Romancing the Stone
|Romancing the Stone|
Theatrical release poster by John Solie
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Produced by||Michael Douglas|
|Written by||Diane Thomas|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$115.1 million|
Romancing the Stone is a 1984 American romantic comedy-adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Diane Thomas. The film stars Michael Douglas (who also produced the film), Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. It was followed by a 1985 sequel titled The Jewel of the Nile. Romancing the Stone was released on March 30, 1984 to positive reviews from critics and earned over $115 million worldwide at the box office.
Thomas wrote the screenplay in 1979, her only screenplay to be produced in her lifetime. Noticing Thomas’ screenplay, Zemeckis, who at the time was developing Cocoon, offered his service as director, but 20th Century Fox initially declined after his first two films I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars, were commercial failures. After Fox executives disliked the film's preview, he was dismissed as director of Cocoon. Alan Silvestri, who would collaborate with Zemeckis on his later films, composed the film's score.
Joan Wilder is a successful, but lonely, romance novelist in New York City. After finishing her latest novel, Joan leaves her apartment to meet her editor, Gloria. On the way she is handed a letter that contains a map, sent by her recently murdered brother-in-law, Eduardo. While she is gone, a man tries to break into her apartment and is discovered by her apartment supervisor, whom he kills. Returning to her apartment, Joan finds it ransacked. She then receives a frantic phone call from her sister Elaine — Eduardo's widow. Elaine has been kidnapped by antiquities smugglers, cousins Ira and Ralph, and instructs Joan to go to coastal city of Cartagena with the map she received; it is Elaine's ransom.
Flying to Colombia, Joan is diverted from the rendezvous point by Colonel Zolo — the same man that ransacked her apartment looking for the map - by tricking her into boarding the wrong bus. Instead of heading to Cartagena, this bus goes deep into the interior of the country.[a] Ralph realizes this and begins following Joan. After Joan accidentally distracts the bus driver by asking where they are going, the bus crashes into a Land Rover, wrecking both vehicles. As the rest of the passengers walk away, Joan is menaced by Zolo but is saved by the Land Rover's owner: an American exotic bird smuggler named Jack T. Colton. For getting her out of the jungle and to a telephone, Joan promises to pay Jack $375 in traveler's cheques.
Jack and Joan travel the jungle while eluding Zolo and his military police. Reaching a small village, they encounter a drug lord named Juan, who is a big fan of Joan's novels and happily helps them escape from Zolo.
After a night of dancing and passion in a nearby town, Jack suggests to Joan that they find the treasure themselves before handing over the map. Zolo's men enter the town, so Jack and Joan steal a car to escape—but it is Ralph's car, and he is sleeping in the back. They follow the clues and retrieve the treasure: an enormous emerald called El Corazón ("The Heart"). Ralph takes the emerald from them at gunpoint, but Zolo's forces appear, distracting Ralph long enough for Jack to steal the jewel back. After being chased into a river and over a waterfall, Jack and Joan are separated on opposite sides of the raging river; Joan has the map, but Jack has the emerald. Jack directs Joan to Cartagena, promising that he will meet her there.
In Cartagena, Joan meets with Ira, who takes the map and releases Elaine. But Zolo and his men arrive, with a captured Jack and a severely beaten Ralph. As Zolo tortures Joan, Jack tries to throw the emerald into a crocodile pool behind Zolo. Zolo is able to catch the emerald, but then a crocodile jumps up and bites his hand off, swallowing the emerald with it. A shootout ensues between Zolo's soldiers and Ira's gang. Joan and Elaine dash for safety, pursued by the maimed Zolo, as Jack tries to stop the crocodile from escaping; he begrudgingly lets it go to try and save Joan.
A crazed Zolo charges at Joan; she dodges his wild knife slashes and he falls into a crocodile pit. As the authorities arrive, Ira and his men escape, but Ralph is left behind. After a kiss, Jack dives into the water after the crocodile with the emerald, leaving Joan behind with her sister.
Later, Joan is back in New York City, and has written a new novel based on her adventure. Gloria is moved to tears by the story and tells Joan she has another best-seller on her hands. Returning home, she finds Jack waiting for her in a sailboat named the Angelina, after the heroine of Joan's novels, and wearing boots made from the crocodile's skin. He jokes that the crocodile got "a fatal case of indigestion" from the emerald, which he sold, using the money to buy the boat of his dreams. They go off together, planning to sail around the world.
- Michael Douglas as Jack T. Colton - A brash, rugged American bird hunter living in Colombia who assists Joan in her adventure. He hopes to save up enough for a sailboat and leave Colombia.
- Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder - A successful but lonely romance novelist from New York City. She hopes to one day meet the man of her dreams who hopefully resembles the male heroes characters she writes about in her books.
- Danny DeVito as Ralph - An antiquities smuggler from Queens who has taken Joan's sister hostage and using her to trade for the treasure map. He pursues them through the jungle to try and acquire the map.
- Zack Norman as Ira - Ralph's cousin and partner in crime. He has an affinity for crocodiles.
- Alfonso Arau as Juan - "The Bellmaker", a man alluded to be a drug smuggler and a huge fan of Joan's. He helps them in their escape from Zolo's forces.
- Manuel Ojeda as Colonel Zolo - Elaine's husbands killer and Deputy Commander of the secret police. After failing to acquire the map from Joan in New York he follows her to Colombia in pursuit.
- Holland Taylor as Gloria Horne - Joan's friend and publisher.
- Mary Ellen Trainor as Elaine Wilder
- Eve Smith as Mrs. Irwin
- Joe Nesnow as Super
- José Chávez as Santos
- Evita Muñoz as Hefty Woman
- Camillo García as Bus Driver
- Rodrigo Puebla as Bad Hombre
- Paco Morayta as Hotel Clerk
- Kymberly Herrin as Angelina
- Bill Burton as Jesse Gerrard
- Ted White as Grogan
The screenplay for Romancing was written five years earlier by a Malibu waitress named Diane Thomas in what would end up being her only screenplay made into a movie. She died in a car crash shortly after the film's release.
Filming locations for Romancing the Stone included Veracruz, Mexico (Fort of San Juan de Ulúa); and Huasca de Ocampo, Mexico. Parts of the film were also shot in Snow Canyon, Utah. The scene where Turner and Douglas get separated on opposite banks on a whitewater river, about two-thirds into the movie, was filmed on the Rio Antigua near the town of Jalcomulco, Veracruz.
Turner later said of the film's production, "I remember terrible arguments [with Robert Zemeckis] doing Romancing. 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 their difficulties on the film, Zemeckis would go on to work with Turner again, casting her as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Studio insiders expected Romancing the Stone to flop (to the point that, after viewing a rough cut of the film, the producers of the then-under-development Cocoon fired Zemeckis as director of that film), but the film became a surprise hit. It became 20th Century Fox's only big hit of 1984. Zemeckis later stated that the success of Romancing the Stone allowed him to make Back to the Future.
Romancing the Stone holds an 84% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 50 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Romancing the Stone reaches back to the classic Saturday morning serials of old with an action-filled adventure enlivened by the sparkling chemistry between its well-matched leads."
Upon the release of Romancing the Stone, Time magazine called the film "a distaff Raiders rip-off". The Washington Post remarked that "Though fitfully thrilling and amusing, [Joan Wilder's] adventures degenerate into a muddle. Neither screenwriter Diane Thomas nor director Robert Zemeckis, good-humored as they strive to be, maintains a coherent perception of how the plot should be contrived to trump the heroine's overactive fantasy life." They elaborated that the stone makes an uncompelling MacGuffin, Joan's character development is incongruous and ultimately unsatisfying, and Joan and Jack lack romantic chemistry. By contrast, Time Out commented that "The script is sharp and funny, the direction sure-footed on both the comedy and action fronts," and compared the film favorably to its contemporary in the same genre, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Roger Ebert called it "a silly, high-spirited chase picture", saying he greatly enjoyed the film's imaginative perils, colorful cast of villains, and believable relationship between its two lead characters. He likewise compared it favorably to other Raiders of the Lost Ark clones.
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy – Kathleen Turner
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress – Kathleen Turner
- Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing – ADR
- Stuntman Award for Most Spectacular Stunt – Vince Deadrick Jr., Terry Leonard
- Academy Award for Best Film Editing – Donn Cambern, Frank Morriss
- American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Feature Film – Donn Cambern, Frank Morriss
- Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay – Diane Thomas
In other media
The success of Romancing the Stone also led to a sequel that was equally successful commercially, 1985's The Jewel of the Nile, without Zemeckis at the helm but with Douglas, Turner and DeVito all returning. Another sequel, called The Crimson Eagle, never made it past the development stage. This planned yet unproduced sequel would have seen Jack Colton and his partner Joan Wilder take their two teenage children to Thailand where they would find themselves blackmailed into stealing a priceless statue. DeVito reunited Douglas, Turner, and himself in his 1989 film The War of the Roses.
In 2005 and again in 2008, Douglas was working on a second sequel to Romancing the Stone entitled Racing the Monsoon.
Since 2007, 20th Century Fox considered a remake of Romancing the Stone with the possibility of a "reboot" of a series. The roles of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder would be filled by Taylor Kitsch (or Gerard Butler) and Katherine Heigl. By 2011, the remake was re-worked as a television series.
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