One of cinema's greatest guilty pleasures, Cocktail starred Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan, a young man who unexpectedly achieves some fame as a "flair bartender" in New York City along with his mentor, Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown). Brian eventually takes his bottle-flipping skills down to Jamaica, where he falls for Jordan (Elisabeth Shue), a vacationing artist. Here are some facts about the Tom Cruise staple, in accordance with Coughlin's Law.
1. BRIAN FLANAGAN WAS ALMOST TWICE AS OLD IN THE BOOK.
Yes, Cocktail was originally a novel; it was written by Heywood Gould, and based on the dozen years he spent bartending to supplement his income as a writer. Whereas Tom Cruise's Brian Flanagan is in his twenties, Gould's protagonist was described as a "38-year-old weirdo in a field jacket with greasy, graying hair hanging over his collar, his blue eyes streaked like the red sky at morning." As Gould told the Chicago Tribune, "I was in my late 30s, and I was drinking pretty good, and I was starting to feel like I was missing the boat. The character in the book is an older guy who has been around and starting to feel that he's pretty washed-up." Disney and Gould—who adapted his book for the screen—fought over making Brian Flanagan younger, with Gould eventually relenting.
2. THERE WERE AT LEAST 40 DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SCRIPT.
The script went through a couple of different studios, and dozens of iterations. According to Gould, "there must have been 40 drafts of the screenplay before we went into production. It was originally with Universal. They put it in turnaround because I wasn't making the character likable enough. And then Disney picked it up, and I went through the same process with them. I would fight them at every turn, and there was a huge battle over making the lead younger, which I eventually did."
Bryan Brown explained that when Cruise came on board, the movie "had to change. The studio made the changes to protect the star and it became a much slighter movie because of it."
Kelly Lynch, who played Kerry Coughlin, was much more forthright about how Gould's vision for the story changed under Disney, telling The A.V. Club:
"[Cocktail] was actually a really complicated story about the ’80s and power and money, and it was really re-edited where they completely lost my character’s backstory—her low self-esteem, who her father was, why she was this person that she was—but it was obviously a really successful movie, if not as good as it could’ve been. It was written by the guy who wrote Fort Apache The Bronx, and it was a much darker movie, but Disney took it, reshot about a third of it, and turned it into flipping the bottles and this and that."
3. FOR A BRIEF SECOND, DISNEY WASN'T COMPLETELY SOLD ON TOM CRUISE IN THE LEAD.
Recounting the kind of story that only happens in Hollywood, Gould told the Chicago Tribune about one of his early meetings with Disney heads Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Someone mentioned that this might be a good vehicle for Tom Cruise," Gould recalled. "Eisner says, 'He'll never do this, don't waste your time, he can't play this part.' And then Katzenberg says, 'Well, he's really interested in doing it,' and without skipping a beat Eisner says, 'He's perfect for it, a perfect fit!' That's the movie business: I hate him, I love him; I love him, I hate him!"
4. BRYAN BROWN'S AUDITION WAS "DREADFUL."
Director Roger Donaldson specifically wanted Bryan Brown to audition for the role of Doug. Brown flew from Sydney to New York and, almost immediately after his 20-plus-hour flight, was sitting in front of Donaldson. "He did the audition and he was dead tired and it was dreadful," Donaldson said. "After he did it I was like, ‘Bryan, do yourself a favor—we’ve got to do it again tomorrow.’ And he said, ‘No, no, I’m catching a plane back tonight.’ I couldn’t persuade him to stay and do it again, so I didn’t show anybody the audition." Instead, Donaldson told the producers and studio to watch Brown's performance in F/X (1986); clearly, they liked what they saw.
5. CRUISE AND BROWN PRACTICED THEIR FLAIR BARTENDING, AND USED REAL BOTTLES ON SET.
Los Angeles TGI Friday's bartender John Bandy was hired to train Cruise and Brown after he served a woman who worked for Disney who was on the lookout for a bartender for Cocktail. Bandy trained the two stars in the bottle-flipping routines, and Gould took Cruise and Brown to his friend's bar to show them the tricks they used to do. Donaldson claimed they used real bottles—and yes, they did break a few.
6. JAMAICA WASN'T KIND TO TOM CRUISE
The Jamaica exteriors were shot on location, where it was cold, and Cruise got sick. When he and Shue had to shoot a love scene at a jungle waterfall, it wasn't pleasant. "It’s not quite as romantic as it looks,” Cruise told Rolling Stone. “It was more like ‘Jesus, let’s get this shot and get out of here.’ Actually, in certain shots you’ll see that my lips are purple and, literally, my whole body’s shaking.”
7. THE FILM SCORE WAS ENTIRELY REWRITTEN IN A WEEKEND.
Three-time Oscar winner Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) was Cocktail's original composer, but the producers didn't think his score "fit in" with the story. They particularly didn't like one cue, so they called in J. Peter Robinson to fix it. Donaldson liked what Robinson did so much, that he asked the composer to take over and do the rest of the work. "All this was happening on a Friday," Robinson said. "I was starting another film on the following Monday and told Roger that I was going to be unavailable. 'We're print-mastering on Monday, mate!!' Roger said. So from that point on I stayed up writing the score and delivered it on Monday morning at around five in the morning."
8. "KOKOMO" WAS WRITTEN FOR THE MOVIE.
While it was The Beach Boys, by then minus Brian Wilson, that recorded the song which brought the group back into the spotlight, "Kokomo" was penned by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas; Scott McKenzie, who wrote “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”; producer Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son; and Mike Love. Phillips wrote the verses, Love wrote the chorus, and Melcher penned the bridge. The specific instructions were to write a song for the part when Brian goes from a bartender in New York to Jamaica. Off of that, Love came up with the "Aruba, Jamaica ..." part.
9. ROGER DONALDSON IS SORRY ABOUT "DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY."
Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" hit number one thanks to its inclusion on the Cocktail soundtrack. The director heard the song on the radio one day while driving to the set. “I heard it and thought it would be perfect for the film," he said. "And suddenly it was everywhere. Sorry about that."
10. THE REVIEWS—INCLUDING TOM CRUISE'S—WERE HARSH.
To conclude his two-star review, Roger Ebert wrote, "The more you think about what really happens in Cocktail, the more you realize how empty and fabricated it really is." Richard Corliss of TIME said it was "a bottle of rotgut in a Dom Perignon box."
In 1992, even Tom Cruise admitted that the movie "was not a crowning jewel" in his career. And Heywood Gould wasn't pleased with it at first either. "I was accused of betraying my own work, which is stupid," Gould said. "So I was pretty devastated. I literally couldn't get out of bed for a day. The good thing about that experience is that it toughened me up. It was like basic training. This movie got killed, and then after that I was OK with getting killed—I got killed a few more times since then, but it hasn't bothered me."