25 Fun Facts about Ron Howard and George Lucas' WILLOW and a Cool Behind-The-Scene Featurette
Willow is 30 years old this month! I remember seeing this movie in theaters when I was a kid and I absolutely loved it. It was such a fun and adventurous fantasy film that I will always enjoy. It's just one of those films that always makes me happy when I watch it.
In celebration of the film's 30th anniversary, I thought I'd put together a list of fun facts about the Ron Howard directed and George Lucas produced film that you may or may not have know thanks to IMdB.
You will find 25 fun facts below along with a great vintage behnd-the-scenes featurette for the film that you've got to watch!
- George Lucas specifically wrote this film for Warwick Davis after meeting him on the set of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. He was only 17 years old.
- As Val Kilmer was getting out of his crow cage between takes, the chain snapped and the cage came down on his foot. His resulting limp is evident during the scene in which Madmartigan and Willow arrive opposite Fin Raziel's island.
- This was the first feature film to use the "morphing" process developed by Industrial Light & Magic.
- The devil dogs were actually Rottweilers in rubber masks and suits.
- George Lucas conceived the idea for the film in 1972 and was originally called Munchkins.
- According to the press kits and subsequent novels, the two-headed dragon was named "Eborsisk", which was a reference to the movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
- Ron Howard said that part of the two-headed dragon "Eborsisk" was modeled after his brother Clint Howard who make cameo appearances in almost all of his films. But, Ron couldn't find a part for him in this one, so he modeled the dragon after him.
- The earlier drafts of the screenplay contained more background information on the characters Madmartigan and Sorsha. Madmartigan was originally a knight of the kingdom of Galladorn (the kingdom that General Kael mentions having destroyed to Queen Bavmorda) and that the character Airk was the only real friend he had, but Madmartigan's recklessness got him into trouble, as did his love affair with an Eastern beauty that tainted the family name. Madmartigan had a chance to regain his honor in battle, but he ruined the chance by deserting; this explained some of the bitter antagonism between Madmartigan and Airk. Sorsha was originally the daughter of the king of Tir Asleen, who was a good man (he is in fact the regal old man seen at the end after the fall of Bavmorda and Tir Asleen is restored, and can be briefly seen in stone), which suggested that Sorsha had the capability to be good; during the battle at Tir Asleen between Bavmorda's troops, Madmartigan, and the monster, Sorsha encountered her father and he struggled through the stone to ask her for help, which prompted Sorsha to switch alliances from her evil mother to the good side. All of this was lost in the final film but does appear in the novelization as well as the comic book mini-series by Marvel.
- John Cusack tested for the role of Madmartigan, but lost to Val Kilmer. He considers this his biggest disappointment.
- Val Kilmer adlibbed much of his dialogue.
- The six-month-old twins playing Elora Danan were too young to have a full head of hair. They wear a wig, which was applied using syrup, as normal wig adhesive would be too harsh for the babies' skin.
- Val Kilmer received first billing instead of Warwick Davis. George Lucas felt that wasn't fair since Davis plays the title role and has the most screen time.
- In preparation for the movie, Warwick Davis had to learn a modified accent, how to take care of a baby, how to ride a horse, how to sword fight, and how to perform magic.
- Blackroot is actually vanilla.
- According to Warwick Davis, the film had the largest ever casting call for little people at the time. Between 225 and 240 actors were hired for the film.
- Joanne Whalley accidentally stuck her sword in a stuntman's foot while sticking the sword into the ground at the tavern.
- The original wand was a real piece of wood. Eventually, they feared it could break and replaced it with several fiberglass props.
- Kenny Baker (of R2-D2 fame) played a Nelwyn musician, as did his long time comedy partner Jack Purvis.
- Ron Howard was looking to do a fantasy film. He was at Industrial Light & Magic during the post-production phase of Cocoon, when he was first approached by George Lucas to direct. Howard previously starred in Lucas' American Graffiti, and Lucas felt that he and Howard shared a symbiotic relationship similar to the one he enjoyed with Steven Spielberg.
- The Chinese government refused George Lucas the chance for a brief location shoot. He then sent a group of photographers to South China to photograph specific scenery, which was then used for background blue screen footage.
- Various major film studios turned down the chance to distribute and co-finance it with Lucasfilm because they believed the fantasy genre was unsuccessful.
- The film synchs up in places with the Pink Floyd album The Wall. Including the baby in the basket being on screen while the baby cries at the beginning of Is There Anybody Out There, and the villages elder moving his fingers while the album is playing a keyboard solo until the old man makes a fist which coincides perfectly with a single drum beat. An interesting way to kill a couple hours.
- Ron Howard passed on directing Cocoon: The Return to direct this film.
- The Wilhelm scream is heard three times: 1, during the chase scene after the escape from the tavern, as the soldier's chariot crashes and he is sent flying, 2, At Tir Asleen, when the Brownies trigger the large spear shooter that hits several soldiers, and 3, In front of Nockmaar Castle, as a horseman is cut down by the Army of Galladoorn, three seconds after the Brownies emerge from under a helmet.
- A scene was filmed but cut, which during the battle at Tir Asleen, Sorsha finds her father whom has been turned to stone by Bavmorda and Sorsha's father communicates with Sorsha and pleads with Sorsha to side with Willow and Madmartigan and help them protect Elora Danan and defeat Bavmorda. Hence Sorsha betraying Bavmorda and succumbing to Madmartigan's affections for her.
Below you can watch a fantastic old-school behind-the-scenes featurette for the film! What's so funny about this video is that it was made in the 80s and it starts out with:
"In a time of sequels and spinoffs, where many movies have numbers after their titles, Willow is truly one of a kind."
Things haven't changed!