With my brother's recent cosplay as John Hancock, I decided to look into the original movie. The subversive film about an alcoholic superhero running amok in Los Angeles was a major hit, and there's talk of a sequel coming together. Here are ten things you may not have known about its production.

1. Hancock Started As Tonight He Comes - Hancock began as a spec script called Tonight He Comes. Written by Vincent Ngo, the original story was a controversial and philosophical take on superheroes, more like Leaving Las Vegas. The script became known throughout Hollywood as one of the best unfilmed screenplays. Despite its popularity, most of Hollywood thought it could never be filmed, because of its dark tone.

2. Hancock Was Originally the Villain - The original script had almost no relation to the final shooting script for Hancock. In the original version, Hancock is the villain, a foul-mouthed superhero clearly meant to be an evil Superman, who drinks, watches porn, and sleeps with prostitutes. The real hero is Horus Longfellow, a wimpy security guard. Hancock takes a liking to his wife, which Horus has a slight problem with, but can't really do anything about. Hancock teaches Horus' son to smoke, kidnaps Horus' wife, and slaughters the police force that tries to rescue her. (You can read a breakdown of the original at io9). The story was entirely re-written specifically for Will Smith, and made it much more family-friendly. The final shooting script bore so little resemblance to the original that Ngo refused to do interviews for Hancock, and gave all his profits to charity.

3. Hancock Was in Development Hell - Ngo wrote the script in 1996, and the movie didn't get made until 2009. It went through three directors before finally being directed by Peter Berg, and numerous rewrites. At one point, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dave Chappelle were considered for the lead. The breakthrough came when Will Smith signed on as the hero.

4. The Butt-head Scene Almost Got Cut - Anyone who's seen Hancock will remember the scene where Hancock is in prison, being harassed by two prisoners. Hancock threatens to - in more colorful language - insert the head of one prisoner into the anus of the other prisoner. And then he does it. The brief but memorable shot of the outcome proved controversial. The director thought the shot was too much and planned to cut it, but test audiences loved it and insisted on keeping it.

5. Hancock Was Too Shocking for Booze - The producers had a hard time with all the booze Hancock drank during the movie: that's because real brands like Night Train and Thunderbird refused to allow their names to be used. That's why Hancock drinks from bottles labeled Pap Smear Vodka.

6. Hancock Had Aromatherapy On the Set - The set designer Rosemary Brandenburg believes in adding scents to her sets as a way to help actors get into the scenes. For that reason, she burned incense and candles on the sets based on the environment. For the hospital, she created the scent of antiseptic. For Mary's home, she burned lavender. For Hancock's trailer, she used the scent of whiskey.

7. Hancock Loves the Eagles - In the movie, Hancock is obsessed with eagles. His hat has an eagle, he draws eagles in his prison cell, and his uniform has an eagle as its symbol. The uniform eagle is actually the logo of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1948 to 1995. Partly, the symbolism comes from the noble creature's power of flight, but mainly because Will Smith is from Philadelphia.

8. Is Hancock the God Zeus? - *SPOILER ALERT* In the movie, there's no real explanation for where Hancock came from. It's said by Mary that he was created "by the gods," and that's about it. There's a persistent fan theory that Hancock is, in fact, a god: specifically, Zeus. Consider Hancock's love of eagles. An eagle served as Zeus' messenger and companion. And remember at the end of Hancock when he flies off with an eagle?

At one point, Mary says that she and Hancock are brother and sister. Then she later says they're married. That's pretty gross, but it also could be a reference to Zeus and Hera, who were both siblings and lovers. Yeah, the Greeks were freaky like that.

9. "Call Me an A**hole...One More Time" - One of the running jokes in the movie is that Hancock hates being called an a-hole. Despite that, the word is used eighteen times in the movie.

10. They Had to Make Hancock Fly Sideways - Unlike traditional superheroes like Superman who fly straight, Hancock flew awkwardly (translation: drunk), and even sideways at one point. The CGI team had a hard time rendering his flying effects because of that, and the wirework...fuggedaboutit. Imagine having to hoist one of the biggest movie stars in the world up into the air, and haul him sixty feet off the ground at fifty miles an hour. Now imagine being told he has to do it sideways. It took a lot of practice and test flights to get it right.

UPDATE: Added links

What did you think of the list? What else do you know about Hancock that's not on here?

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Pat Dilloway said...

That original script sounds kind of like "Cape Fear" with a superhero. And the title would probably have been better for porn.

Donna Hole said...

I loved the movie version, and I'm glad they made him "redeemable". The Gods really had no concept of incest, as all were creations of some sort from the ethos. Really, can you say you were "birthed" from Zeus if he removed some cellulite from his elbow and a sentient being formed?

I'm with Patrick above; the original script sounds like an Archer cartoon construct for porn. The re-vamp appealed to me though.

I didn't notice all the Eagles symbolism; I'll have to watch it again tonight and look for that specifically.

Nice to meet your Nigel :)


Shannon Lawrence said...

I enjoy movie trivia! I'm afraid I don't have any additional on Hancock, but I found the Zeus stuff quite interesting. Something to consider next time I watch it.


I love Hancock but never researched the origins. Now I can watch it with this in mind.

Tony Laplume said...

I love this movie.


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