“Romancing the Stone” (1984) starring Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner

Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a romance novelist in NYC, receives a treasure map in the mail from her recently murdered BIL. Her sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor- one of the co-writers of the screenplay), is kidnapped in Colombia. Two sleazy criminal cousins, Ralph (Danny DeVito) and Ira (Zach Norman), demand that Joan travel to Cartegena to exchange the map for her sister. Joan, despite the warnings of her editor, Gloria (Holland Taylor), flies to Colombia. Joan (who doesn’t know Spanish) becomes lost in the jungle after being fooled by the mysterious Zolo (Manuel Ojeda). Joan meets an irreverent fortune-hunter, Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), who agrees to help her out for a price. They embark on an adventure that could be straight out of one of Joan’s novels!

Gloria: [observing men in a bar] Wimp. Wimp. Loser. Loser. Major loser. Too angry. Too vague. Too desperate. God, too happy. Oh, look at this guy. Mr. Mondo Dismo. I actually used to date him. Total sleaze bucket. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Hold everything. Get a load of this character. What about him?

Joan Wilder: No, he’s – he’s just not…

Gloria: Who? Jessie?

Joan: Maybe it’s silly, but, I know there is somebody out there for me.

This was the only produced screenplay for writer Diane Thomas; she was a waitress in Malibu when Douglas optioned her script for $250,000 – wow! Thomas (only 39 y.o.) died in a car accident, while working on a new project w/ Steven Spielberg the following year; her bf has been driving the Porsche that Douglas had bought her as a gift. Director Robert Zemeckis was able to go forward on his own project, Back to the Future (1985), since this movie was a hit. Alan Silvestri was hired to do a temporary score, but Zemeckis liked his work so much that he kept him on as composer. Romancing the Stone was to be filmed in Colombia; the country suffered an increase in kidnappings of Americans, so production was moved to Mexico. After the film’s original cut rated very low w/ preview audiences, Fox feared it would be a flop and Zemeckis was fired from Cocoon. Zemeckis made substantial changes, incl. to the prologue and ending; the scene w/ Gloria and Joan to the bar was added and scene in the crashed plane was re-shot (6 mos. later).

Joan: [after Jack cuts off the heels of her shoes] These were Italian.

Jack: Now they’re practical.

If you’re in a cranky mood, or just want to watch a fun movie, check this out! Yes, this has elements of the rom com (NOT my fave genre), BUT the twist is the action/adventure (which drew me in). There is also humor, incl. some LOL moments (even IF feeling V low/tired)! The chemistry between Turner (who came from the theater) and Douglas (who was already a box office draw) is terrific; Douglas said: “I don’t know what it was. Somehow, we just got along right from the start.” I’m NOT a big fan of Douglas (though I love his dad’s work), BUT I found him to be a charming guy here. Turner admitted that it was tough to work w/ Zemeckis, as she was still new to movies and didn’t understand much re: directing for the screen. We know DeVito is very funny, but Juan (Mexican actor/director Alfonso Arau) provides humor also. At first, Juan (a drug lord) becomes a fanboy upon meeting Joan (his fave writer), then he takes her and Jack on a wild ride on his “mule” Pepe (a tricked-out truck). Arau directed two of the most (visually) appealing movies I’ve ever seen- Like Water for Chocolate and A Walk in the Clouds.

Joan: What is all this?

Jack: All this? About five to life in the States, a couple of centuries down here.

Joan: Oh, marijuana.

Jack: Oh, you smoke it?

Joan: [defensively] I went to college.

The music goes along so well w/ the film- it just carries you into the adventure. The scenery is beautiful, esp. the brief scene where Juan, Jack, and Joan come upon the valley w/ “The Devil’s Fork.” The hair and costuming also helps tell the story. At the start of the story, Joan has her hair up in a bun and wears a puffy jacket over conservative/tight business suits. Later on, her hair is down and she’s wearing a flowing top and skirt w/ bold/bright flowers. The dance scene is sweet and also reminiscent of classic Hollywood; Douglas said that they didn’t realize that cameras were rolling (so were just enjoying themselves dancing w/ the locals/extras).

In the prologue depicting Joan’s latest novel, the music used is the theme from How the West Was Won (1962). In the fight scene, Zolo asks Joan: “How will you die? Slow like a snail? Or fast like a shooting star?” This is a call-back to the opening when the villain tells Angelina: “You can go quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.” At the end, Jack and Joan “sail off” down the street in Jack’s yacht Angelina (the name of the character in the book Joan is writing at the beginning of the film).

One thought on ““Romancing the Stone” (1984) starring Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner

  1. Saw this once with mom in the cinema! — Michael Douglas was her one hypothetical “indecent proposal” (dad’s was Angie Dickinson). I remember that we both enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

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