ABC
ABC

15 of the Most Successful Products from Shark Tank

ABC
ABC

Since premiering in 2009, Shark Tank has made a business out of making businesses. The highly-rated ABC series permits entrepreneurs to pitch their product ideas to a panel of potential investors that includes Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, “Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner, and acerbic Kevin O’Leary. Good products find encouragement and investment capital; questionable inventions face withering scorn and a long walk back to the dressing room.

Of the hundreds of items to be featured on the show, a relatively small percentage go on to success. (Many deals, in fact, dry up during the due diligence stage.) Here are 15 of the most successful to come out of the Tank, including several that failed to entice the “Sharks” but still managed to make it big.

1. KODIAK CAKES

A model holds up a box of Kodiak Cakes pancake mix
Kodiak Cakes

It can be hard to break the habit people have reaching for Bisquick pancake mix, but Utah-based Kodiak Cakes is making an impressive effort in that direction. The flour-based mix—which adds more whole grains and protein than your average grocery store offering—was featured on the show in 2013, with owner Joel Clark walking away empty-handed. (He didn’t want to give up more than 10 percent equity.) Bolstered by the attention and supported by health-conscious carb lovers, the company recorded $54 million in revenue in 2017 and is now the fourth largest pancake mix on shelves. You can also find their premade waffles and pancakes in freezer aisles. 

2. READEREST

A model demonstrates the ReadeRest eyeglass clip
ReadeRest

Rick Hopper, a former supervisor at Home Depot, had his eureka moment in 2010 when he found himself misplacing his reading glasses. That frustration led to ReadeREST (“reader rest”), a magnetic pocket filler that allows glasses-wearers to clip their spectacles to their shirt when not in use. Unlike glasses kept loose in a pocket, the clip prevents them from slipping out and crashing to the floor when a person bends over. Hopper accepted an offer from Greiner and subsequently sold $100,000 in product the first time it appeared on QVC. They’ve since done over $27 million in sales.

3. COUSINS MAINE LOBSTER

Cousins Maine Lobster co-founders pose for a photo with Queen Latifah
Cousins Maine Lobster

Hoping to bring an authentic Maine lobster roll experience to the West Coast, cousins Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis started their Cousins Maine Lobster food truck in Los Angeles in 2012. That success captured the interest of Shark Tank producers, who invited the two on the show. Shark Barbara Corcoran invested a total of $55,000, which helped facilitate a growing number of the trucks and led to total sales in excess of $20 million. Consumers outside of their vehicle reach can also order live, claw-snapping Maine lobsters from their website.

4. GROOVEBOOK

A screen shot that explains how the GrooveBook app works
GrooveBook

Print isn’t dead—at least, not print-on-demand. GrooveBook, an app that allows users to flag social media photos and request physical prints as part of a customized photo book, appeared on season five of Shark Tank and scored a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. Prior to their appearance, owners Julie and Brian Whiteman had about 18,000 paid subscribers. Following the broadcast, that number rose to 500,000. In 2015, the company sold for $14.5 million to Shutterfly.

5. SQUATTY POTTY

The Squatty Potty sits next to a toilet
Squatty Potty

A plastic stool meant to facilitate more efficient emptying of the colon, the Squatty Potty made a splash when it was featured on the show in 2014. The company moved than $1 million in product in the 24 hours following broadcast—that was in addition to Greiner’s $500,000 investment. In 2016, the company topped $30 million sales. Creator Bobby Edwards cites his chronically constipated mother, Judy, as being the inspiration.

6. GRACE AND LACE

A model wears a knee and boot accessory from Grace and Lace
Grace and Lace

A 2013 appearance and $175,000 investment by Corcoran led to this women’s accessory business owned by couple Rick and Melissa Hinnant growing from $1 million to over $20 million in sales. The expedited success left the owners scrambling to fill sock orders, which was met with some consternation by customers unhappy with the delays. (“I’m going to burn them,” wrote one impatient buyer.) Most of their orders come via their website, though they have a growing presence in boutique stores.

7. BUBBA’S Q

A bottle of Bubba's Q barbeque sauce sits next to a plate of ribs
Bubba's Q

Former NFL player Al “Bubba” Baker pitched his Bubba’s Q boneless ribs to the Tank in 2014, with Shark Daymond John seeing potential in Baker’s signature meat-and-sauce combination and agreeing to invest $300,000 for a 30 percent stake. The company went from doing $154,000 in sales prior to the show to $16 million in 2017. The ribs can be found online, in Costco, on QVC, and were also featured as part of a Carl’s Jr. menu. Baker owns patents on his process, making him the only person able to sell a deboned and cooked rib.

8. TIPSY ELVES

Models sport holiday sweaters from Tipsy Elves
Tipsy Elves

Ugly holiday sweaters might appear to belong only on thrift store shelves, but Tipsy Elves co-founders Nick Morton and Evan Mendelsohn managed to convince Shark Robert Herjavec to invest $100,000 for a 10 percent stake in their business during a 2013 appearance. Peddling the clothing—which feature hideously charming or charmingly hideous designs, depending on your perspective—has paid off for everyone, with sales exceeding $10 million in 2015. Three days before taping the show, Mendelsohn went to Panda Express and found a curious prediction in his fortune cookie: “An investment opportunity will find you.”

9. RING

A Ring doorbell is mounted outside of a house
Ring

The doorbell-camera hybrid Ring recently sold to Amazon for $1.1 billion, but during a 2013 appearance, CEO James Siminoff faced a lineup of Sharks who could barely keep their eyes open. (Only one, O’Leary, even bothered to make an offer.) Mark Cuban later stated that he would decline the opportunity again if given the chance, citing a high valuation as a stumbling block. The Amazon sale also paid off for Shaquille O’Neal, who agreed to be a pitchman for the product in 2016 in exchange for equity.

10. BEDJET

A BedJet device sits next to a mattress
BedJet

Few entrepreneurs have flamed out as spectacularly as former NASA employee Mark Aramli, who appeared on a 2015 episode touting his BedJet, a climate-controlling mattress pad that allows users to adjust to their preferred temperature. The Sharks disagreed with his $2.5 million valuation and $499 price tag. Greiner later tweeted she was “pissed off” by his disposition. No one wanted to get in bed with him, but Aramli got the last laugh with $3 million in sales in the 18 months following the broadcast.

11. COPA DI VINO

A Copa di Vino wine glass is held up
Copa di Vino

It’s rare to score even one opportunity to make a product presentation on Shark Tank: Having two is almost unheard of. Copa Di Vino founder James Martin first appeared in 2011 with his idea for single-serve wine glasses that are sealed to maintain freshness. While he failed to find a partner, Martin still profited from the attention, going from $500,000 to $5 million in sales. That success led to a second invite in 2017. Again, the Sharks were less than fond of his brazen approach to negotiation. (He took sips from his own supply.) But Copa is still doing fine, selling 38 million cups through 2017.

12. SIMPLY FIT BOARD

A model demonstrates the Simply Fit exercise board
Amazon

Resembling something like a skateboard liberated from its wheels, the Simply Fit board is a core balance device meant to strengthen abdominal muscles. In a 2015 appearance, co-founders Gloria Hoffman and Linda Clark convinced Greiner that it was a wise investment, but Greiner felt she had to act fast: Without a patent, copycats would become a problem. Sales went from $575,000 to $9 million in a matter of months, with placement in Home Depot and Walmart locations.

13. CHEF BIG SHAKE

The exterior of the Chef Big Shake restaurant
Chef Big Shake

Who doesn’t crave a juicy, delicious shrimp burger? All the Sharks, apparently, as this seafood offering failed to entice any investment offers when Shawn Davis pitched it in 2012. The exposure quickly led to offscreen offers for funding, however, and his Chef Big Shake banner went from $30,000 to $5 million in sales thanks in part to an expanded menu of chicken, popcorn, and other items. Davis originally formulated the patty for his pescatarian daughter, who is currently back to eating meat.

14. SCRUB DADDY

A close-up of the Scrub Daddy cleaning sponge
Your Best Digs, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In what is likely the single biggest nonedible success story to emerge from Shark Tank, inventor Aaron Krause convinced Greiner to invest $200,000 in his smiley-faced sponge. (The mouth is good for cleaning utensils.) But the Scrub Daddy is more than just a vessel to tackle dried-on chili from pans: Rinsed under hot water, it gets pliable enough to use on counters. Run it under cold and it firms up to tackle baked-on messes. Through 2017, Krause has sold more than 10 million sponges and logged $50 million in sales.  

15. DROP STOP

The packaging for the Drop Stop car accessory
Amazon

Is it the greatest invention since the light bulb? Or at least the Snuggie? The Drop Stop is a foam-filled log that fits in the crack between a car seat and the center console. If a passenger drops their car keys or other items in the “Carmuda Triangle,” they will still be within easy reach. Co-founders Marc Newburger and Jeffrey Simon appeared on the show in 2012, secured a deal, and went on to sell 2.4 million Drop Stops for $24 million in revenue.

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35 Movies Roger Ebert Really Hated
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When Roger Ebert hated a film, he didn't mince words. On what would have been the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer's 76th birthday, here are some movies he absolutely loathed (including a couple of surprises) and his dry assessments of their value.

1. ARMAGEDDON (1998) // 1 STAR

“The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained. No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out. ... Armageddon reportedly used the services of nine writers. Why did it need any? The dialogue is either shouted one-liners or romantic drivel. ‘It’s gonna blow!’ is used so many times, I wonder if every single writer used it once, and then sat back from his word processor with a contented smile on his face, another day’s work done.”

2. THE BROWN BUNNY (2003) // 0 STARS

"I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny."

When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny."

3. JASON X (2001) // HALF STAR

"'This sucks on so many levels.' Dialogue from Jason X; rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself. Jason X sucks on the levels of storytelling, character development, suspense, special effects, originality, punctuation, neatness and aptness of thought."

4. MAD DOG TIME (1996) // 0 STARS

"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line  ... Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor."

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) // 1.5 STARS

"Once again, my comprehension began to slip, and finally I wrote down: 'To the degree that I do understand, I don't care.' It was, however, somewhat reassuring at the end of the movie to discover that I had, after all, understood everything I was intended to understand. It was just that there was less to understand than the movie at first suggests."

6. DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO (2005) // ZERO STARS

"[The title character] makes a living prostituting himself. How much he charges I'm not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie. Deuce Bigalow is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes ... Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

7. MR. MAGOO (1997) // HALF STAR

“Magoo drives a red Studebaker convertible in Mr. Magoo, a fact I report because I love Studebakers and his was the only thing I liked in the film. Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly.”

8. SPICE WORLD (1997) // HALF STAR

"Spice World is obviously intended as a ripoff of A Hard Day's Night which gave The Beatles to the movies ... the huge difference, of course, is that the Beatles were talented—while, let's face it, the Spice Girls could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts."

9. GOOD LUCK CHUCK (2007) // 1 STAR

"There is a word for this movie, and that word is: Ick."

10. FREDDY GOT FINGERED (2001)// 0 STARS

"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

11. CORKY ROMANO (2001) // HALF STAR

Corky Romano is like a dead zone of comedy. The concept is exhausted, the ideas are tired, the physical gags are routine, the story is labored, the actors look like they can barely contain their doubts about the project.”

12. CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2000) // HALF STAR

Charlie’s Angels is like the trailer for a video game movie, lacking only the video game, and the movie.”

13. MANNEQUIN (1987) // HALF STAR

“A lot of bad movies are fairly throbbing with life. Mannequin is dead. The wake lasts 1 1/2 hours, and then we can leave the theater. Halfway through, I was ready for someone to lead us in reciting the rosary.”

14. EXIT TO EDEN (1994) // HALF STAR

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t get Rosie O’Donnell. I’ve seen her in three or four movies now, and she generally had the same effect on me as fingernails on a blackboard. She’s harsh and abrupt and staccato and doesn’t seem to be having any fun. She looks mean. ...  What were your first thoughts the first time Rosie turned up in the leather dominatrix uniform? Did you maybe have slight misgivings that you were presiding over one of the more misguided film projects of recent years?”

15. HOCUS POCUS (1993) // 1 STAR

“Of the film’s many problems, the greatest may be that all three witches are thoroughly unpleasant. They don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels. A good movie inspires the audience to subconsciously ask, ‘Give me more!’ The witches in this one inspired my silent cry, ‘Get me out of here!’”

(What can we say? Ebert was occasionally wrong.)

16. TOMMY BOY (1995) // 1 STAR

“No one is funny in Tommy Boy. There are no memorable lines. None of the characters is interesting, except for the enigmatic figure played by Rob Lowe, who seems to have wandered over from Hamlet. Judging by the evidence on the screen, the movie got a green light before a usable screenplay had been prepared, with everybody reassuring themselves that since they were such funny people, inspiration would overcome them.”

17. THE VILLAGE (2004) // 1 STAR

“Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”

18. THE LOVE GURU (2008) // 1 STAR

“Myers has some funny moments, but this film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents. Every reference to a human sex organ or process of defecation is not automatically funny simply because it is naughty, but Myers seems to labor under that delusion. He acts as if he’s getting away with something, but in fact all he’s getting away with is selling tickets to a dreary experience.”

19. SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL (1989) // 0 STARS

“What planet did the makers of this film come from? What assumptions do they have about the purpose and quality of life? I ask because She’s Out of Control is simultaneously so bizarre and so banal that it’s a first: the first movie fabricated entirely from sitcom cliches and plastic lifestyles, without reference to any known plane of reality.”

20. SUMMER SCHOOL (1987) // HALF STAR

“You see it, you leave the theater, and then it evaporates, leaving just a slight residue, something like a vaguely unpleasant taste in the memory.”

21. CLIFFORD (1994) // HALF STAR

“It’s not bad in any usual way. It’s bad in a new way all its own. There is something extraterrestrial about it, as if it’s based on the sense of humor of an alien race with a completely different relationship to the physical universe. The movie is so odd, it’s most worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.”

22. NORTH (1994) // 0 STARS

"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Alan Zweibel wrote this film, and he got a chance to confront Ebert about the review. In a bathroom.

23. 200 CIGARETTES (1999)// HALF STAR

"Maybe another 200 cigarettes would have helped; coughing would be better than some of this dialogue."

24. DEATH TO SMOOCHY (2002) // HALF STAR

"In all the annals of the movies, few films have been this odd, inexplicable and unpleasant."

25. SAVING SILVERMAN (2001) // HALF STAR

"Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve."

He included a critique of Neil Diamond, who makes a guest appearance in the movie: "As for Neil Diamond, Saving Silverman is his first appearance in a fiction film since The Jazz Singer (1980), and one can only marvel that he waited 20 years to appear in a second film, and found one even worse than his first one."

26. THE JAZZ SINGER (1980) // 1 STAR

From rogerebert.com:

"Diamond's whole presence in this movie is offensively narcissistic. His songs are melodramatic, interchangeable, self-aggrandizing groans and anguished shouts, backed protectively by expensive and cloying instrumentation. His dramatic presence also looks over-protected, as if nobody was willing to risk offending him by asking him to seem involved, caring and engaged.

"Diamond plays the whole movie looking at people's third shirt buttons, as if he can't be bothered to meet their eyes and relate with them. It's strange about the Diamond performance: It's not just that he can't act. It's that he sends out creepy vibes. He seems self-absorbed, closed off, grandiose, out of touch with his immediate surroundings."

27. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994) // 1 STAR

"Most of the people look as if they would rather be in other movies. The movie basically has one joke, which is Ace Ventura's weird nerdy strangeness. If you laugh at this joke, chances are you laugh at Jerry Lewis, too, and I can sympathize with you even if I can't understand you. I found the movie a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot. Kids might like it. Real little kids."

28. STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT (1992) // HALF STAR

"Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! is one of those movies so dimwitted, so utterly lacking in even the smallest morsel of redeeming value, that you stare at the screen in stunned disbelief. It is moronic beyond comprehension, an exercise in desperation during which even Sylvester Stallone, a repository of self-confidence, seems to be disheartened."

29. THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (2005) // 1 STAR

"Of course you don't have to be smart to get into The Dukes of Hazzard. But people like Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds should have been smart enough to stay out of it. Here is a lame-brained, outdated wheeze about a couple of good ol' boys who roar around the back roads of the South in the General Lee, their beloved 1969 Dodge Charger. As it happens, I also drove a 1969 Dodge Charger. You could have told them apart because mine did not have a Confederate flag painted on the roof."

30. GODZILLA (1998) // 1.5 STARS

"Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica. It's a rebuke to the faith that the building represents. Cannes touchingly adheres to a belief that film can be intelligent, moving and grand. Godzilla is a big, ugly, ungainly device to give teenagers the impression they are seeing a movie."

31. THE BUCKET LIST (2007) // 1 STAR

"The Bucket List is a movie about two old codgers who are nothing like people, both suffering from cancer that is nothing like cancer, and setting off on adventures that are nothing like possible. I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens."

32. DIRTY LOVE (2005) // 0 STAR

"I would like to say more, but—no, I wouldn't. I would not like to say more. I would like to say less. On the basis of Dirty Love, I am not certain that anyone involved has ever seen a movie, or knows what one is."

33. BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000) // HALF STAR

"This movie is awful in so many different ways. Even the opening titles are cheesy. Sci-fi epics usually begin with a stab at impressive titles, but this one just displays green letters on the screen in a type font that came with my Macintosh. Then the movie's subtitle unscrolls from left to right in the kind of 'effect' you see in home movies."

34. THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS (2000) // HALF STAR

"This is an ideal first movie for infants, who can enjoy the bright colors on the screen and wave their tiny hands to the music."

35. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) // 0 STARS

"John Waters' Pink Flamingos has been restored for its 25th anniversary revival, and with any luck at all that means I won't have to see it again for another 25 years. If I haven't retired by then, I will. ... Note: I am not giving a star rating to Pink Flamingos because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object."

Reviews via RogerEbert.com.

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10 Big Facts About Last Action Hero
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Last Action Hero was a funky disaster. What began its life as an homage to the absurdity of '80s action movies called Extremely Violent became more or less a live-action cartoon starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as an action movie character who learns he’s an action movie character before saving the real world. There are golden tickets that let people and fictional beings cross over from one world to the next, a slew of intentional errors to remind us that we’re watching a movie, and an animated police detective cat voiced by Danny DeVito. Somewhere in the filmmaking process, it devolved into a spoof in the envelope of a love letter.

It was a hard-charging flop that’s earned back some cult appeal for audacity, with all of its fun-loving potential on screen next to all the eyebrow-raising nonsense. Here are 10 facts about the action movie too insane to succeed.

1. THE PRODUCTION ITSELF GOT META EARLY ON.

Original screenwriters Zak Penn and Adam Leff wrote what would become Last Action Hero as a film that would work both as an adrenaline-fueled action ride and as a goof on adrenaline-fueled action, but the sources they drew inspiration from soon invaded the project. Action icon Jack Slater’s name was originally Arno Slater as a nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who then took the role of Arno Slater. Penn and Leff studied all of Shane Black’s scripts (the Lethal Weapon movies and The Last Boy Scout) to get the satirical rhythm right, but then Black was hired to rewrite their script. They also used Die Hard and other John McTiernan-directed movies as a baseline for the movie’s style, and then McTiernan was hired to direct their movie. Their comedic love letter was taken over by titans of the very genre they were mocking, who were then put in charge of mocking themselves.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE SIMPSONS.

Beyond the Schwarzeneggerific action flicks, Penn and Leff launched the project because of an unlikely source: Matt Groening’s irreverent cartoon. “The weird thing is that The Simpsons inspired it in the first place,” Penn said. “We thought, ‘if this show can destroy genres even as it embraces them, why can’t we do it in live action?’” By the time Last Action Hero hit theaters, The Simpsons was already spoofing Schwarzenegger and his action movies with muscle-headed Rainier Wolfcastle, the star of far too many McBain movies, and the show that gave Penn and Leff the creative license to write their film later roasted Last Action Hero directly. In “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” Bart Simpson tells Wolfcastle his last movie sucked, Wolfcastle admits there were script problems, and Chief Wiggum quips, “I’ll say. Magic ticket my ass, McBain!”

3. CARRIE FISHER, WILLIAM GOLDMAN, AND LARRY FERGUSON ALL DID REWRITES.

Penn and Leff were replaced by Black and David Arnott, who were replaced by novelist and Oscar winner William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Goldman earned a hefty $1 million fee which, according to Black, was to provide a safety net for producers. If it flopped, they could claim they did everything they could, including hiring a world-class writer to whip the screenplay into shape. Turns out they’d need all the excuses they could marshal. With Schwarzenegger and the studio still unhappy with the script, they called in other voices to polish the dialogue, including Carrie Fisher and Larry Ferguson, who was fresh off of The Hunt For Red October. The studio then tried to rehire Black to punch up some action sequences, but he refused. “It just made people breathe easier throwing money at this enormous behemoth,” Black said. The multitude of writers was a major reason the movie ended up so disjointed.

4. THE SCHEDULE DOOMED THE MOVIE FROM THE OUTSET.

Regardless of any problems finding the right script (rewrites are common on all big movies), the movie had almost zero chance because there simply wasn’t enough time to make it. From the greenlight to Columbia Pictures’s expected release date of June 18, 1993, McTiernan and company had a bit over nine months to put together a wannabe blockbuster with a massive budget, lots of explosions, and a ton of VFX.

Robert Greenberg, who was hired to do the CGI, said, “I don’t think a production of this scope has been pulled together on such a short schedule,” echoing a sentiment McTiernan (and others) would have later while explaining its failure.

As the project barreled toward a release date that the studio refused to change (even after a disastrous public feedback screening they claimed was “absolutely sensational”), the crew was working 18-hour days, six days a week. It got so bad they had to bring in a masseuse, and the final cut was done mere days before they had to ship prints to theaters. Last Action Hero was also released a week after Jurassic Park, which was … not so good for it.

5. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER GOT AC/DC TO WRITE A SONG FOR IT.

Last Action Hero was the first movie Schwarzenegger executive produced, and he had approval on every detail—right down to the marketing. Knowing that Jack Slater would need an explosive, memorable anthem, Schwarzenegger personally sought out AC/DC, but instead of asking for the rights to one of their hits, he asked them to write something new. Thus, “Big Gun” was born. It’s an uncomplicated, face-melting rock song and the most memorable element of the entire movie. With all the other miscalculations over the movie’s tone, the production schedule, and the release date, at least Schwarzenegger got this one right.

6. THEY HIRED A CHEAPER VERSION OF ALAN RICKMAN.

Charles Dance in 'Last Action Hero' (1993)
Columbia Pictures

Just as Schwarzenegger was the model for the beefy, gun-toting hero, the villainous Benedict was based on Alan Rickman’s steely Hans Gruber from McTiernan’s Die Hard. The young boy (played by Austin O’Brien) who travels into the world of Jack Slater’s movies even breaks the fourth wall by referring to Benedict as Rickman at one point in the script. So, naturally, the production tried to bring Rickman on board, but he turned them down. They hired Charles Dance for the role instead, and when Dance discovered he was a less expensive second choice, he showed up to set wearing a shirt proclaiming, “I’m cheaper than Alan Rickman!” which almost definitely fit with the meta vibe of the production.

7. THERE WAS AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF CAMEOS IN IT.

Schwarzenegger also called in a lot of favors from co-stars and connections he’d made while ascending to the very top of global Hollywood stardom. Sharon Stone shows up as her Basic Instinct character alongside Robert Patrick as a Terminator 2 T-1000 in a background shot. Schwarzenegger’s then-wife Maria Shriver appears as herself, Danny DeVito voices the police cat, and Joan Plowright plays a teacher showing a class her real-life late husband Laurence Olivier’s version of Hamlet (“You might remember him as Zeus in Clash of the Titans”). Plus, Leeza Gibbons played herself doing celebrity interviews, Tina Turner plays the mayor of Los Angeles, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jim Belushi, and Chevy Chase are in the audience for the premiere of Jack Slater IV. Tony Danza, MC Hammer, Little Richard, and James Cameron also pop up. There are even more, but the best is Ian McKellen playing Death, emerging from the screen from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

8. THERE IS ALSO AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF REFERENCES TO OTHER MOVIES.

References are to be expected with any spoof, but Last Action Hero smothers you with them. IMDB lists 68 references, which means there’s a reference to another movie every two minutes. They range from King Kong to The Wizard of Oz to Serpico to E.T., but of course the bulk of the callbacks evoke movies from Schwarzenegger, Black, and McTiernan. There are nods to Commando, The Running Man, Die Hard, Total Recall, Raw Deal, and an advertisement for Terminator 2 (with Sylvester Stallone starring instead of Schwarzenegger). But the sharpest homage comes after Frank’s (Art Carney) house blows up when a black cop says with resignation, “Two days to retirement,” referencing Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.

9. IT WAS BOTH ART CARNEY'S AND TORU TANAKA’S FINAL FILM.

Carney got his start in radio in the late 1930s before becoming a star on The Honeymooners and winning an Oscar for Harry and Tonto in 1974. In Last Action Hero, he plays Jack Slater’s favorite second cousin, whose death he’s avenging in Jack Slater IV because he’d avenged all his closer relatives in previous films. It was his last movie, and his last line was, “I’m outta here.”

It was also the last credited appearance for Toru Tanaka (a.k.a. pro wrestling’s Professor Tanaka), who appeared in action movies in bodyguard and warrior roles. His inclusion in Last Action Hero as “Tough Asian Man” might also be considered a callback to The Running Man in which (spoiler!) Schwarzenegger also fights and kills his character.

10. IT WAS THE FIRST MOVIE TO BE ADVERTISED ON A NASA ROCKET.

The advertising campaign for Last Action Hero was boisterous to say the least. There was the four-story-tall Jack Slater/Schwarzenegger inflatable at the Cannes Film Festival (which they also erected in Times Square), but they went even bigger by painting the movie’s logo on an unmanned NASA rocket. The first attempt at space-based advertising reportedly cost $500,000 and literally didn’t take off. As with everything else in this doomed project, the COMET rocket that was set to launch in May to promote the June release of the movie was delayed for technical reasons and didn’t head for the stars until after the movie had flopped.

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