20 Things You Never Knew About 1987’s Overboard
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are one of Hollywood’s golden couples, and perhaps the most celebrated film they’ve made together is 1987’s Overboard. This screwball romantic comedy casts Hawn as spoiled heiress Joanna Stayton, who is struck with amnesia, which prompts Russell’s struggling single father and carpenter Dean Proffitt to convince her that she’s his wife.
Sweeter than it sounds, the film has long been close to the heart of many, and here are some facts you might not know about it.
20. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s kids were present on set
Considering that Overboard is largely about family, it’s fitting that Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s real children were with them on set whilst the film was in production. They had been a couple since 1983, although to this day the two of them have never married. Hawn was previously married to musician Bill Hudson, and Russell to Season Hubley.
Both had children from these past marriages, but were keen to have one big family. Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson has declared, “Kurt is a saviour who came into my life. He’s been there for everything,” and she considers him her true father. It’s also rumoured that Hawn and Russell’s son Wyatt Russell (now an actor himself) took his first steps on the set of Overboard.
19. Roddy McDowall was an executive producer on the film
Roddy McDowall co-stars in Overboard as Joanna’s long-suffering butler Andrew. McDowall had a long, prolific career as an actor, dating back to his childhood in the 1930s, but Overboard was his sole credit as executive producer.
McDowall received an associate producer credit on several of the films in which he played the lead role between 1948 and 1950, and was also credited as full producer on a behind the scenes documentary produced for 1967 classic Planet of the Apes.
18. The film was inspired by a true story
As much as the premise of Overboard seems like one of those things that only happens in the movies, the story was surprisingly inspired by a real-life incident of a female amnesiac in Florida. Details are scarce, but news reports from 1981 tell a story of a ‘Jane Doe’ found stranded in a park and not even knowing who she was.
According to a New York Times article from 1980, “News reports of her plight and a national television appearance prompted hundreds of calls to the hospital from anxious families who thought she might be their missing daughter.” The woman was later identified as Cheryl Tomiczek and subsequently reunited with her family, but chose to keep the name ‘Jane Doe’ afterwards.
17. You might recognise Dean’s pick-up from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Kurt Russell’s Dean Proffitt drives a beat-up blue Dodge pick-up truck in support of his carpentry business – but if you ever suspected you knew the car from another movie, you aren’t wrong. The very same vehicle appears in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), tailgating the Griswold family in the opening sequence.
It’s not exactly known how the same truck ended up featuring in both films, though it’s likely a typical rental option for filmmakers, but the devil is in the detail. If you look closely at the truck in Christmas Vacation, you can see that the driver-side door has been daubed over in black paint. The paint is in the exact shape and position as Dean Proffitt’s logo.
16. Joanna’s yacht would later appear in Indecent Proposal
Slightly higher up the vehicular glamour scale is Joanna’s yacht, dubbed the SS Immaculata in the movie, but in fact known as the Attessa – and, years later, it would be featured in another notable Hollywood movie. The yacht would be used again in 1993’s Indecent Proposal, as the pleasure cruiser of Robert Redford’s wealthy lothario.
The ridiculously luxurious vessel came complete with crystal chandeliers and velvet cheetah upholstery, and at times was also called Yecats and Huntress. If this palace on the water wasn’t opulent enough already, the boat was later lengthened to 142 ft and a helipad was added on the aft deck. Unfortunately, the yacht was destroyed in a fire some years later, though all crew and passengers survived.
15. Jeffrey Wiseman’s Pee-Wee Herman impersonations were ad-libbed
Dean’s son Joey, played by Jeffrey Wiseman, has a tendency to speak in an impersonation of Pee-Wee Herman – but this particular character trait did not come from the script. Director Garry Marshall encouraged the cast to improvise, and young Wiseman, who was reportedly a bit of a handful on set, came up with the Pee-Wee voice.
Wiseman continued his work as a child actor until 1992. Outside of Overboard, his most prominent role was Mitch Murphy in Home Alone, the chatty neighbour who looks into the airport van and accidentally gets tallied in the headcount of children, leading to Kevin being left behind.
14. John Candy was considered for the role of Dean’s buddy Billy
Character actor Michael Hagerty takes a key supporting role in Overboard as Billy, best friend of Russell’s Dean, but the filmmakers had originally courted a bigger name for the part: John Candy. Unfortunately, production on Overboard clashed with Candy’s work on Planes, Trains & Automobiles, so he had to decline.
Now professionally known as Mike Hagerty, the Billy actor never achieved the same level of fame as Candy but has worked steadily as a character actor. Hagerty’s best-known roles include building superintendent Mr Treeger in Friends, plus guest roles on the likes of Cheers, Seinfeld, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Somebody Somewhere.
13. The Arturo and Katerina story wasn’t in the script, and the screenwriter hates it
Once Dean and Annie (as Dean renames her) come to fall in love, he woos her with an old sea legend about lovers lost at sea. This, however, was not in Leslie Dixon’s script, and she is highly disdainful of the plot device, telling Vanity Fair in 2017 that it “embarrasses me to this day.”
Even more strangely, no one seems certain where the story came from. The characters of Arturo and Katerina may originate in an opera by Carlo Coccia named Caterina di Guisa, which sees the two characters illicitly fall in love, much to the disdain of Caterina’s husband, Henry I of Guise.
12. The film has been remade four times, including as a South Korean TV show
They’re remaking everything these days, and a hugely watchable comedy like Overboard is no exception – though few films have the dubious honour of having been remade four times. Western audiences are most likely to be familiar with 2018 gender-reversed remake, starring Anna Faris as a working class single mother and Eugenio Derbez as a spoiled rich playboy.
However, Overboard has inspired other remakes around the globe. First came 1992 Hindi film Ek Ladka Ek Ladki, then 1997 Malayalam film Mayaponman, and also though 2006 South Korean TV series Couple or Trouble (the latter of which twists the concept by having both lead characters fall overboard, though only one develops amnesia).
11. Anna Faris sought Hawn and Russell’s blessing to remake the film
When it came to the 2018 remake, the pressure was certainly on for Anna Faris. “I had a lot of emotions about it,” Faris told SheKnows in 2018. “It’s one of my favorite all-time movies that I have! And I was nervous about filling such big shoes – Goldie Hawn has been such a hero of mine.”
When Russell and Hawn learned that a new version of Overboard was in the works, and that Faris was attached, the couple invited the younger actress out to dinner. Faris promised to “honor the movie that they made,” and at the end of the meal she not only got the blessing of her two idols, they even paid for dinner!
10. It was the last film Russell and Hawn would make together for 31 years
Although Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn have had a remarkably solid relationship over the past three decades, their careers have never quite been in sync. In fact, they’ve only starred alongside each other four times. Although the pair met while working on The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, neither had top billing, making it easy to discount it from the list of Hawn-Russell collaborations.
Their next picture, 1984’s Swing Shift, was critically acclaimed but a box office flop. Overboard was more successful on release, but only really built its reputation on VHS and TV. The couple would not reunite on screen until Hawn’s brief cameo opposite Russell’s Santa in 2018’s The Christmas Chronicles, and they would reprise their roles in 2020 sequel The Christmas Chronicles 2.
9. Kurt Russell’s father has a cameo
Acting is a family business for Kurt Russell. Not only did his own children follow him into the industry, his father Bing Russell had also trod that ground before him as a jobbing actor appearing in the likes of Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie, as well as small roles in films including The Magnificent Seven.
Bing Russell has a small cameo role in Overboard as Sheriff Earl. He would make a few more brief film appearances in the years that followed, including a bit part in another of Kurt’s films, Tango & Cash. His last appearance would be in 1990’s Dick Tracy, before he passed away in 2003 aged 76.
8. It was Ray Combs’ first – and last – film
Overboard features a cameo from Ray Combs as a cop in the hospital, who demands proof that Dean is really Annie’s husband. Combs was also a stand-up comedian, but achieved his greatest level of fame as the host of popular gameshow Family Feud.
Combs hosted Family Feud for seven years, and never made another film appearance. Tragically, he would die by suicide in 1996 after being fired from the gameshow.
7. It was poorly reviewed at the time, but has become a cult classic since
It’s hard to believe today, especially for any Goldie Hawn fans out there, but Overboard didn’t exactly get a rosy reception on its release. Variety slated the film as “an uninspiring, unsophisticated attempt at an updated screwball comedy that is brought down by plodding script,” and damning all the performances beyond Hawn and Hagerty as “pedestrian.”
However, while Overboard’s box office was unremarkable, it holds some insight into the film’s future cult status: it made $1.9 million in its first weekend, and then continued to increase its takings, and then increased them again. In short, positive word of mouth saved the film, and it did even better on home entertainment.
6. It was influenced by a 1974 Italian film which was later remade by Madonna
As well as being inspired by the real-life Cheryl Tomiczek/Jane Doe story, Overboard also took inspiration from an earlier movie: director Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 Italian production Swept Away, in which a rich yacht owner and a member of her crew are stranded on a deserted island.
This earlier film is considerably more serious than Overboard, and brings the political elements of the scenario to the forefront. Years later Swept Away was remade by Guy Ritchie with his then-wife Madonna in the lead, and it was a notorious critical and commercial disaster.
5. Reese Witherspoon loves the film so much it’s her email address
Some might say that Reese Witherspoon (star of the Legally Blonde movies, and an Oscar winner for Walk the Line) is the Goldie Hawn of her generation. Witherspoon is by her own admission a huge fan of Hawn, and has revealed that her very first email address was [email protected]
Witherspoon is such a fan of Hawn that in 2017 she was chosen to present Hawn and Russell with their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Witherspoon said at the ceremony that Hawn “lights up the screen. She lit up my life. She’s changed my life, and she’s quite simply my idol.”
4. The screenwriter is the granddaughter of two esteemed artists
Overboard screenwriter Leslie Dixon is the granddaughter of Dorothea Lange, the famous photographer. Born in 1895, Lange is best known for her photojournalism during the Great Depression, most famously 1936’s Migrant Mother.
As if her grandmother’s artistic success wasn’t enough, Dixon’s grandfather was Maynard Dixon, a noted landscape artist. The screenwriter (whose other credits include Mrs. Doubtfire and 2003’s Freaky Friday) has said of her grandparents, “[their] work goes at Sotheby’s for a million, but these artists made no real money in their lifetimes.”
3. There’s a brewing gaslighting controversy over the film
In today’s more politically sensitive climate, Overboard has been re-assessed in an unfavourable light by some commentators. The film has been accused of promoting ‘gaslighting,’ the abusive practice by which someone encourages their partner to doubt themselves and their reality.
Screenwriter Leslie Dixon dismisses this. “There’s nothing wrong with Dean other than the fact he doesn’t know how to be a mother,” she told Vanity Fair in 2017. “He knows how to be a father, but he’s too permissive, and the kids are running wild… What Dean does to Joanna, the audience kind of roots him on.”
2. Hawn and Russell once re-watched the film instead of having sex
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn say they rarely re-watch their own work, but that one time they decided to watch Overboard had a massive impact on them. Hawn explained on the Late Late Show: “You know how sometimes you forget why you fell in love? I remembered everything, and why I fell in love. It was really something to be able to watch that.”
“We were going to make love,” she continues, “so that put the whole kibosh on that…” though in hindsight “it was actually a turn on.” As for Kurt Russell, he said of the episode in a separate Men’s Health interview, “You remember things you didn’t realize you remembered, and you’re completely inundated with the sweep of memory.”
1. The film might have derailed a presidential campaign
Did you know that Overboard made Barack Obama president? Well, that might be an overstatement, but there’s still an interesting story here. In the party scene on the yacht, there are several glamourous women dancing. One of these women is Rielle Hunter, a film producer who would go on to change the course of American history.
Hunter is best known for having an extramarital affair with then-Senator John Edwards in 2007. Edwards had been the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice-President in 2004, and was seeking the presidential nomination in 2008. However, the scandal derailed Edwards’ career, leading to Obama winning the nomination and ultimately the election.