15 Peachy Facts About Face/Off

Paramount
Paramount

Face/Off is a marvel: two of our hammiest actors impersonating each other, under the guidance of one of the world’s most visually fluent action directors. Let’s not kid ourselves, the movie (which was released 20 years ago today) is incredibly dumb—but darned if it isn’t the kind of incredible dumbness that goes down smooth. Here are some things you might not have known about the epic battle between Sean Archer and Castor Troy.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED IN 1990 BUT DIDN’T HIT THEATERS FOR ANOTHER SEVEN YEARS.

Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, both UCLA film school grads, set out to write something together in the summer of 1990. They sold Face/Off to Warner Bros., but as Werb put it, “I don’t think that they ever understood the script ... Stallone was attached to Demolition Man, and we were over there with our movie, and they saw the two movies as being too similar, so they made one, and ours got shelved.” When WB’s rights to Face/Off expired, someone at Paramount who knew about the screenplay pounced on it. Werb and Colleary thus had the rare pleasure of selling the same screenplay twice.

2. IT WAS WRITTEN WITH SYLVESTER STALLONE AND ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN MIND.

Separately, they were among the top action stars of the day (the day being the early '90s), so teaming them up was an irresistible idea. Moreover, they were both really famous, and as Colleary once said, “The movie doesn’t work unless the actors have a well-established persona” so audiences can appreciate them impersonating each other. (Editorial note: there’s no way Schwarzenegger and Stallone could have imitated one another’s mannerisms as well as Cage and Travolta do.) The two didn’t make Face/Off, but they did eventually make Escape Plan, in which they escape from a futuristic, off-the-grid, middle-of-the-ocean prison very much like the one in Face/Off.

3. ORIGINALLY, THE FILM WAS FUTURISTIC SCIENCE FICTION—WHICH IS WHY JOHN WOO DIDN’T WANT TO DIRECT IT.


Paramount

The writers’ first version was set in the future, mainly to justify the face-transplanting technology. But Woo wasn’t interested. "I just felt I hadn’t learned enough to make a great sci-fi movie," he said in a Blu-ray featurette. He told another interviewer, "I want more character, more humanity. If there is too much science fiction, we lose the drama." As the project evolved at Paramount, the writers stripped away the extraneous—and expensive—futuristic elements, bringing the focus back to the characters. With that settled, and with Woo having made Broken Arrow with Travolta in the meantime, the director was approached again and took the job.

4. THE MAN WHO WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO DIRECT IT MADE DRAGONHEART INSTEAD.

That would be Rob Cohen, who also went on to make The Fast and the Furious. He was signed for Face/Off when the project went into “turnaround,” i.e., limbo. With Face/Off’s future uncertain, Cohen went and made the dragon movie.

5. THEY CONSIDERED A WHOLE BUNCH OF WAYS OF PUTTING CASTOR TROY INTO A COMA AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM BEFORE SETTLING ON THE JET ENGINE BLASTING HIM THROUGH THE WIND TUNNEL.

He was supposed to be frozen in liquid nitrogen, but Paramount didn’t like it. Screenwriters Werb and Colleary suggested Troy climb an air traffic control tower and fall, which John Woo didn’t like. Electrocuted by high-voltage wires? Nope. How they arrived at the solution they eventually went with is lost to the mists of time.

6. THE EPILOGUE, WHERE THE ARCHERS ADOPT CASTOR TROY’S ORPHANED SON, ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN.


Paramount

It was part of the writers’ original story and survived all of their many rewrites, but Paramount didn’t think audiences would like an ending where the hero adopts his enemy’s son. Woo’s alternate idea was for the film to end with some ambiguity about whether or not Eve Archer had her real husband back. When a test audience found that unsatisfying—and, moreover, wanted to know what happened to Castor Troy’s kid—the studio ponied up the money to get the necessary cast members back to film the original ending. According to Werb, “The next time we tested, the numbers went through the roof. There was spontaneous and thunderous applause at the end."

7. IT WAS THE FIRST PARAMOUNT MOVIE RELEASED ON BLU-RAY.

In 2008, after having initially backed HD-DVD in the high-definition format wars, Paramount saw the tide turning and shifted to Blu-ray. The first batch of films the studio released in that format were recent theatrical hits Next and Bee Movie, plus good ol’ Face/Off.

8. MICHAEL DOUGLAS EXECUTIVE PRODUCED IT.

The legendary actor had produced a dozen films before this, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Starman, plus a few that he also starred in (like Romancing the Stone). Don’t go looking for a pattern, though. When The A.V. Club asked Douglas if there was any connection between the movies he stars in or produces, he said, “Not really, except they’re all contemporary. I mean, even the ones like Face/Off or The Rainmaker, that’s the only thing I’ve ever seen that ties everything together. Except for one or maybe two exceptions, they’re all kind of contemporary.”

9. THE CINEMATOGRAPHER WOULD HAVE SHOT BROKEN ARROW, BUT HE BROKE HIS ANKLE WORKING ON CUTTHROAT ISLAND.

Oliver Wood had been the director of photography for Die Hard 2 and more than 50 episodes of Miami Vice, and he was approached by Woo’s people to shoot Broken Arrow. In his own words, Wood hobbled into a pre-production meeting on crutches, still recovering from the ankle injury that had forced him to resign from Cutthroat Island (a blessing in disguise, perhaps). "John [Woo] just smiled and said, ‘Maybe next time.'" True to his word, Woo hired Wood for Face/Off the following year.

10. DESPITE HIS FONDNESS FOR GUNS IN HIS MOVIES, JOHN WOO HAS NEVER FIRED ONE IN REAL LIFE.


Paramount

Or he hadn’t in 1997, anyway. While discussing his films’ abundant use of firearms, he told an interviewer that he didn’t own any guns himself and that he had "never fired a real gun. I just like the look." In particular, he favors the Beretta. “The good thing I like—how many bullets can it fire? Seventeen bullets? You can fire 17 bullets. When you continue firing it’s like ... the drumbeat. Like music.”

11. IT TOOK FOUR WEEKS TO FILM THE CLIMACTIC SPEEDBOAT CHASE.

Woo said so. That includes footage shot by the second unit (involving stunt personnel and not the lead actors).

12. THE JOKE ABOUT TRAVOLTA’S “RIDICULOUS CHIN” WAS TRAVOLTA’S OWN IDEA.

He said, “Nic [Cage]’s character is such an egomaniac. He loves himself—the way he talks, acts, walks, everything about himself. So, we just figured that it follows that he would hate being in my body, having my face. So I added a lot of lines where he makes fun of the way I look—like ‘this ridiculous chin,’ things like that.”

13. IT WAS GINA GERSHON AND NICK CASSAVETES’ IDEA FOR THEIR SIBLING CHARACTERS TO KISS INAPPROPRIATELY.


Paramount

The behind-the-scenes features on the Blu-ray make it clear that, as methodical and efficient as Woo is, he also gives his actors a lot of leeway with improvisation and alternate ideas. (The Troy brothers’ prison reminiscences of childhood traumas were Alessandro Nivola and Nic Cage’s words.) For whatever reason, Gershon and Cassavetes wanted to give their characters an extra layer of weirdness. And Woo let them go for it.

14. THE EVOCATIVE IMAGE OF A LITTLE BOY LISTENING TO “SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW” WHILE A DEADLY GUNFIGHT UNFOLDS AROUND HIM WAS A LAST-MINUTE IDEA.

It was just a straightforward action sequence before, with the FBI raiding Sasha’s loft and shooting up the place. In the process of filming it, Woo realized he’d like to balance the destruction and mayhem with something less depressing. He had to persuade the producers to let him do it—not just because it’s uncommon (and potentially controversial) to show an innocent kid surrounded by such mayhem, but because they feared the last-minute adjustments would make the day’s shooting run long. Woo promised he’d finish on time, and did. (He got to keep his trademark doves in the climactic church shoot-out by likewise promising it wouldn’t slow things down.)

15. FOR THE FACE-TRANSPLANTING SCENES, SPECIAL EFFECTS WIZARDS MADE UNSETTLINGLY REALISTIC LATEX DUMMIES OF CAGE AND TRAVOLTA.

Not only did they look just like the actors (right down to the painstakingly sewn-in body hair), they were animatronic, with facial muscles that twitched and chests that rose to simulate breathing.

Additional Sources: Face/Off Blu-ray bonus features

10 Forgotten Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
Rankin/Bass Productions

If you're prone to picturing your favorite Christmas characters as stop-motion puppets, you can thank Rankin/Bass. The production company founded by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass found success in transforming holiday songs and myths into fully-developed television specials in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Their most popular specials, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, are still staples of holiday programming decades after they first aired.

But not every holiday film that played under the Rankin/Bass banner was an instant success. After adapting the most beloved Christmas stories, the company broadened its definition of holiday material, with varying degrees of success. Some films were forgettable, and others were so strange and unsettling that young viewers forced themselves to forget. Here are some Rankin/Bass specials that may be missing from holiday television marathons this year.

1. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)

Scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year.
Rankin/Bass Productions

After the stressful events of his 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph deserved a vacation. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), the red-nosed reindeer barely has a day to rest before being sent on his next adventure. When Santa Claus and his reindeer return home to the North Pole after delivering presents on Christmas, they learn that Happy the Baby New Year is missing. It’s up to Rudolph to bring him home before midnight on New Year’s Eve or else the calendar will be stuck at December 31. And because it wouldn’t be a Rankin/Bass cartoon without a terrifying villain, a vulture named Eon the Terrible is racing to catch Happy first so he can live forever. Thankfully, Rudolph has a caveman, a Medieval knight, and Benjamin Franklin on his side.

2. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)

Scene from The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The Little Drummer Boy from 1968 ends with the birth of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. the events of Christmas. This meant that Rankin/Bass’s most overtly religious Christmas special wasn’t an obvious choice for a follow-up, but the studio still released one in 1976. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II is inspired by "Silver Bells"—a song whose lyrics have nothing to do with the first Christmas at Bethlehem. In the sequel, the drummer boy Aaron and the wise man Melchior join forces to protect silver bells made for baby Jesus from the Roman soldiers plotting to steal them.

3. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

Scene from Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.
Rankin/Bass Productions

By the late 1970s, it was apparent that Rankin/Bass was running out of Christmas myths to expand into television specials. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, their 1977 stop motion film, tells the story of an outcast donkey who experiences a series of traumatic events during the Roman Empire. After being bullied by other animals, left for dead by his owner, and suffering the loss of his mother, Nestor becomes a hero by carrying a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem, where she gives birth to Jesus. Needless to say, Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey didn’t have the same cultural impact as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

4. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)

Scene from The First Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

It may have a happy ending, but The First Christmas (1975) is the bleakest movie on this list. An orphaned shepherd named Lucas is taken in by a group of nuns after he’s blinded by lightning. When snow falls during the abbey’s Christmas pageant, Lucas miraculously regains his eyesight and sees snow for the first time. The story swaps Rankin/Bass's signature humor and fantasy for heavy-handed sentimentality, which may be why it didn’t land as well with kids as the company’s other holiday specials. One highlight is a voice performance by Angela Lansbury as the narrator.

5. Jack Frost (1979)

Scene from Jack Frost.
Rankin/Bass Productions

So this film from 1979 is technically a Groundhog Day special, but its connection to winter means it’s usually lumped in with the rest of Rankin/Bass’s Christmas programming. A groundhog named Pardon-Me-Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) narrates the story of Jack Frost. After Jack Frost falls in love with a woman on Earth, Father Winter agrees to make him human, with the catch that Jack will turn back into a sprite if he fails to obtain a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by the first sign of spring. The special is notable for its weird characters, including a villain with a clockwork horse and henchmen. And—spoiler alert!—because Jack doesn’t get the girl at the end, it’s one of the few Rankin/Bass films that doesn’t have a happy ending.

6. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

Scene from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1979, Rankin/Bass gave two of its most iconic Christmas characters—Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—their own movie. The studio was so confident in the product that Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July even had a brief theatrical release overseas. But the film has failed to take the place of the original specials in the public consciousness—maybe because seeing snow snakes terrorize Rudolph and watching an evil wizard transform into a tree were too much for younger viewers to handle.

7. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)

Scene from Pinocchio's Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The story of Pinocchio may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas, but that didn’t stop Rankin/Bass from turning the classic Italian fairytale into a holiday special. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980) features many of the same themes and characters as The Adventures of Pinocchio—only this version of the tale centers around the puppet’s first Christmas. Santa Claus even makes a cameo appearance.

8. The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

Scene from The Stingiest Man in Town.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most widely adapted stories of all time, so of course it shows up in Rankin/Bass’s filmography. An insect named B.A.H. Humbug narrates this musical retelling from 1978, with Walter Matthau starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Stingiest Man in Town joins Frosty the Snowman as one of the few Rankin/Bass Christmas productions made with traditional 2D animation instead of stop-motion.

9. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold (1981)

Scene from The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Rankin/Bass’s streak of mashing up Christmas with other holidays reached peak weirdness in 1981. That’s when the studio released The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold—a story that follows a young Irish sailor who helps a clan of leprechauns protect their gold from an evil banshee named Old Mag the Hag. By trying to create a special that could air around Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, the filmmakers ended up with something that made little sense at any time of year.

10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

Scene from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1970, Rankin/Bass explored how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus with Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Fifteen years later, the studio produced a film that provided an alternate origin story for the character, based on L. Frank Baum's 1902 children's book of the same name. This second special wasn’t as well-received as the first. It starts with an antler-sporting sorcerer called the Great Ak finding an abandoned baby in the forest. The child is taken in and raised by wood nymphs, eventually growing up to become a jolly man who delivers toys to children—all while fighting monsters called Awgwas on the side. It ends with a council of mythical beings granting Santa Claus immortality. What was arguably Rankin/Bass’s most unusual Christmas special was also the last to use stop-motion animation.

2020 Golden Globes: The Full List of Nominees

Andrew Scott stars in Fleabag.
Andrew Scott stars in Fleabag.
Steve Schofield/Amazon Studios

Awards season is officially upon us and we're all rushing out to the movie theater—or, more frequently, our own couches—to load up on some of the year's biggest movie and television titles.

Now that the 2020 Golden Globe nominations have been announced, it's clear that Netflix's investment in original content like Martin Scorsese's The Irishman and Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, which scored the most nominations with six, was a wise decision.

On the television side, streaming emerged victorious as well; The Crown landed a total of four nominations while Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Amazon hit Fleabag earned three, including one for "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott, who was a notable Emmy snub. Amazingly, Game of Thrones was nominated for just a single award: a Best Actor in a Drama Series nomination for Kit Harington.

Below is the full list of nominees for the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards, which will take place on January 5, 2020.

Best Motion Picture, Drama

1917
The Irishman
Joker
Marriage Story
The Two Popes

Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Jojo Rabbit
Knives Out
Rocketman
Dolemite Is My Name

Best Motion Picture—Foreign Language

The Farewell
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Parasite
Les Misérables

Best Director, Motion Picture

Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Todd Phillips, Joker
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Best Screenplay—Motion Picture

Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, Parasite
Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Steven Zaillian, The Irishman

Best Original Score, Motion Picture

Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
Hildur Gudnadottir, Joker
Randy Newman, Marriage Story
Thomas Newman, 1917
Daniel Pemberton, Motherless Brooklyn

Best Original Song—Motion Picture

Beautiful Ghosts, Cats
I'm Gonna Love Me Again, Rocketman
Into the Unknown, Frozen II
Spirit, The Lion King
Stand Up, Harriet

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Annette Bening, The Report
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Best Actor in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Daniel Craig, Knives Out
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

Best Motion Picture—Animated

Frozen II
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Missing Link
Toy Story 4
Lion King

Best Actor in a Motion Picture—Drama

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Drama

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Awkwafina, The Farewell
Ana de Armas, Knives Out
Cate Blanchett, Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
Emma Thompson, Late Night

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Christopher Abbott, Catch-22
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Spy
Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable
Joey King, The Act
Helen Mirren, Catherine the Great
Merritt Wever, Unbelievable
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Catch-22, Hulu
Chernobyl, HBO
Fosse/Verdon, FX
The Loudest Voice, Showtime
Unbelievable, Netflix

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Patricia Arquette, The Act
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Emily Watson, Chernobyl

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama

Brian Cox, Succession
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Tobias Menzies, The Crown
Billy Porter, Pose

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Andrew Scott, Fleabag
Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl
Henry Winkler, Barry

Best Television Series—Drama

Big Little Lies, HBO
The Crown, Netflix
Killing Eve, AMC
The Morning Show, Apple TV+
Succession, HBO

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama

Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Reese Witherspoon, The Morning Show

Best Television Series—Musical or Comedy

Barry, HBO
Fleabag, Amazon
The Kominsky Method, Netflix
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon
The Politician, Netflix

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