10 Things You Might Not Know About THE RUNNING MAN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About THE RUNNING MAN

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1. Released into US cinemas on November 13th 1987, The Running Man film is based on a 1982 science-fiction novel of the same name by Richard Bachman. After reading the novel, first-time producer George Linder fell in love with the book and optioned it for a movie shortly after its release. Born in Europe to Austrian parents, Linder was a self made millionaire, making his fortune selling high-technology, lightweight wheelchairs through his Quadra Medical Corporation. He paid $20,000 to option the film and $100,000 for the movie rights. Linder was advised at the time to pass on the deal as those prices were much higher than usual for an unknown author, but, unperturbed, his love of the source material spurned him on, and after contracts were signed Linder wrote an initial screenplay.

Linder's draft remained fairly true to the source material, which told the story of protagonist Ben Richards as he participates in the game show The Running Man, the most popular show on television. Set in the year 2025, contestants are allowed to go anywhere in the world whilst pursued by Hunters employed to kill them. Contestants earn $100 per hour that they stay alive and avoid capture, an additional $100 for each law enforcement officer or Hunter they kill, and a grand prize of $1 billion if they survive for 30 days.

Linder failed to gain any momentum on his cinematic adaptation of The Running Man, partially down to his own admitted inexperience in the industry but also down to the nature of the novel itself and it's unknown author. A huge shot to the project came in 1985 when, after the publication of Richard Bachman's next book, Thinner, his fifth novel in eight years, it was revealed that Bachman was a pseudonym used by Stephen King! Very quickly, Linder found he has one of the hottest projects in town.

2. Shortly after it was revealed that Stephen King was behind the Richard Bachman novels, a deal was struck with TriStar/Columbia for the cinematic adaptation of The Running Man, and Christopher Reeve was signed to play the lead role of Benjamin Richards. Shooting was initially set to start in September 1985, but was postponed whilst Steven E. de Souza was bought in to complete a new draft of the screenplay in an effort to contain the action to a single location rather than a global chase film (one suspects for monetary reasons).

Retaining much of the source material, with Reeve's character an unemployed man who goes on the violent game show to feed his family, de Souza introduced the idea of it being housed within a games arena - at this stage it was an old adapted shopping mall, with the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada set to house the production from January 1986.

3. Part of Linder’s work as producer included the "above-the-line decisions" - which basically means final say on the headline cast. It seems Linder was not a fan of Christopher Reeve's story concepts (he'd insisted on several rewrites from de Souza) or ideas on portrayal of the protagonist, so before filming began he vetoed his casting and bought in fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzegger as the lead character Ben Richards.

Linder wanted to underscore the parallel between the futuristic world of the movie and the actual events of World War II, which is what had attracted him to the story in the first place (and even introduced Schwarzegger to his father Bert, a holocaust survivor), so filming was postponed once again as the screenplay underwent another rewrite, and the production was moved to California instead of Canada, at Schwarzenegger's request.
An article in the 17th October 1986 edition of L.A. Weekly explained that with the change of stars, the film evolved from a dark allegory to the action thriller it eventually became. Now set in the year 2019, Schwarzenegger's protagonist is now a condemned, but innocent, criminal forced onto a three-hour gladiator-style game show run by the justice system.

4. It wasn't only a change to the star of the film that Linder insisted upon, he was equally hand's on and opinionated when it came to the director. George P. Cosmatos, who was fresh of the success of Rambo: First Blood Part II, was initially set to direct, but he was fired over “creative differences” with Linder shortly after Reeeve was let go at the start of 1986.

Producers considered several other directors including German director Carl Schenkel and British director Ferdinand Fairfax, who got as far as the storyboard stage and oversaw another draft of the script before being let go. Next, Andrew Davis, who had directed the 1985 Chuck Norris action thriller Code of Silence, was signed. However, less than two weeks after principal photography began on 29th September 1986, Davis was fired. Executive producer Rob Cohen told the Hollywood Reporter in its 16th November 1987 issue that Davis was $400,000 over budget and four days behind schedule after just eight days of filming!

Producers then hired Paul Michael Glaser, best known at that time as “Det. David Starsky” in the police series Starsky and Hutch. While Glaser did have directing experience (several episodes of Starsky and Hutch and three episodes of Miami Vice), he had never helmed a big-budget movie before, so this was quite a gamble, especially when you consider the résumés of the directors who had been let go.

5. Between Linder, Reeve, Schwarzenegger and the various directors, all bringing their own "creative suggestions", screenwriter Steven E. de Souza later revealed that he wrote fifteen drafts of the script for The Running Man before filming finally began.

6. Richard Dawson was cast as the evil game show host, Damon Killian. Although a well known actor - he'd played Corporal Peter Newkirk in Hogan's Heroes - Dawson was cast primarily because he was the original host of Family Feud between 1976–1985, a role he returned to between 1994–1995. After the film's release, many people who worked with Richard Dawson said that in real life he was much like Damon Killian in both his 'on-screen' and 'backstage' personas.

7. Paula Abdul choreographed the pre-show dance sequences in The Running Man. Although an established music video choreographer, already working for the likes of Janet Jackson and Duran Duran, this was only her second film credit and her biggest production to date. The music used for pre-show dance sequence was composed by Jackie Jackson, founding member of the Jackson 5, and was dubbed "Paula's Theme" in her honor.

8. There are several notable cameos in The Running Man. Wrestler turned actor turned politician Jesse Ventura plays Captain Freedom, and Sven-Ole Thorsen appears as Sven. Both of them co-starred in Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger (which was the previous film for all three actors).

As well as Dweezil Zappa as Stevie (son of legendary American composer/singer Frank Zappa, who in one of his two lines says "Don't touch that dial!" one of his father's most famous lyrics from the song "I Am the Slime"), Mick Fleetwood, from Fleetwood Mac, plays a futuristic exaggerated version of himself. As resistance leader 'Mic', when Fleetwood is introduced to Scwarzenegger's character Richards to remove his explosive collar from around his neck he says to him "You're one of the cops who locked up all my friends, burned my songs."

Also, the announcer, 'Phill Hilton", who is heard throughout but clearer near the end credits during the closing show monologue, is voiced by Rodger Bumpass. You may know him better as the voice of Squidward Tentacles on SpongeBob SquarePants.

9. When The Running Man did eventually premiere, on November 13th 1987, it failed to generate the income Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous films had, taking just $38 million on a $27 million budget. Predator grossed $98 million (on $18m budget), Commando grossed $57m (on $9m budget), and The Terminator $78m (on just $6m budget).

Schwarzenegger was not shy about being vocal where the fault lay, he blamed Paul Michael Glaser, stating that hiring him as director was a "terrible decision", as Glaser "shot the movie like it was a television show, losing all the deeper themes", which he felt ultimately hurt the production.

10. Although The Running Man might not have been as commercially successful as Schwarzenegger might've liked it heavily inspired TV's successful Gladiators franchise, which began in 1989 with American Gladiators before launching in other territories.

Although The Running Man received its own video game adaptation in 1989, a side-scrolling beat 'em up, the plot and setting of the film was heavily influential for Williams 1990 arcade game Smash TV. Set on a game show in the dystopian future year of 1999, the goal is to kill or be killed. One or two "lucky" contestants must shoot their way to fame and fortune, and once all of the challengers in each arena have been massacred, the contestant(s) will proceed to survive the next gauntlet.

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