13 Sharp Facts About Hook

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People of a certain age remember it fondly, but Steven Spielberg's Hook was not well-received when it was released in December of 1991. Critics found it overlong and curiously lacking in imagination, and though it was profitable, it wasn't the mega-hit everyone expected from a Spielberg movie about a grown-up Peter Pan played by Robin Williams. (It was the sixth highest-grossing movie of 1991. Among Spielberg movies, it ranks 15th out of 30.) Home video earned Hook some more young fans, and it eventually became something of a cult favorite for '90s kids.

1. THE FILM WAS DELAYED, APPROPRIATELY, BY STEVEN SPIELBERG'S DESIRE NOT TO BE AN ABSENTEE FATHER.

Steven Spielberg had been thinking about a live-action version of Peter Pan through the first half of the 1980s, but put it on hold in 1985, when his first child, Max, was born. "I guess it was just bad timing," the director later said, according to Joseph McBride's Steven Spielberg: A Biography. "I didn't want to go to London and have seven kids on wires in front of blue screens swinging around. I wanted to be home as a dad, not a surrogate dad."

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY A 3-YEAR-OLD'S DRAWING.

Screenwriter Jim V. Hart had been trying to find a new angle to the Peter Pan story for years when, in 1982, his 3-year-old son produced a drawing. "He said it was a crocodile eating Captain Hook," Hart recalled in Steven Spielberg: A Biography, "but that the crocodile really didn't eat him, he got away ... So I went, 'Wow, Hook is not dead. The crocodile is. We've all been fooled.'" A few years later, Hart's son brought up the subject of Peter Pan again, asking whether he'd ever grown up. "I realized that Peter did grow up, just like all of us Baby Boomers who are now in our forties," Hart said. "I patterned him after several of my friends on Wall Street, where the pirates wear three-piece suits and ride in limos."

3. MICHAEL JACKSON WAS SPIELBERG'S FIRST CHOICE FOR THE LEAD.

Vinnie Zuffante/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Michael had always wanted to play Peter Pan," Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. "But I called Michael and said, 'This is about a lawyer [who used to be Peter Pan],' so he understood at that point it wasn't the same Peter Pan he wanted to make." However, Vanity Fair reported in 2003 that Jackson had paid a witch doctor to put a curse on Spielberg (among others), so perhaps there was lingering resentment.

4. NICK CASTLE WAS PAID $500,000 NOT TO DIRECT IT.

The director of The Last Starfighter and The Boy Who Could Fly (not to mention an episode of Spielberg's Amazing Stories) was working with screenwriter Hart to get the movie made at Columbia-TriStar when Sony bought the company and put someone new in charge—Mike Medavoy, who'd been Spielberg's first agent. Medavoy sent Spielberg the Hook script for perusal, and Spielberg jumped at the chance to direct it. Castle was taken off the project with a $500,000 settlement and a "story by" credit along with Hart. (As the story goes, Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams weren't willing to make the film with Castle anyway, so it wasn't a matter of Spielberg "stealing" a movie from another director.)

5. IT WAS ALMOST A MUSICAL.

The most famous previous adaptations of Peter Pan (the Disney cartoon and the Broadway show) had been musicals, so Spielberg had that in mind for his version. John Williams wrote several songs for it before the idea was discarded, later incorporating their tunes into the musical score. Two songs (with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) did make it into the final film: "We Don't Wanna Grow Up" and "When You're Alone." 

6. PRINCESS LEIA WROTE SOME OF IT.

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Though Spielberg liked Hart's screenplay overall, he thought the characters of Captain Hook and Tinkerbell were underwritten. To work on Hook's dialogue, he brought in a writer named Malia Scotch Marmo (who later helped on Jurassic Park, too). For Tinkerbell, Spielberg called on Carrie Fisher—actress, novelist, and screenwriter. Marmo got a writing credit, but Fisher remained uncredited.

7. IT WENT WAY OVER SCHEDULE AND WAY OVER BUDGET.

Spielberg had been a careful and conscientious director ever since the disastrous excesses of 1941, but he let the size of the Hook production get the better of him. Shooting was supposed to last 76 days; it lasted 116. It was supposed to cost $48 million; it cost somewhere between $60 and $80 million. Hoffman and Julia Roberts's perfectionism were contributing factors, along with the general difficulties of working with children, employing huge live-action special effects, and coordinating scenes with hundreds of extras. Still, Spielberg accepted all the blame himself. "It was all my fault," he said. "Nobody else made it go over budget."

8. GWYNETH PALTROW GOT HER PART THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY: CONNECTIONS.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who was 18 years old at the time, was cast as the teenage version of Wendy when Spielberg—her godfather and a close family friend—noticed she looked like Maggie Smith, who plays the elderly Wendy. Spielberg said he realized it when the Paltrow and Spielberg families were driving home from seeing The Silence of the Lambs

9. GLENN CLOSE HAS A CAMEO.

Glenn Close plays the (male) pirate who displeases Captain Hook and gets locked in a chest with a scorpion. 

10. THE KIDS ARE NAMED AFTER HANSEL AND GRETEL.

Peter Banning's kidnapped children are called Jack and Maggie, which are nicknames for John and Margaret. The German equivalents of those names, Johannes and Margarete, have the familiar diminutives of Hansel and Gretel. 

11. IT HAS MORE HOFFMAN THAN YOU REALIZED.

In addition to playing Captain Hook, Dustin Hoffman provides the voice of the airline pilot when the Bannings fly to England—appropriate, of course, because he says, "This is your captain speaking." Young Peter Pan is played by Hoffman's son, Max, then not quite 7 years old, and Max's older brother, Jake, appears as a Little League player. 

12. JULIA ROBERTS WAS HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME.

Her million-watt smile notwithstanding, America's sweetheart was miserable for much of the shoot because of problems in her personal life. She'd recently had a nasty breakup with Kiefer Sutherland, was beginning a new romance with Jason Patric, and was generally frail and exhausted. Defending her, Spielberg said, "Her biggest problem was timing. Her personal life fell apart, and she reported to work on the same weekend." She freaked out one day on the set when someone called for "Kieffo" (the name of Hoffman's stunt double) and Roberts misheard it as "Kiefer," i.e., Sutherland. "Call security. How did he get on the lot?" she asked the set coordinator, who cleared up the confusion. 

13. THE SET WAS CRAWLING WITH STARS, EVEN ONES WHO WEREN'T IN THE MOVIE.

One of Hollywood's top directors working with some of its biggest stars on one of the most expensive sets ever built—naturally, everyone wanted to stop by Sony Pictures Studios and see what all the fuss was about. Among the celebrities sighted on set were Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Mel Gibson, Prince, and actual royalty: Queen Noor of Jordan. 

Additional sources: Steven Spielberg: A Biography, by Joseph McBride

Rewind Time With This Blockbuster-Themed Party Game

Amazon/Big Potato Games
Amazon/Big Potato Games

With only one Blockbuster location left in the world, the good old days of wandering video rental store aisles and getting chewed out for late fees are definitely a thing of the past—but like so many relics from the '90s, the pull of nostalgia has ensured that Blockbuster (or at least the brand) won't disappear for good. Now the video store is back in the form of a party game from Big Potato Games that is designed to test the movie knowledge of you and up to 11 friends.

Marketing itself as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster party game consists of two parts. In part one, players from each team compete head-to-head to name as many movies as they can that fit under specific categories (e.g., movies with Tom Cruise, famous trilogies, movies with planes). In the second half, two teams face off against each other to test their skills at a game of movie-related charades. The catch? Players can only describe movies in one of three randomly chosen ways: acting out scenes, rattling off a famous quote, or describing the films with one word.

The real selling point of the whole package is that Big Potato fit all the game cards and buzzer into a box that is virtually identical to the old-school Blockbuster VHS rental cases, right down to its distinct color scheme and shape. All it's missing is the membership card. 

The Blockbuster board game costs $26 on Amazon and $20 at Target. That’s a fair price for getting the chance to rewind time.

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8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

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