25 Things You Never Knew About Cocktail

Are you a fan of the film Cocktail? In case you’ve never made time to watch this 1988 movie that starred a young Tom Cruise, let us fill you in.

Cocktail was directed by Roger Donaldson and is based on a book of the same name. It tells the story of a New York business student called Brian Flanagan (played by Cruise) who takes up bartending in order to make ends meet.

Below are 25 fascinating facts about this cult classic.


25. It’s based on a true story

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Cocktail is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Heywood Gould which was published in 1984.

Gould had actually worked as a bartender in New York to support his writing career.

He has been quoted as saying that he ‘met a lot of interesting people behind the bar and very rarely was it someone who started out wanting to be a bartender’.

‘They all had ambitions, some smouldering and some completely forgotten or suppressed.’

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Gould also explained that the main character was a composite of the people he met, including himself.

24. There were 40 different drafts of the script before the film finally went into production

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The film’s writer Heywood Gould has been quoted as saying ‘there must have been 40 drafts of the screenplay before we went into production.’

‘It was originally with Universal. They put it in turnaround because I wasn’t making the character likeable enough.’

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‘And then Disney picked it up, and I went through the same process with them.’ he explained.

‘I would fight them at every turn, and there was a huge battle over making the lead younger, which I eventually did.’

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Gould has since agreed that this was a good decision.

23. Some legendary 80s actresses auditioned to be in the film

Jennifer Grey, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, and Daryl Hannah all either sought or were considered for the role of Jordan, romantic interest to Tom Cruise’s cocky bartender.

The part ultimately eventually went to Elizabeth Shue.

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Shue shot to fame after her role in Karate Kid.

She was often cast as ‘the girl next door’ character.

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She would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the 1995 movie Leaving Las Vegas.

22. The story completely changed once Cruise was on board

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Actor Bryan Brown said that the script ‘was one of the very best screenplays I had ever read. Very dark, about the cult of celebrity and everything about it.’

He went on to say that ‘Tom Cruise is a very sweet man, he was then and still is, but when he came in, the movie had to change.’

‘The studio made the changes to protect the star and it became a much slighter movie because of it.’

Cruise’s charisma and fun-loving nature apparently made the set an interesting place to work.

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John Bandy, who trained Cruise in the art of cocktail making, said that he was ‘a real guys, guy’.

21. Cruise and Brown had bartending training for the film

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To prepare them for the film, LA bartender John Bandy trained Cruise and Brown in some impressive bottle-flipping routines.

Author Heywood Gould also took Cruise and Brown to his friend’s bar to show them some of the tricks.

As previously mentioned, John Bandy also helped them perfect their flair.

Bandy revealed that ‘both Tom and Bryan were very capable, ambidextrous guys.’

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Tom apparently also won the competition over who could break the most glasses.

20. Yes, they used real bottles

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You might think it would be easier (and less messy) to just use plastic glasses.

However, the producers were after a sense of authenticity.

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Cruise and Brown used real bottles on set, even when filming the sometimes intricate throwing routines.

And yes, they did of course break a few.

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We bet they weren’t the ones sweeping up the broken glass!

19. Critics hated the film

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Cocktail received mainly negative reviews from critics, and won 2 Golden Raspberry Awards, for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay.

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called Cocktail ‘an upscale, utterly brainless variation on those efficient old B-movies of the 1930s and 40s.’

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Similarly, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times claimed that ‘the more you think about what really happens in Cocktail, the more you realise how empty and fabricated it really is.’

The film is also listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson‘s book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

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Quite an achievement!

18. Cruise fought with his wife off-set

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At the time of making Cocktail, Tom Cruise was only one year into his first marriage to Someone to Watch Over Me actress Mimi Rogers.

However, already the pair were at loggerheads.

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It was reported that Cruise and Rogers were arguing constantly when he wasn’t filming.

Their relationship was infamously turbulent, with speculation over the couple’s marriage running rife at the time.

It was Rogers who introduced Cruise to the world of scientology.

17. Cruise got seriously ill while shooting in Jamaica

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Tom Cruise got sick when filming in Jamaica, due to the exterior shots being filmed outside in the cold.

Whilst shooting a love scene at a jungle waterfall, his condition became apparent.

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He has said the experience was  ‘not quite as romantic as it looks.’

‘It was more like ‘Jesus, let’s get this shot and get out of here,’ he explained.

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‘Actually, in certain shots you’ll see that my lips are purple and, literally, my whole body’s shaking.’

16. The scene with Gina Gershon being tickled off the bed wasn’t planned

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The scene in which Coral, played by Gina Gershon, falls off the bed with Cruise’s Brian, wasn’t planned.

Cruise knew that Gershon was ticklish and it led to them falling off of the bed, a take that made it into the finished film.

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It seems the incident didn’t put Gershon off her acting career, though.

‘One of my first gigs, a movie called Cocktail, I found myself at 8 in the morning, in bed, practically naked, having to make out with Tom Cruise,’ Gershon was quoted saying.

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‘Hmmmm… movie business – so far, so good’.

15. Even the film’s writer didn’t like Cocktail

Heywood Gould, wrote the book the film was based on as well as the screenplay.

He has said ‘I was not happy with the final product. It got so savaged by the critics.’

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He went on to say that ‘I was accused of betraying my own work, which is stupid.’

‘So I was pretty devastated. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for a day,’ he explained.

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‘The good thing about that experience is that it toughened me up.’

14. Cruise wasn’t a massive fan of it either

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So we’ve established that the film received awful reviews, but what did the actors themselves think of it?

Surprisingly, even Tom Cruise himself has been quoted as saying that Cocktail was ‘not a crowning jewel in my career.’

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He earned the Razzie Award for worst actor for the film.

However, he has more than redeemed himself since and has built up a good reputation.

He won the award for best actor for his appearance in Rain Man just one year later.

13. It was still a major hit at the box office

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Perhaps down to having Cruise in the starring role, and despite the negative reaction from critics, Cocktail was actually a huge financial success.

At home, at the American box office, Cocktail made $78.2 million.

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In addition, it made $93.3 million globally, on a mere $20 million budget.

It certainly didn’t harm Cruise’s career, and he is one of the highest-paid Hollywood actors in history.

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The film has since developed a huge cult following and remains well-known to this day.

12. Brian Flanagan was almost twice as old in the book

In the original novel by Heywood Gould, the main protagonist, Brian Flanagan, is 38.

He is described as a ‘weirdo in a field jacket with greasy, greying hair.’

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Cruise didn’t quite fit the bill, and his character in the movie is said to be in his twenties.

Gould originally wrote the character based loosely on himself (amongst others).

At the time he was feeling ‘pretty washed up’, and he wanted this reflected in Brian.

11. Disney didn’t want Tom Cruise in the lead role

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Apparently, in one of the early meetings with Disney, someone mentioned that Cruise would be a good fit for the role.

One of the Disney heads, Michael Eisner, was not so keen, remarking that Cruise would ‘never do it’.

It was then revealed that Cruise had expressed interest in the part.

Eisner was then more enthusiastic, saying ‘he’s perfect for it, a perfect fit!’.

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We are glad he relented – can you imagine Cocktail without Cruise?!

10. Bryan Brown failed his audition

Director Roger Donaldson actually asked specifically for Brown to audition for the movie. Brown flew from Sydney to New York in order to fulfil his request.

He was then required to perform to Donaldson after a twenty-hour flight, feeling disheveled to say the least.

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According to Donaldson, his audition was ‘dreadful’.

Despite being asked to stay and audition, Brown had a flight booked the next day.

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To save face, Donaldson refused to show the tape to anyone, instead recommending they watch Brown’s performance in F/X.

9. The film score was written in a weekend

The original score was written by Oscar winning composer Maurice Jarre. However, producers didn’t think his score ‘fit in’ with the story.

They called in J. Peter Robinson to fix one particular cue.

Donaldson was such a fan of Robinson’s work that he asked him to stay and complete the score.

The catch was, he only has three days to finish the project.

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Robinson apparently stayed up for 72 hours perfecting the score.

8. Kokomo was written especially for the film

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The song was first brought to the spotlight by The Beach Boys, minus Brian Wilson.

However, the track was a result of a large about of collaboration.

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This included John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas fame and Scott McKenzie was the man behind San Fransisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).

Phillips is credited with writing the verses whilst Mike love wrote the chorus.

The producers were after a song to be played as Brian moves from New York to Jamaica. Hence the catchy phrase ‘Aruba, Jamaica’.

7. ‘Don’t worry be happy’ shot to popularity after the film’s release

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The song was written by Bobby McFerrin.

It soon became a hit number one after it was included on the Cocktail soundtrack.

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Director Roger Donaldson first heard the song on the radio on his way to the set.

‘I heard it and thought it would be perfect for the film,’ Donaldson explained.

‘Suddenly it was everywhere. Sorry about that!’.

6. Robin Williams was considered for the role of Brian Flanagan

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Before Cruise landed the role, Williams was a front runner for the part.

Williams had previously starred in 1986 and was beginning to make quite a name for himself.

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Williams did in fact make the cut for the director, Donaldson’s, next film Cadillac man in 1990.

Apparently Donaldson has a penchant for a tropical climate as both movies were filmed in Port Antonio, Jamaica.

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Ah, to be an actor…

5. Cocktail was mentioned in American Psycho

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American psycho was written by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991.

A movie version was produced nine years later in 2000.

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In the novel, the lead character catches an elevator with movie star Tom Cruise.

He initiates conversation, commending him on his performance in Bartender.

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He is of course swiftly corrected by Cruise, who told him it was actually called Cocktail.

4. Only 24 minutes of the movie was actually filmed in Jamaica

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The movie is famous for its Jamaican setting.

With sandy beaches and warm, shallow waters, it’s not hard to see why it’s the ideal filming location.

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However, out of 104 minutes running time, just 24 minutes were actually set in Jamaica.

The rest of the movie is set in New York City’s Upper East Manhattan.

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A much chillier climate, that’s for sure!

3. ‘Flair bartending’ is an actual thing

In the movie, Cruise and Brown display some seriously impressive moves.

The pair were trained by John Bandy, as aforementioned.

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Bandy was in fact a professional flair bartender.

Flair bartending is actually an acrobatic bartending skill.

Cruise can officially call himself an acrobat!

2. Elizabeth Shue’s brother makes an appearance

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You can spot Andrew Shue briefly in the background of the wedding reception scene.

Shue is a successful actor in his own right, and has starred in many high profile movies.

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Alongside his sister, Shue was inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame in 1994.

The pair also worked together on the 2007 feature film Gracie, along with his brother-in-law Davis Guggenheim.

Truly keeping it in the family.

1. They made up the term ‘flugelbinder’

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The term ‘flugelbinder’ was used to describe the plastic part at the end of the shoelace.

However, the correct term is ‘aglet’.

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Ian W Fieggen CC BY-SA 3.0

In the movie, Brian and Jordan famously discuss how ‘flugelbinders’ made someone a millionaire.

Aglets have actually been around since Ancient Rome, however Brian’s argument still stands.

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It was actually an English inventor who modernised aglets, making the considerable sum of 2.5 million in 1790.

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