20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Stargate
Stargate was released in cinemas 25 years ago to fairly mixed critical reviews, but proved very popular with audiences worldwide who enjoyed its mix of science fiction, fantasy, action and adventure.
The film followed the adventures of military and scientific explorers as they journey to another planet through the titular Stargate and was filled with big-budget special effects and some fun action set pieces as the action unfolds.
As the film hits a quarter of a century old, what better time to look back at Stargate with some facts you may not have known.
20. James Spader thought the script was “awful”
When initially offered a role in Stargate, James Spader was not keen at all to join the cast as Dr Daniel Jackson.
According to Spader, he thought the film was ‘awful’, and had no interest in taking part.
However, after reading through the script, the actor decided that the film was so bad that it strangely intrigued him.
He decided to give the movie a chance, and agreed to meet with director Rolland Emmerich, whose passion and enthusiasm for the film was infectious.
Spader eventually decided that the energy and craziness of the script would result in an exciting end result, and agreed to take the lead.
19. James Spader only took part for the money
When we think of movie stars, we usually presume they take part in films due their genuine interest in the role.
However, just like for us mere mortals, financial incentive can be hard to ignore.
Whilst Spader was initially not keen on the role, he soon realised there were some big bucks on offer and rather quickly changed his mind.
Spader defended his decision, saying “Acting, for me, is a passion, but it’s also a job, and I’ve always approached it as such. I have a certain manual-laborist view of acting.”
‘There’s no shame in taking a film because you need some f****** money.”
18. Test audiences hated the film
The initial test screenings of the film were essentially a complete disaster, and audiences were certainly not shy of making their grievances heard.
After the first screening, it was discovered that less than 40% of the audiences enjoyed the movie, creating absolute havoc amongst the producers and directors.
It soon became clear that the main issue was that the movie made very little sense in its early form.
To try and make the film more accessible, the scenes with Ra had the character’s dialogue subtitled and in a way that made it clearer what was happening.
Subsequent test screenings were very popular with audiences and the change had the desired effect.
17. Some of the ‘extras’ are actually mannequins
Even a big budget movie needs to save money where it can, and who needs extras when you can use mannequins?!
Many of the crowd scenes featured mannequins in the place of people, helping to keep costs down.
The mannequins were dispersed at a radio of one to every 30 actors, resulting in the actors often attempting to converse with someone who turned out to be made of plastic. A regular occurrence in Hollywood, of course.
Not all of the extras were humans, either. Remember the horse-like creatures on the planet?
They were in fact real horses (no!) draped in external costumes, although we can only assume there was at least some CGI involved.
16. Jaye Davidson’s piercings caused a problem
Just like that emo girl at school (you know the one) who would adamantly refuse to remove their rogue piercings, Davidson had a similar outlook on the topic.
The actor had rings in both of his nipples and was not prepared to give up his glam look for the sake of his career.
This meant that his costumes and the shots used in the film had to be done carefully to avoid them being seen or causing issues.
Although this might be seen as some seriously diva-like behaviour, Davidson apparently had an excuse at the ready.
He claimed that he had literally just had his nipples pierced, and that removing them would resulting in the holes closing up. Not sure that excuse would have worked at school…
15. Davidson was paid $1 million to appear in the film
Davidson did not actively pursue his acting career, and rather sort of… fell into it.
The unassuming young star was first discovered whilst drinking in a local bar, and was quickly thrust into the limelight.
He made his film debut in The Crying Game, for which he received recognition from both critics and audiences.
However, Davidson did not enjoy his new high-profile life style, and was not keen to continue his foray into the acting world.
When offered the role of Ra, he demanded a $1 million fee, thinking this would be declined. However, producers actually accepted his offer, and he was cast in the film.
14. Davidson quit acting after the film
As previously mentioned, Davidson did not enjoy acting, or the attention that came with it.
Davidson found his costume very uncomfortable during filming and even stripped naked on set when the cameras stopped rolling on his final scene.
He also struggled with memorising the lines, as well as dealing with the demands of the production team.
Following Stargate, he quit acting altogether bar a couple of brief minor roles.
The star has since build a successful modelling career, and has made waves in the fashion industry.
13. The glowing eyes were added in later in editing because test audiences didn’t realise Ra was an alien
In initial screenings, many audience members didn’t actually realise that Ra was an alien.
And what better way to ensure someone is clearly an alien than giving them bright white, fluorescent eyes?!
Ra’s glowing eyes were added on in the late stages of post-production, largely to make him seem more different and intense.
CGI was also used in other aspects of the film, including smoothing out footprints in the sand.
The creation of the Wormhole was also fully digital, and was one of the biggest challenges producers faced whilst making the film.
12. The film made the composer of the soundtrack famous
The film’s composer, David Arnold, was working as a clerk in a record store in England when he was put forward for the job.
Directors Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich would later reveal that they were initially dubious of the inexperienced composer.
At the time, his scoring experience was relatively limited, consisting largely of short, low budget films.
However, as soon as they heart Arnold’s impressive repertoire, they were sold. The pair would even go on to work with the composer on several other projects, including Independence Day and Godzilla.
They were seriously impressed with Arnold’s final score for the film, stating that the high quality of his work was exemplified by its reuse in various trailers and TV shows.
11. Producers worked closely with the USAF
The sixth branch of the military, Space Force, might be just a proposition at this moment in time, but it could soon become a reality.
Until that day, we’ll just have to be content with Stargate SG-1 for all our space defence needs.
The film’s producers were advised by the real United States Air Force in order to make the film’s events as realistic and accurate as possible.
The USAF were seriously impressed with the portrayal, expressing that the depiction of the Air Force on the show was exemplary.
In fact, they were so enamoured, that they awarded Richard Dean Anderson, who played Jack O’Neil, with the rank of honorary Air Force Brigadier General.
10. It inspired an animated Stargate TV show
You might be of the opinion that Stargate just couldn’t get any better, and this animated serious might just prove you right.
The show is set several decades in the future and was, quite aptly, named Stargate Infinity.
Sadly, the show ran for just one season before being cancelled in 2002 due to low viewing figures.
The writers and producers of the original Stargate movie were not involved with the making of Stargate.
The show was also heavily criticised for its low budget and poor writing, which ultimately led to its downfall.
9. Producers were forbidden to include references to Area 51
We’ve already discussed the fact that the Air Force were huge fans of the movie Stargate, and of the franchise as a whole.
They went so far as to provide technical support for the show, as well as allowing high ranking officers to appear as extras.
Apparently, if you visit the military base in Colorado, you can even find a Stargate Easter Egg, otherwise known as an Abandoned Missile Silo.
However, the force was clear that there was one topic they would be keeping close to their chests.
They staunchly refused to express support for, or encourage, any discussion of Area 51.
8. The producers were accused of stealing the script
In 1995, high school teacher Omar Zuhdi came forward to claim that the entire film was stolen from a manuscript that he had written as a college student.
Zuhdi’s former Egyptology professor from Johns Hopkins university was able to vouch for the teacher.
He claimed he had submitted his manuscript to 20th Century Fox, who rejected it in 1984, five years before the writers of Stargate had even met.
In his suit, Zuhdi alleged that StudioCanal somehow acquired a copy of the manuscript and that they hired the writers to base a film on the manuscript.
Zuhdi sued the writers, producers and production companies for $140 million dollars, although he ended up being awarded just $50,000 in an out of court settlement.
7. Some details were changed in the TV show
The planet visited in Stargate is never actually referred to by name throughout the entirety of the movie.
However, in the spinoff TV series, Stargate SG-1, it was revealed that the planet’s name was actually Abydos.
In the movie, we are told that the planet is located in the Kaliam Galexy.
However, in the TV show, its location is retroactively changed to be within the Milky Way.
Another discrepancy is that travelling to a galaxy necessitates a combination of eight glyphs as opposed to the seven required in the movie.
6. The ‘wormhole’ concept was used in another famous movie
The Stargate is a system designed to open a wormhole, which is a hypothetical way of space travel. This is known as an ‘Einstein-Rosen Bridge’, named after scientists Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen.
According to the scientists, the wormhole should be capable of uniting two distant points in the universe.
This would essentially alter space-time law to cross from a point to another in a brief period of time.
The expression ‘wormhole’ compares the universe to an apple, with a worm burrowing straight through to reach the other side.
The same concept formed the basis of the 1997 movie Contact, starring Jodie Foster.
5. It was the first film to have its own website
It’s hard to imagine a world where film promo isn’t plastered across our screens.
Movie franchises use their sites to heavily promote content, releasing trailers and often consisting of interactive features/tools.
However, back in 1994, it was a lot harder to have a strong internet presence, if any at all (yay, Internet Explorer!).
That was, of course, until Stargate sprung into action and made waves in the sci-fi world.
Producers decided to create a website, which was set up by writer Dean Devlin. The site consisted of photos and several written promos for the film.
4. The film received mixed reviews
Despite the film having since become somewhat of a cult classic, at the time of its release, the reviews were pretty shady.
Most of the negative comments centred around the overuse of special effects, thinness of the plot and excessive use of cliches.
Critic Roger Eger went so far as to say that ‘the movie Ed Wood, about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for Stargate’.
However, others argued that the film was an ‘instant camp classic’, praising the movie for its special effects and entertainment value.
Chris Hicks of the Deseret News praised the film, calling it ‘Star Wars meets Ben Hur’. What a compliment!
3. The film’s director wasn’t a fan of the TV show
The Stargate movie was just the starting point to what would eventually become a successful franchise.
However, as we know, the movie received its fair share of criticism, and was even placed on Roger Ebert’s list of Most Hated Films of the Year.
Luckily, the TV show turned out to be substantially more commercially successful. Despite this, the film’s director, Roland Emmerich, was not so keen on SG-1, or its spin offs.
Emmerich had initially envisioned his original film as part of a trilogy, although the two sequels sadly never came to fruition.
Plans were later put in place to reboot the entire franchise as a movie but in 2016, it was revealed that the relaunch was probably not going ahead.
2. It beat box office records
Despite its critical reception, the film seemed to be a hit amongst audiences, grossing over $71 million at the US box office.
It reached $125 million internationally, resulting in a world wide total of more than $196 million.
At the time, this set the record for the highest grossing opening weekend for a film released in the month of October. Impressive, right?
Considering its lukewarm reviews, the film surpassed the expectations of film industry insiders.
Some even regarded the movie as director Emmerich’s breakout film.
1. This was a breakout role for Djimon Hounsou
Honsou, credited simply as Djimon, had appeared in several low-budget films prior to finding Stargate fame.
The movie brought him into the limelight, and quickly kick-started his acting career.
Directors Devlin and Emmerich credit themselves with having discovered the actor, who would later go on to star in classic films such as Steven Speilberg’s Amistad.
Coincidentally, Djimon Hounsou, James Spader and Kurt Russell would eventually all end up playing Villians in various Marvel films.
Hounsou played Korath in Guardians of the Galaxy, Spader portrayed Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Russell was, of course, Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2.