Movie Legends Revealed: How Did the Internet Change 'Snakes on a Plane'?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: New scenes were shot for “Snakes on a Plane” after the film was otherwise complete to incorporate, among other things, a line from an Internet parody.

Directors are sometimes willing to re-edit their films well after they’re otherwise complete, often to give them entirely new endings, like when "Major League" changed the identity of its villain or "Pretty in Pink" switched which character the protagonist ends up. In both of those cases, however, the edits were based on the reactions from test audiences who saw the film. That’s what made the changes to the 2006 action/horror/comedy "Snakes on a Plane" so striking: They were made based on reactions from fans before any audiences saw the movie!

"Snakes on a Plane" starred Samuel L. Jackson as a federal agent escorting a witness to testify in a trial of a gangster, who arranges for deadly snakes to be released in the plane, with the hope that they will somehow prevent the flight from reaching its destination.

When word got about that a fairly major movie studio (New Line Cinema, the same studio that produced the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) was releasing a film starring Jackson called "Snakes on a Plane," the Internet began to buzz. Some of that was people mocking the idea, but a lot of it was those looking forward to a film so straightforward in its cheesiness that it’s actually called "Snakes on a Plane."

That name was changed at one point to the fairly bland "Pacific Air Flight 121," as "Snakes on a Plane" was intended as the generic title used during casting. Jackson, however, insisted on it remaining "Snakes on a Plane," claiming the the title was one of the reasons he agreed to do the film (another was that he had previously worked with the original director, Ronny Yu).

The most amazing part about the pre-release hype happened when two friends produced a mock audio trailer for the film. Chris Rohan and Nathaniel Perry worked together at Graphic Audio, a Maryland company specializing in post-production for audio books; they also produced audio trailers. The two friends used their equipment to make a mock audio trailer for the film, extrapolating on what they imagined the plot was. One part of their satire was to play up the well-known tendency of Jackson’s characters to use profanity, most notably in “Pulp Fiction.” So Perry (playing Jackson in the trailer) mocks that reputation by shouting, "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"

The trailer was a big hit online, and became part of the hype surrounding the film.

In 2006, New Line decided to go back for re-shoots of “Snakes on a Plane” (it had finished filming in September 2005), not to fix any problems, but to add more graphic scenes to take the film from a PG-13 rating to an R. The filmmakers claim they BARELY got a PG-13, so they figured it made more sense to do a full-out R film rather than an "almost" R film.

And, most notably, they made a point of adding a line by Jackson: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" That's just amazing. A parody influencing the ORIGINAL source? That has got to be a Hollywood first!

For all the hype behind the film, critics were surprised that it "only" grossed about $15 million its opening weekend. However, when all was said in done, “Snakes on a Plane” earned $60 million in the United States, more than doubling its $30 million budget, so the hype certainly appeared to help.

The legend is...


Thanks to Paul for the suggestion!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!

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