Dragonheart

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Dragonheart
Dragonheart ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Cohen
Screenplay byCharles Edward Pogue
Story byCharles Edward Pogue
Patrick Read Johnson
Produced byRaffaella De Laurentiis
Starring
CinematographyDavid Eggby
Edited byPeter Amundson
Music byRandy Edelman
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 31, 1996 (1996-05-31) (North America)
  • October 18, 1996 (1996-10-18) (United Kingdom)
Running time
103 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Slovakia
LanguageEnglish
Budget$57 million[1]
Box office$115.3 million[2]

Dragonheart (stylized as DragonHeart) is a 1996 fantasy action-adventure film directed by Rob Cohen and written by Charles Edward Pogue based on a story created by him and Patrick Read Johnson. It stars Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Dina Meyer, and Sean Connery as the voice of Draco. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and various other awards in 1996 and 1997. The film received mixed reviews but was a box office success. It was dedicated in memory of Steve Price and Irwin Cohen.

Plot[edit]

Sir Bowen, an English knight of 'The Old Code', mentors the Saxon Prince Einon in his ideals to make him a better king than his tyrannical father, King Freyne. While suppressing a peasant rebellion, rebels kill the king. Then a young peasant girl named Kara accidentally mortally wounds Einon's heart. Einon's Celtic mother, Queen Aislinn, has Einon taken before a dragon and asks him to save the boy's life. The dragon makes Einon promise to rule with honor and replaces Einon's wounded heart with half his own. However, Einon proves more oppressive than his father by enslaving the former rebels that killed Freyne and forcing them to rebuild a Roman castle. Believing the dragon's heart corrupted Einon, Bowen swears vengeance on all dragons by hunting them down.

Twelve years later, Bowen has become a skilled dragonslayer. Meanwhile, an adult Einon has rebuilt his castle. Kara asks that he free her father after years of slavery; Einon agrees but instead kills him to "release" him. Monk and aspiring poet Brother Gilbert witnesses Bowen's prowess and follows him to record his exploits. Bowen stalks a dragon to its cave, not knowing it's the one who shared his heart with Einon. The confrontation ends in a stalemate, during which the dragon states that he's the last one alive; they agree not to kill each other and instead form a partnership to defraud local villagers with staged dragon "slayings." Bowen later names the dragon after the Draco constellation, unaware of Draco and Einon's connection, through which they feel each other's pain.

Kara, seeking revenge on Einon, is imprisoned after a failed assassination attempt. Realizing she is responsible for his near-death as a boy, Einon tries seducing her and making her his queen. Despising what her son has become, Aislinn helps Kara escape the castle. Kara tries to rally her village against Einon, but they instead sacrifice her to Draco. After Draco takes Kara to his lair, Einon arrives to recapture her and fights Bowen. While fighting, Einon demoralizes Bowen by declaring he never believed in the code and only used Bowen to learn how to fight. He gains the upper hand and nearly kills Bowen, but Draco intervenes and reveals his half-heart to Einon, making him flee in fear. Kara asks Bowen to help overthrow Einon, but the disillusioned knight refuses.

Bowen reunites with Gilbert at another village, while Kara tries exposing Bowen and Draco, appalled by their actions. The villagers don't believe her until after the staged slaying while Draco plays dead. He bolts when the villagers decide to carve him up for meat, revealing the scam. Then they surround Bowen, Kara, and Gilbert, wanting to eat them instead; Draco rescues the trio and takes them to Avalon, where they take shelter among King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table's tombs. Draco reveals the truth about himself and Einon: he hoped to change Einon's nature by saving him, reunite the races of Man and Dragon, and earn a place in the constellation, the Dragon's Heaven. Now Draco fears his actions have cost him his soul, and his spirit is doomed to disappear upon death like he never existed. After hearing that Kara and even Gilbert intend to oppose Einon, Draco agrees to help. After a vision of King Arthur reminds him of his knightly honor, Bowen also agrees.

Bowen, Kara, Gilbert, and Draco organize and train the villagers into a formidable army. They're nearly victorious against Einon's forces when Gilbert strikes Einon in the heart with an arrow; however, Draco, feeling Einon's pain, falls from the sky and is captured. Realizing he is immortal as long as Draco lives, Einon is determined to keep Draco safe. Knowing their connection, Aislinn attempts to kill Draco at his request, but Einon intercepts and kills her.

The rebels invade Einon's castle to save Draco. Bowen and Einon duel through the halls, ending with Bowen throwing Einon from atop a tower. While he tries freeing Draco, the dragon begs Bowen to kill him and end Einon's reign; Bowen can't bring himself to kill his friend, so Draco tries and fails to provoke him. Then Einon rises and charges at Bowen, so Bowen reluctantly throws an ax into Draco's exposed half-heart, killing him and Einon. Draco's body dissipates as his soul joins his fellow dragons as a new star in the constellation. Then Bowen and Kara lead the kingdom into an era of justice and brotherhood.

Cast[edit]

  • Dennis Quaid as Bowen.
    A knight who becomes a dragonslayer and then allies with Draco. Director Rob Cohen was impressed with Quaid, telling producer Raffaella De Laurentiis "[Quaid] is a knight of the old code." Cohen called Quaid "obviously intelligent and fun to work with" and said that he "really [thought] he [was] Bowen." Quaid underwent rigorous training for the role, mostly practicing sword fighting. Quaid and Cohen both wanted Bowen's sword technique to have an "Eastern flavor," so Quaid trained with Japanese sword master Kiyoshi Yamasaki.[3]
  • Sean Connery as the voice of Draco.
    The last remaining dragon. Cohen felt it was "very important that [the dragon's] personality be derived from the actor who was going to play the voice" and said that Connery was the only actor he had in mind for the role. He described Connery's voice as "unique" and "instantly recognizable," but said that it was "what [Connery] stood for in life as an actor and as a man that most related to what I wanted for Draco." Connery did the voice recording for Draco in three sessions. To help animate Draco's facial expressions, Cohen and the ILM animators took close-up shots of Connery from his previous films, categorized the clips according to what emotion he was expressing, and put them in separate tapes for easy reference.[3]
  • David Thewlis as Einon.
    The tyrannical king who shares part of Draco's heart. Cohen cast Thewlis based on his performance in Naked, stating, "what makes a villain scary is the brain, not the brawn."[3] Lee Oakes played the young Einon in the film's opening scene.
  • Dina Meyer as Kara.
    A peasant girl who seeks revenge on Einon for killing her father. Meyer was the second actress Cohen interviewed for the role. Cohen stated that he needed an actress who was "strong and someone who could, in the end, handle herself with these double viking axes and look believable."[3] Sandra Kovacikova plays Kara as a child.
  • Pete Postlethwaite as Brother Gilbert of Glockenspur.
    A monk and aspiring poet who joins Bowen and Draco in the revolt against Einon. Cohen wanted Postlethwaite for the role based on his performance in In the Name of the Father, feeling that "anyone who was assured in a dramatic role could take Brother Gilbert and make it real and charmingly funny."[3]
  • Jason Isaacs as Lord Felton.
    Einon's second in command. He hires Bowen to slay a dragon running rampant around his village but refuses to pay after learning more of Bowen.
  • Julie Christie as Queen Aislinn.
    Einon's mother. Cohen found Christie through David Thewlis' casting agent.[3]
  • Peter Hric as King Freyne.
    Einon's father and Aislinn's husband, a tyrannical ruler.
  • Brian Thompson as Brok.
    Einon's knight who served alongside Einon's father when he was king.
  • Terry O'Neill as Redbeard.
    Kara's father.
  • Wolf Christian as Hewe.
    A one-eyed villager who is part of the peasant rebellion.
  • John Gielgud as the uncredited voice of King Arthur, who speaks to Bowen during his visit to Avalon.

Production[edit]

In 1988, Patrick Read Johnson came up with the idea for Dragonheart and pitched it to producer Raffaella De Laurentiis a year later.[4] Johnson proposed the film's concept to De Laurentiis, describing it as "The Skin Game with a dragon in it...or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Dragon". He wanted "the idea of a dragon and a knight conning villages for money" because he thought the concept was "not only funny, but kind of sweet." to work on Dragonheart. According to Johnson,[5] before the film was ever called Dragonheart and had the element of the shared heart, it began with the premise of

"the last dragon and the last knight that finally meet up in a stalemate and make a deal. This was sort of the first scene that I thought of with the knight in the dragon's mouth with his sword against the roof his mouth. I knew they would come to the conclusion that the only way for them to continue to survive was to stage these mock battles all over the countryside and get paid in heaps of gold."

Johnson and Charles Edward Pogue collaborated on the script. They submitted it to Universal Pictures on a Friday. Two days later, on Monday morning, Universal gave Johnson the green light to start making the film as the script produced such a strong emotional response from studio executives.[5][6] After Universal approved the screenplay and gave the go-ahead on the film, Johnson and De Laurentiis scouted Spain for filming locations. Johnson described Dragonheart as a phenomenon that took off in Hollywood since it was "a movie that everybody wanted to be in, and everybody wanted to score, and everybody wanted to be the cinematographer of, and everybody wanted to direct." For a campfire scene test, Johnson had the then-unknown Clive Owen fill in for Liam Neeson as Bowen opposite an animatronic Draco made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.[7]

As the Creature Shop did tests for Draco, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) did CGI tests for Jurassic Park. Universal believed it would be better to wait as the CGI technology could potentially benefit Dragonheart. Additionally, according to Johnson, Universal saw the Creature Shop test footage as the pretext for the final film's quality. The studio went behind his back, trying to remove him from the project and give it to an A-list director since Johnson only had one film to his name at the time. Raffaella De Laurentiis tried to negotiate the budget to one the studio would accept at around $21 million, but Universal wouldn't take an amount lower than $23 million and would ironically end up spending roughly triple the amount on the film. When Universal ended his contract, Johnson was only paid and given credit for writing the story and acting as executive producer. For his desired direction for the film, Johnson said,

"...I wanted this to be a more noble film than it ended up being. I still wanted it to be fun, and I wanted it to be charming and clever. I wanted it to have a more European feeling. Like something Terry Gilliam might do."

Then Richard Donner was approached as Universal sought a replacement director. Donner spent roughly six months working on the film before moving on to other projects. The studio declined Kenneth Branagh after deciding the amount he asked to star in and direct the film was too expensive. De Laurentiis hoped to make John Badham, Rob Cohen's then-partner, interested in handling Dragonheart and sent him the script; according to Cohen, Badham "didn't respond" to the material.[8] After working with De Laurentiis on Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993, Rob Cohen agreed to take over as director, and Universal announced his attachment to the film in January 1994.[3][9] Johnson said he harbored no ill will for Cohen taking over the project, but that changed when he "started hearing the horror stories about how Chuck Pogue was being treated, and then I started seeing Rob taking credit for things that weren't his to take credit for." In the "Making of Dragonheart" featurette on the DVD, Cohen says he was aware of the project for years before getting the directing job and that Johnson was merely involved with the script. Cohen also took credit for Draco's design and Sean Connery being Draco's voice actor. Johnson cites an article from Cinescape magazine, "where Rob is again asked about the origin of the project and he basically tries to sell the idea that I was some film student that somehow got attached to this great project that somehow pre-existed my involvement."[10]

Writing[edit]

Patrick Read Johnson's manager Melinda Jason also managed screenplay writer Charles Edward Pogue, who previously wrote for David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly and was working on adapting A Princess of Mars for Disney. When meeting for drinks in Bora Bora, Johnson pitched the idea for Dragonheart to Pogue, and he agreed to work on the film. Johnson already had the story's beginning and end in mind but not much of the middle, so he and Pogue collaborated on the script, developing the characters and the Old Code while working the Arthurian myth into the story.[5] Pogue described the story's themes as "a disillusioned man's struggle to recapture his idealism" and "the attempt to maintain one's passion in the cesspool of the world." Creating the backstory of the dragon culture and spiritual afterlife proved challenging for Pogue; he had to think of Draco's motivations and why he clings to life rather than letting Bowen kill him and end his despair. Pogue solved the issue by making Draco fear going to Hell without a soul for sharing his heart with Einon. Then Bowen re-enters Draco's life, and he sees hope and a chance for redemption through Bowen, with Draco unaware that the fateful decision he's been avoiding for years is now closer than he knows.[11] According to Pogue, the screenplay for Dragonheart is among his best work, and it moved countless people to tears; he completed the first draft in only two months. After he, Johnson, and De Laurentiis made revisions, Pogue finished the script in 1990. It went unchanged for the next four years, but since it got such a resounding response, Universal fired Johnson in the hopes of getting a more experienced director like Steven Spielberg to handle the project. Since Jurassic Park was released and Universal Studios sought to have Draco made with CGI like the dinosaurs, this meant there had to be script alterations per Draco's allowed screen time based on the film's budget. As a result, Draco would appear less often than in the original script, which included a sequence with Bowen flying around on Draco's back.[12]

According to Pogue, the film production became troublesome after Rob Cohen's hiring; Pogue felt Cohen "had neither the poetry in his soul nor the panache to bring Dragonheart to the screen."[13] One of Cohen's first changes to the film was setting it during the 10th century Dark Ages rather than the sophisticated "Robin Hood-era" 12th century Middle Ages. He felt the possibility of dragons existing during the mostly unrecorded period would be more believable and more appropriate for his grittier vision. While streamlining the script with Pogue, they removed one of Bowen and Draco's scams as Cohen felt that doing three would be too expensive and reduced the number of battles.[14] Other changes to the script under Cohen's direction include: reducing Queen Aislinn to "a glorified bit player," cutting a scene between Gilbert and Bowen by a riverbank where they discuss their goals and motivations, and changing the unseen old scarred dragon from male to female. Also removed were scenes showing the developing love story between Bowen and Kara, which the final film only alludes to without any proper resolution. For example, Kara and Bowen declare their love for each other, during which Bowen asks Kara for her "lady's favor." Kara reveals Einon raped her and therefore has nothing to give Bowen, so Bowen kneels and gives her a chaste kiss on the hand. Cohen reportedly removed the scene because he felt Kara should be more of an action-oriented character swinging axes around and didn't believe she would make "sappy speeches."[15] However, according to Pogue, Cohen cut the scene because he couldn't get the desired performance, which involved having Kara and Bowen in an intimate embrace instead of the hand kiss, and conflicted with Dina Meyer. This issue also made Cohen cut a scene with the peasant army gifting Bowen a suit of armor they make for him, overwhelming Bowen with emotion, which Pogue considered Dennis Quaid's best scene. Cohen's desire to showcase Draco as the film's main attraction caused the deletion of vital "connective tissue" scenes, so the film feels inconsistent and rushed as a result. Pogue also said the film suffered because Universal aimed to turn Dragonheart into a kids' movie as the dark and serious elements were either removed or dumbed-down. As Johnson said, "They messed with the script and started adding things like, "Ready or not here I come! It's Draco!" I mean, we never had that stuff in our script! All this cheesy crap that just juvenilized the picture."[10][12]

Another change Cohen made to the script that was a bone of contention to Pogue was the lack of logic in adding the pigs to the swamp village scene. In Johnson's words,

"Critical elements were missing, things were replaced, and there was all this silly stuff. Like this village that's surrounded by 10 million pigs, but all the people are starving, and yelling out, "We're starving! We need meat! Let's kill the dragon," but they're surrounded by pigs! So, I'm trying to find the logic here. I just didn't get that."

Pogue explains that Draco uses the scams he and Bowen do as a means to "pick at Bowen's conscience and test his morality." Each village they go to is more poverty-stricken than the last. This point would come to a head and serve Bowen's character arc at the swamp village; its people are beyond impoverished, and Bowen feels he can no longer justify the scams as a way to be a thorn in Einon's side. When Cohen added the pigs to the scene, Pogue told De Laurentiis it would make everyone look stupid since the villagers were supposed to be starving. They're trying to eat a seemingly dead Draco for an easy meal before turning on Bowen, Kara, and Gilbert for being the victims of a cruel joke, yet the pigs surrounding the villagers would've sustained them. Both Pogue and De Laurentiis brought the illogical nature of adding the pigs to Cohen's attention, but he forcibly dismissed their concerns. The pigs stayed in the film, and the elements that would serve Bowen's arc became pointless.[12][13]

According to Johnson, the script changes also damaged Einon; Johnson envisioned Kenneth Branagh or a similar actor in the role as a quiet and confident villain with a sense of unpredictability who'd go crazy upon realizing his and Draco's fates are connected. To Johnson, the script revisions turned Einon into a continuously shouting brat and a character stripped of potential development.[10]

"This was a guy who had been given immortality. He knows it, or at least believes it. He's been saved by a dragon; he's blessed, and unstoppable. An unstoppable guy doesn't go around raging, he's supremely confident and quiet. He kills with a whisper, and not with a scream. My idea was Kenneth Branagh, or someone of that ilk. They made Einon into this character who had nowhere to go. Throughout the whole first act of the movie was just screaming and yelling and throwing things around! He was just being a whiny brat. Where do you go from there? You can't get bigger, and you can't get smaller because the movie is supposed to build. My idea was for him to just be so quiet and you just wouldn't know what he was going to do next. He had half of a dragon's heart inside of him. And it isn't until you see this dragon return to come for him, and he realizes that if the dragon dies he's dead, that he really begins to panic, and then he starts to go crazy. That's what you want, but you don't start there!"

Casting[edit]

During his time location scouting in Spain, Johnson created the character of Draco. He and Pogue shaped it for Sean Connery, a client of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) at the time, who was Johnson's only choice in mind to voice Draco. Johnson wanted to "animalize" Connery's voice by giving it "deep resounding rumbles, and make the vocabulary such that it didn't sound quite human." Instead of how it's heard in the final film, "it wasn't just gonna be Sean Connery's voice coming out of the dragon."

After completing location scouting, CAA sent numerous English and Irish actors to meet with Johnson for the Bowen role, including Gabriel Byrne, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan. English actresses sent for the part of Kara included Elizabeth Hurley and Patsy Kensit. Johnson then met the then-up-and-coming Liam Neeson, and the two hit it off, with Johnson noting how Neeson could be both brooding and funny. However, much to Johnson's chagrin, the studio refused to believe Neeson could pull off the action hero role since he just completed Darkman. Wanting a big-name lead actor for the film, Universal sent the script to actors like Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon,[16] and Arnold Schwarzenegger as potential Bowen candidates.[5] The studio even suggested that Whoopi Goldberg voice Draco instead of Connery.[10] Other actors considered to replace Neeson included Harrison Ford,[17] Mel Gibson, and Patrick Swayze, Cohen's first choice for Bowen before Dennis Quaid accepted the role.[18] With the castings of Quaid as Bowen and Meyer as Kara, Johnson said

"...I love Dennis Quaid; I love everything he's done. I just didn't think he should be in 10th century England, any more than Kevin Costner should be in Sherwood Forest. Not that they weren't enjoyable in their roles. Frankly, I think Dennis Quaid saved the movie, as much as it could have been saved...Dennis Quaid just wasn't the right man for the role; Liam Neeson was the right man for the role... And Dina Meyer...again...10th century England?! Beverly Hills 10 A.D.? Bless her heart, she tried. It didn't help that they stuck her in that funny red wig that was constantly changing shape and size. The whole thing just flabbergasted me."

Johnson also claimed that Cohen shooting the scenes with Lee Oakes as young Einon first greatly hindered David Thewlis's performance; Oakes spoke with a thick Northern English accent, forcing Thewlis to mimic the child actor's accent.[10]

Dragon design and animation[edit]

After leaving Alien 3, sculptor Gary Pollard supervised and sculpted the first Draco design, a wyvern with a long snout and a crown of feather-like horns.[19] To stay within the budget that Universal was willing to shell out with Johnson directing, the developers approached Jim Henson's Creature Shop to create the Draco through traditional means. The dragon model, including a quarter-scale puppet and a full-size head that could speak with real-time lip-sync through camera speed manipulation, was done within eight weeks.[10] Then the crew went to Shepperton Studios in England to begin shooting the film, starting with the campfire scene. The team faced difficulties in keeping within the budget.[3] Unfortunately, the test didn't convince Universal that Draco could have enough dynamic movement.

After Jurassic Park's theatrical release, the CG dinosaurs convinced De Laurentiis to bring Draco to life with CGI. Universal hired several effects companies to do Draco animation tests. Due to time constraints, ILM did a screen test for Dragonheart using a "stretched out" version of the Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park. The test impressed Universal, so they attached ILM to the movie in May 1994.[3][19]

Rob Cohen hired Phil Tippett, a visual effects producer specializing in creature design and character animation, to animate Draco for Dragonheart. Tippett states that his studio's responsibilities for Dragonheart differed from what they did for Jurassic Park since Draco would have more screen time (23 minutes for Draco instead of six and a half for the dinosaurs). They were primarily responsible for Draco's actual look and design, storyboards, blocking, and action sequence timing.[3] Tippett worked closely with sculptor Peter Konig in designing Draco. Konig crafted between 20 and 30 maquettes before Cohen approved the final design. Konig improved the ones Cohen said "[felt] right," adding forearms as Cohen wanted Draco to use his hands.[10] Cohen's ideas for Draco's design stemmed from the traditional Chinese guardian lion, which Cohen describes as having "a lion-like elegance, a fierceness," and that it is "ultimately a proud...visually powerful creature". As Draco had to emote, Tippett infused human features into Draco's face to make it mammalian rather than reptilian; his muzzle was designed to be a mixture of a highland gorilla and a human mouth to accommodate his dialogue. Draco's face was designed to resemble Sean Connery's after his casting. Cohen also drew ideas from nature, such as the boa constrictor's jaw structure, horses' musculature, and retractable teeth. Tippett also considered how Cohen would frame the scenes involving Draco, the size difference between Draco and the human actors, and what he would be doing throughout the film.[3] Tippett and his crew created a five-foot model of Draco for lighting reference and an articulated model used as a reference for Draco's poses.

It took five months for four modelers to make Draco's digital model with ILM's Alias software. Originally, Draco's scales and wings were going to have an iridescent quality; it is visible in some scenes but mostly not. His wingspan was initially calculated as 125 ft to support his body but halved to 72 ft to be practical enough to fit on the sets. His eyes were also more detailed and dilated. Those were some of the design elements dropped either because of software issues, running out of time, and wanting to make Draco as realistic as possible and not too fantastical.[20][19] To aid animators so that Draco's performance resembled Connery as much as possible, Cohen made an extensive library of reference footage with hundreds of Connery images from his filmography up to that point, categorized by his displayed emotion.[3]

Dragonheart is the first film to use ILM's Caricature software, developed to help lip-sync Draco's animation to Sean Connery's voiceover work; programmer Cary Phillips received the Academy Scientific and Technical Achievement Award for creating the software. The movie is also noted for having the first realistic CG dragon in film, and Draco is the first dragon ILM made that's capable of human speech.[21][22]

Filming[edit]

Preproduction on Dragonheart began on January 17, 1994, while principal photography began in July in Slovakia, scheduled to end in November.[9] During sequences with Draco and Bowen in them, visual effects supervisor Scott Squires and his teams used what they called a "monster stick"—a pole with a bar and two red circles at the top—as an indicator for where Draco's eyes would be for Quaid's reference. They also set up speakers through which Cohen would read Draco's lines for Quaid, which Quaid said: "helped [him] out a lot."[3]

While filming the scenes involving Draco in flight, the crew used a microlight for reference and then edited the footage to "put Draco over the top of that and remove any traces of the aircraft."[3]

Although Draco is fully CGI-rendered, some scenes used full-sized models of some of his body parts. One of them was Draco's foot, used to pin Bowen to the ground, and the other was Draco's jaw during the scene where Bowen gets trapped inside it. While the foot was a non-moving prop, the jaw had moving parts, and a puppeteer operated it.[3]

On January 9, 1995, editor Peter Amundsen delivered the film's first cut to Cohen at a length of 2 hours and 18 minutes. After going through the reels together, they shortened the film to two hours and seven minutes. In mid-March 1995, they completed the final cut with 182 CG shots.[15] According to Cohen, they spent an additional 13 months working on the film after making the final cut. He was in Rome to shoot Daylight on-location during this period and had to review animation sequences with ILM, giving them his comments and instructions through a satellite hookup.[3]

Music[edit]

Dragonheart (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMay 31, 1996 (1996-05-31)
GenreFilm score
Length45:58
LabelGeffen Records

After reading the script, Jerry Goldsmith personally requested Johnson to let him score Dragonheart when Johnson was set to direct the film. However, Goldsmith never got to write any music for the movie as things fell through during production, and he left the project when Universal let Johnson go.[10]

Randy Edelman composed the score, beginning in late-fall 1995 and finishing by the start of 1996.[23] The main theme song, "The World of the Heart," and its companion track, "To the Stars," were used in many film trailers such as Two Brothers, Mulan, Anna and the King, and Seven Years in Tibet, among others. Clip montages at the Academy Awards feature the Dragonheart theme, as do the closing credits of the U.S. broadcasts of the Olympic Games, making it a well-known film score.[24] MCA Records released the film's soundtrack album on May 28, 1996, containing 15 music tracks.

All tracks are written by Randy Edelman.

Dragonheart (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
No.TitleLength
1."The World of the Heart - Main Title" (includes the Dragonheart theme)3:19
2."To The Stars" (includes Dragonheart theme)3:14
3."Wonders of an Ancient Glory" (includes Dragonheart theme)2:22
4."Einon"3:53
5."The Last Dragon Slayer"4:01
6."Bowen's Ride"2:35
7."Mexican Standoff"2:21
8."Draco" (includes Dragonheart theme)1:15
9."A Refreshing Swim"1:26
10."Re-Baptism"2:48
11."Bowen's Decoy"3:23
12."Kyle, The Wheat Boy"4:25
13."The Connection"2:26
14."Flight to Avalon"2:55
15."Finale" (includes Dragonheart theme)5:30
Total length:45:58

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film was released on May 31, 1996, and grossed $115 million against the budget of $57 million.[2]

Home video[edit]

Dragonheart was released on VHS on November 19, 1996, and on DVD as a "Collector's Edition" on March 31, 1998. The film was later released on HD DVD on May 29, 2007. Dragonheart and Dragonheart: A New Beginning were released on a one-disc print known as "2 Legendary Tales" on March 2, 2004. Dragonheart was released on Blu-ray Disc on March 27, 2012.

Merchandising and marketing[edit]

Kenner released a toy line based on the main characters, as well as additional dragons that weren't shown or mentioned in the film. Revell (under their Promodeler line) released a limited edition vinyl model kit of Draco and Bowen, sculpted by John Dennett. Only 5000 units were produced. The film's first official trailer featured the song "Pax Deorum" by Enya from her album The Memory of Trees. In 1996, Topps released trading cards for the film, and the comics division published a two-issue comic adaptation.

Other media[edit]

Novelization[edit]

First edition Dragonheart novelization cover.
The first edition cover of Pogue's Dragonheart novelization.

Charles Edward Pogue wrote a 262-page novelization, Dragonheart, published by The Berkley Publishing Group in June 1996. The first edition shows Pogue as the sole author, but the book is frequently listed with Johnson as co-author.

Based on his original screenplay, with “several new inspirations that weren’t in any of the various drafts,” it is faithful to his vision of Dragonheart as the transcendent film it should have been.[13][25] It was released in several languages and five editions in the U.S. to widespread critical acclaim. Readers praised Pogue's writing, how the book develops the story, setting, and characters more than the film, noting its darker and more serious tone than that of the film.

In 1999, Adriana Gabriel adapted the movie into a junior novelization.

Video game[edit]

After its release, Dragonheart spawned a spin-off 2D hack and slash game for the PlayStation, Saturn, PC, and Game Boy called DragonHeart: Fire & Steel, made by Acclaim Entertainment.

Reception[edit]

Based on reviews from 30 critics compiled retrospectively, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 50% with an average rating of 5.7 out of 10.[26] Critics praised the premise, visual effects, and character development but panned the script as confusing and clichéd.

Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, saying, "While no reasonable person over the age of 12 would presumably be able to take it seriously, it nevertheless has a lighthearted joy, a cheerfulness, an insouciance, that recalls the days when movies were content to be fun. Add that to the impressive technical achievement that went into creating the dragon, and you have something to acknowledge here. It isn't great cinema, but I'm glad I saw it."[27] Jami Bernard of The New York Daily News described the film as "a movie for people young enough to keep dragons in the menageries of their imaginations." He went on to say that "the dragon is the most believable part of the whole movie."[28] Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a positive review. Still, he criticized the fact that Sean Connery provided Draco's voice, saying that "If only Sean Connery didn't have such a wonderfully distinctive voice, Draco might live and breathe as his own creature."[29]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards Best Effects, Visual Effects Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Film Universal Pictures Won
Best Costumes Thomas Casterline and Anna B. Sheppard Nominated
Best Music Randy Edelman Nominated
Best Special Effects Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, and Kit West Nominated
Hollywood Film Festival Hollywood Digital Award Scott Squires Won
Satellite Awards Outstanding Visual Effects Scott Squires Nominated
Sitges Film Festival[30] Best Film Rob Cohen Nominated
Online Film & Television Association[31] Best Voice-Over Performance Sean Connery Won
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Picture Raffaella De Laurentiis Nominated
Best Visual Effects Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, James Straus, Kit West Nominated
Annie Awards Best Individual Achievement: Voice Acting Sean Connery Nominated
Best Individual Achievement: Animation Rob Coleman Nominated

Legacy[edit]

In the years following its release and strong home media sales, Dragonheart gained a following and is considered a cult classic.[32][33] The character of Draco also gained popularity, often being ranked as one of cinema's most memorable dragons, with fans noting him as ILM's best work on the heels of Jurassic Park and praising Sean Connery's vocal performance.[34] In 2006, Draco was ranked no. 6 on a Top 10 list of movie dragons by Karl Heitmueller for MTV Movie News.[35]

20th anniversary[edit]

On various days throughout the year in Toronto, the AMC Yonge & Dundas 24 theatre screens a fully restored "20th anniversary edition" of Dragonheart with never-before-seen footage, enhanced visual effects, and a digitally remastered soundtrack.[36] On May 31, 2016, in celebration of the film's 20th anniversary, a retrospective article was published on the making of Dragonheart featuring Scott Squires and Phil Tippett, among others who worked on the film.[22]

Sequel and prequels[edit]

A direct-to-video sequel to the film, Dragonheart: A New Beginning, was released in 2000, followed by three prequels: Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse in 2015, Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire in 2017, and Dragonheart: Vengeance in 2020.

Potential remake[edit]

In a 2013 MTV interview about his then-upcoming film 5-25-77, Dragonheart creator Patrick Read Johnson expressed a desire to remake the movie with Sean Connery and Liam Neeson, his original choice for Bowen before Universal fired Johnson from the project.[37] In April 2016, Matthew Feitshans, screenwriter of the Dragonheart prequels, stated that Universal wants to use the prequels to keep the film series' momentum up, mentioning the possibility and hopes of them leading to a big-budget remake of the original film.[38] In 2018, Patrick Read Johnson reiterated that he was still interested in the project, "I would love to give that a go."[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dragonheart (1996) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b "Dragonheart". Box Office Mojo. May 31, 1996. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Rob Cohen, Patrick Read Johnson, Rafaella de Laurentiis, Charles Edward Pogue, Scott Squires, Phil Tippett, Julie Weaver (2009). The Making of Dragonheart (DVD). Universal Studios.
  4. ^ Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. pp. 5–6. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ a b c d Plume, Kenneth (2001-02-28). "Rise and Fall (and Rise) of a Hollywood Director: An Interview with Patrick Read Johnson (Pt 2 of 5)". IGN. IGN Filmforce.
  6. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1996-06-12). "Screenwriters Want to Tell Own Stories". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Dragonheart Secret Origins. YouTube.com. 2014-05-07.
  8. ^ Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. p. 13. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  9. ^ a b Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. p. 15. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Plume, Kenneth (2001-03-01). "Rise and Fall (and Rise) of a Hollywood Director: An Interview with Patrick Read Johnson (Pt 3 of 5)". IGN Filmforce.
  11. ^ Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. pp. 8–9. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  12. ^ a b c "Charles Edward Pogue - Part 2". Mike Hodel's Hour 25. April 30, 2001. 15:02 minutes in.
  13. ^ a b c "Interview – Charles Pogue". 2013-06-06.
  14. ^ Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  15. ^ a b Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. pp. 125–126. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  16. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (1995-01-20). "Kevin Bacon Going Over The Wall Of Character Actor". The Morning Call.
  17. ^ "Dragonheart heads to theaters after 7 years of production". EW.com. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  18. ^ Mell, Eila (2005). Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film-by-Film Directory of Actors Considered For Roles Given To Others. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company. p. 76. ISBN 0786420170. OCLC 56590692.
  19. ^ a b c "Draco". Monster Legacy. 2014-11-14.
  20. ^ "ILMfan- The Making of Draco". Mary Eisenhart. 1996-06-21.
  21. ^ "First use of "CARI" animation". Retrieved 2015-09-13.
  22. ^ a b "An Oral History of ILM's 'Dragonheart' On Its 20th Anniversary". Cartoon Brew. 2016-05-31.
  23. ^ Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. p. 134. ISBN 1-57297-109-6. OCLC 34806374.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  24. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTKSUlMbp9A
  25. ^ Pogue, Charles Edward (1996). Dragonheart. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group. ISBN 1572971304.
  26. ^ "Dragonheart (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (1996-05-31). "Dragonheart". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  28. ^ Bernard, Jami (1996-05-31), "'DRAGONHEART': I.T.'S HIT & MYTH CONNERY BREATHES SPARK INTO GORY STORY OF ANIMATED CRITTER AND WEARY KNIGHT", The New York Daily News, retrieved 2011-05-09[dead link]
  29. ^ Tucker, Ken (1996-05-31), "Dragonheart (1996)", Entertainment Weekly, retrieved 2011-05-09
  30. ^ "FESTIVAL ARCHIVES - Sitges Film Festival - Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya". sitgesfilmfestival.com. Retrieved 2021-08-18.
  31. ^ Wesley Lovell (1996). "Online Film & Television Association". Archived from the original on 2017-06-23. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  32. ^ "The 17 Most Awesome Sword-and-Sorcery Movies Ever Made". PopCrunch. 2011-10-30. Archived from the original on 2014-12-21. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
  33. ^ "Best Dragon Movies - Top 10 Films Featuring Dragons". Beth Accomando. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  34. ^ "Vocal Heroes: The 25 Best Voice Only Movie Performances". 2014-08-01.
  35. ^ Heitmueller, Karl (2006-12-12). "Rewind: Dragons Have Breathed Fire In Many Films Besides 'Eragon': Top 10 dragons in filmdom include Haku of 'Spirited Away,' Maleficent in 'Sleeping Beauty,' Ghidorah of 'Godzilla' fame". MTV Movie News. MTV Networks. Archived from the original on 2009-07-19. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  36. ^ "DRAGONHEART:THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY IN TORONTO". eventful. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  37. ^ Evry, Max (2013-08-16). "Hearts of Dorkness: Patrick Read Johnson on the Star Wars Tribute Film that Consumed His Life". MTV News. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  38. ^ Feitshans, Matthew (April 17, 2016). "If we grow fan base maybe it can happen 1 day. Needs big budget. Trying 2 build momentum w/small DH films. Appreciate ur support!". Twitter. Twitter.
  39. ^ Johnson, Patrick (2018-04-27). "I would love to give that a go". @moonwatcher1. Retrieved 2019-02-06.

External links[edit]

Quotations related to Dragonheart at Wikiquote