Twister (1996 film)
Twister is a 1996 American epic disaster film directed by Jan de Bont from a screenplay by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin. It was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, and Gerald R. Molen. The film stars Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz and Cary Elwes, and focuses on a group of storm chasers trying to deploy a tornado research device during a severe outbreak in Oklahoma. Twister was officially released in theaters on May 10, 1996. It is notable for being the first film to be released on DVD in the United States.
|Directed by||Jan de Bont|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Edited by||Michael Kahn|
|Box office||$495.7 million|
Twister grossed $495 million worldwide and became the second-highest-grossing film of 1996; it sold an estimated 54.7 million tickets in the U.S. It received mixed reviews from critics, as some praised the visual effects and sound design, but others criticized the screenplay. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound, but lost both to Independence Day and The English Patient respectively.
In 1969, Jo Thornton and her family take shelter from an approaching tornado, however, her father is killed when the tornado tears the shelter door off. Twenty seven years later, Jo is a meteorologist, obsessed with chasing tornadoes and leading a team of ragtag storm chasers. She is on the brink of divorce from retired storm chaser-turned weatherman Bill Harding. Bill travels to rural Oklahoma to get Jo to sign their divorce papers, also introducing his new fiancé, therapist Melissa Reeves. Though Bill has no intention of sticking around, he is intrigued by Dorothy, an invention he conceptualized but never saw realized. Dorothy would be revolutionary for tornado research, but it has to be deployed very close to a dangerous storm. Jo's team rushes off to chase a developing thunderstorm, but Bill and Melissa are forced to pursue them when Jo mistakenly packs the papers. On the way, Bill runs into Jonas Miller, a rival storm chaser, and is forced off the road by Jonas's team.
While getting his Dodge fixed at a repair shop, he discovers Jonas has stolen his idea for a Dorothy device and plans to deploy his corporate sponsored version first and receive sole credit. Enraged, Bill agrees to give Jo one day for her team to successfully deploy Dorothy. The team continues their pursuit of the tornado, this time in Jo's Jeep. In a fit of impulsiveness, Bill maneuvers the truck into a ditch and gets stuck as the twister closes in on them. They seek shelter under a bridge as the tornado destroys the Jeep and Dorothy 1. With more storms developing, Bill uses his own truck to pursue. Once again they encounter Jonas's team, but Bill outsmarts them by accurately predicting a sudden change in the tornado's direction, leading them to a lake. Two waterspouts catch their truck and thrash it about violently before disappearing. Bill and Jo are unharmed but Dorothy 2 failed to deploy and Melissa is left terrified by the ordeal.
The team talk Jo into visiting her Aunt Meg's house in the nearby small town of Wakita, Oklahoma. Over steak and eggs, Bill explains Jo's childhood story to Melissa, while Aunt Meg realizes Jo is still in love with Bill and advises her to stay with him. The team scrambles to find another twister. With Dorothy and the truck badly damaged, Bill retreats against Jo's wishes. An argument ensues, causing Jo to break down and reveal she became a stormchaser to prevent what happened to her father from happening again. Bill reveals that he still has feelings for her, not realizing that their entire conversation is overheard by Melissa through the CB radio. That night, the crew repair their vehicles in a shop next to a drive-in screening of The Shining, where Jo finally agrees to sign the divorce papers. However, the sudden formation of an F4 tornado forces the team to seek shelter in a nearby garage. The tornado devastates the theater, and proceeds to head directly towards Wakita. Before they leave to try and rescue Aunt Meg, Melissa severs her relationship with Bill and wishes him the best.
Wakita is left in ruins, and Aunt Meg is rescued with minor injuries from her collapsed house. With a record-breaking F5 tornado predicted to hit the next day, Bill and Jo are inspired by Aunt Meg's wind vanes to add tin "wings" to Dorothy 3 and 4's sensors, making them more aerodynamic. The next day, the team pursue a massive, mile-wide F5 tornado. Bill and Jo attempt to deploy Dorothy 3, but it gets destroyed by an airborne tree and they discover that it is too light. Meanwhile, Jonas attempts to deploy his device but drives too close to the storm. Bill and Jo try to warn him via radio but Jonas ignores them. He and his driver Eddie are killed by the storm. With Dorothy 4 mounted in the truck's bed, the two sacrifice Bill's Dodge by placing it on cruise control and jumping out at the last second. With the truck as an effective anchor, Dorothy 4 is successfully deployed with positive results. Jo and Bill are then forced to outrun the tornado on foot. They enter a farm shed and strapping themselves to deep pipes, they survive the storm. Finally, they rekindle their relationship and celebrate their success with the rest of the crew.
- Helen Hunt as Dr. Joanne "Jo" Harding, an eccentric meteorologist and storm-chaser.
- Alexa Vega as Young Jo Thornton
- Bill Paxton as Dr. Bill "The Extreme" Harding, a former storm-chaser known for his bizarre "tornado whispering" methods, now a TV weather reporter.
- Jami Gertz as Dr. Melissa Reeves, a reproductive therapist and Bill's fiancé.
- Cary Elwes as Dr. Jonas Miller, a storm-chasing rival to Jo and Bill who also leads a team of meteorologists.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dustin "Dusty" Davis, an outgoing and excitable member of Jo's team.
- Alan Ruck as Robert "Rabbit" Nurick, a member of Jo's team; specializes in maps and roads.
- Sean Whalen as Allan Sanders, Rabbit's assistant.
- Todd Field as Tim "Beltzer" Lewis, Jo's Doppler radar operator.
- Wendle Josepher as Haynes, Beltzer's assistant.
- Jeremy Davies as Brian Laurence, Jo's photographer.
- Joey Slotnick as Joey, Jo's technical advisor.
- Scott Thomson as Jason "Preacher" Rowe, a member of Jo's team nicknamed "Preacher" due to his previous profession.
- Lois Smith as Aunt Meg Greene, Jo's loving aunt
- Zach Grenier as Eddie, Jonas's right-hand man and driver.
- Richard Lineback as Mr. Charlie Thornton, Jo's father
- Rusty Schwimmer as Mrs. Alice Thornton, Jo's mother
- Abraham Benrubi as Bubba, the Mobile Lab Driver
- Patrick Fischler as Landers, The Communicator
- Anthony Rapp as Tony
- Jake Busey as Mobile Lab Technician
Three one-time Oklahoma City television meteorologists—Gary England, then-chief meteorologist at CBS-affiliated television station KWTV; Jeff Lazalier, then a weekend meteorologist at NBC-affiliated television station KFOR-TV; and Rick Mitchell, then-chief meteorologist at ABC-affiliated television station KOCO-TV—all appear as themselves within the movie's local television news reports. (The opening scene in which England appears via archival footage provided by KWTV, takes place in 1969, when England was an oceanographer for New Orleans-based A.H. Glenn and Associates; he would not be hired by KWTV until October 1972.) Additionally, the weather radio operator heard toward the beginning of the movie was voiced by Andy Wallace, then-chief meteorologist at ABC-affiliated television station KSWO-TV in Lawton. Lisa Sanderson claims that Garth Brooks was offered a role but turned it down as he didn’t want to be outshoned by a Tornado.
Twister was produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, with financial backing from Warner Bros. Pictures and Universal Pictures. In return, Warner Bros. was given the North American distribution rights, while Universal's joint venture distribution company United International Pictures (UIP) obtained international distribution rights. The original concept and 10-page tornado-chaser story were presented to Amblin Entertainment in 1992, written by Jeffrey Hilton under the title 'Catch the Wind'. Steven Spielberg was intrigued by the idea and presented the concept to writer Michael Crichton. Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, were paid a reported $2.5 million to write the screenplay, which made Twister the single most expensive screenplay ever written at that time. Spielberg himself was originally attached to direct the project, and directors such as James Cameron, John Badham, and Robert Zemeckis were also in talks to helm the film before Jan de Bont signed on to Twister after leaving Godzilla due to creative differences.
The production was plagued with problems: Joss Whedon was brought in to rewrite through the early spring of 1995. When Whedon contracted bronchitis, Steven Zaillian was brought in to work on script revisions. Whedon later returned and worked on revisions right through the start of shooting in May 1995, then left the project after he got married. Two weeks into production, Jeff Nathanson was flown to the set and worked on the script until principal photography ended.
Filming was to originally take place in the United Kingdom and California, but De Bont insisted the film be shot on location in Oklahoma. Shooting commenced all over the state; several scenes, including the opening scene where the characters meet each other, as well as the first tornado chase in the Jeep pickup, were filmed in Fairfax and Ralston, Oklahoma. The scene at the automotive repair shop was filmed in Maysville and Norman. The waterspout scenes were filmed on Kaw Lake near Kaw City. The drive-in scene was filmed at a real drive-in theater in Guthrie, though some of the scene, such as Melissa's hotel room, was filmed in Stillwater near the Oklahoma State University campus.
The real town of Wakita – serving as the hometown of Lois Smith's character, Meg, in the film – was used during filming, and a section of the older part of town was demolished for the scene showing the aftermath of the F4 tornado that devastates the town. Additional scenes and B-roll were filmed near Ponca City and Pauls Valley, among several other smaller farm towns across the state. However, due to changing seasons that massively transformed the look of Oklahoma's topography, filming was moved to Iowa. The climactic scene with the F5 tornado was almost entirely shot around Eldora, Iowa, with the cornfield the characters run through located near Ames. The "twister hill" scene was shot on 130th Street near the small town of Pilot Mound. Some additional footage was shot north of Pilot Mound, near the town of Dayton. After primary filming had wrapped, additional pick-up shots and reshoots, which included the opening scene and additional footage of the drive-in tornado, took place in Bolton, Ontario and Schomberg, Ontario.
Halfway through filming, both Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were temporarily blinded by bright electronic lamps used to make the sky behind the two actors look dark and stormy. Paxton remembers that "these things literally sunburned our eyeballs. I got back to my room, I couldn't see". To solve the problem, a Plexiglas filter was placed in front of the beams. The actors took eye drops and wore special glasses for a few days to recuperate. After filming in a particularly unsanitary ditch (for the first tornado chase scene, in which Bill and Jo are forced to shelter from an approaching F1 tornado under a short bridge), Hunt and Paxton needed hepatitis shots. During the same sequence, Hunt repeatedly hit her head on a low wooden bridge, so exhausted from the demanding shoot that she stood up so quickly her head struck a beam. During one stunt in which Hunt opened the door of a vehicle speeding through a cornfield, she momentarily let go of the door and it struck her on the side of the head. Some sources claim she received a concussion in the incident. De Bont said, "I love Helen to death, but you know, she can be also a little bit clumsy". She responded, "Clumsy? The guy burned my retinas, but I'm clumsy ... I thought I was a good sport. I don't know ultimately if Jan chalks me up as that or not, but one would hope so".
Some crew members, feeling that De Bont was "out of control", left the production five weeks into filming. The camera crew led by Don Burgess claimed De Bont "didn't know what he wanted till he saw it. He would shoot one direction, with all the equipment behind the view of the camera, and then he'd want to shoot in the other direction right away and we'd have to move [everything] and he'd get angry that we took too long ... and it was always everybody else's fault, never his". De Bont claims that they had to schedule at least three scenes every day because the weather changed so often, and "Don had trouble adjusting to that".
When De Bont knocked over a camera assistant in a fit of rage who missed a cue, Burgess and his crew walked off the set, much to the shock of the cast. They remained in place for one more week until Jack N. Green's crew agreed to replace them. Two days before principal filming ended, Green was injured when a hydraulic house set (used in the scene in which Jo and Bill rescue Meg and her dog, Mose, from her tornado-destroyed home in Wakita), designed to collapse on cue, was mistakenly activated with him inside it. A rigged ceiling hit him in the head and injured his back, requiring him to be hospitalized. De Bont took over as his own director of photography for the remaining shots.
Because overcast skies were not always available, De Bont had to shoot many of the film's tornado-chasing scenes in bright sunlight, requiring Industrial Light & Magic to more than double its original plan for 150 "digital sky-replacement" shots. Principal photography was originally given a deadline to allow Hunt to return to film the fourth season of her NBC sitcom Mad About You, but when shooting ran over schedule, series creator and actor Paul Reiser agreed to delay the show's production for two-and-a-half weeks so Twister could finish filming. De Bont insisted on using multiple cameras, which led to the exposure of 1,300,000 feet (400,000 m) of film, compared to the usual maximum of 300,000 feet (91,000 m). The tornadoes in the film were not real, but were instead computer-animated. The flying cow was perhaps the most famous scene throughout the film. Most audiences realize that the CGI cow was originally a CGI zebra from the 1995 film Jumanji. During the hailstorm scene after locating a particularly juicy storm cell on the radar, Beltzer says "That's no moon, it's a space station!", which is a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi's quote from the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Plus, the gasoline truck seen flying around the F5 tornado has the Benthic Petroleum label, bearing the same name of the company from The Abyss, James Cameron's 1989 20th Century Fox film.
De Bont claims that Twister cost close to $70 million, of which $2–3 million went to the director. It was speculated that last-minute re-shoots in March and April 1996 (to clarify a scene about Jo as a child) and overtime requirements in post-production and at ILM, raised the budget to $90 million. The film was set to be released on May 17. Warner Bros. eventually made the decision to push forward Twister's release date to May 10 in order to avoid audience cannibalization with the release of Paramount's Mission: Impossible two weekends later. The premiere took place at the AMC Penn Square 10, then known as General Cinema Theatres at Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma a day prior. Jan de Bont, Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were at the mall for interviews.
Prints of Twister came with a note from De Bont, suggesting that exhibitors play the film at a higher volume than normal for full effect.
Twister featured both a traditional orchestral film score by Mark Mancina and several rock music songs, including an instrumental theme song composed and performed for the film by Van Halen. The film's music was released on compact disc and cassette tape formats.
Twister: Music from the Motion Picture SoundtrackEdit
- Van Halen – "Humans Being"
- Rusted Root – "Virtual Reality"
- Tori Amos – "Talula" (BT's Tornado Mix)
- Alison Krauss – "Moments Like This"
- Mark Knopfler – "Darling Pretty"
- Soul Asylum – "Miss This"
- Belly – "Broken"
- k.d. lang – "Love Affair"
- Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – "How"
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – "Melancholy Mechanics"
- Goo Goo Dolls – "Long Way Down" (Remix)
- Shania Twain – "No One Needs to Know"
- Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham – "Twisted"
- Eddie & Alex Van Halen – "Respect the Wind"
There is also some other music, such as Deep Purple's "Child in Time" (heard when the team takes the road at the beginning and the assistant maximises the volume in his truck). It's later in the scene mixed and beat synced with William Tell Overture.
The song queued up on a TV in Dusty's van is Eric Clapton's "Motherless Child".
Twister: Motion Picture ScoreEdit
- Oklahoma: Wheatfield
- Oklahoma: Where's My Truck?
- Oklahoma: Futility
- Oklahoma: Downdraft
- It's Coming: Drive In
- It's Coming: The Big Suck
- The Hunt: Going Green (feat. Trevor Rabin on guitar)
- The Hunt: Sculptures
- The Hunt: Cow
- The Hunt: Ditch
- The Damage: Wakita
- Hailstorm Hill: Bob's Road
- Hailstorm Hill: We're Almost There
- F5: Dorothy IV
- F5: Mobile Home
- F5: God's Finger
- Other: William Tell Overture/Oklahoma Medley (feat. Wendle Josepher and Todd Field vocals)
- Other: End Title/Respect the Wind - written by Edward and Alex Van Halen
There are some orchestrated tracks that were in the movie but were not released on the orchestral score, most notably the orchestrated intro to "Humans Being" from when Jo's team left Wakita to chase the Hailstorm Hill tornado. Other, lesser-known tracks omitted include an extended version of "Going Green" (when we first meet Jonas) and a short track from when the first tornado is initially spotted.
Twister: Expanded Archival CollectionEdit
In January 2017, La-La Land Records released a limited edition remastered and expanded album containing Mark Mancina's entire score plus four additional tracks.
- Wheatfield (Film Version)
- The Hunt Begins
- The Sky
- Dorothy IV (Film Version)
- The First Twister
- In the Ditch / Where's My Truck?
- Walk in the Woods
- Bob's Road
- Hail No!
- Futility (Film Version)
- Drive-in Twister
- Wakita (Film Version)
- Sculptures (Film Version)
- House Visit
- The Big Suck (Film Version)
- End Title
- Wheatfield (Alternate)
- Waterspouts (Alternate)
- The Big Suck (Alternate)
- End Title / Respect the Wind
Even though Twister received mixed reviews, many fans had praised the jaw-dropping special effects that brought the storms to life. On Rotten Tomatoes the film had an approval rating of 61% based on 66 reviews, and an average rating of 6/10. The site's critics consensus read: "A high-concept blockbuster that emphasizes special effects over three-dimensional characters, Twister's visceral thrills are often offset by the film's generic plot." On Metacritic the film had a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "You want loud, dumb, skillful, escapist entertainment? Twister works. You want to think? Think twice about seeing it". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Somehow Twister stays as uptempo and exuberant as a roller-coaster ride, neatly avoiding the idea of real danger". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, "Yet the images that linger longest in my memory are those of windswept livestock. And that, in a teacup, sums up everything that's right, and wrong, about this appealingly noisy but ultimately flyaway first blockbuster of summer". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "But the ringmaster of this circus, the man without whom nothing would be possible, is director De Bont, who now must be considered Hollywood's top action specialist. An expert in making audiences squirm and twist, at making us feel the rush of experience right along with the actors, De Bont choreographs action and suspense so beautifully he makes it seem like a snap." Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "when action is never shown to have deadly or pitiable consequences, it tends toward abstraction. Pretty soon you're not tornado watching, you're special-effects watching". In his review for the Washington Post Desson Howe wrote, "it's a triumph of technology over storytelling and the actors' craft. Characters exist merely to tell a couple of jokes, cower in fear of downdrafts and otherwise kill time between tornadoes".
The film opened on May 10, 1996, and earned $41 million from 2,414 total theaters, making it the #1 movie at the North American box office. Twister went on to earn a total of $241.7 million at the North American box office, and a worldwide total of $494.5 million. It became the second-highest-grossing film of 1996, after Independence Day, and was the tenth-highest-grossing film in history at the time of its release, making it Warner Bros.' most successful film release at that time. As of 2020[update], Twister ranks at #76 among the highest-grossing North American movie releases of all-time; worldwide, it places #105 on the all-time earners list, not adjusted for inflation.
Twister was released on LaserDisc and VHS by Warner Home Video on October 1, 1996. The film was released on DVD on March 26, 1997. It is considered to be the first home release of a movie to use this now widely-used optical media technology. This is also one of the first THX certified DVD releases. The DVD release occurred eleven days before Twister made its pay-cable debut on HBO on April 5, deviating from the then-standard film release "window" that normally placed a four- to six-month gap between a movie's initial home video release—which typically overlapped with its pay-per-view availability period—and premium cable distribution window.
On May 24, 1996, a tornado destroyed Screen No. 3 at the Can-View Drive-In, a drive-in theater in Thorold, Ontario, which was scheduled to show Twister later that evening, in a real-life parallel to a scene in the film in which a tornado destroys a drive-in during a showing of the film The Shining. The facts of this incident were exaggerated into an urban legend that the theater was actually playing Twister during the tornado.
On May 10, 2010, a tornado struck Fairfax, Oklahoma, destroying the farmhouse where numerous scenes in Twister were shot. J. Berry Harrison, the owner of the home and a former Oklahoma state senator, commented that the tornado appeared eerily similar to the fictitious one in the film. He had lived in the home since 1978.
Bill Paxton would later narrate storm chaser Sean Casey's 2011 documentary Tornado Alley. After the death of Paxton in February 2017, hundreds of storm chasers and users of the Spotter Network used their markers to spell out his initials across the states of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma in tribute to the actor.
A Twister museum located in Wakita, Oklahoma, where much of the particularly destructive scenes of the movie were shot, contains various memorabilia and artifacts related to the film.
On May 15, 2021, a 25th anniversary party was held in Wakita. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors were required to wear facial coverings in the museum and other indoor places as a safety precaution. Many events included a car show, a "look like a star" contest and several kids games. The lunch break included walking tacos at the Citizens by Community Health Center, sloppy joe sandwiches at Wakita Foodland and hamburgers at the Gazebo. There were several other snacks, such as beef jerky, cinnamon rolls, ice cream, popcorn and snow cones. A week later, the Rodeo Cinema in Oklahoma City played Twister on May 22 during the evening.
In other mediaEdit
Theme park attractionEdit
The film was used as the basis for the attraction Twister...Ride It Out at Universal Studios Florida, which features filmed introductions by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. The attraction opened on May 4, 1998 and closed on November 1, 2015 to make way for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. In the windows of the New York facade lies a tribute to Twister...Ride it Out with references to the film and Bill Paxton.
The original screenplay, written by Crichton and then-wife Anne Marie Martin, was released as a mass-market paperback in conjunction with the film.
The story of Bill's drunken encounter with a tornado is referenced in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn downloadable content when asking the bartender of the Retching Netch in Raven Rock, Geldis Sadri, about how the inn got its name. He explains about a Dark Elf (Dunmer) that was one of his regular customers and very drunk offering his drink to a netch, before tossing the bottle at the netch. The netch apparently caught and swallowed some of the alcohol as the bottle never hit the ground, but this caused the netch to become intoxicated itself, and this resulted in it throwing up due to the drink making it very sick.
Reboot and potential sequelEdit
In June 2020, a reboot was announced to be in development from the film's international distributor Universal Pictures, with Joseph Kosinski in early negotiations to serve as director. Frank Marshall and Sarah Scott will serve as producers on the project.
Around the time when the reboot for the film was announced in June 2020, Helen Hunt pitched the idea for the sequel, although the sequel was never made, she wanted to make a film with a multiracial cast for storm chasers in acting. The studio rejected Hunt's plans for writing and directing it, due to her character being killed off for the sequel.
- Night of the Twisters: A 1996 Telemovie based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Ivy Ruckman
- Into the Storm: A film released in 2014, with a similar film plot to Twister.
- 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak
- TOtable Tornado Observatory: A device used to monitor tornadoes in the 80's that was the inspiration for Dorothy 1-4.
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