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'Cool Runnings' at 25: Director Jon Turteltaub reveals the original, dark version

·Producer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Twenty-five years ago, on Oct. 1, 1993, Cool Runnings zoomed into the pantheon of popular sports movies. The Disney film, the first set in what has become the 1988 Olympics Cinematic Universe, featured four Jamaican runners attempting to strike gold in bobsledding in the Winter Games.

Campy and brimming with heart, the film became a big hit. But what most fans don’t know is that Cool Runnings was initially intended to be a much darker film involving drugs and violence. Yahoo Entertainment spoke with the movie’s director, Jon Turteltaub, about the Cool Runnings that might have been.

A serious story set in Kingston’s slums

Cool Runnings went through a million different iterations,” Turteltaub explained (watch above). “When I came on the movie, it was called Blue Magaa. “Still don’t know what that meant. I think that was the name of the sled and it meant lighting, I don’t know.

“Before me there was a great director, who had just directed What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Turteltaub continued, referencing filmmaker Brian Gibson. “It was a serious story of life in Kingston and the drug culture and getting out of the slums. It was a story about these guys fighting the mean streets of Kingston to get to the Olympics. [The producers] just couldn’t make it work somehow. They switched and made it fun and playful and for Disney, and hired [me]. The whole tone of the movie just shifted.”

Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, John Candy, and Leon in <i>Cool Runnings</i>. Director Jon Turteltaub told Yahoo Entertainment he initially thought of Kurt Russell for Candy’s role. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, John Candy, and Leon in Cool Runnings. Director Jon Turteltaub told Yahoo Entertainment he initially thought of Kurt Russell for Candy’s role. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Kurt Russell was the director’s first choice, not John Candy

Knowing that the movie was originally much more serious, it not a surprise that John Candy was brought on as Coach Irv Blitzer only after the film was revamped as a comedy. But Turteltaub said that he had another actor in mind.

“The first time I got asked who I wanted to play the coach, I was like, ‘OK, Olympic coach. Kurt Russell.'” Turtelaub said. “That was my perfect guy, that was before Miracle, where he played [Olympic ice hockey coach Herb Brooks]. … Jeffrey Katzenberg said, ‘What about John Candy?'”

Turteltaub initially balked, but after mulling it over, he realized that Candy would be perfect for the role. “I was the guy watching SCTV on a Saturday night,” the director. “John Candy was my hero.”

Watch: Jon Turtelaub on how his 2018 hit ‘The Meg’ references ‘Jaws’:

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