10 Huge Facts About Big Trouble in Little China

YouTube
YouTube

John Carpenter described Big Trouble in Little China, the 11th film he directed, as an "action adventure comedy kung fu ghost story monster movie." We'll add that the 1986 feature starred Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, and James Hong, with Russell playing Jack Burton, a man whose attempts to be John Wayne are constantly undermined by his overall ineptitude and lack of understanding of what's going on around him. Dun portrayed Wang Chi, Burton's friend and the real action star of the duo. Wang's fiancée gets kidnapped by David Lo Pan (James Hong), who needs a woman with green eyes to end a curse. Though the film was a flop upon its release, it has since gained cult classic status.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AS AN 1890s WESTERN.

Gary Goldman and David D. Weinstein penned a script together about a cowboy in Chinatown in 1899. The Jack Burton in Goldman and Weinstein's version was an amazing gunman who could shoot the eyes out of a kite in the sky but couldn't hit anybody in a fight. Veteran "script doctor" W.D. Richter (producer/director of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension) came in for a rewrite, changing it to modern times and using Rosemary's Baby as a guide. "I believed if, like in Rosemary's Baby, you presented the foreground story in a familiar context—rather than San Francisco at the turn-of-the-century, which distances the audience immediately—and just have one simple remove, the world underground, you have a much better chance of making direct contact with the audience," Richter explained. Richter wrote his version in 10 weeks.

2. PRODUCTION WAS RUSHED TO BEAT EDDIE MURPHY'S THE GOLDEN CHILD INTO THEATERS.

"The films have a similar theme in that they both explore Chinese legend and magic," Carpenter said of the similarities between the scripts, "but they develop in different ways. Golden Child is a very fine script. It has its problems, but it also has one big plus—Eddie Murphy. It will be hard to pull off that script. But if they do, it could be a wonderful movie!"

Carpenter limited his prep to 12 weeks, so that Trouble could open in July, five months before Murphy's movie. "If Big Trouble were released at the same time as Golden Child, we would be killed at the box office because audiences love Eddie Murphy."

Both movies were critically panned at the time of their release, but The Golden Child made $79.8 million while Big Trouble drummed up just $11.1 million. Today, Big Trouble is the more highly regarded film.

3. CARPENTER HAD A RARE MOMENT WHEN HE LOST HIS COOL.

A special effects coordinator

got yelled at by Carpenter after one of the squibs on the wall went off much sooner than expected. Russell, who had worked with Carpenter before in Elvis (1979), Escape From New York (1981), and The Thing (1982), said it was one of the few times he ever saw Carpenter get upset on set.

4. KIM CATTRALL WAS BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS.

Kim Cattrall left the set at 4:30 p.m. each day, then performed in a production of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. Cattrall remembers having to explain to studio bosses who Chekhov was. "My film career subsidized my theater career," she said. "If I only did theater I would have had to waitress and I didn’t want to waitress."

5. NOT ALL THE ACTORS FELT SAFE.

When Jack and Wang are almost run over by the Lords of Death, Carpenter shot the scene backwards, with the actors performing in reverse. This was done not to confuse the actors, but for safety reasons. "That whole set with the mouth, coming down the steps of the escalator, it was very dangerous," Hong revealed. "It was a very narrow escalator, and I was on lifts, 12-inch lifts. All of a sudden, John said, 'We don’t have time, we've got to do it right away.' I said, 'Can’t you get a stunt man, get George Cheung, he’s my stunt man.' He said, 'No, no, you just got to step in.' So, with that long robe, I tried to put it over the lifts, and when I stepped on just the part before you go down, the real escalator, I said, 'Oh my God, this is going to be my last scene.' ... It looked like I was fierce, but I was trembling. That’s the way it was, everything had to be real."

6. IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE FOR PETER KWONG TO GET TO HAVE LONG HAIR.

YouTube

Peter Kwong cited his character's long hair as one of the best parts of making Big Trouble In Little China, even though, according to the actor, "I had to sit in three hours of makeup everyday just to get in and out of the $3000 wig."

7. THE STUDIO DEMANDED THAT THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM  BE CHANGED.

Barry Diller felt that Jack Burton wasn't heroic enough, so after production wrapped, Carpenter went back and shot an introductory scene where Egg Shen (Victor Wong) says Jack is a courageous man. Had Diller not said anything, the film would have begun with Jack driving. Carpenter didn't necessarily want Burton to be seen as the hero; he wanted both leads to be considered the film's heroes.

8. CARPENTER AND HIS BAND SANG THE TITLE SONG.

Carpenter and his USC film school friends, Tommy Lee Wallace and Nick Castle, performed the film's title song as the Coupe De Villes.

9. KURT RUSSELL WAS LED TO BELIEVE IT WOULD BE THE BIGGEST MOVIE OF 1986.

Russell had never, before or since, been asked by so many members of the press what it was like to be in the biggest movie of the year than when he was promoting Big Trouble in Little China. After the test screenings went really well, Russell said he "kept waiting to see ads and things that just didn’t happen."

10. THE ROCK WANTS TO REMAKE IT, WITH CARPENTER.

Carpenter said he's "ambivalent" about the idea. New movie or not, there's been a comic book series that picks up from where the movie ended. And if you can find it, there was a Big Trouble in Little China video game released in 1986. A secret screen on the DVD contains images from it.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

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Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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Boldly Celebrate the Holidays With This Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Christmas Tree Topper

Hallmark, Amazon
Hallmark, Amazon

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From Baby Yoda Christmas ornaments to TARDIS string lights, there are plenty of geeky holiday decorations you can use to celebrate the season. If you're a Star Trek fan, this U.S.S. Enterprise tree topper, complete with lights and sound effects, could be the perfect addition to your Christmas tree.

This 10-inch-tall ornament from Hallmark looks like it flew straight out of an episode of the classic sci-fi series. The ship stays lit up when you plug it in, and you can press a button on the topper's base or on the included remote control to watch it put on a dazzling light show display set to the Star Trek theme.

Hallmark, Amazon

Whether you have a real tree, an artificial tree, or a Chris Pine tree, the Star Trek topper will add a delightfully geeky layer to your decor. You can purchase it for this year's tree, or leave it in its keepsake box and give it to a fellow Trekkie.

The Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise tree topper is now available from Amazon for $150. Here are more gifts to give the space-lover in your life this holiday season.

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