Movie Titles That Might Have Been | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Movie Titles That Might Have Been

Play associated audio

Shrek, Hitch, Gattaca: What's in a name? Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet — but for Hollywood the question is more like, "Would that rose, by any other name, sell as many tickets?"

On a trip to Latin America recently, I saw a theater poster for a musical direct from Broadway called La Novicia Rebelde. Now, I'm pretty good with Broadway titles, but this Spanish one — literally something like The Rebel Nun — wasn't ringing a bell until I saw the credits at the bottom for Rodgers & Hammerstein. Suddenly, I could see a whole flock of nuns singing about how to solve a problema like Maria.

Now, as titles go, The Rebel Nun isn't much like The Sound of Music, but someone clearly decided it would tell Latin American audiences what the show was about — which is, of course, the point of titles, even when translation isn't an issue. Book titles, for instance, often fall by the wayside as projects work their way to the multiplex.

Take the classic science fiction story "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" That didn't sound nearly ominous enough for the dark materials Ridley Scott was putting on-screen in 1982 — so "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" became Blade Runner.

A few years later, test groups thought the title Shoeless Joe suggested a story about a homeless person, so for the screen, that baseball novel got re-christened Field of Dreams.

And anyone want to argue that D.W. Griffith didn't know what he was doing when he called his silent epic about the Deep South The Birth of A Nation? The book it was based on, which glorified the Ku Klux Klan, was titled The Clansman — not quite as universal. Griffith remained conscious of the power of titles, and to atone for the furor the racism in The Birth of A Nation aroused, his next epic was a morality tale that he called Intolerance.

Sometimes, movie projects go into production with dummy titles that no one expects to make it all the way to release. Pretty Woman, the film that made Julia Roberts a star, was originally called Three Thousand, because that's what her call-girl character charged Richard Gere — $3,000 for the night.

And back in the 1990s, there was a script that got shopped around Hollywood with the descriptive but cumbersome moniker "Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made for Under 10 Million Dollars, That Your Reader Will Love But the Executive Will Hate."

The producers ultimately opted for something a little shorter that would highlight the film's most memorable scene: American Pie.

Occasionally name changes don't make much difference. I'm guessing Pixar's The Incredibles would have fared just as well at the box office had it stuck with the original title, The Invincibles. But when a secretary's typo changed the James Bond project Tomorrow Never Lies into Tomorrow Never Dies, I'd say she deserved a raise. And is there any question that the horror film originally called Hunter improved its box-office prospects when producers renamed it Predator?

It's not at all uncommon for horror movies to change titles at the last minute — the beauty-pageant thriller initially called Dairy Queens, for instance, entered the multiplex sounding far more alarming as Drop Dead Gorgeous.

And this doesn't happen only when studios think their films need a little extra oomph. George Lucas famously had a change of heart after the posters were printed for his third Star Wars movie, and revised Revenge of the Jedi to be Return of the Jedi, saying that "revenge" was not a Jedi concept.

And then there's that classic Steven Spielberg hit A Boy's Life. Not ringing any bells? Try putting A Boy's Life into imdb.com, and see what pops up. A bit more commercial, wouldn't you say?

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Marvel's New Hero Wants To Save The World — And The Citrus Industry

Captain Citrus was sponsored by Florida's orange growers, whose profits are being hurt by disease and declining consumer demand for orange juice. They hope the comic character will boost sales.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Man Caught At White House Is An Army Veteran

Omar J. Gonzales, the 42-year-old man who the Secret Service says ran onto the White House grounds and entered a door Friday night, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq.
NPR

Drivers, Passengers Say Uber App Doesn't Always Yield Best Routes

People love Uber, but they often complain the Uber app's built-in navigation doesn't give its drivers the best directions. The company says the app helps drivers and passengers travel efficiently.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.