Last Action Hero
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|Last Action Hero|
Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||John McTiernan|
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$137.3 million|
Last Action Hero is a 1993 American cult comic fantasy action film directed and produced by John McTiernan. It is a satire of the action genre and associated clichés, containing several parodies of action films in the form of films within the film.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, a Los Angeles police detective within the Jack Slater action film franchise. Austin O'Brien co-stars as a boy magically transported into the Slater universe. Schwarzenegger also served as the film's executive producer and plays himself as the actor portraying Jack Slater, and Charles Dance plays an assassin who escapes from the Slater world into the real world. Last Action Hero was a box office disappointment during its initial theatrical release. The film also features Art Carney's last appearance in a motion picture.
Danny Madigan is a teenage boy living in a crime-ridden area of New York City with his widowed mother Irene. To escape from his harsh reality, Danny often skips school to watch movies at the run-down Pandora movie theater, owned and managed by Danny's friend Nick. Nick receives the film reels for Jack Slater IV, the latest in one of Danny's favorite film series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular Los Angeles police detective and violent action hero, and offers to show it to Danny at a private screening just before the world premiere. To mark the occasion, Nick tears up a special ticket he received from Harry Houdini years ago, giving one half of the stub to Danny as a keepsake.
As the film starts, Danny is unaware that the stub glows with magic. When a lit stick of dynamite exits the film during a car chase scene and lands in the theater, Danny instinctively ducks for cover. When he comes to, he finds that he is now in the film, riding along with Slater who is in disbelief as how Danny arrived.
At the LAPD headquarters, Danny tries to explain how this is all a film and explaining who the bad guys are, but Slater does not accept this. Despite this, Slater's supervisor, Lt. Dekker, assigns Danny to work with Slater given his apparent knowledge of the villain. Danny leads Slater to the home of mob boss Tony Vivaldi which he saw in the opening of the film. Vivaldi denies any wrongdoing and Slater is unable to arrest him despite Danny's assurance of his crime.
As they depart, Vivaldi's assassin, Mr. Benedict, overhears Danny talking about the ticket stub, and discreetly follows the two. That night, Benedict orders an attack on Slater's home while he is introducing Danny to his daughter, Whitney. While Slater and Whitney fend off the attackers, Benedict is able to steal the ticket stub from Danny.
From the attack, Slater learns of Vivaldi's plot to kill a rival mob family at a rooftop funeral service using nerve gas, and he and Danny are able to foil the attack. Whitney helps to drive them to Vivaldi's home, but they arrive just after Benedict has killed Vivaldi and used the ticket stub to create a portal to the real world. Danny and Slater follow. They lose track of Benedict quickly, and Slater becomes dishearted by the reality of this New York City. Danny introduces Slater to his mother, and from her, Slater comes to appreciate the harsh reality instead of the glamorized world he lives in, vowing to take a softer stance. They learn that Benedict believes he can kill Slater in this world by killing Arnold Schwarzenegger. After chasing Benedict down to the premiere of Jack Slater IV and saving Schwarzenegger's life, they corner Benedict on the roof, finding that he has brought the Ripper, the villain from Jack Slater III, who had killed Slater's son in that film. The Ripper attempts to kill Danny but Slater stops him in time. However, Danny ends up thrown from the roof and hanging for his life. As Slater attempts to rescue him, Benedict mortally shoots Slater and monologues on how he will use the ticket to bring more villains to life and take over this world. Danny uses the opportunity to knock Benedict down, and Slater is able to kill Benedict by firing into his exploding glass eye. The ticket stub flies free to the streets before they can grab it, and with no other ideas, Danny helps Slater back to the Pandora hoping to find a way to return Jack to his world where he should heal quickly due to its fictional nature.
Shortly after they arrive, they find that Death from the The Seventh Seal, pulled out of the film by the loose ticket stub, has followed them. However, it is revealed that Death only approached the two out of curiosity: because of Slater's fictional nature, "he's not on any of [Death's] lists." After Danny explains the situation, Death suggests to find the other half of the ticket stub before departing. Danny empties the lobby stub box and finds the still glowing other half of the ticket stub and uses it to pull Slater back into the film. There, Slater quickly heals, his wound barely a scratch. After Danny calls for help, Slater tells Danny he must return to his world, and the two say their goodbyes. Danny returns and excitedly tells Nick of his adventure as Jack Slater IV ends, with Slater telling Dekker of his new insights on the world before driving off into the sunset.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater / himself
- Austin O'Brien as Danny Madigan
- Charles Dance as Benedict, Vivaldi's right-hand man. He is a supporting antagonist of Jack Slater IV, but becomes the true antagonist of the main film.
- Robert Prosky as Nick
- Tom Noonan as The Ripper / himself
- Frank McRae as Lieutenant Dekker Slater's immediate supervisor who's always screaming at him.
- Anthony Quinn as Tony Vivaldi, the main antagonist of Jack Slater IV until Danny's interference changes events
- 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, Jack's friend, revealed as a traitor. Danny says not to trust him saying he killed Mozart, referring to Abraham's Oscar-winning role in Amadeus.
- Mercedes Ruehl as Irene Madigan
- Art Carney, in his last film role, as Frank Slater
- Professor Toru Tanaka as Tough Asian Man
- Ryan Todd as Andrew Slater
- Cameo appearances
- Franco Columbu appears during the opening credits as director of Jack Slater IV.
- Tina Turner appears at the climax of Jack Slater III as the mayor of Los Angeles.
- When Danny and Jack 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.
- Inside the LAPD Headquarters, an officer shouts "Hey Slater! It's your ex-wife on two!" This is actor Mike Muscat, who also played Moshier in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, one of the Cyberdyne Security officers on the phone who calls the police to say, "I think it's that guy from the mall. Him and the woman." Coincidentally Muscat was also Edward Furlong's acting coach.
- Sylvester Stallone as the Terminator on a poster promoting Terminator 2: Judgment Day. This appears to be a playful jab at Schwarzenegger's close rivalry with Stallone.
- 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 Jack and Danny enter the movie theater to find Arnold Schwarzenegger, MC Hammer asks Slater about a deal to do the Jack Slater V soundtrack.
- Wilson Phillips appears singing during the funeral scene.
- Ian McKellen as Death, who emerges from Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal
- Danny DeVito (uncredited) as the voice of Whiskers, after they played brothers in Twins.
- Joan Plowright as the English teacher who shows her class the 1948 film adaptation of Hamlet, which starred and was directed by Plowright's husband Laurence Olivier.
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. Penn noted himself that it was ironic that the studio then had 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".
|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|
|Singles from Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture|
|2.||"What the Hell Have I"||Alice in Chains||3:58|
|4.||"Real World"||Queensrÿche and Michael Kamen||4:21|
|5.||"Two Steps Behind"||Def Leppard||4:19|
|6.||"Poison My Eyes"||Anthrax||7:04|
|7.||"Dream On" (Live)||Aerosmith||5:42|
|8.||"A Little Bitter"||Alice in Chains||3:53|
|9.||"Cock the Hammer"||Cypress Hill||4:11|
|11.||"Last Action Hero"||Tesla||5:44|
|12.||"Jack and the Ripper"||Buckethead, Los Angeles Rock and Roll Ensemble, and Michael Kamen||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. It was released the same day the 20th Century Fox film Once Upon a Forest was released.
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 $50,016,394 in the United States, and an additional $87,202,095 overseas, for a total of $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 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 and awards
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. As of August 2015, it holds a 37% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 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". Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing that despite some entertaining moments Last Action Hero more often "plays more like a bright idea than like a movie that was thought through. It doesn't evoke the mystery of the barrier between audience and screen the way Woody Allen did in The Purple Rose of Cairo, and a lot of the time it simply seems to be standing around commenting on itself."
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 on the high-definition Blu-ray Disc format on January 12, 2010. The Blu-ray release presented the film in its original widescreen format for the first time in the U.S. since the LaserDisc release.
- Last Action Hero (video game)
- Last Action Hero (pinball)
- Story within a story
- List of 8 channel SDDS films
- Deadpool Another self-referential action film where the protagonist is fully aware they're in an action film
- Weinraub, Bernard (June 22, 1993). "Columbia Ponders The Fate Of 'Hero'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "Last Action Hero". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
- "'Last Action Hero' Can't Deliver As Action Flick, Parody In One". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Andersen, Kurt (July 5, 1993). "How To Run a Movie Studio". Time. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
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- Vanderknyff, Rick (June 18, 1993). "Limelight, Cameras, 'Action' for O.C. Boy : Movies: 'Hero' co-star Austin O'Brien is full partner in media blitz.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Pristin, Terry (May 16, 1993). "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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Marin, Rick (May 9, 1993). "Film; Battle of the Action Heroes". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
- Fox, David J. (March 3, 1993). "`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.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
- 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 (June 30, 1993). "'Last Action': Too Many Heroes? : Big-Name Star, Director and Writers--So What Happened?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "'Hero' Fails To Conquer Box Office". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Fox, David J. (June 30, 1993). "Theaters Report 'Hero' Is Running on Short Legs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Fox, David J. (May 16, 1993). "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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Fox, David J. (June 28, 1993). "'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.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Fox, David J. (June 16, 1993). "Schwarzenegger No Dinosaur in Advance Sales". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- "Last Action Hero". Entertainment Weekly. July 9, 1993. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- "Last Action Hero". Variety. December 31, 1992. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
- "Last Action Hero". Rotten Tomatoes. August 15, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
- Canby, Vincent (June 18, 1993). "Review/Film: Last Action Hero; A Hero Within and Without". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
- Ebert, Roger "Last Action Hero review, 1993. Retrieved October 4, 2013
- 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
- Last Action Hero at the Internet Movie Database
- Last Action Hero at Rotten Tomatoes