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Romancing the Stone is a 1984 American action-adventure film, and has many elements that might categorize it as a romantic comedy. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. The film was followed by a 1985 sequel, The Jewel of the Nile.

The film was a respectable hit and earned over $86,572,238 worldwide in box-office receipts and an additional $36 million in video rentals. This film also helped launch Turner to stardom, reintroduced Douglas to the public as a capable leading man, and gave Zemeckis his first box-office success.


Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a romance novelist who, at the beginning of the film, has just finished her latest novel. The next morning, she receives a package from her dead brother-in-law Eduardo, who was recently murdered and dismembered. Her widowed sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor) calls Joan and begs her to come to Colombiamarker with the package; Elaine has been kidnapped, and the package is the ransom.

Hastily flying down to Colombia from New Yorkmarker, Joan is detoured from her destination, Cartagenamarker, by Zolo (Manuel Ojeda), the man who killed Elaine's husband. Joan ends up in the rural jungles of Colombia and is almost killed by Zolo, but is saved by swashbuckling opportunist Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). In return for helping her find her way to Cartagena, Joan promises Jack US$375 in traveler's checks. The package is revealed to contain a map, but Joan refuses to follow Jack's suggestion of investigating where the map leads.

Jack helps Joan elude Zolo, who wants the map and commands the Colombian police as a "private army". Unknown to Jack and Joan, they're being followed by Ralph (Danny DeVito), a crook who is the cousin of Ira (Zack Norman), the man that kidnapped Elaine. After harrowing situations and an encounter with a local smuggler and fan of Joan's novels named Juan (Alfonso Arau), who helps them escape from Zolo, they eventually find the treasure, which turns out to be an enormous emerald called El Corazon ("The Heart"). After the discovery, they are chased again by Zolo and Ralph, but fall in a raging river and go over a waterfall. Jack and Joan end up on opposite sides of the river with no way of crossing; Joan has the map but Jack has the emerald. Jack directs Joan to Cartagena, promising that he will meet her there with the emerald.

Joan arrives at Cartagena, but Jack is not there. She meets with Ira at an old military fortress across the bay from her hotel, and the exchange of the map for Elaine is made successfully. They are interrupted by Zolo, who knows that the map is now worthless. Jack arrives with the emerald, who is forced to surrender it to Zolo. However, before he can celebrate his victory further, El Corazon is swallowed by one of the crocodiles, who also bites off Zolo's hand in the process. As a furious gun battle between Zolo's soldiers and Ira's gang takes place, Joan and Elaine take the opportunity to dash for safety, but they are pursued by a enraged Zolo. As Ira and his men make their escape, leaving Ralph behind, Jack spots the crocodile who swallowed the emerald heading over one of the walls of the fortress and tries to stop it from escaping. He has his grip on the crocodile's tail when he sees that Joan is in trouble with Zolo, who is trying to kill her. Jack lets go of the crocodile and scales a rock wall to reach her, though Joan has managed to fight Zolo off herself. Zolo is killed when he falls into Ira's pit of pet crocodiles, Ira and his men escape, and Ralph is left behind as the authorities arrive. After a kiss, Jack dives into the water to chase the crocodile, leaving Joan behind with her sister.

Some time later, Joan is shown in New York, delivering another completed manuscript based on her experiences to her publisher, Gloria (Holland Taylor), who is positive it will be her best seller yet. Returning home, she finds Jack - wearing crocodile skin boots - waiting for her in a sailboat he purchased with the proceeds of El Corazon. It turns out Jack managed to catch the crocodile, who suffered "a fatal case of indigestion" from swallowing the gem. The film ends with Jack and Joan kissing on the deck of the Angelina, named for Joan's fictional heroine, as the trailer the boat rests on drives off into the streets of New York City.

Production and release

Filming locations included Veracruz, Mexicomarker (Fort of San Juan de Ulúamarker), Mazatlan, Mexicomarker and Manila, Philippinesmarker. The scene where Turner and Douglas get separated on opposite banks on a whitewater river about 2/3rds into the movie was filmed on the Rio Antigua near the town of Jalcomulco.

This was the first Zemeckis film to feature a music score by composer Alan Silvestri; Silvestri has scored each subsequent film Zemeckis has directed. The novelization of this film was credited to Joan Wilder.

Although, upon its release, comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark were inevitable (Time magazine called the movie "a distaff Raiders rip-off"), the screenplay for Romancing had actually been written five years earlier. It was written by a Malibumarker waitress named Diane Thomas in what would end up being her only screenplay; she died in a car crash shortly after the film's release. Though Thomas received solo writing credit, several uncredited script doctors helped to refine the film's screenplay.

Turner later said of the film's production, "I remember terrible arguments [with Robert Zemeckis] doing Romancing. He's a film-school grad, fascinated by cameras and effects. I never felt that he knew what I was having to do to adjust my acting to some of his damn cameras--sometimes he puts you in ridiculous postures. I'd say, 'This is not helping me! This is not the way I like to work, thank you!'" Despite their difficulties on the film, Zemeckis would go on to work with Turner again, casting her as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Studio insiders expected Romancing the Stone to flop (to the point that, after viewing a rough cut of the film, the producers of the then-in-the-works Cocoon fired Zemeckis as director of that film), but the film became a surprise hit. In fact, it ended up being 20th Century Fox's "only big hit" in 1984. Zemeckis later stated that the success of Romancing the Stone allowed him to make Back to the Future. The film's success also led to a sequel, 1985's The Jewel of the Nile, without Zemeckis at the helm but with Douglas, Turner and DeVito all returning. Though it performed respectably, its success didn't match that of the original. A second sequel called Crimson Eagle was planned but never got past the development stage . Another film, The War of the Roses, again reunited Douglas, Turner and DeVito.


References in other media

  • In an episode of the television sitcom Roseanne, Dan brings home an adult video spoof titled Romancing the Bone to spice up his and Rosanne's marriage.
  • The phrase "Romancing the Stone" is parodied in the title of the book Sexing the Cherry by the English writer Jeanette Winterson (in reference to a cherry stone).
  • An original song was composed for the soundtrack, but only its guitar solo was in the film. The song was performed by Eddy Grant. A music video of Grant's song was released.
  • The theme music which plays during Joan Wilder's book The Savage Secret in the opening scene is from How the West Was Won.
  • The phrase "Romancing the Stone" is parodied in the title of the 1985 Sierra Entertainment computer game King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne
  • Several of the film's scenes were lifted for the Telugu movie Kshana Kshanam.
  • While in a cave, Danny DeVito's character makes a joke about Batman showing up. DeVito would go onto play Batman's nemesis in the film, Batman Returns.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Barely Legal," the childish Mayor Adam West sends the Quahog police to Cartegena, Colombia to assist in the search for Elaine Wilder.
  • Lots scenes are as it is used in Anji, a Telugu movie.

See also


  2. IMDB Bio
  3. Horowitz, Mark. "Back with a Future," American Film July/Aug. 1988. pp. 32-35.
  4. Supplements for the Back to the Future DVD.

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