12 Facts About The Bodyguard That Will Always Love You

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Pop quiz! What was the highest-grossing film in the world in 1992? You guessed it—Aladdin! But the second-highest, ahead of Home Alone 2, Basic Instinct, Sister Act, and Batman Returns, was The Bodyguard, earning $411 million worldwide and giving pop superstar Whitney Houston another chance to sell millions of albums. (Which she did.) Kevin Costner was already one of the world’s top movie stars (it’s true!), and The Bodyguard added to his fame.

As the film turns 25 years old, let’s celebrate that quarter-century by diving into the origins, production, and aftermath of one of Hollywood’s most successful romantic dramas.

1. IT’S FROM THE WRITER OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK AND RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Bodyguard in the mid-1970s, before he came to prominence as the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Return of the Jedi (plus The Big Chill, Body HeatSilverado, The Accidental Tourist, and more). The Bodyguard would have been his first produced screenplay if it had been, you know, produced...

2. IT WAS INTENDED AS A STARRING VEHICLE FOR STEVE MCQUEEN AND DIANA ROSS.

Warner Bros. bought Kasdan’s script (after many other studios rejected it) back in the ‘70s, intending it as a vehicle for Diana Ross and Steve McQueen—the Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner of their day! (OK, not quite. McQueen was well past his prime by then. The Ross/Houston comparison is reasonable, though.) But the production never got off the ground. The story is that neither Ross nor McQueen would accept second billing under the other, which is plausible given what we know about them, but we can’t find any firsthand sources for it. Whatever went wrong, WB tried again a few years later with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross, but that fell through, too.

3. THE INTERRACIAL ROMANCE WAS A COINCIDENCE.

Considering that Ross and McQueen were originally going to be cast, and that Houston and Costner eventually were cast, you might think the script calls for the pop star to be black and the bodyguard to be white. But there’s actually no mention of race one way or the other in Kasdan’s screenplay, and the finished film doesn’t make an issue out of it, a detail praised by many critics.

4. THE SOUNDTRACK IS STILL A BESTSELLER.

Twenty-five years later, The Bodyguard is still the bestselling soundtrack album of all time, with more than 17 million copies certified worldwide. Only Michael Jackson’s Thriller, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon have sold more copies.

5. RACHEL’S MANSION ONCE HAD A HORSE’S HEAD IN IT.

The estate where Whitney Houston’s character lives was built in the 1920s and once belonged to William Randolph Hearst. It was also seen in The Godfather as the home of film producer Jack Woltz, who woke up one morning to find a horse’s head in his bed.

6. “I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” WAS COSTNER’S IDEA.

Houston was originally going to record a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” as the soundtrack’s lead single, but that was scrapped when the filmmakers learned that the same song was being featured in Fried Green Tomatoes. According to Dolly Parton, it was Costner (who was also acting as producer) who loved her 1973 song “I Will Always Love You” and asked if Houston could record it for the film. He was passionate, later saying, “I didn’t care if it was ever on the radio. I didn’t care. I said, ‘We’re also going to do this a cappella at the beginning. I need it to be a cappella because it shows a measure of how much she digs this guy—that she sings without music.’”

7. A CREW MEMBER DIED DURING FILMING.

Bill Vitagliano, a 33-year-old worker in the film’s transportation department, was crushed between two lighting-equipment cranes when one of them malfunctioned in an L.A. parking garage.

8. THE DIRECTOR TOLD HOUSTON NOT TO TAKE ACTING LESSONS.

The Bodyguard marked the singer’s debut as an actress, and she was self-conscious about her abilities. A few weeks before shooting began, she asked director Mick Jackson if she should take lessons. His reply: “No, that’s the last thing you should do.” He wanted her performance to be natural. She evidently did as she was told and did not learn how to act.

9. THE SECRET TO HOUSTON’S PERFORMANCE: JUDICIOUS EDITING.

Costner, in his capacity as producer, was protective of Houston and had promised to make her look good. His contract also stipulated that he could have the film re-edited if he didn’t like the director’s cut. Well, the director’s cut apparently didn’t do Houston any favors, and test-screening audiences rejected it. The director himself is quoted in a Houston biography as saying, “There was no chemistry” between Houston and Costner. “They looked like a couple of pals passing the time of day instead of the torrid lovers they were supposed to be.” Another round of editing eliminated some of Houston’s longer speeches and emphasized close-ups on her face.

10. IT WAS TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL.

The live version used the songs from the film plus eight other Houston hits (including “So Emotional” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) and debuted in London’s West End in 2012. The show subsequently toured around the world, including a current U.S. leg that will end in April 2018.

11. IT HAS NODS TO AKIRA KUROSAWA.

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan loved Kurosawa and named the film after one of the Japanese master’s classics, Yojimbo (English translation: The Bodyguard). He also included a scene where Rachel and Frank actually watch Yojimbo, and he wrote the lead role for Steve McQueen, who had starred in the remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven.

12. THERE WAS ALMOST A SEQUEL—WITH PRINCESS DIANA.

In late 1997, Costner said that at the time of Princess Diana’s death just a few months earlier, he’d been negotiating with her to star opposite him in a Bodyguard sequel. The New York Post reported that the role would have been “loosely based on her life,” quoting Costner as saying, “She said, ‘Look, my life is maybe going to become my own at some point. Go ahead and do this script, and when it’s ready I’ll be in a really good spot.’” Costner got a second draft of the script three days before Diana’s death.

Hee-Haw: The Wild Ride of "Dominick the Donkey"—the Holiday Earworm You Love to Hate

Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s got the whole underdog thing going for him, and when the fog is thick on Christmas Eve, he’s definitely the creature you want guiding Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when Saint Nick reaches Italy, and he’s faced with steep hills that no reindeer—magical or otherwise—can climb?

That’s when Santa apparently calls upon Dominick the Donkey, the holiday hero immortalized in the 1960 song of the same name. Recorded by Lou Monte, “Dominick The Donkey” is a novelty song even by Christmas music standards. The opening line finds Monte—or someone else, or heck, maybe a real donkey—singing “hee-haw, hee-haw” as sleigh bells jingle in the background. A mere 12 seconds into the tune, it’s clear you’re in for a wild ride.

 

Over the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Monte shares some fun facts about Dominick: He’s a nice donkey who never kicks but loves to dance. When ol’ Dom starts shaking his tail, the old folks—cummares and cumpares, or godmothers and godfathers—join the fun and "dance a tarentell," an abbreviation of la tarantella, a traditional Italian folk dance. Most importantly, Dominick negotiates Italy’s hills on Christmas Eve, helping Santa distribute presents to boys and girls across the country.

And not just any presents: Dominick delivers shoes and dresses “made in Brook-a-lyn,” which Monte somehow rhymes with “Josephine.” Oh yeah, and while the donkey’s doing all this, he’s wearing the mayor’s derby hat, because you’ve got to look sharp. It’s a silly story made even sillier by that incessant “hee-haw, hee-haw,” which cuts in every 30 seconds like a squeaky door hinge.

There may have actually been some historical basis for “Dominick.”

“Travelling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song, and Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

Rumored to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, “Dominick the Donkey” somehow failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. But it’s become a cult classic in the nearly 70 years since, especially in Italian American households. In 2014, the song reached #69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100 and #23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart. In 2018, “Dominick” hit #1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales tally. As of December 2019, the Christmas curio had surpassed 21 million Spotify streams.

“Dominick the Donkey” made international headlines in 2011, when popular BBC DJ Chris Moyles launched a campaign to push the song onto the UK singles chart. “If we leave Britain one thing, it would be that each Christmas kids would listen to 'Dominick the Donkey,’” Moyles said. While his noble efforts didn’t yield a coveted Christmas #1, “Dominick” peaked at a very respectable #3.

 

As with a lot of Christmas songs, there’s a certain kitschy, ironic appeal to “Dominick the Donkey.” Many listeners enjoy the song because, on some level, they’re amazed it exists. But there’s a deeper meaning that becomes apparent the more you know about Lou Monte.

Born Luigi Scaglione in New York City, Monte began his career as a singer and comedian shortly before he served in World War II. Based in New Jersey, Monte subsequently became known as “The Godfather of Italian Humor” and “The King of Italian-American Music.” His specialty was Italian-themed novelty songs like “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” his first and only Top 10 hit. “Pepino” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, the year before The Beatles broke America.

“Pepino” was penned by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell, the duo that teamed up with Sam Saltzberg to write “Dominick the Donkey.” That same trio of songwriters was also responsible for “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware),” the B-side of “Pepino.” In that song, George Washington declares, “Fa un’fridd,” or ‘It’s cold!” while making his famous 1776 boat ride.

With his mix of English and Italian dialect, Monte made inside jokes for Italian Americans while sharing their culture with the rest of the country. His riffs on American history (“What Did Washington Say,” “Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-cha-ca-loop),” “Please, Mr. Columbus”) gave the nation’s foundational stories a dash of Italian flavor. This was important at a time when Italians were still considered outsiders.

According to the 1993 book Italian Americans and Their Public and Private Life, Monte’s songs appealed to “a broad spectrum ranging from working class to professional middle-class Italian Americans.” Monte sold millions of records, played nightclubs across America, and appeared on TV programs like The Perry Como Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1989. He was 72.

Monte lives on thanks to Dominick—a character too iconic to die. In 2016, author Shirley Alarie released A New Home for Dominick and A New Family for Dominick, a two-part children’s book series about the beloved jackass. In 2018, Jersey native Joe Baccan dropped “Dominooch,” a sequel to “Dominick.” The song tells the tale of how Dominick’s son takes over for his aging padre. Fittingly, “Dominooch” was written by composer Nancy Triggiani, who worked with Monte’s son, Ray, at her recording studio.

Speaking with NorthJersey.com in 2016, Ray Monte had a simple explanation for why Dominick’s hee-haw has echoed through the generations. “It was a funny novelty song,” he said, noting that his father “had a niche for novelty.”

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

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