'Pretty Woman,' 'Scream,' 'War Dogs,' and 'Arrival' all had different names before they hit the big screen.
What's in a name? Would Pretty Woman have worked with it's original title 3000, in reference to the amount of money paid for a week's worth of company from the prostitute played by Julia Roberts? What about Will Smith's Hancock if it had gone by the cringe-inducing Tonight, He Comes? Or even Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, which was originally called All You Need is Kill, after the book on which it was based? Probably not, which is why all of those, and many other films have gone through title changes on their way to the big screen.
Other films that have altered their previously well-known moniker prior to their release include Scream (originally Scary Movie, until inspiration struck in a Michael Jackson video of the same name); War Dogs (formerly Arms and the Dudes); Arrival (aka Story of Your Life) and Begin Again, known as Can a Song Save Your Life? as recently as its Toronto Film Festival debut roughly 10 months before its release.
Take a look back at the stories behind the title changes of these and other movies.
The Denis Villeneuve sci-fi film, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, originally went by the title of its short-story basis, Story of Your Life, which producer Shawn Levy told The Hollywood Reporter, "sounds a bit like a One Direction song," also reflecting that he discovered with his 2014 film This Is Where I Leave You that "multiword titles can be really problematic."
Of the original title, Levy added, "It doesn’t really skew or service the sci‑fi tension of the movie. It services the character twist that I can’t talk about. But Arrival feels more enigmatic and appropriate."
The Todd Phillips-directed Warner Bros. movie about two stoners from Miami who become weapons dealers (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller) originally went by the title of the Rolling Stone article and subsequent book on which it was based, Arms and the Dudes. But a few months before the film's release, the title was changed to War Dogs. While there doesn't seem to be an official reason for the switch, War Dogs does seem simpler and, in a podcast interview around when the film was retitled, Teller speculated that the earlier title might've been too confusing.
Speaking to Josh Horowitz on his Happy Sad Confused podcast, Teller said of Arms and the Dudes, "That's not a part of the lexicon so when we were throwing that out there … people were kind of confused by the tone of it, I guess, or whatever." And that wasn't the only content connected with the movie that went through a title change. Simon & Schuster even released a movie tie-in version of the Arms and the Dudes book with the name War Dogs.
When the Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo-starring movie Begin Again debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, it was known as Can a Song Save Your Life? The film was a hot property in Toronto, with The Weinstein Co. quickly snatching up U.S. rights despite strong interest from rival buyers. But test audiences weren't so crazy about the old title.
"We'd been testing the movie throughout the fall and into the winter, and it's been testing consistently -- incredibly well across four quadrants in an exciting way. But the title was unilaterally disliked by everyone," producer Anthony Bregman told THR at Begin Again's Tribeca Film Festival premiere. "It was getting an 11 percent approval rating, which is pretty low. … A lot of people said it sounded like a different type of movie, like a softer movie than it was. They just hated the title."
The Doug Liman-directed action movie, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, in which Cruise plays a soldier with the ability to restart the day every time he dies, was long known as All You Need Is Kill, which is also the title of the book on which the movie is based. But filmmakers revised the title feeling that the original, with the word "kill," was too problematic.
"I think the word 'kill' in a title is very tricky in today's world," producer Edwin Stoff told The Hollywood Reporter at Edge of Tomorrow's New York premiere. "I don't know that people want to be bombarded with that word. I don't know that people want to be opening the newspaper and seeing that word. We see it enough in real newspaper headlines, and I don't think we need to see it when we're looking at a movie."
The Weinstein Co. was all prepared to call its Lee Daniels-directed film about a White House butler The Butler until the MPAA's Title Registration Bureau ruled shortly before the movie's release that the film, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, could not use that title, which is also the name of a 1916 Warner Bros. short film. TWC appealed the decision and tried to get Warner Bros. to back down, but TRB's appeals board agreed with the earlier decision, so the title was changed to Lee Daniels' The Butler.
The 2008 Will Smith film about an alcoholic superhero was originally titled Tonight, He Comes. That cringe-inducing name referred to an early draft of the script that sounds far different from the action movie that Sony eventually released -- at least according to director Peter Berg.
"It was about a superhero alcoholic who could not make love because if he comes -- if he climaxed -- he would kill a woman with the power of his climax, and it was this really kind of dark, twisted script," Berg told ESPN's Bill Simmons.
The title was later changed to John Hancock in reference to an autograph Smith's character gives a fan, according to co-star Daeg Faerch, before being shortened to just Hancock.
1996's satirical horror film was originally called Scary Movie before Bob and Harvey Weinstein, aided by Michael Jackson, decided to change it to Scream in part to better convey the mood of the film. Bob explained why they made the change in a 2004 interview with Quentin Tarantino. "When I bought Scary Movie I said, 'Let me make sure I bought the right script -- am I buying a frightening scary movie with irony and some humor, or is it a funny movie that also happens to be scary?' And I said, 'If it’s the first way around, I think you’ve got the wrong title for it.' Harvey, he calls people up at two in the morning. He assumes you’re awake, with no sense of apology, no 'I’m sorry to wake you up,' he just starts in the middle of the sentence. He goes, 'Scream -- it's Scream. Listen, I’m watching this video with Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson called Scream -- that’s the title of your movie."
Julia Roberts' breakthrough film Pretty Woman was originally called 3000 in reference to the amount of money paid for a week's worth of the hooker's company. The 3000 script was much darker, according to Turner Classic Movies, telling the story of a drug-addicted hooker who's rescued for a week and then returned to the streets. Disney, which made and distributed the movie, reportedly thought 3000 sounded too science fiction-y, so they changed it to the name of the Roy Orbison song that plays during the film's memorable shopping montage. Unfortunately, though, director Garry Marshall made the cast jackets with "$3,000" on them before the title was changed. "[Roberts] learned from me that before you make the jacket, you've got to name the picture," Marshall recalled in 2007.