In 1991, nothing could have sounded more like the makings of a surefire blockbuster than Bruce Willis – the hottest action star in the world after Die Hard – teaming up with Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black, action director extraordinaire Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder) and uber-producer Joel Silver (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Predator).
Sadly, The Last Boy Scout wasn’t quite the box office hit everyone expected, but all these years later it holds up as a more than respectable entry on the CVs of everyone involved. Here are some facts you might not have known about the movie.
20. It was originally called Die Hard – until the producer asked to use the title for another film…
In its earliest incarnation, Shane Black’s script for The Last Boy Scout – the story of world-weary private eye Joe Hallenbeck, who teams up with disgraced NFL player Jimmy Dix – had a rather different title: Die Hard.
Producer Joel Silver, who had already filmed Black’s earlier script Lethal Weapon, heard the title and rather liked the sound of it.
Silver then asked Black if he could use it for another movie he was working on at the time with Bruce Willis.
Black agreed, and the film we know and love today as Die Hard was born.
Prior to that, Die Hard was set to be entitled Nothing Lasts Forever, the title of the novel by Roderick Thorp from which the script was loosely adapted.
19. Shane Black’s script got him a record-breaking payday
Years before he became a blockbuster director, Shane Black was breaking records for the money he made as a screenwriter.
His first produced script, Lethal Weapon, earned him $250,000, the most a first-time writer had ever been paid at the time.
The Last Boy Scout went one better, netting him $1.75 million, the most that anyone had ever been paid for a spec script.
Reportedly this aggravated Black’s screenwriting rival Joe Eszterhas, who was sure to demand a higher sum – $3 million – for his next script, Basic Instinct.
However, Black would break the record yet again five years later, earning a $4 million payday for The Long Kiss Goodnight.
18. Black turned down an even bigger payday to sell the script to Joel Silver
Even though Black’s $1.75 million deal for The Last Boy Scout was one for the record books, he could’ve earned even more for the film.
The $1.75 million offer from Warner Bros was actually lower than what rival studio Carolco offered Black for The Last Boy Scout.
Carolco – the most powerful independent film company in Hollywood at the time, thanks to such hits as Terminator 2, Total Recall, and later Basic Instinct – offered Black $2.25 million for the screenplay.
However, as Black had previously sold Lethal Weapon to producer Joel Silver, he opted to go with Silver again: “the Satan you know is better than the Satan don’t know,” Black joked (at least we think he was joking).
Black’s relationship with this particular ‘Satan’ is still producing fruit: Silver has since produced Black’s directorial efforts Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and The Nice Guys (2016).
17. Shane Black wrote the script to help get him over a terrible break-up
Shane Black’s scripts are noted for their witty, sarcastic dialogue and lavish violence – but you don’t need to look too closely to see that his protagonists also tend to be deeply troubled.
The Last Boy Scout’s Joe Hallenbeck is no exception: a depressed, self-hating alcoholic with no real sense of direction, haunted by his past failures.
Black admits he wrote the script in a low period of his own life, and that the writing process helped him out of that dark time.
The writer says, “for about two years until Last Boy Scout I was busy mourning my life and, in many ways, the loss of my first real love. I didn’t feel much like doing anything except smoking cigarettes and reading paperbacks.”
“Time passed and eventually I sat down and transformed some of that bitterness into a character (Hallenbeck)… writing that script was a very cathartic experience.”
16. The filmmakers still rewrote the hell out of the script
Despite the amount Black was paid for the Last Boy Scout script, extensive rewrites were still demanded before the film went before cameras.
For one, Black’s original final act was thrown out: as first written, this would have taken place almost entirely on the water, in boats, rather than at a football game.
Black was also asked to pare back his script’s darker, nastier elements: for instance, Hallenbeck’s wife Sarah (Chelsea Field) was originally going to be abducted, under threat of being put in a snuff movie.
This was excised both due to concerns about getting past the censors, but also because Bruce Willis felt that if he spent the movie fighting to rescue his wife, it would be too similar to Die Hard.
Most people involved in The Last Boy Scout have since said that the original script was far better than what ended up on screen.
15. The film has multiple Lethal Weapon connections
It’s not just writer Shane Black and producer Joel Silver that The Last Boy Scout shares with Lethal Weapon.
The 1991 film also has the same composer as Lethal Weapon: Michael Kamen, who provided the soundtrack for many of the action hits of the time (Die Hard, Road House, Licence to Kill, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to name a few).
It doesn’t end there, though: The Last Boy Scout has another Lethal Weapon connection in Jimmy Dix actor Damon Wayans.
Wayans later went on to play Murtaugh, the role originally played by Danny Glover, in the Lethal Weapon TV series, which ran from 2016 to 2019.
The Lethal Weapon series was also notorious for how Wayans and Riggs actor Clayne Crawford butted heads – ironic considering this had also been the case with Wayans and Willis on The Last Boy Scout.
14. Willis and Wayans had previously worked together in Look Who’s Talking Too – as a pair of talking babies
The Last Boy Scout was a quite a career breakthrough for Damon Wayans, who had come to acting via comedy.
After getting his first screen role in Beverly Hills Cop and joining the cast of Saturday Night Live, Wayans clocked up a few more supporting roles in movies before bagging The Last Boy Scout.
Appearing alongside Willis, one of the biggest movie stars around at the time, must have been a pretty big deal for Wayans – although the two men had actually worked together once before.
Wayans’ previous screen credit before The Last Boy Scout came in 1990’s Look Who’s Talking Too.
Wayans provided the voice of baby Eddie in the comedy sequel, which saw Willis again voice little Mikey.
13. The psychotic football player in the opening scene is also the creator of Tae Bo
The shocking opening scene of The Last Boy Scout sees an NFL quarterback named Billy Cole go crazy during a game, pulling a gun and shooting several opposing players before ending his own life.
If you’re a fitness fan, or you just watched too many TV infomercials in the late 90s, then you just might recognise the Billy Cole actor from somewhere.
Cole is portrayed by Billy Blanks, the creator of martial arts-based aerobic workout system Tae Bo.
Although Blanks developed Tae Bo from the late 70s onward, it really took off in the 90s, with a reported 1.5 million video cassettes sold by 1999.
Blanks also starred in a number of straight-to-video action movies in the 90s, such as Back in Action, Tough and Deadly, and Expect No Mercy. (Admit it, you want to watch them based on those titles alone.)
12. The nose-in-the-brain scene was taken from the original Lethal Weapon script
One of the best tough guy moments in The Last Boy Scout was a leftover from Shane Black’s original Lethal Weapon script.
The scene comes midway through The Last Boy Scout, when Willis’s Hallenbeck is being roughed up by bad guy Chet (future Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates).
Hallenbeck warns him, “if you touch me again, I’ll kill you” – and proceeds to do just that, by punching Chet’s nose directly up into his brain.
In an early draft of Lethal Weapon, Riggs did the exact same thing; and though it didn’t make the cut in that film, Black recognised it was too cool a scene to leave unfilmed.
In reality, it’s physically impossible to kill a person this way, but who cares, it’s still a cool scene.
11. One line of dialogue cut from the script wound up in another Shane Black movie
As demonstrated by The Last Boy Scout’s recycling of an abandoned Lethal Weapon scene, Shane Black would seem to understand the importance of noting down discarded ideas.
This happened again after The Last Boy Scout, as at least one excised line of dialogue from the original script popped up in Black’s next original project.
There’s a scene in 1996’s The Long Kiss Goodnight in which Samantha (Geena Davis) and Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) are in shock from a violent escape moments earlier.
The stoic Nathan (Brian Cox) brushes off their hysterics with the dry retort, “Yes, it was very exciting. Tomorrow we go to the zoo.”
Black originally wrote this line for The Last Boy Scout, but repurposed it for the Renny Harlin-directed actioner.
10. Tony Scott steals from John Woo in the shootout scenes
By the end of the 90s, the influence of Hong Kong cinema on Hollywood action movies was becoming irrefutable.
Blockbusters like The Matrix, Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour modelled their action sequences on Hong Kong movies, even enlisting Chinese crews to get them just right.
However, The Last Boy Scout was one of the first American films of the decade to directly homage the most influential Hong Kong action director of them all: John Woo.
In Boy Scout, Scott includes scenes of Bruce Willis running whilst firing two guns at once, very much influenced by similar scenes in Woo’s A Better Tomorrow films and The Killer.
Woo himself would break through in Hollywood in 1993 with the film Hard Target. This was followed by Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible II and, of course, Face/Off.
9. The kid who plays Joe’s daughter later became a horror scream queen
One of the most memorable performances in The Last Boy Scout comes from Danielle Harris as Darian Hallenbeck, the precocious, foul-mouthed daughter of Bruce Willis’ Joe.
Though she was only 13 at the time, Harris was already a prolific child actress, having broken through in late 80s horror sequels Halloween 4 and Halloween 5.
1991 was a busy year for Harris, as she also appeared in City Slickers, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and TV’s Eerie, Indiana.
In adulthood, Harris would work extensively in her first genre, horror, with credits including Urban Legend, the Hatchet movies and Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboots.
Most recently, Harris had a small role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood.
8. Sarah was originally supposed to kill the bad guy
As we’ve noted, the ending of The Last Boy Scout that was filmed bears almost no resemblance to what Shane Black wrote in the original script.
In the finished movie, the climactic reunion of Hallenbeck with his estranged wife Sarah feels like an afterthought, but things might have been very different.
Again, we mentioned that Black was ordered to remove a snuff movie subplot, which would have seen the despicable Milo (Taylor Negron) attack a naked Sarah with a chainsaw.
However, when Hallenbeck and Jimmy burst in, the ensuing battle would have seen Sarah take her own revenge on Milo personally.
As it stands, we instead have Milo getting shot repeatedly, falling off a football stadium lighting rig, and plummeting headfirst into the blades of a helicopter – still a pretty cool demise, admittedly.
7. Cutting the film together proved nightmarish for the editors
Tony Scott was renowned – or perhaps the better word is notorious – for shooting enormous amounts of film.
The director would routinely have multiple cameras running on every scene, shooting vast amounts of excess coverage – far more than would ever be needed for a single feature film.
This was very much the case on The Last Boy Scout, whose credits list three editors – Stuart Baird, Mark Goldblatt and Mark Helfrich – though apparently at least another four editors worked on the film without credit.
Helfrich says “there was more footage shot for The Last Boy Scout than on any film I had ever worked on.” He reportedly found the process very stressful.
Goldblatt meanwhile has called overseeing the edit a painful experience, though refuses to talk about it any further than that.
6. Much of the violence was cut to avoid an NC-17 rating
Even though a lot of the harsher content of the original script had been thrown out, The Last Boy Scout is still a rather violent film.
The first cut submitted to classifiers the MPAA, however, was even more extreme, getting the adults-only NC-17 rating.
As this rating was (and still is) considered box office suicide, the film was trimmed in order to secure it a more commercially viable R rating.
Reportedly all the cuts were made to scenes of violence. This may explain why The Last Boy Scout often seems rapidly edited in its grislier moments – Scott had originally lingered longer on the gory shots.
For those who like to keep count of these things, The Last Boy Scout has an overall body count of 26, nine of which are at the hands of Willis’ Joe Hallenbeck, whilst Wayans’ Jimmy Dix kills three.
5. Halle Berry refused to do nudity, despite playing a stripper
The Last Boy Scout was one of Halle Berry’s first film roles, after she broke through into acting from modelling and competing in the Miss USA pageant.
It probably goes without saying that Berry’s casting in the small but vital role of Cory, Jimmy’s ill-fated girlfriend who hires Hallenbeck for protection, was based as much on her looks as her acting ability.
Still, while Berry may have been cast primarily as eye candy, the future Academy Award winner refused to do nudity – even though the character she plays is a stripper.
While there is nudity in The Last Boy Scout’s strip club sequence, it comes from unnamed background dancers with no dialogue.
Producer Joel Silver would finally persuade Berry to do her first nude scene a decade later, in 2001’s Swordfish (and according to Hollywood legend, the scene in question earned her a $500,000 bonus).
4. Everybody on-set hated each other
While it may be plenty of fun to watch, The Last Boy Scout was, by all accounts, a very unpleasant film to make.
Its director, producer, writer and stars were all hyper-confident men who wanted things done their own way, so it was inevitable they’d all be at each other’s throats soon enough.
Willis and Wayans reportedly hated working together, while director Scott (below) was similarly contemptuous of producer Silver.
The Last Boy Scout’s assistant director James Skotchdopole attributes the film’s issues to “an overabundance of alpha males” on set.
“Bruce was at the height of his stardom, so was Joel, so was Tony and so was Shane… it was a ‘charged environment’, shall we say.”
3. Tony Scott modelled True Romance’s repulsive producer character on Joel Silver as payback
The Last Boy Scout wound up being the first and last collaboration between producer Joel Silver and director Tony Scott.
However, it would seem that Scott saw to it that Silver made an appearance of sorts in his follow-up film, 1993’s True Romance.
Written by a then up-and-comer named Quentin Tarantino, True Romance sees outlaw couple Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette head to Hollywood, where they plot to sell stolen cocaine to movie producer Lee Donowitz.
Actor Saul Rubinek portrays Donowitz as a sleazy, motor-mouthed egomaniac who seems to have gone mad with power.
While Rubinek himself denies having based his performance on Joel Silver, many Hollywood insiders have noted that the look and characterisation are very close to the man himself.
2. The film ended the working relationship of Bruce Willis and Joel Silver
As the producer of Die Hard, Joel Silver was largely responsible for making Bruce Willis a superstar.
However, 1991 was a make-or-break year for the partnership – and ultimately, it broke them.
The Last Boy Scout wasn’t the only film Silver and Willis made that year: it followed Hudson Hawk, one of the most notorious critical and commercial failures of the 1990s.
After the stressful experience making The Last Boy Scout, and the film’s lukewarm reception, the two men never worked together again.
For this reason, Silver had no involvement in any of the Die Hard movies beyond 1990’s Die Hard 2.
1. The film convinced Shane Black he needed to direct his own scripts going forward
Shane Black would write two more movies for other directors: Last Action Hero (actually a rewrite of an existing script in collaboration with David Arnott) for John McTiernan; and, as previously mentioned, The Long Kiss Goodnight for Renny Harlin.
However, Black says it was The Last Boy Scout that convinced him to start directing himself, which he would eventually do with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Black explains this was “not because Tony (Scott) did a bad job, but because there were so many things I wished had played differently.”
There was, Black says, a “general sense of a project not reaching its potential. I thought, ‘Some day I’m going to take on a movie like this and fight to make it the way I want.’”
Since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black has directed Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys and The Predator.