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4 Insane Unknown Backstories Behind Famous Movies

#2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit Was Almost Chinatown 3 (Maybe)

Buena Vista Pictures

I would put this entry at #1 if I was sure it's true, but I'm not totally sold. After all, look how different these movies are: Who Framed Roger Rabbit is about a private detective investigating a simple case of infidelity who finds himself embroiled in a far-reaching conspiracy involving corruption and murder in the city of Los Angeles, and Chinatown is ... huh. Also, both protagonists 1) are jaded, hard-drinking ex cops and 2) hook up with a femme fatale, although the animated version is actually far sexier than the human one.

Paramount Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures
Just look at those ears. Goddamn.

Those similarities could be chalked up to both movies following the cliches of the detective genre, but there's another possible explanation: According to various sources, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is partly based on a proposed Chinatown sequel called Cloverleaf. Cloverleaf, if the word sounds familiar, is also the name of the transportation company that wants to destroy Toontown to build a freeway in Roger Rabbit. Just like Chinatown dealt with shady water companies and The Two Jakes (the Jack Nicholson-directed sequel) covered a natural-gas scandal, Cloverleaf would have been about the freeway system, completing Robert Towne's trilogy about corruption in Los Angeles.

But then someone added cute cartoon animals to the plot, somehow.

Buena Vista Pictures
And this, which is more disturbing than any "she's my sister and my daughter" plot twist.

It's unclear how the hell that supposedly happened. Chinatown and Roger Rabbit are by different studios, producers, directors, writers, and even actors (the scene with Goofy in Roman Polanski's gang got cut). Also, some sources say the failure of The Two Jakes in 1990 prompted the Cloverleaf script to get recycled, but the only small problem there is that Roger Rabbit came out in 1988. And finally, Robert Towne confirmed that he wanted to do a trilogy, but said he had no idea where the name Cloverleaf came from. So I can't in good conscience tell you this story is true, but weirder things have happened in Hollywood. Honestly, all of this still sounds more feasible than the fact that this movie managed to get Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse in the same scene.

Buena Vista Pictures
They hadn't talked to each other since Bugs gave Minnie the clap in '65.

But Wait, There's More:

Movie scripts aren't the only thing that gets recycled a lot in entertainment -- this shit happens with video games, too. In Japan, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was turned into a Nintendo game that you might know better under its U.S. release name: The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle. Or maybe you played it on the Game Boy, where it was simply called Mickey Mouse. That's Roger Rabbit, bringing rival franchises together across media (albeit accidentally, since this was all due to a licensing rights clusterfuck). Sadly, I cannot confirm the persistent urban legend that in Poland the game came out as Jake Gittes' Wacky Palace.

#1. Airplane! Has Been Made Four Other Times ... as a Drama

Paramount Pictures

If I have one purpose in this world, that's making sure more people are aware of the fact that Airplane! is a remake of a 1957 drama called Zero Hour! (back then, an exclamation mark meant the movie was serious business). Not a spoof that vaguely resembles its source material, like Meet the Spartans or something -- an official, honest-to-goodness remake. As in, they bought the rights and all. Check out this comparison between the two movies, which has to be one of the most life-changing videos I've seen in my life:

The Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams didn't even know that movie existed until they accidentally taped it overnight, but they found it so unintentionally hilarious that they had no choice but to option it for a remake and go through the script adding jokes to all the scenes. Or most of the scenes. Sometimes, they just left the original dialogue intact, like in this part:

Paramount Pictures
Leslie Nielsen could read any line and make it funny (except the entire script to Dracula: Dead and Loving It).

What they probably didn't know was that they weren't the first ones to remake this particular script ... or the second, or the third, or the fourth. It turns out Zero Hour! itself is a remake of an even older Canadian TV movie called Flight into Danger, starring a young Scotty from Star Trek. It's the same dang thing: A PTSD-suffering war pilot has to land a plane after everyone else gets food poisoning, and hilarity ensues. Then, in 1958, Flight into Danger's screenwriter turned it into a book called Flight into Danger: Runway Zero-Eight, which, holy shit, got adapted into a fourth remake called Terror in the Sky in 1971.

But hold on, why is that the fourth remake? Because there was yet another film made from the exact same story in 1964 ... in Germany. It's called Flug in Gefahr, which sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to get rid of a loogie.

 Suddeutscher Rundfunk 
"Sicherlich kann man nicht ernst sein."
"Ich bin ernst, und nennen Sie mich nicht Sichirley."

But Wait, There's More:

Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker will rightfully go down in history as some of the greatest comedy geniuses ever, but their idea of taking a bad movie from TV and making fun of it was something some eighth graders could have come up with. In fact, they fucking did. A few months before Airplane! was released in 1980, 13-year-old friends Andrew Durham and Frank Wiedmann, having already done a homemade Jaws parody in 1978, had the same idea as the ZAZ team when they decided to spoof all those airplane movies that had come out (most of which were the same movie, it turns out). The resulting masterpiece is once again called Terror in the Sky, and no shit, it has better special effects than the 1971 version:

 Paramount Television
And better acting than all the others.

I'm now convinced that if I keep digging, I'll find out that this same script was already being acted out in the time of Gilgamesh, so I'll just stop here.


Maxwell Yezpitelok has a free comic you can read and a Twitter you can follow.

Related: Still not convinced that Hollywood just poaches the shit out of itself? Don't worry, we got plenty of evidence for you to check out.

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