Bangarang! Swashbuckling Facts About Hook

Hook is a 1991 fantasy adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, and more. The film follows a selfish and workaholic father named Peter Banning, who has forgotten about his youth as Peter Pan living in Neverland. However, after the infamous pirate Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter must return to Neverland to remember his past and save his children. Today, the film has a devoted following although it had mixed reviews upon release. See what the film was like behind the scenes and learn some lesser-known facts.

It Was Almost A Musical

Musical
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

The previous most famous adaptations of the Peter Pan novel, the Broadway show and the Disney cartoon, were both musicals. Director Steven Spielberg considered this when making the film.

The legendary composer John Williams wrote several songs for the film until the idea was eventually discarded, although they were later incorporated into the musical score. Nevertheless, two songs with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse made it onto the film, titled “We Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” and “When You’re Alone.”

Spielberg Brought On Writers To Change The Script

Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Although director Steven Spielberg may have enjoyed James V. Hart’s screenplay for the most part, he felt that the characters of Captain Hook and Tinkerbell were underwritten. In order to boost Hook’s dialogue, Spielberg brought on writer Malia Scotch Marmo, who also worked on Jurassic Park.

Few people know, however, that most of Tinkerbell’s dialogue was actually written by Carrie Fisher, better known as Princess Leia from the Star Wars saga. While Marmo received writing credit, Fisher remained uncredited.

It Was Completely Over Schedule And Over Budget

Spielberg in a chair
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Although Steven Spielberg had been more reserved about his films since the disastrous excess of his film 1914, he let the production of Hook get way out of control. While shooting was supposed to last just 76 days, it was completed in 116. On top of that, the film was only supposed to cost around $48 million, yet ended up being approximately $60 to $80 million.

Dustin Hoffman, who plays Captain Hook, attributes these hangups to Julia Roberts’ insistence on getting things perfect, as well as working with countless children, the live-action effects, and everything else that made the film what it is. However, Spielberg takes full blame.

Hoffman Played A Variety Of Characters

Hoffmann as Hook
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

While some audiences might be able to spot Dustin Hoffman behind Captain Hook’s mustache and his formidable attire, the actor played more than one role.

In addition to playing Captin Hook, Hoffman also provided his voice as the airline pilot on the family’s way to England, speaking the classic phrase, “This is your captain speaking.” There are also other Hoffmans involved in the film such as his son, Max, who plays the young version of Peter Pan.

The Film’s Origin Story

2_vho
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

The initial idea for Hook came about when screenwriter Jim Hart’s six-year-old son asked, “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Although it took a few years until the film was written and eventually made, Hart’s son, Jake, was involved in the filming process and had a small role as one of the Lost Boys.

Hart said that Jake “was in all of the battle scenes, trained with combat choreographers and played on that set all summer.”

Julia Roberts Did Not Enjoy Production

3_vho
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Although you wouldn’t be able to judge it from Julia Roberts’ radiating smile, she was miserable for the majority of the shoot, as she was having difficulty in her personal life. She had recently broken up with Kiefer Sutherland and was beginning a new relationship with Jason Patric.

According to Spielberg, “Her biggest problem was timing. Her personal life fell apart, and she reported to work on the same weekend.” At one point, she even had a freakout on set after she mistakingly heard that Sutherland was on set.

There Were Stars Of All Kinds On Set

Behind The Scenes Of Hook
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

With Steven Spielberg working with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars on one of the most expensive sets of all time, people were naturally drawn to Sony Pictures Studios to see what everyone was talking about.

Besides the stars that were featured in the film, other famous individuals who found themselves on set included Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, and more. Even Queen Noor of Jordan made a rather unusual appearance to see the film being made.

Nick Castle Was Paid To Not Direct It

Bob Hoskins as Smee
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Director Nick Castle, who is known for his work on The Last Starfighter and The Boy Who Could Fly, was working with screenwriter Hart to get the movie made at Columbia-TriStar when Sony bought the company and put Mike Medavoy in charge.

Medavoy sent the script to Spielberg, who jumped at the chance to direct it. Castle was then taken off the project and paid a $500,000 settlement and a “story credit” along with Hart. It’s rumored that Hoffman and Williams wouldn’t have made the movie if Castle was still directing.

The Movie Was Delayed So Spielberg Could Spend Time With His Kid

Spielberg on set
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Steven Spielberg had been thinking about making a live-action Peter Pan since the early 1980s. However, the film was put on hold in 1985, after Max, Spielberg’s first son, was born.

In Joseph McBride’s book Steven Spielberg: A Biography, the director noted that “I guess it was just bad timing. I didn’t want to go to London and have seven kids on wires in front of blue screens swinging around. I wanted to be home as a dad, not a surrogate dad.” This is kind of ironic considering that the movie is about an absentee father.

Michael Jackson Was Almost Peter Pan

Williams as Peter Pan
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Spielberg commented that “Michael had always wanted to be Peter Pan. But I called Michael and said, ‘This is a movie about a lawyer [who used to be Peter Pan],’ so he understood it wasn’t the same version of Peter Pan that he wanted to make.”

However, Vanity Fair reported in 2003 that Jackson had supposedly paid a witch doctor to put a curse on Spielberg, among others. It doesn’t seem to have worked!

Hook Isn’t One Of Spielberg’s Favorite Films

Filmmakers on ship
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Hook didn’t receive the greatest reviews when it was first released in theaters. Even Spielberg himself has admitted that it isn’t one of his favorite films, noting “I don’t love Hook but my kids do.”

Despite Spielberg not being overly proud of his film, the movie still received five Oscar nominations, while also making $300 million worldwide. Some fans enjoyed it so much that they demanded that there be a celebration for its 25th anniversary.

Dustin Hoffman’s Children All Made Appearances

Robin Williams and child actors
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Dustin Hoffman wasn’t the only member of his family to make an appearance in the film. In fact, all three of his children had cameos in the film. His youngest son Max played the five-year-old Peter Pan, and his daughter Rebecca played Jane in the play at the beginning of the movie.

Finally, his oldest son, Jake, was a little league player in Jack’s baseball game near the beginning of the film. They may have been small roles, but it is more than most children can say they have done in front of the camera!

A Cameo By Phil Collins

Phil Collins in Hook
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

After Peter Pan discovers that his children had been kidnapped, he talks to a police inspector, with the main one being played by musician Phil Collins. The star was on set for two days in order to film his small cameo.

However, Collins expressed his concern in an interview that the movie’s advertising made it look as though he was starring alongside Williams and Hoffman even though he only had a minor role. He was also afraid the public might think that his scenes were cut because he wasn’t good enough.

There Were Many References Of The Original Peter Pan Story In Wendy’s House

Robin Williams walking towards windows
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

If you look closely, you may realize that there are plenty of references to the story of Peter Pan in Wendy’s house. In the nursery, the window clasp is in the shape of Captain Hook’s hook, and the walls are painted with scenes from the story.

In Tootles’ room, there is a scale model of the Jolly Roger in a bottle. Furthermore, Wendy’s brother’s top hat and glasses can be seen, as well as Michael’s iconic teddy bear.

One Of The Film’s Most Touching Scenes Was Improvised

Williams in costume
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

According to an interview with People Magazine, Raushan Hammond, who played the Lost Boy Thud Butt, reveals that Robin Williams improvised one of the most touching scenes in the film.

Near the end of the movie, before departing Neverland, Peter decides to leave his sword in the hands of the most worthy Lost Boy to act as their new leader. None of the boys knew that the sword was going to be given to one of them except Williams and Spielberg, so their reactions were all genuine.

References To Other Robin Williams Films

Williams disguised as a pirate
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

When Mr. Smee, played by Bob Hoskins, wakes up the pirates using a megaphone, he yells, “good morning Neverland!” This is a reference to Williams’ 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam, in which his character begins his radio broadcasts with the same inflection.

In addition, Tootles references Dead Poets Society when he shouts “seize the day!” at the end of the film. In the movie, Williams’ character tells his students to “carpe diem,” which is Latin for “seize the day.”

Captain Hook And Mr. Smee’s Relationship

Hoffman and Baskins
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

In a 2004 interview, Hoffman revealed that he had an “aha!” moment with Bob Hoskins about their character’s gay relationship with each other. They believed that the original Peter Pan creator, Sir J.M. Barrie, envisioned the characters that way.

Hoffman said, “Bob and I were rehearsing and suddenly we looked at each other and realized it at the same time.” They then began rehearsing that way, with lines such as “Get over here, Smee. Give me a foot massage,” making a lot more sense.

Dante Basco Got The Role Of Rufio After Scaring Spielberg

Dante Basco as Rufio
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Rufio is arguably one of the most memorable characters in Hook with his in-your-face attitude and red mohawk. Actor Dante Basco was just 16 years old when he landed the role as the leader of the Neverland Lost Boys. Supposedly, he only attended one audition before getting the job.

When talking to News.com, Basco explained that when he asked Spielberg why he received the role, he was told that of all the young actors that auditioned for the role, Basco was the only one that scared the director.

Dante Basco And Robin Williams Bonded Over Poetry

Williams and Basco
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Out of all the moments that the young Dante Basco shared with Robin Williams, he recalls his fondest being the times they discussed Williams’ film Dead Poets Society. The film had been incredibly impactful to Basco, who was aspiring to be a poet at the time.

The two would also have deep discussions about poetry. As a parting gift, Williams gave Basco a limited-edition copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which is heavily referenced in Dead Poets Society. Basco would go on to open Da Poetry Lounge, the largest weekly open mic poetry venue in the United States.

David Bowie Was Almost Hook

David Bowie singing
RONCEN Patrick/KIPA/SYGMA/CORBIS/GUETTY IMAGES/Sygma via Getty Images
RONCEN Patrick/KIPA/SYGMA/CORBIS/GUETTY IMAGES/Sygma via Getty Images

Although Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Hook remains one of the most iconic portrayals of the character, he wasn’t always the first choice. Even though Hoffman was perfect for the part and did an excellent job, according to Daily Mail, the role almost went to the British music legend David Bowie.

However, he turned down the offer, although his rendition of the character would have surely been very different and unique from Hoffman’s performance.