4 Famed Comedies That Were Supposed to Be Dramas
Some might imagine that most popular Hollywood comedy scripts emerge into the world fully formed, complete with hilarious jokes and a character who loves baggy shorts that would be perfect for Adam Sandler. But this isn’t always the case. There are beloved comedies, it turns out, that were originally conceived as dramas. But because the movie development process is as rocky as Fred Flintstone’s mattress, these serious stories were eventually transmogrified into yuk-filled romps, such as how…
‘Cool Runnings’ Began as a Sports Drama Called ‘Blue Maaga’
Anyone who grew up in the 1990s remembers Cool Runnings, the 1993 Disney family comedy based on the true story of the first-ever Jamaican bobsled team — and the less-true story of the cartoonishly evil East German Olympians who hated them with a fiery passion.
The real-life story behind the film was a tad less Disney-friendly; instead of a ragtag group of wacky nobodies, the real team was full of military guys bankrolled by American businessmen. The athletes were solemnly dedicated to their task, and the real-life coach (played in the movie by John Candy) reportedly resented the movie’s comedic tone. As his widow later recounted, “He was disappointed that Disney decided to make the movie a sort of comical situation as opposed to how serious their accomplishments were.”
Well, the film’s first draft was a more weighty sports drama, Blue Maaga, which is Jamaican slang for being “in a state of great distress and starvation.” According to director Jon Turteltaub, the initial script was “pretty heavy and very dramatic” about “realistic life in the slums of Kingston.” Star Doug E. Doug said that he was “bored” by the Blue Maaga script, calling it an “extraordinary story,” while adding that “a dramatic take on it just didn’t work for me.” Presumably, in the serious version, Doug’s character would have asphyxiated after being imprisoned in the freezer of an ice cream truck.
‘50 First Dates’ Was Far Less Wacky and Set in Seattle
50 First Dates famously reunited Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore following the success of The Wedding Singer (while bafflingly replacing 1980s nostalgia and musical numbers with neural disorders and another Rob Schneider racist caricature).
50 First Dates began as 50 First Kisses, a script that, according to Barrymore, was “more of a drama.” This makes sense, considering that her character’s amnesia, which reboots her short-term memory every 24 hours, is pretty damn upsetting (and based on an even more upsetting true story).
The heavier version of the script also took place in Seattle and was primarily set inside a cafe, which director Peter Segal called “very claustrophobic,” likening it to My Dinner with Andre. So, Sandler and company shoehorned a bunch of jokes into the script and shifted the action to Hawaii (which the filmmakers behind My Dinner with Andre stupidly never even considered).
‘My Stepmother Is an Alien’ Was Intended as an Allegory for Child Abuse
Back in the days before Avatar and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a major Hollywood release could simply involve Dan Aykroyd playing an astronomer who unwittingly hooks up with a Kim Basinger-esque extraterrestrial babe — which is how we got 1988’s My Stepmother Is an Alien.
Weirdly, this goofy comedy began with extremely earnest intentions. The script was written by a guy named Jerico Stone (credited in the film as simply “Jerico”), who was inspired by an alleged real-life alien encounter he experienced after moving to Los Angeles.
Stranger still, the story Stone came up with about a small child distrusting her alien stepmom was intended to be “an allegory about child abuse.” Keep in mind, this was long before one of the Blues Brothers was hired to star. A studio executive called it “a very real, terrifying story.” Paramount ultimately bought the script but decided that the premise worked better as a comedy rather than a harrowing nightmare.
‘Dr. Strangelove’ Was First Envisioned as a Cold War Thriller
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is generally considered to be one of the greatest comedies ever made, examining America’s Cold War nuclear stand-off through an appropriately absurdist lens, and ultimately culminating with the iconic scene in which Slim Pickens rides a falling A-bomb like a cowboy.
Dr. Strangelove was born out of Kubrick’s desire to make a serious movie about nuclear weapons. He bought the rights to Peter George’s novel Red Alert, a thriller about a fictional stand-off between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that occurs after a delusional Air Force general goes rogue. But as Kubrick and collaborator James Harris began working on the adaptation, according to Harris, they “started to get silly” and began making jokes about, say, an apron-clad waiter showing up at the War Room to take deli orders.
While the joking passed, Kubrick later committed to making Red Alert into a full-fledged “nightmare comedy,” one that could star Peter Sellers, who he’d just worked with on Lolita. Kubrick told Harris: “The only way this thing really works for me is as a satire. It’s the same point, but it’s just a better way of making the point.” Harris thought that attempting to make a comedy about nuclear armageddon would end Kubrick’s career. Yeah, it didn’t.
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