|Romancing the Stone|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Produced by||Michael Douglas|
|Written by||Diane Thomas|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$86.5 million|
Romancing the Stone is a 1984 American romantic comedy-adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Diane Thomas. The film stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito, and was followed by a 1985 sequel titled The Jewel of the Nile.
Romancing the Stone earned over $86 million worldwide at the box office. It also helped launch Turner to stardom, reintroduced Douglas to the public as a capable leading man, and gave Zemeckis his first box-office success.
Joan Wilder is a successful but lonely romance novelist in New York City whose editor believes she is waiting to meet a romantic hero like the ones she writes about. Joan gets a call from her sister Elaine, who has been kidnapped by antiquities smugglers, cousins Ira and Ralph. As Joan leaves her apartment to meet her editor, Gloria, she is handed a letter containing a map, sent to her by her late brother-in-law, Eduardo. Returning to her apartment, she finds it ransacked and the apartment supervisor dead. Joan then receives a frantic phone call from Elaine (held at knife-point by Ira), who instructs Joan to go to Colombia with the map she received; it is Elaine's ransom.
Flying to Colombia, Joan is detoured from the rendezvous point by Colonel Zolo, the man who killed Elaine's husband, Eduardo. He tricks her into boarding the wrong bus, heading deep into the interior of the country instead of to the coastal city of Cartagena, where Elaine is being held. When Joan distracts the bus driver by asking where they are going, the bus crashes into a Jeep, wrecking both vehicles. As the rest of the passengers walk away, Joan is menaced by Zolo but is saved by the Jeep's owner, American exotic bird smuggler Jack T. Colton. For getting her out of the jungle and to a telephone, Joan promises to pay Jack $375 in traveler's cheques.
Jack and Joan travel the jungle while eluding the military police and Zolo, who wants the treasure map. After spending a night hiding in a marijuana smuggler's crashed C-47 aircraft, they encounter a drug lord named Juan, who is a big fan of Joan's novels and helps them escape from Zolo.
After a night of dancing and passion in a nearby town, Jack suggests to Joan that they find the treasure themselves before handing over the map. They follow the clues and locate an enormous emerald called El Corazón ("The Heart"). Unbeknownst to Jack and Joan, they used Ralph's car for the last leg of their journey while Ralph was sleeping in the back. Ralph takes the emerald from them at gunpoint. When Zolo appears, Jack steals the jewel back, but Jack and Joan are chased into a river and go over a waterfall. They end up on opposite sides of the raging river; Joan has the map, but Jack has the emerald. Jack directs Joan to Cartagena, promising that he will meet her there.
In Cartagena, Joan meets with Ira and Ralph, who are still holding Elaine, but the exchange is interrupted by Zolo and his men, who have also captured Jack. Jack surrenders the emerald to Zolo, but a crocodile bites off Zolo's hand and swallows it along with the emerald. As a gun battle takes place between Zolo's soldiers and Ira's gang, Joan and Elaine dash for safety, pursued by Zolo. Jack tries to stop the crocodile from escaping but lets it go when he sees that Joan is in danger. Zolo charges at Joan, who eventually dodges his wild knife slashes, knocking Zolo into the crocodile pit. Ira and his men escape, but Ralph is left behind as the authorities arrive. After a kiss, Jack dives into the water after the crocodile, leaving Joan behind with her sister.
Some time later, Joan is back in New York City, delivering a new manuscript based on her adventure to Gloria, who is moved to tears by the story and tells Joan she has another best-seller on her hands. Returning home, she finds Jack waiting for her in a sailboat named the Angelina, after the heroine of Joan's novels, and wearing boots made from the crocodile's skin. He explains the crocodile died from ingesting the emerald and he had sold it, using the money to buy the boat of his dreams. They go off together, planning to sail around the world.
Filming locations for Romancing the Stone included Veracruz, Mexico (Fort of San Juan de Ulúa); and Huasca de Ocampo, Mexico. Parts of the film were also shot in Snow Canyon, Utah. The scene where Turner and Douglas get separated on opposite banks on a whitewater river, about two-thirds into the movie, was filmed on the Rio Antigua near the town of Jalcomulco, Veracruz.
Turner later said of the film's production, "I remember terrible arguments [with Robert Zemeckis] doing Romancing. He's a film-school grad, fascinated by cameras and effects. I never felt that he knew what I was having to do to adjust my acting to some of his damn cameras – sometimes he puts you in ridiculous postures. I'd say, 'This is not helping me! This is not the way I like to work, thank you!'" Despite their difficulties on the film, Zemeckis would go on to work with Turner again, casting her as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Upon the release of Romancing the Stone, comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark were inevitable; Time magazine called the film "a distaff Raiders rip-off". The screenplay for Romancing had actually been written five years earlier by a Malibu waitress named Diane Thomas in what would end up being her only screenplay. She died in a car crash shortly after the film's release.
Studio insiders expected Romancing the Stone to flop (to the point that, after viewing a rough cut of the film, the producers of the then under development Cocoon fired Zemeckis as director of that film), but the film became a surprise hit. It became 20th Century Fox's "only big hit" of 1984. Zemeckis later stated that the success of Romancing the Stone allowed him to make Back to the Future, which was an even larger success.
Romancing the Stone was well received by critics, and is considered by some as among the best films of 1984. It holds an 86% approval rating with a 7.3/10 average on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 49 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Romancing the Stone reaches back to the classic Saturday morning serials of old with an action-filled adventure enlivened by the sparkling chemistry between its well-matched leads."
The success of Romancing the Stone also led to a sequel that was equally successful commercially, 1985's The Jewel of the Nile, without Zemeckis at the helm but with Douglas, Turner and DeVito all returning. Another sequel, called The Crimson Eagle, never made it past the development stage. This planned yet un-produced sequel would have seen Jack Colton and his partner Joan Wilder take their two teenage children to Thailand where they would find themselves blackmailed into stealing a priceless statue. DeVito reunited Douglas, Turner, and himself in his 1989 film The War of the Roses.
In 2005 and again in 2008, Michael Douglas was working on a second sequel to Romancing the Stone entitled Racing the Monsoon, although there have been no further developments in recent years.
Since 2007, 20th Century Fox considered a remake of Romancing the Stone with the possibility of a "reboot" of a series. The roles of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder would be filled by Taylor Kitsch (or Gerard Butler) and Katherine Heigl. By 2011, the remake was re-worked as a television series.
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