Ridley Scott may have been known for his cult hits back in the ’80s, but Legend is one film that never reached the heights of Blade Runner or Alien. Despite having its own share of “Director’s Cuts” and “Ultimate Editions” like Scott’s previous work, the film’s fan group was even smaller in number. Much of this came from the movie’s undeniable problems and the struggles – from its first draft to its fifteenth.
An ambitious new story taken from Celtic mythology, Legend involved a familiar fairy tale story with a young hero, played by Tom Cruise, going to save a princess from the Lord of Darkness, played by the legendary Tim Curry. While the production design and creativity were awe-inspiring, the characters and story felt underdeveloped. The intent may have been there, but it seemed to lack the depth necessary for it to last long after its time.
With that said, it’s a small miracle the film actually got made. Plagued by innumerable production problems and creative changes, the final product couldn’t help but illustrate that. However, it’s an undoubtedly interesting project to investigate.
So many production ideas and instances of studio interference took it away from the original vision. Yet, many of these concepts will never be seen by fans. A mix of test screening reactions and executive decision-making took the project in a different direction that many behind the camera weren’t prepared for. Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from our list.
Here are 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Legend.
20 Bad test screenings chopped the movie up
Test screenings can be the defining moment for big movies. It’ll determine whether a studio has a surefire hit on their hands or if there’s something to worry about. As revealed on Legend’s DVD special features, in the case of Legend’s initial preview screening, things really didn’t go as everyone hoped.
Viewers were divided on the film, to say the least.
This test screening ended up being Legend’s defining moment as the film went through dramatic changes following it. Most prominent among them were the cuts to the runtime, eventually reduced to 89 minutes.
Credited for this decision were a couple of audience members supposedly smelling of illegal substances that expressed their displeasure during the screening. While most may not have minded, Ridley Scott seemed to see their comments as constructive.
19 There are four different versions of the movie
As previously noted, Legend went through a massive series of edits that resulted in a sharp difference from the project’s original form. This led to multiple different versions being created that varied across multiple platforms. In total, there ended up being up to four different versions.
There is the original 94-minute European release, 89-minute theatrical release in America, a 94-minute release on network television, and an eventual Director’s Cut that ended up with a 113-minute runtime.
The American version was ultimately the most edited-down. Network TV incorporated an opening title crawl narration and some scenes from the European version.
Besides the Director’s Cut (which didn’t come out until 2002), the European cut got the most authentic version.
18 It went through 15 rewrites
Writing a ready-for-filming screenplay is no easy task. Add in a large budget and dueling creative preferences with the studio, and you’ve got an idea of screenwriter William Hjortsberg’s struggle.
Whether it was the lacking amount of source material provided to him or the constant retooling of the film’s plot and design, his adaptability was essential.
There were constant reworkings necessary for the script. Decisions made to fix tonal issues, mass marketability, and figuring out how to remove 60 minutes from the runtime without breaking the film were just a few of his tasks.
It was no walk in the park for the writer, but it’s clear that he remained hopeful and interested throughout.
Many elements may have been changed, but in his eyes, Legend’s foundation remained.
17 Dark deleted scene between Lord of the Darkness and the Princess
A film like Legend proved to be somewhat difficult to market, but it could’ve been much more of a challenge had they stuck with certain creative choices.
When writing the first screenplay draft, there was a scene in which the Lord of Darkness torments the Princess until she loves him. The scene wouldn’t have ended there either, as the two would’ve supposedly had violent relations immediately after.
Although Hjortsberg undoubtedly had reasoning behind this idea, the concept was one of the first things scrapped in the editing bay. He voiced his heavy amount of disappointment, but remained agreeable when some rewrites were requested.
16 It was originally way darker, and inappropriate for kids
If that entry discussing the initial film’s extended torment scene didn’t make it clear, Legend was planned as a very dark fairy tale. From its chosen screenwriter to the mythology that served as points of inspiration, this did not start as a standard fantasy.
However, 1985 was not the most forgiving time for ambitious creators who needed big budgets to bring their projects to life. You needed some sort of guarantee for the studio that your movie was marketable, and Scott had to make compromises.
He ended up making the compromises because he knew it’d be impossible to make the film without them (especially with the $30 million budget). This meant that grittier tone got toned down rather significantly.
15 A fourth goblin, Tic, was deleted from all versions
Some may feel that fantasy worlds can never have too many characters. Unfortunately, if a screenwriter can’t find a place to put someone, the character ends up either removed or forgotten. This is the treatment that the character of Tic received.
Initially the fourth goblin, Tic was present in the film’s script throughout much of production. Yet, when it came time to prep the film for theaters, Tic found himself cut from the movie.
The script had nothing for him to do, leading to this choice.
However, once the Director’s Cut was released, Tic got some time in the spotlight. He can be spotted in the alternate opening footage on the Legend DVD, chumming it up with his fellow goblins.
14 All of Gump’s lines were dubbed
When watching any of Gump’s scenes, there’s always something off — just enough of a delay between his lips moving and his dialogue to keep you distracted. Was he dubbed? Yes, yes he was.
Confirmed by screenwriter William Hjortsberg, poor young David Bennent had his lines completely dubbed over by Alice Payten, who played Blix.
Studio executives were worried that Bennent’s accent would’ve been too heavy for audiences to understand.
It’s also why Screwball calls Gump a “foreigner” before the group’s attacked by Meg Mucklebones.
13 They didnt want little people to play the goblins
While a staple of fantasy films, it’s no easy task casting appropriate actors for roles like goblins and dwarves. It’s hard enough finding suitable actors for any big movie, but once you narrow down the search to characters of certain shapes and sizes, difficulties increase.
This problem led VFX legend Richard Edlund to consider filming on 70mm film to get out of the requirement of casting little people for size-appropriate roles.
Shooting that way would allow for easier framing so editors could make cast members simply “look” like they’re dwarf-sized. Edlund’s previous work with other “miniature” characters (Star Wars’ Ewoks) likely served as motivation behind this ditched idea.
12 Blade Runner’s Unicorn connection
A great excerpt from the book Legend Making was Hjortsberg’s discussion on how the film was pitched to him by Ridley Scott.
Scott was still busy with Blade Runner, so he still had unicorns on the mind.
Scott told the writer that he wanted to tell a story involving unicorns, “the fastest steed on Earth,” in some way.
This led to Hjortsberg describing a story involving a princess in love with a commoner. The princess would sneak out of the castle so the two could meet up and interact with some unicorns, leading to the inciting incident. He described it almost exactly the same as the film version. Scott loved what he was hearing, which then led to Hjortsberg being sent home to write the script.
11 The writer’s only reference for the script was Faeries
When drawing up a somewhat original fantasy story, it’s important to have a strong foundation to draw from. And while Ridley Scott definitely had a vision, William Hjortsberg was largely on his own when drafting up a script. Before he was to begin writing, Scott pointed to a picture book called Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.
This is where Hjortsberg developed the foundation of the script as he got a mentality on the world he was to help develop, along with some minor character ideas.
As Hjortsberg explained to Figment Fly, the paintings and art of the Celtic mythical creatures known as faeries influenced the world of Legend.
10 Ridley Scott “Disney-fied” the movie
Creative compromises with production studios are a necessary evil of filmmaking. After all, the studio wants to ensure that whatever project they’re supporting can make money, and the filmmaker sometimes must make tough choices to ensure success.
Since this was nowhere near a typical fantasy film, the studio had a simple idea: make it more like Disney.
Disney had been a powerhouse for years upon years, so it was difficult not to agree with the choice to draw closer to their framework. As revealed to Cinefantastique, this led to a lighter tone, more simplified story, and story reworkings that made everything feel much more familiar. Creatively, it hurt the film in the long run.
Yet, when you think about Scott’s position, was there anything else he could’ve done?
9 The electronic youth score
The story of Jerry Goldsmith’s time working on Legend is so dense that it requires two entries, starting with what led to his replacement. Goldsmith was the original composer for the film, providing a suitably fantastical and romance-inspired score. For those who listen to it, it’s another strong product from the prolific composer.
According to Universal executive Sidney Sheinberg in Jack Mathew’s book The Battle of Brazil, initial reactions from the preview audience were negative, with some singling out Goldsmith’s score.
Many changes were made to the overall product because of this, like bringing in electronic band Tangerine Dream to help the movie be more youth-friendly. Goldsmith was then left in the dust, along with his original score.
8 There are two different soundtracks for the movie
Thankfully, even though Goldsmith did get unceremoniously replaced, that doesn’t mean all of his work was for nothing.
Sure, American audiences had Tangerine Dream’s synth-heavy underscore for the theatrical cut of Legend, but European audiences got to experience Goldsmith’s score with theater speakers.
Yes, the European cut of the movie came with the original score attached, allowing the movie to play out similarly to its original test version. It’s not quite the same, but at least something closer to what Ridley Scott originally envisioned. It’s up to audiences to determine which score is better suited, but at least Goldsmith’s hard work was still able to be appreciated.
7 Ridley Scott approved of all the major changes from the studio
Moviegoers today are often extremely worried whenever they feel a director’s vision has been diluted by executives. Viewers want to ensure that they’re getting the definitive edition of whatever film they’re watching.
Legend seems like a great example of this, as the film was influenced heavily by its studio.
None of the film’s major additions/removals were implemented without director Ridley Scott’s approval.
Each new idea went through Scott and he approved them.
As Scott has made clear in the past, he sees his relationship with production studios as a partnership rather than an obligation. In addition, his confidence in the product was shaken following the poor test screenings, so he was game to change, so long as they could potentially lead to success.
6 Style over substance
Considering the somewhat “light” source material given to Hjortsberg, it makes sense that there wasn’t really much for him to work with. He had to create a lot from very little as he looked at a picture book for potential lore. Without the substance to back up the material’s visuals, it stands to reason that you work with what you’ve got.
This approach spilled into bits of the film, as certain elements feel chosen based on aesthetic rather than depth. Visuals can be as stunning as you’d like, but there’s only so much to them when there’s nothing below the surface.
5 Storyboards for the film totaled 411 pages
Any fantasy project surely has an endless amount of concept art and storyboards used throughout the creative process. Thoroughly-designed worlds and inhabitants that help the world itself feel authentic.
Legend may have suffered from shallow source material, but its creative team did not lack ideas.
According to production designer Assheton Gorton, the number of storyboards maxed out at 411.
It’s an unsurprising number, given how much of this movie felt dedicated to ensuring there were no moments of “fakeness” on screen, but still notable. It shows that for those who feel the movie lacked depth, it doesn’t mean it lacked effort.
4 One writer did all the rewrites
Inconsistent vision across numerous creatives can be a rather frustrating thing to experience. Whenever it feels like a different person wrote a specific section following the last, it can really hurt a film’s immersion.
Even though Legend suffered from many production problems, they always had their trusty screenwriter around.
William Hjortsberg maintained his position as head of writing duties throughout production. This includes every rewrite, addition, and restructuring. It also includes the opening title scroll, which was a creative choice he voiced his displeasure for.
The only time Hjortsberg had his job done for him was when Ridley Scott and then-President of Universal Studios, Sidney Sheinberg, made final preparations for the movie to be theater-ready (according to The Ridley Scott Encyclopedia).
3 20th Century Fox’s one specific fix to Legend’s first draft
Regarding the deleted torment scene — it’s difficult to think of it ever being approved in any fantasy project decades before Game of Thrones. If you think execs had strong reactions to it, you’re absolutely right.
When pitching the film, Fox executive Marcia Nassiter specifically voiced one fix: “You can’t have the villain [get with] the princess.”
Discussed in William Hjortsberg’s book Legend Making, that component of the film was always a hard sell. Following this response, the film went through years of continuous rewrites with Hjortsberg and Scott working together extensively to get the project right.
2 The Psycho II Cue
Jerry Goldsmith’s time working on Legend was a bundle of misfortune. He gets replaced late in the creative process, almost gets the only copy of his score misplaced/ruined because of studio negligence, and ruins his working relationship with Ridley Scott.
Then there’s the fact that American audiences never got to experience his score in theaters. Yet, that statement isn’t entirely true. American audiences did get to experience Goldsmith’s work in Legend, it just was for a different movie.
Temp music from Psycho II is used in Legend.
For American audiences, it’s the only time they get to hear Goldsmith’s work during the theatrical cut. It’s sad, but at least his work could finally be appreciated once the Director’s Cut was released.
1 Ridley Scott still maintains his pride in the film
You’d think that following all the divisive reactions and the chaotic production process, Ridley Scott would feel some bitterness or negativity towards Legend.
It represented another box office flop for him during a not-so-successful time in his career and likely caused much more than a couple headaches. However, if his commentary on the Director’s Cut is anything to go by, he’s still proud of it.
Listening to him speak fondly of the film and its specific components confirms the admiration he has for this project. It’s likely not his proudest achievement, by a long shot, but it certainly wasn’t a project he regretted taking on.
Do you have any trivia to share about Legend? Let us know in the comments!
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