Cinema loves playing around with history. Just ask Mel Gibson (or watch ‘Braveheart’, ‘The Patriot’, we could go on). Tinkering with timelines and ignoring the facts in favour of a more Hollywood finish.
Only sometimes, history gets its own back.
Another thing filmmakers love is a topical reference. Be it serious subject or a cheap cameo, it’s a wink to the audience that says “Hey, look at us being clever.” Skip forward a few years – through ever evolving attitudes, politics and tabloid revelations – and you’re left with a movie that’s not just outdated, it actually embarrassing (and sometimes just wrong).
Money can buy a lot of things in film, but it can’t predict the future. Here’s the movies on the wrong side of history…
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Back in 2004, cyclist Lance Armstrong was the most inspirational man in sport. Nay, the world. He’d beaten cancer, founded the Livestrong Foundation, and had won the Tour De France an impressive five (soon to be seven) consecutive times. So, his motivational “don’t quit” speech to Vince Vaughn’s Peter LaFleur added a chest-puffing cameo moment to ‘Dodgeball’… Though he forgot to mention how handy steroids can be to winning, didn’t he? In 2012 Lance was charged with using performance enhancing drugs and handed a lifetime competition ban – eventually admitting everything to Oprah in a landmark interview. Watching ‘Dodgeball’ now, we just feel a little bit dirty.
And so does the film’s director.
Bond’s third outing at the cinema is a classic: an icon of the 60s, and a British institution. Just like The Beatles you might say.
Only Jimbo himself wasn’t exactly a fan of the Fab Four. “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ‘53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit,” star Connery lectures Shirley Eaton. “That’s just as bad as listening to The Beatles without earmuffs!” Alright it’s trivial, and the band were considered a youth phenomena at the time, but to our now musically educated ears 007’s scoff makes him sound… well, a bit lame. Stick to the spying James.
Spice World (1997)
Today, just the mention of disgraced glam rocker Gary Glitter’s name evokes some pretty horrible (and some would say justified) emotions. So, imagine how producers of girl-powered vehicle ‘Spice World’ felt when the just a month before release, musician Gary – who had a four minute musical cameo in the movie – was arrested on child pornography offences. Glitter was promptly cut from film, however the girl’s now awkward performance of his song ‘Leader Of The Gang’ remained in the runtime. Go take a look. It’s still there.
Diana & Me (1997)
A simple romcom about a young Australian Princess Diana fanatic who comes to London to meet her idol was undone by an unseen tragedy – the death of the Princess Of Hearts.
Starring Toni Collette and Dominic West, following Di’s death this was extensively reedited before being consigned to the dusty shelves of non-distribution hell, where it has essentially remained ever since.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
There’s not much that’s memorable about the adaptation of the legendary game, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the fraternal plumbers embroiled in something inter-dimensional and featuring Dennis Hopper with a bleached, edgy hairdo. That is until the end, when the parallel worlds start to collide we see the Twin Towers begin to disintegrate before our eyes. It was an eerie foreshadowing of the tragic events on 11 September eight years later.
This period gangster pic had a starry cast, but bringing it to cinemas proved harder than one would expect. That was thanks to a crucial action sequence, which saw some of the characters shoot moviegoers through a Hollywood cinema screen.
The trailer went out without an issue, until the Aurora tragedy, when James Holmes killed 12 patrons during a screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at a theatre in Aurora, Illinois. The trailer was removed from the internet, the release date pushed back and new scenes were shot.
V For Vendetta
Adapted from Alan Moore’s seminal comic book, the finale of this thriller features a train packed with explosives heading for Westminster. That might have been a little too much if the film had been released in its original slot in November 2005. In July, terrorists had detonated several bombs on the Underground, resulting in multiple deaths. The film was delayed until March the following year, although filmmakers stressed that it hadn’t been re-cut.
Above Suspicion (1995)
Co-written by William H. Macy, this is an otherwise inauspicious thriller about a jilted detective plotting to murder his wife and her lover. That is, apart from the fact that it stars Christopher Reeve as the cuckolded cop and he is gunned down and paralysed near the beginning the film, leaving him to spend the rest of the movie paralysed in a wheelchair.
‘Above Suspicion’ was released on 21 May 1995. Just six days later, Reeve fell from his horse, injured his spine and was paralysed from the neck down. He died in 2004.
Blade Runner (1982)
It’s famous for its neon skylines and idiosyncratic take on the future, but the sci-fi classic has also given birth to what’s known as the ‘Blade Runner Curse’. It specifically refers to the success – or lack thereof – of the various companies featured on the electronic billboards that pepper the visuals of the Harrison Ford-starrer. Pan-Am was at the time the largest air carrier in America, but filed for bankruptcy nine years later. Atari dominated the videogame market with its pioneering console. But 1984, it was being sold off in chunks to other companies. Bell Telephone Company was a legend in the telecommunications business, but didn’t last beyond that year. Only Coca-Cola has survived and thrived, but only after going through the whole ‘New Coke’ debacle. Maybe this was secretly some kind of comment by director Ridley Scott on unsustainable business, or the rise of childhood obesity thanks to fizzy drinks. Conspiracy theorists start your engines!
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
It might be the most chic film ever made, but ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ is almost ruined by the presence of a single character: Holly’s Japanese neighbour, Mr. Yunioshi. Played by comic legend Mickey Rooney in full on “yellow face” and fronting a bucktooth mouthpiece, the character was an undeniably misguided caricature, and nothing but offensive now. Only it wasn’t exactly shocking at the time. Casting white actors as Asian characters was a widespread practice (see Marlon Brando in ‘Teahouse Of The August Moon’), and Hollywood was sadly far from a diverse workplace. “Looking back, I wish I had never done it,” director Blake Edwards admitted in 2006. “I would give anything to be able to recast it, but it’s there, and onward and upward.”
Rambo III (1988)
In 1988 Soviet forces were loosing their war in Afghanistan to groups of Islamic insurgents called the Mujahideen. But before their forces could withdraw, they were booked in for a 101 minute ass-kicking from Sylvester Stallone – who teamed up with the Afghan rebels to teach those pesky Russians a lesson for ‘Rambo III’. Now, in our post 9/11 fear-pocalypse, and with the US engaged in it’s own war in Afghanistan; helping insurgents of any kind is the last thing gung-ho Hollywood wants its heroes to be caught doing. Alright the Mujahideen featured in the film actually fought against current Afghan “bad guys” The Taliban, but that’s just a little too technical for John Rambo to explain, and online movie forums bring up the awkward similarities.
Note: See Timothy Dalton’s debut Bond outing ‘The Living Daylights’ for a similar anti-Soviet Afghan team-up.
Photos: Rex/Moviestore Collection/Warner Bros./Everett Collection