If the storyline about a lady romance novelist’s life-threatening jungle adventures sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of THE LOST CITY, which just opened — but you might also be recalling ROMANCING THE STONE, which arrived March 30, 1984.
In Paramount’s LOST, Sandra Bullock writes books and Channing Tatum is her cover model. They wind up in a treasure hunt story involving kidnapping Sandra. In 20th Century Fox’s STONE, Kathleen Turner’s a novelist visiting Colombia to save her kidnapped sister by returning a treasure map from her brother-in-law, who’s just been murdered. When things go quickly from bad to worse, she’s saved by soldier-of-fortune Michael Douglas with whom she muddles through the rest of the movie.
When STONE opened, critics threw stones, calling it a rip-off of George Lucas & Steven Spielberg’s 1981 blockbuster RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Actually, STONE’s screenplay was written in 1979. But RAIDERS also originated years earlier with a 1973 screenplay by Lucas called THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA SMITH. Nothing happened until May 1977 when Lucas and his pal Spielberg were on a beach in Hawaii building a sandcastle.
Spielberg confided he wanted to direct a James Bond film. Lucas replied that he had an even better character and outlined his story. Spielberg loved it, saying it was a Bond film without all the hardware. What Spielberg didn’t like was using “Smith” as Indiana’s last name — so Lucas proposed changing it to “Jones.” Spielberg agreed and the rest is Hollywood history.
STONE director Robert Zemeckis had only made two small features previously. He was best known for co-writing Spielberg’s 1979 action-comedy 1941. When Fox previewed Zemeckis’s first cut of STONE, it was so poorly received the studio dropped him from his next project, the sci-fi comedy-drama COCOON. Fox brought in Ron Howard to direct COCOON, which did $76.1M, a good domestic gross in 1985. Meanwhile, Zemeckis managed to save STONE with reshoots and extensive editing. It grossed $76.6M and spawned a 1985 sequel, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, which also did $76M.
Because Zemeckis was no longer directing COCOON, STONE’s success meant he could tackle his own pet project — Universal’s 1985 time travel adventure BACK TO THE FUTURE, which grossed $212.8M. That immediately made Zemeckis an A-List director — with future hits like WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, BACK TO THE FUTURE II & III, and FORREST GUMP.
“You have to hope that you can get your investment back, which is what we [filmmakers] all try to do. What we really want to do is make one dollar profit back, so that nobody gets hurt and the movie exists.” – Robert Zemeckis