15 Peachy Facts About Face/Off

Paramount
Paramount

Face/Off is a marvel: two of our hammiest actors impersonating each other, under the guidance of one of the world’s most visually fluent action directors. Let’s not kid ourselves, the movie (which was released 20 years ago today) is incredibly dumb—but darned if it isn’t the kind of incredible dumbness that goes down smooth. Here are some things you might not have known about the epic battle between Sean Archer and Castor Troy.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED IN 1990 BUT DIDN’T HIT THEATERS FOR ANOTHER SEVEN YEARS.

Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, both UCLA film school grads, set out to write something together in the summer of 1990. They sold Face/Off to Warner Bros., but as Werb put it, “I don’t think that they ever understood the script ... Stallone was attached to Demolition Man, and we were over there with our movie, and they saw the two movies as being too similar, so they made one, and ours got shelved.” When WB’s rights to Face/Off expired, someone at Paramount who knew about the screenplay pounced on it. Werb and Colleary thus had the rare pleasure of selling the same screenplay twice.

2. IT WAS WRITTEN WITH SYLVESTER STALLONE AND ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN MIND.

Separately, they were among the top action stars of the day (the day being the early '90s), so teaming them up was an irresistible idea. Moreover, they were both really famous, and as Colleary once said, “The movie doesn’t work unless the actors have a well-established persona” so audiences can appreciate them impersonating each other. (Editorial note: there’s no way Schwarzenegger and Stallone could have imitated one another’s mannerisms as well as Cage and Travolta do.) The two didn’t make Face/Off, but they did eventually make Escape Plan, in which they escape from a futuristic, off-the-grid, middle-of-the-ocean prison very much like the one in Face/Off.

3. ORIGINALLY, THE FILM WAS FUTURISTIC SCIENCE FICTION—WHICH IS WHY JOHN WOO DIDN’T WANT TO DIRECT IT.


Paramount

The writers’ first version was set in the future, mainly to justify the face-transplanting technology. But Woo wasn’t interested. "I just felt I hadn’t learned enough to make a great sci-fi movie," he said in a Blu-ray featurette. He told another interviewer, "I want more character, more humanity. If there is too much science fiction, we lose the drama." As the project evolved at Paramount, the writers stripped away the extraneous—and expensive—futuristic elements, bringing the focus back to the characters. With that settled, and with Woo having made Broken Arrow with Travolta in the meantime, the director was approached again and took the job.

4. THE MAN WHO WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO DIRECT IT MADE DRAGONHEART INSTEAD.

That would be Rob Cohen, who also went on to make The Fast and the Furious. He was signed for Face/Off when the project went into “turnaround,” i.e., limbo. With Face/Off’s future uncertain, Cohen went and made the dragon movie.

5. THEY CONSIDERED A WHOLE BUNCH OF WAYS OF PUTTING CASTOR TROY INTO A COMA AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM BEFORE SETTLING ON THE JET ENGINE BLASTING HIM THROUGH THE WIND TUNNEL.

He was supposed to be frozen in liquid nitrogen, but Paramount didn’t like it. Screenwriters Werb and Colleary suggested Troy climb an air traffic control tower and fall, which John Woo didn’t like. Electrocuted by high-voltage wires? Nope. How they arrived at the solution they eventually went with is lost to the mists of time.

6. THE EPILOGUE, WHERE THE ARCHERS ADOPT CASTOR TROY’S ORPHANED SON, ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN.


Paramount

It was part of the writers’ original story and survived all of their many rewrites, but Paramount didn’t think audiences would like an ending where the hero adopts his enemy’s son. Woo’s alternate idea was for the film to end with some ambiguity about whether or not Eve Archer had her real husband back. When a test audience found that unsatisfying—and, moreover, wanted to know what happened to Castor Troy’s kid—the studio ponied up the money to get the necessary cast members back to film the original ending. According to Werb, “The next time we tested, the numbers went through the roof. There was spontaneous and thunderous applause at the end."

7. IT WAS THE FIRST PARAMOUNT MOVIE RELEASED ON BLU-RAY.

In 2008, after having initially backed HD-DVD in the high-definition format wars, Paramount saw the tide turning and shifted to Blu-ray. The first batch of films the studio released in that format were recent theatrical hits Next and Bee Movie, plus good ol’ Face/Off.

8. MICHAEL DOUGLAS EXECUTIVE PRODUCED IT.

The legendary actor had produced a dozen films before this, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Starman, plus a few that he also starred in (like Romancing the Stone). Don’t go looking for a pattern, though. When The A.V. Club asked Douglas if there was any connection between the movies he stars in or produces, he said, “Not really, except they’re all contemporary. I mean, even the ones like Face/Off or The Rainmaker, that’s the only thing I’ve ever seen that ties everything together. Except for one or maybe two exceptions, they’re all kind of contemporary.”

9. THE CINEMATOGRAPHER WOULD HAVE SHOT BROKEN ARROW, BUT HE BROKE HIS ANKLE WORKING ON CUTTHROAT ISLAND.

Oliver Wood had been the director of photography for Die Hard 2 and more than 50 episodes of Miami Vice, and he was approached by Woo’s people to shoot Broken Arrow. In his own words, Wood hobbled into a pre-production meeting on crutches, still recovering from the ankle injury that had forced him to resign from Cutthroat Island (a blessing in disguise, perhaps). "John [Woo] just smiled and said, ‘Maybe next time.'" True to his word, Woo hired Wood for Face/Off the following year.

10. DESPITE HIS FONDNESS FOR GUNS IN HIS MOVIES, JOHN WOO HAS NEVER FIRED ONE IN REAL LIFE.


Paramount

Or he hadn’t in 1997, anyway. While discussing his films’ abundant use of firearms, he told an interviewer that he didn’t own any guns himself and that he had "never fired a real gun. I just like the look." In particular, he favors the Beretta. “The good thing I like—how many bullets can it fire? Seventeen bullets? You can fire 17 bullets. When you continue firing it’s like ... the drumbeat. Like music.”

11. IT TOOK FOUR WEEKS TO FILM THE CLIMACTIC SPEEDBOAT CHASE.

Woo said so. That includes footage shot by the second unit (involving stunt personnel and not the lead actors).

12. THE JOKE ABOUT TRAVOLTA’S “RIDICULOUS CHIN” WAS TRAVOLTA’S OWN IDEA.

He said, “Nic [Cage]’s character is such an egomaniac. He loves himself—the way he talks, acts, walks, everything about himself. So, we just figured that it follows that he would hate being in my body, having my face. So I added a lot of lines where he makes fun of the way I look—like ‘this ridiculous chin,’ things like that.”

13. IT WAS GINA GERSHON AND NICK CASSAVETES’ IDEA FOR THEIR SIBLING CHARACTERS TO KISS INAPPROPRIATELY.


Paramount

The behind-the-scenes features on the Blu-ray make it clear that, as methodical and efficient as Woo is, he also gives his actors a lot of leeway with improvisation and alternate ideas. (The Troy brothers’ prison reminiscences of childhood traumas were Alessandro Nivola and Nic Cage’s words.) For whatever reason, Gershon and Cassavetes wanted to give their characters an extra layer of weirdness. And Woo let them go for it.

14. THE EVOCATIVE IMAGE OF A LITTLE BOY LISTENING TO “SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW” WHILE A DEADLY GUNFIGHT UNFOLDS AROUND HIM WAS A LAST-MINUTE IDEA.

It was just a straightforward action sequence before, with the FBI raiding Sasha’s loft and shooting up the place. In the process of filming it, Woo realized he’d like to balance the destruction and mayhem with something less depressing. He had to persuade the producers to let him do it—not just because it’s uncommon (and potentially controversial) to show an innocent kid surrounded by such mayhem, but because they feared the last-minute adjustments would make the day’s shooting run long. Woo promised he’d finish on time, and did. (He got to keep his trademark doves in the climactic church shoot-out by likewise promising it wouldn’t slow things down.)

15. FOR THE FACE-TRANSPLANTING SCENES, SPECIAL EFFECTS WIZARDS MADE UNSETTLINGLY REALISTIC LATEX DUMMIES OF CAGE AND TRAVOLTA.

Not only did they look just like the actors (right down to the painstakingly sewn-in body hair), they were animatronic, with facial muscles that twitched and chests that rose to simulate breathing.

Additional Sources: Face/Off Blu-ray bonus features

11 Surprising Facts About Sylvester Stallone

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As streetwise boxer Rocky Balboa (in eight films) and haunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo (in five films), the man born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone has made his brand of muscular melodrama a staple of the action film genre across five decades.

The latest Rambo chapter, Rambo: Last Blood, opens September 20. In the meantime, check out some of the more intriguing facts about the actor, from his modest beginnings as an accidental porn star to his peculiar rivalry with Richard Gere to his waylaid plans to run a pudding empire.

1. An errant pair of forceps gave Sylvester Stallone his distinctive look.

Many comedians have paid their bills over the decades by adopting Sylvester Stallone’s distinctive lip droop and guttural baritone voice. The facial feature was the result of some slight mishandling at birth. When Stallone was born on July 6, 1946 in Manhattan, the physician used a pair of forceps to deliver him. The malpractice left his lip, chin, and part of his tongue partially paralyzed due to a severed nerve. Stallone later said his face and awkward demeanor earned him the nickname “Sylvia” and authority figures telling him his brain was “dormant.” Burdened with low self-esteem, Stallone turned to bodybuilding and later performing as a way of breaking through what seemed to be a consensus of low expectations.

2. sylvester Stallone attended college in Switzerland.

A publicity still of Sylvester Stallone from the 1981 film 'Victory' is pictured
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite a tumultuous adolescence in which he was kicked out of several schools for misbehavior, Stallone eventually graduated high school while living with his mother in Philadelphia. He went on to attend American College, a university in Leysin, Switzerland, where he also worked as a gym teacher and dorm bouncer in addition to selling hamburgers on campus. It was there he became interested in theater—both acting and writing.

Stallone continued his education at the University of Miami before moving to New York with the hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry. While auditioning for parts, Stallone worked as a movie theater usher and cleaned lion cages at the zoo. He was fired from the theater for trying to scalp tickets to a customer. Unknown to Stallone, the customer was the theater owner.

3. Sylvester Stallone’s mother was an expert in “rumpology.”

Stallone’s parents separated while he was still a child. His father, a beauty salon owner named Francesco Stallone, was apparently prone to corporal punishment, and would cuff his young son for misbehavior. (Stallone was once caught swatting flies with a lead pipe on the hood of his father’s brand-new car.) His mother, Jackie Stallone—whom he once described as “half-French, half-Martian"—later grew interested in the study of rumpology, or the study of the buttocks to reveal personality traits and future events.

4. Sylvester Stallone had a small part in a porno.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during a promotional tour for the film 'Rambo' in Madrid, Spain in January 2008
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

While struggling to make it as an actor, Stallone was talked into making an appearance in Party at Kitty and Stud’s, a 1970 softcore adult film that was not as explicit as other sex features of the era but still required Stallone to appear in the nude. While he was initially hesitant to take the role, Stallone was sleeping in a bus shelter at the time. He took the $200 for two days of work. Following the success of Rocky in 1976, the film’s producers capitalized on their now-valuable footage and re-released it under the title The Italian Stallion. In 2010, a 35mm negative of the film and all worldwide rights to it were auctioned off on eBay for $412,100.

5. Sylvester Stallone wrote a novel.

In addition to his acting ambitions, Stallone decided to pursue a career in writing. After numerous screenplays, he wrote Paradise Alley, a novel about siblings who get caught up in the circus world of professional wrestling in Hell’s Kitchen. Stallone finished the novel before deciding to turn it into a screenplay. Paradise Alley was eventually produced in 1978. The book, which was perceived as a novelization, was published that same year.

6. Sylvester Stallone was not a fan of the Rambo cartoon series.

After the success of 1982’s First Blood and 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone was confronted with a litany of Rambo merchandising. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune in 1986, he said he disliked that the psychologically-tortured war veteran was being used to peddle toys. “I couldn’t control it,” he said. “I tried to stop it, but I don’t own the licensing rights.”

On the subject of Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 1986 animated series featuring a considerably softened-up version of the character, Stallone was resigned. “They’re going to make this Saturday morning TV cartoon show for kids with what they tell me is a softened version of Rambo doing good deeds. First of all, that isn’t Rambo, but more important, they tell me I can’t stop them because it’s not me they’re using. It’s a likeness of a character I played and don’t own.” The show lasted just one season.

7. Sylvester Stallone never planned on the Rocky series enduring as long as it has.

Through the years, Stallone has made some definitive declarations about the Rocky series, which has been extended to eight films including its two spin-off installments, 2015’s Creed and 2018’s Creed II. Speaking with movie critic Roger Ebert in 1979 shortly before the release of Rocky II, Stallone indicated Rocky III that would conclude the series. “There’ll never be a Rocky IV,” he said. "You gotta call it a halt.” In 1985, while filming Rocky IV, Stallone told Interview magazine that he was finished. “Oh, this is it for Rocky,” he said. “Because I don’t know where you go after you battle Russia.” In 1990, following the release of Rocky V, Stallone declared that “There is no Rocky VI. He’s done.” Upon the release of Rocky Balboa in 2006, Stallone once more declared he was finished. "I couldn't top this," he told People. "I would have to wait another 10 years to build up a head of steam, and by that point, come on."

Creed was released nine years later. Following Creed II, he posted a message on Instagram that served as a “final farewell” to the character. Several months later, in July 2019, Stallone told Variety that, “There’s a good chance Rocky may ride again” and explained an idea involving Rocky befriending an immigrant street fighter. It would be the ninth film in the series.

8. Sylvester Stallone was offered the lead role in Beverly Hills Cop.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during production of the 1978 film 'Paradise Alley'
Central Press/Getty Images

In one of the more intriguing alternate casting decisions in Hollywood history, Stallone was originally offered the Axel Foley role in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Not wishing to make a comedy, Stallone rewrote the script to focus more on the action, as Detroit cop Foley stampedes through Beverly Hills to find his friend’s killers. Stallone described his version as resembling “the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy” and said his climax involved a game of chicken between a Lamborghini and an oncoming train. Producers opted to go in another direction. It became one of Eddie Murphy’s biggest hits. Stallone would later use some of his ideas for a rogue cop in the 1986 film Cobra.

9. Sylester Stallone does not get along with Richard Gere.

While filming 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush, in which Stallone and then-unknown actor Richard Gere both played 1950s street toughs, the two actors apparently got off on the wrong foot. Stallone recalled that Gere drew his ire for being too physical during rehearsals—and worse, getting mustard on Stallone during a lunch break. Incensed, Stallone demanded the director choose one of them to stay and one of them to be fired. Gere was let go and replaced by Perry King.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger once tricked sylvester stallone into starring in a box office bomb.

Actors Sylvester Stallone (L) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are photographed during the premiere of 'The Expendables 2' in Hollywood, California in August 2012
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Stallone has often discussed his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the two action stars were believed to be the two biggest marquee attractions in the 1980s. Recalling his 1992 bomb Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stallone told a journalist in 2014 that he believed Schwarzenegger was to blame. “I heard Arnold wanted to do that movie and after hearing that, I said I wanted to do it,” he said. “He tricked me. He’s always been clever.”

11. sylvester Stallone wanted to create a pudding empire.

In 2005, shortly before Rocky Balboa resurrected his film career, Stallone embarked on a line of fitness supplements. His company, Instone, produced a pudding snack that was low-carb and high in protein. Stallone even appeared on Larry King to hawk the product. A legal dispute with a food scientist over the rights to the concoction dragged on for years and Instone eventually folded.

Highclere Castle—the Real-Life Downton Abbey—Is Available to Rent on Airbnb

Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Emily_M_Wilson/iStock via Getty Images

Have you ever wanted to spend a night in a castle? And not just any castle—the Downton Abbey castle, Highclere Castle? On November 26, one lucky couple will get the opportunity to relive the TV show and movie, when castle owners Lady and Lord Carnarvon will cordially invite one person and their guest of choice to spend the night in the castle, which is located in Hampshire, England—about 45 miles west of London. On October 1 (Airbnb reservations go live at noon BST) anyone with a verified profile, positive reviews, and passion for Downton Abbey can vie for the opportunity. Even though the castle has 300 rooms, they are only making one bedroom available, for $159.

Upon arrival, the royals will host cocktails with the guests in the saloon. Visitors will hear stories from more than 300 years of Highclere Castle history (construction on the castle began in 1679, and has been in the Carnarvon family ever since).

“I am passionate about the stories and heritage of Highclere Castle and I am delighted to be able to share it with others who have a love of the building and its history,” Lady Carnarvon said in the Airbnb listing.

The Earl and Countess will host a dinner for the guests in the state dining room, and afterwards have coffee in the library. Before bed, the guests’ butler will escort them to their gallery bedroom. The next morning, guests will receive a complimentary breakfast, a private tour of the 100,000-square foot castle and 1000-acre grounds, and a special gift from the Carnarvons. (Airbnb will also make a donation to The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.)

It should be noted the castle doesn’t have Wi-Fi or central air, but it does have fireplaces and central heat. There are a few rules guests must follow, though: all newspapers must be ironed; one butler per person; cocktail dress is required at dinner; gossip is restricted to downstairs; the listing is midweek because, as the Dowanger once said, “What is a weekend?”

If you don’t win the opportunity to stay at Highclere, all is not lost: you can tour the castle year-round.

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