Regardless of whether or not you remember the long-running TV series it was based on, we bet you remember the 1993 film adaptation of The Fugitive. In one of his best roles of the 1990s, Harrison Ford took the lead as Dr. Richard Kimble, an assistant man convicted of murdering his own wife. When he gets the opportunity to escape, Kimble sets about clearing his name, with hard-nosed US Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) in hot pursuit.
We’ve searched every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse to bring you the following 20 things that you might not have realised about this brilliant cat and mouse crime thriller.
20. There were about 25 drafts of the screenplay
According to The Fugitive’s producer Arnold Kopelson, developing the movie’s screenplay was a lengthy process which took about five years and involved nine different writers penning around 25 different drafts. In one of the drafts, it was revealed that Tommy Lee Jones’s Agent Samuel Gerard hired the one-armed man that killed Dr Richard Kimble’s wife.
As tricky as the development process might have been, once director Andrew Davis was attached and filming began, the process smoothed out. In fact, the film took a mere 73 days (or just under two and a half months) to shoot. In particular, the film’s post-production went far more smoothly than scheduled, and the film’s release date was pushed up to August.
19. Neither Harrison Ford nor Tommy Lee Jones were first choice for their respective roles
Given the film’s original behind-the-scenes issues, it’s not too surprising that several big names were attached to the film before Ford and Jones were cast. What’s interesting, however, is the sheer variety of talent that might have made The Fugitive a very different film. A number of actors auditioned for the role of Dr Richard Kimble – Ford’s eventual role – including Nick Nolte, Alec Baldwin, Michael Douglas and Kevin Costner.
For the role of Deputy US Marshal Samuel Gerard – which eventually went to Tommy Lee Jones – Gene Hackman and Jon Voight had been considered. Both actors later played similar roles, a politician and a government agent hunting down a whistleblower, in 1998’s Enemy of the State alongside Will Smith.
18. None of the main actors had ever seen the TV show it was based on
Airing between 1963 and 1967, TV series The Fugitive starred David Janssen as itinerant physician Richard Kimble who – much as in the film – is wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder, and escapes from custody after the train transporting him derails. The show lasted for a total of four seasons, with episodes featuring Kimble on the trail of the One-Armed Man.
However, none of the film’s stars – or director Andrew Davis – had ever watched a single episode of the series before working on the movie. “You know, it was 60s,” said Davis, “and I was into other things besides watching television.”
17. They really crashed a train into a bus for the film
Remember the scene where Dr Richard Kimple narrowly escapes his crashed prison bus, mere moments before it is ploughed into by a train? Well, in the days before photo realistic computer generated effects, a real train (with its engine removed) was used for the scene. While the original plan was to replicate the crash using miniatures, the production team discovered it would be cheaper to use full size locomotives (costing around $20,000 each).
However, this meant they would have only one chance to get the take exactly right. However, things didn’t go entirely to plan: the train was expected to crash into the car at 35 miles per hour, but actually approached at 42 miles per hour, resulting in a much more brutal crash. Thankfully, Davis got the shot he was looking for, and that single take is the one that appears in the film.
16. It’s one of the only TV-to-movie adaptations to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar
At time of writing, The Fugitive is the only movie based on a TV series that has ever been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was nominated for the major award in 1994, alongside The Piano, The Remains of the Day, In the Name of the Father and the eventual winner: Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
The Fugitive isn’t technically the only TV adaptation to be up for the biggest Oscar of them all: 1955 Best Picture nominee Marty was a remake of an earlier made-for-TV film, whilst 2000’s Traffic was adapted from the 1989 British TV mini-series Traffik. However, neither of those were ongoing TV shows like the original Fugitive was.
15. They filmed during a genuine St. Patrick’s Day parade
You may remember the scene where Kimble and Gerard engage in a cat and mouse chase through a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago, but you may not have realised that the parade was genuine. Director Andrew Davis, a Chicago native, was granted permission by the mayor’s office to film during the parade, but there still wasn’t a concrete rubric for what would happen.
“We didn’t stage anything,” Ford later said. “I just inserted myself in the middle of the parade.” Ford marched alongside the Plumber’s Union while Tommy Lee Jones – and a gaggle of camera crew – attempted to fight their way through the crowd from behind.
14. It was the first new US movie to be screened in China for decades
The Fugitive made history by being the first major US movie to be shown in the People’s Republic of China for decades, after the country lifted its restriction on foreign movies. The PRC, a one-party state, has been notoriously protective against what it sees as the malignant influence of Western culture, which promotes consumerism, individuality and freedom of expression.
Until the mid-80s, the foreign film market in China was restricted to older American films like Spartacus (1960) which, while a classic, was certainly dated. However, after significant demand from the people, and the near collapse of China’s cinemas, restrictions were loosened and The Fugitive became the first major US film in several decades to receive a contemporary release in China, where it became a huge hit.
13. It was a massive commercial and critical success
The Fugitive was a massive success with both critics and cinema goers, going on to make over $368 million worldwide, which made it the third highest grossing movie of 1993 behind Jurassic Park and Mrs. Doubtfire. On its US release, the film managed to make back more than half its budget in only the first weekend in theatres, and held the top spot at the box office for six weeks.
The Fugitive also went down a storm with critics. Desson Howe from the The Washington Post described it at the time as “a juggernaut of exaggeration, momentum and thrills … pure energy, a perfect orchestration of heroism, villainy, suspense and comic relief.” Today, the film holds an impressive 96% consensus on Rotten Tomatoes.
12. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won one of them
Most critics singled out Tommy Lee Jones for his performance as a wise-cracking cop who is the tactical equal to Harrison Ford’s non-stop doctor. The performance earned Jones, then aged 47, his first and to date only Oscar win as Best Supporting Actor: he’d previously been nominated in this category for 1991’s JFK, and has been nominated once more in that category for 2012’s Lincoln. Jones has also received one Best Actor Oscar nomination, for 2007’s In the Valley of Elah.
The Fugitive was nominated for seven Academy Awards overall. These were the aforementioned Best Picture nomination, as well as Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing. Alas, Jones’ Best Supporting Actor Oscar was the only award the film took home.
11. There was a spin-off movie in 1998
Given that The Fugitive was the third most financially successful film in all of 1993, and Tommy Lee Jones had won gold for his performance, enough executives smelled success to put a spin-off film into production: 1998’s US Marshals, which focused squarely on Jones as US Marshal Samuel Gerard with no repeat appearance from Harrison Ford as Richard Kimble.
The film sees Gerard pursuing another fugitive, played by Wesley Snipes, with a supporting cast including Robert Downey Jr. Directed by Stuart Baird, US Marshals was critically drubbed but proved a modest commercial success, grossing $102.4 million off a budget of $45 million, and premiering second at the box office behind James Cameron’s Titanic.
10. The train wreck site is now a tourist destination
On top of using a real train for the spectacular crash scene, the makers of The Fugitive didn’t even remove the wreckage afterwards. The nerve of some people! Not that locals seem to have been too unhappy about this, as the remains of the train remain on the location to this day as a popular tourist destination.
The scene was shot at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Dillsboro, North Carolina. Sensing the film would be a hit, the owners of the site actually requested the filmmakers leave behind the remains of crashed train used in the film, and tours are taken by the site to this day.
9. There was an Indian remake
Only two years after The Fugitive hit screens, an Indian remake was released. Nirnayam, which means ‘Determination’, is a Malayalam-language thriller co-written and directed by Sangeeth Sivan. It isn’t an exact replica of the original film, but the similarities are clear: Dr Roy falls in love with and marries his apprentice at his hospital, but when she discovers an illicit organ-smuggling operation she is killed and Roy is framed for the murder.
After an accident while he is being transported to prison, he escapes, and finds his wife’s killer and brings him to justice. The lead role is taken by Mohanlal Viswanathan, commonly known by the mononym Mohanlal and considered one of India’s finest actors.
8. The hospital is a real place
While Kimble is on the trail of the One Armed Man, his search takes him to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. This is a real hospital, which first opened in 1857. While the original hospital is no longer in use, and is being privately renovated, the hospital has a number of other claims to fame. For one, it is thought to be the inspiration for the setting of serial medical drama ER.
Although external shots of the hospital can be seen in The Fugitive, interior shots were in fact filmed at Harris Regional Hospital, Sylva, North Carolina. However, prop medical records were altered so that any visible dates would coincide with the date of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago.
7. Leslie Nielsen starred in a Fugitive parody film
Leslie Nielsen was an icon of film parodies, starring in disaster movie spoof Airplane!, cop movie spoof series The Naked Gun, James Bond spoof Spy Hard, and horror spoofs Repossessed and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. He also appeared in 1998’s Wrongfully Accused, a direct lampoon of The Fugitive and 90s action thrillers in general. The film casts Nielsen as Ryan Harrison – a play both on Ford’s first name, and his performance as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.
Alas, Wrongfully Accused went down like a lead balloon with critics, and earned only $9.64 million at the box office. Still, releasing in the same year as US Marshals, it only goes to show how popular The Fugitive remained in the public consciousness half a decade later, a sign of the film’s enduring popularity to this day.
6. Julianne Moore almost played a bigger role
While Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones are clearly the biggest stars of The Fugitive, also appearing high in the film’s billing is Julianne Moore, who appears as Dr. Anne Eastman. However, despite Moore’s name appearing quite high in the credits, she’s only on screen for a few minutes midway through. This wasn’t always the plan, however; early on, Moore was meant to play a bigger role.
Originally, Kimble would have later sought out Eastman for help and fallen in love with her. These scenes were filmed but eventually cut, both to keep the focus on the action and because producers worried that having Kimble fall for another woman so soon after the death of his wife – whom he was still trying to avenge – might have come across as tasteless.
5. Neil Flynn’s cameo was later referenced in an episode of Scrubs
The Fugitive features a brief appearance from then-unknown actor Neil Flynn as an unnamed cop who confronts Richard Kimble on the subway. Later, Flynn took another unnamed role, the Janitor on sitcom Scrubs – and in the show’s 2003 episode My Friend the Doctor, Zach Braff’s JD watches The Fugitive and is stunned to recognise the Janitor in the scene, leading JD to obsess over whether it is actually the Janitor or a lookalike.
After the success of Scrubs, Neil Flynn went on to appear in another long-running sitcom, The Middle. He also played Lindsay Lohan’s father in Mean Girls, and appeared opposite Harrison Ford a second time in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
4. Joe Pantoliano made sure he was in the sequel
Tommy Lee Jones is obviously the most memorable US Marshal in the film, but spare a thought for Joe Pantoliano starring as his deputy, Cosmo Renfro. Things could have been much worse for Pantoliano, as in the original script his character was killed in a shoot-out with Jeroen Krabbé’s Dr. Charles Nichols.
Pantoliano wasn’t happy with this state of affairs, and revealed on Gilbert Gottfried’s podcast (Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast) that he lobbied Davis to keep his character alive, and even added extra groans and leg movements to show that he definitely survived and could be in a potential sequel. Pantoliano got his wish – not only did his character officially survive the film, but he was able to reprise his role in the spin-off US Marshals, which he also survives.
3. There was a TV remake in 2000
After the tepid response to US Marshals, you might think that Fugitive fever had finally come to an end. US Marshals screenwriter Roy Huggins had other ideas, and created a remake of the original 1960s TV series that aired on CBS. The new TV series follows the same tried-and-tested plot of a man wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder on the run from the law. Tim Daly, known for his roles in the sitcom Wings (1990-97) and The Sopranos (1997-07), picks up the torch from Harrison Ford.
The initial response to the show was warm. Unfortunately, likely due to the high production costs of the show – the pilot alone is estimated to have cost $6 million – the remake was cancelled after only one series. This not only left a smaller cliffhanger unresolved, but also the core conflict of the show: the pursuit of the One Armed Man.
2. Director Andrew Davis got the job thanks to Under Siege
Prior to The Fugitive, director Andrew Davis had mostly worked on smaller-scale action movies, but his work on 1992’s Under Siege convinced studio Warner Bros – and leading man Harrison Ford – that Davis was the right man for the job. After watching a screening of the Die Hard-esque adventure starring Steven Seagal, Ford gave his seal of approval to Davis calling the shots on The Fugitive.
A number of other key players from Under Siege also came back to work with Davis again on The Fugitive, including supporting actors Tom Wood, Andy Romano, Eddie Bo Smith Jr. and Joseph F. Kosala. Most notably, Davis had previously directed Tommy Lee Jones in both Under Siege and The Package.
1. Harrison Ford gave Jane Lynch some great advice
Jane Lynch, who later found fame with TV’s Glee, appears in The Fugitive as Dr Kathy Wahlund, a friend and colleague of Kimble who refuses to give him up. Whilst working on their scenes, Ford was reportedly unhappy with the dialogue and at his insistence he and Lynch wound up rewriting their lines together. Lynch recalls that Ford, true to form, was “kind of a cranky guy,” albeit loveable all the same.
What Lynch remembers most of all, however, is an immortal piece of advice that Ford gave her while on set: “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you look stupid if your mouth is agape.”