Movie Title Changes

We take a look at the movies that may have been named something else entirely…

SAY WHEN is released in Irish cinemas this week. The film, which stars Kiera Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell, is the tale of a young woman trying to figure out where she belongs in life, and just how everyone around her knew when to grow up. The film was screened at Sundance under the name LAGGIES, but somehow has been renamed SAY WHEN for its release here.

This got us wondering, which other films have had name changes during the course of their production, and which title would have been better…


Originally titled THE F WORD, WHAT IF stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as two friends who are forced to wonder if their best friend is also the love of their life.
To be fair, neither title for this lovely romantic comedy is actually very good, but the title of the film was changed when the Motion Picture Association of America took issue with the swear word implied in the original title – although it could be argued that the F stands for ‘friend’, given the premise of the film – so it was renamed in the US and elsewhere.


The original title for SCREAM – and the sequels that followed – actually gave rise to a highly successful parody franchise. The title? SCARY MOVIE.
It’s hard to imagine SCREAM being named as anything other than it is, especially seeing as the Wayans Brothers created the send up franchise based on the original title. We feel that SCREAM sums up the feel of Wes Craven’s film, and encapsulates the schlocky, blood soaked slasher flick and its sequels.


Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, BLADE RUNNER was originally in line for a much more complicated and abstract title; DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
Although it is hard to deny that Dick’s title for the story has a certain lyrical quality to it, it is also hard to imagine that a film titled DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? would have done that well at the box office. Also, can you imagine turning up at the cinema and asking a cashier for a ticket? Unwanted comedy would surely have ensued.


Starring the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, THE BOAT THAT ROCKED is the story of a pirate radio station operating from a boat in international waters. Inspired by the true tale of Radio Caroline, the film is not only the tale of DJs trying to stop the station being shut down, but also balance their personal lives with their lives at sea.
THE BOAT THAT ROCKED was either to vague or too long so, in addition to having 20 minutes cut from its running time, was renamed PIRATE RADIO for its US release. Although both titles describe the action and story, THE BOAT THAT ROCKED encapsulates the feel of the film a lot better than the merely descriptive, and rather uninspired PIRATE RADIO.


In its original incarnation, HANCOCK was destined to be a much darker film than the Will Smith led superhero film that it became. The original story was that of an alcoholic superhero who could not make love because the force of his orgasms could kill his partner, and was titled TONIGHT, HE COMES.
Thank god this particular film was renamed, TONIGHT, HE COMES sounds like a film that should have been made by the wildly camp director Ed Wood; many of whose films were also renamed during production. HANCOCK may not be the most inspired title of all time, but since the premise of the film was changed almost completely during rewrites and production, it makes sense that the sexploitation-esque title was changed.


ET: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, the 80s classic movie about a kid who finds an adorable alien hiding out in his shed almost had a different, and way more vague title; A BOY’S LIFE.
While the title this Spielberg classic ended up with is not incredibly imaginative, it is definitely better than the original; A BOY’S LIFE sounds as though it is a cross between Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD and the Pixar movie A BUG’S LIFE. Also, and this is just being pedantic, the film is not about the boy’s life as a whole, it’s about one encounter with an extra-terrestrial being, so A BOY’S LIFE definitely didn’t work.


Based on a Japanese novel, EDGE OF TOMORROW stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as soldiers in a war against destructive and murderous aliens. Cruise’s character is fated to live the same day over and over again, in a quest to find a way to kill the aliens.
The novel that inspired EDGE OF TOMORROW had the more interesting title ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, but although the title may have piqued audiences’ curiosity, it does not do a whole lot to encapsulate the story. Apparently, the title was also changed to because of the word ‘Kill’ being used so much in newspaper headlines. EDGE OF TOMORROW is an improvement, but the film’s tagline – Live. Die. Repeat – would have been an improvement on both.


Kiera Knightley and Mark Ruffalo star in this indie charmer about two people – a would-be singer and a former music executive – brought together through the power of music. Friendship and shenanigans ensue.
Written and directed by John Carney – the man who brought us ONCE – BEGIN AGAIN was originally titled CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? which meant this film about um… beginning again sounded like a flick about terminally ill people being given a new lease of life through music; which would have been a different film altogether. BEGIN AGAIN may be overly simplistic, but it’s a vast improvement on the original.


Another 80s classic that was renamed during production is the Julia Roberts and Richard Gere comedy, PRETTY WOMAN. Originally titled 3000 – apparently the cost of spending a night with Roberts’ plucky, heart of gold prostitute – the film was presumably renamed PRETTY WOMAN to avoid sounding like an action film or a sci-fi blockbuster. When the script was rewritten to make the title character a little less drug addled and a little more feisty, the title was changed too. Phew!


Lee Daniels’ most recent film had a title change from THE BUTLER to LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER. Although it may seem that this was done by a director desperate to have his name in the title, the change actually came about due to a dispute over a 1916 film also titled THE BUTLER, which was owned by a rival production company. The compromise was to include Lee Daniels’ name, which making sure that all words were of same size/prominence and ‘Lee Daniels’ had to be 75% the size of ‘The Butler’. And there you have it folks.


SAY WHEN is released in Irish cinemas on November 7th 2014

Words: Brogen Hayes