The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard, two other films directed by John McTiernan.
Background and production
Last Action Hero was an original screenplay by Zak Penn and Adam Leff, meant to parody typical action film screenplays of writers such as Shane Black. Zak Penn noted himself that it was ironic that the studio then had Shane Black rewrite the script. The original screenplay differs heavily from the finished film and is widely available to read online. Although it was still a parody of Hollywood action films it was set almost entirely in the film world and focused largely on the futile cycle of violence displayed by the hero and the effect it had on people around him. Due to the radical changes Zak Penn and Adam Leff were eventually credited with the story of the film but not the screenplay, which is unusual for a film based on an original screenplay.
Schwarzenegger received a salary of $15 million for his role in the film.
Years after its release, the film was the subject of a scathing chapter called "How They Built The Bomb", in the Nancy Griffin book Hit and Run which detailed misadventures at Sony Pictures in the early to mid-1990s. Among the details presented in this chapter were:
- Universal moved Jurassic Park to June 11, 1993 well after Sony had decided on a June 18 release date for Last Action Hero.
- The movie was rumored to be the first advertisement placed on a space-going rocket.
- The film was capsized by a wave of negative publicity after a rough cut of it was shown to a preview audience on May Day. Sony then destroyed the test cards and the word-of-mouth proved to be catastrophic for the film.
- The shooting and editing schedule were so demanding and so close to the June 18 release date that after the movie's disaster, a source close to the film said that they "shouldn't have had Siskel and Ebert telling us the movie is 10 minutes too long".
- Sony was even more humiliated the weekend after the film opened, when the movie lost 47% of its opening-weekend audience and saw TriStar's Sleepless In Seattle open as the #2 movie at the box office.
- The final declared financial loss for the film was $26 million.
- Last Action Hero was the first film to be released using SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), but only a few theaters were set up for the new format, and many of those experienced technical problems with the new system. Insiders at Paramount reportedly referred to SDDS as "Still Doesn't Do Shit".
The Magic ticket
There were three prop magic tickets made for the film. The first version of the Magic Ticket was created by the film’s special effects unit with “The All Seeing Eye” on the front and theater seating on the back. This version can clearly be seen on screen when it’s ripped in half by Nick and presented to Danny upon entering the theater to see the fictional film “Jack Slater IV”. This version of the ticket also appears on the top of the “Last Action Hero” pinball machine.
The second version of the Magic Ticket with “Raj Palace” largely displayed on the front and miscellaneous advertising on the back (which you never see the back of version two on film) was created by Michael Marcus. The production staff (not knowing that another version of the ticket had already been shot) began using this second version of the ticket for filming. You can clearly see the right half of the front of this second version of the ticket when Danny is brandishing it in the car with Jack Slater.
After the production staff realized that two obviously different tickets had already been filmed, Michael Marcus was commissioned to create a third version of the ticket essentially merging the first two tickets that had already been filmed into one definitive version (the back of the “All Seeing Eye” of version #1 and the front of the “Raj Palace” of version #2). This third and final version of the ticket was never ripped and all other versions of the ticket were disposed of to prevent any further chance of continuity errors – but inevitably it was too late in the production cycle to go back and reshoot those sections of the film.
To help hide the error of having accidentally shot different Magic Tickets, the special effects department added a gold glow and blue lightning over it in post-production to minimize the continuity mistake.
The third, definitive, and final version of the Magic Ticket (and only unripped version remaining) was sold on August 20, 2008 by The Prop Store of London to a private collector in Dallas, Texas (known only as "Mr. X") for a sum of $1,650.00 USD.
|Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture|
|Soundtrack album by Various Artists|
|Released||June 8, 1993|
|Genre||Heavy metal, alternative metal, grunge, alternative rock, hard rock|
- "Big Gun" - (AC/DC) – 4:24
- "What the Hell Have I" - (Alice in Chains) – 3:58
- "Angry Again" - (Megadeth) – 3:47
- "Real World" - (Michael Kamen & Queensrÿche) – 4:21
- "Two Steps Behind" - (Def Leppard) – 4:19
- "Poison My Eyes" - (Anthrax) – 7:04
- "Dream On" (Live) - (Aerosmith) – 5:42
- "A Little Bitter" - (Alice in Chains) – 3:53
- "Cock the Hammer" - (Cypress Hill) – 4:11
- "Swim" - (Fishbone) – 4:13
- "Last Action Hero" - (Tesla) – 5:44
- "Jack and the Ripper" - (Michael Kamen & Buckethead) – 3:43
At the time of its release, the film was billed as "the next great summer action movie" and many movie insiders predicted it would be a huge blockbuster, especially following the success of Schwarzenegger's previous film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
The film grossed $USD15,338,241 on its opening weekend, for an average of $6,651 from 2,306 theaters, and ended its run with only $50,016,394 in the United States but making an additional $87,202,095 overseas, totaling US$137,298,489 worldwide. In an A&E biography of Schwarzenegger, the actor (who was also the film's executive producer) says that the film could have done even better if not for bad timing, since it came out a week after Jurassic Park which went on to break box office records as the top grossing film of all time. Schwarzenegger states that he tried to persuade his co-producers to postpone the film's June 18 release in the US by four weeks, but they turned a deaf ear on the grounds that the movie would have lost millions of dollars in revenue for every weekend of the summer it ended up missing, also fearing that delaying the release would create negative publicity; he told the authors of Hit And Run that, while everyone involved with the production had given their best effort, their attempt to appeal to both action and comedy fans resulted in a film that appealed to neither audience and ultimately succumbed to heavy competition.
Critical Reception & Awards
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics It currently holds a 38% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but maintains a cult following. Vincent Canby likened the film to "a two-hour 'Saturday Night Live' sketch" and called it "something of a mess, but a frequently enjoyable one".
The film was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst New Star (Austin O'Brien) and Worst Original Song ("Big Gun"), but it did not win any.
On February 3, 2009, Last Action Hero was reissued on DVD by Sony Pictures Entertainment in a double-feature set with the 1986 film Iron Eagle. It was released for the high-definition Blu-Ray format on January 12, 2010.
- Last Action Hero (video game)
- Last Action Hero (pinball)
- Story within a story
- List of 8 channel SDDS films
- Weinraub, Bernard (1993-06-22). "Columbia Ponders The Fate Of 'Hero'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- "'Last Action Hero' Can't Deliver As Action Flick, Parody In One". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Andersen, Kurt (1993-07-05). "How To Run a Movie Studio". Time. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Fox, David J. (1993-06-21). "'Hero': When $15 Million Isn't Quite Enough : Movie box office: By Hollywood standards, the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle opens poorly. But Columbia is 'very, very, very happy with it.'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Vanderknyff, Rick (1993-06-18). "Limelight, Cameras, 'Action' for O.C. Boy : Movies: 'Hero' co-star Austin O'Brien is full partner in media blitz.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Pristin, Terry (1993-05-16). "SUMMER SNEAKS : Well, They Wanted Action : Brash newcomers Zak Penn and Adam Leff engineered their own industry buzz, landing an agent and a deal for their screenplay. Fame and fortune followed, but with a weird ending". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Marin, Rick (May 9, 1993). "Film; Battle of the Action Heroes". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
- Fox, David J. (1993-03-03). "`Action' Promotion Is Out of This World : Movies: Sources said the stunt, in which the movie's logo will be painted on a NASA rocket, will cost Columbia about $500,000.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
- Nancy Griffin; Kim Masters. "Hit and run: how Jon Peters and Peter Guber took Sony for a ride in Hollywood". Touchstone. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- Pristin, Terry (1993-06-30). "'Last Action': Too Many Heroes? : Big-Name Star, Director and Writers--So What Happened?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- "'Hero' Fails To Conquer Box Office". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Fox, David J. (1993-06-30). "Theaters Report 'Hero' Is Running on Short Legs". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Fox, David J. (1993-05-16). "SUMMER SNEAKS : The Seasonal Sweats : 'Jurassic Park' and 'Last Action Hero' are going to take the summer, no problem. But there are a few other movies that are pretty good bets". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Fox, David J. (1993-06-28). "'Sleepless' Surprises Hollywood : Movies: Romantic comedy opens with a strong $17 million; 'Last Action Hero' falls 50% at box office. 'Jurassic Park' collects another $28 million.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Fox, David J. (1993-06-16). "Schwarzenegger No Dinosaur in Advance Sales". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- "Last Action Hero". Entertainment Weekly. 1993-07-09. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
- "Last Action Hero". Variety. 1992-12-31. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
- "Last Action Hero". Listal.com. August 8, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
- Canby, Vincent (1993-06-18). "Review/Film: Last Action Hero; A Hero Within and Without". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- CDUniverse.com - Last Action Hero/Iron Eagle DVD
- Parish, James Robert (2006). Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-471-69159-4.
- September 9, 1991 first draft script by Zak Penn and Adam Leff at Awesomefilm
- October 10, 1992 composite draft script by Zak Penn and Adam Leff, current draft by Shane Black and David Arnott, doctored by William Goldman at Awesomefilm
- Movie stills from film.virtual-history.com
- Last Action Hero at the Internet Movie Database
- Last Action Hero at Rotten Tomatoes
- Siskel & Ebert review of Last Action Hero from siskelandebert.org