10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Waterworld


It may have hit our cinema screens on the back of reports about on-set difficulties and spiraling budgets, as well as mixed reviews from critics, but surely we can’t have been the only ones who thoroughly enjoyed the wet and wild thrill ride that is Waterworld?

Released in 1995 and produced by and starring Kevin Costner, Waterworld is set in a distant future where the polar ice caps have completely melted, covering nearly the whole of planet Earth in water. Below are 10 things that you probably didn’t know about this slice of post-apocalyptic sci-fi action fun.

10. The film’s co-writer admits it’s a Mad Max rip-off


Waterworld co-writer Peter Rader’s original idea for the film came about when he decided, plainly, to create “a Mad Max rip-off.”

The original script was written as far back as 1986, nearly a decade before it would eventually hit our cinema screens, and directly in the wake of 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

9. Adverse weather conditions caused one set to sink and others to float away

The production of Waterworld was beset with reports of spiraling budgets and on-set difficulties, mainly due to what has become known in insurance terms as ‘acts of god’.

A hurricane caused one of the movie’s sets to sink completely, while high winds caused others to float away from their original location!

8. Kevin Costner nearly died during filming

One Waterworld scene required Kevin Costner to be tied to the mast of his character’s trimaran boat, and a sudden localised storm mean that the actor’s life was briefly at genuine risk.

Costner was also said to have worked himself to the bone shooting the movie, being on set for a total of 157 days and usually working six days a week.

7. Screenwriter Joss Whedon described it as seven weeks of hell

Then known in Hollywood as a reliable script doctor, screenwriter Joss Whedon was at one point flown to the Waterworld set to do some last-minute script rewrites. He later described the experience as “seven weeks of hell.”

It wasn’t (just) the imploding set: Whedon was also required to write Kevin Costner’s new ideas into the script, with no room to input anything that he came up with himself.

6. Director Kevin Reynolds walked away before the movie was completed

Kevin Reynolds is given full credit as being the director of Waterworld, but the truth is that he actually walked away from the movie before it was even finished.

Reynolds later revealed that Kevin Costner was constantly trying to influence his decisions, in what Reynolds described as “a back-seat driver director mentality.” Once he left the movie, Costner himself took charge of completing it.

5. The original soundtrack was rejected outright by Kevin Costner

Not only did Kevin Costner clash with director Kevin Reynolds, he also upset composer Mark Isham by rejecting the demos he had created for the movie’s score, calling them “too ethnic and bleak.”

Costner wanted music that was more “futuristic and adventurous,” and composer James Newton Howard was brought onto the project instead.

4. It seriously dented Costner’s career

The six films that Kevin Costner starred in between 1988 and 1992 (Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, JFK, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bodyguard) made up one of the hottest acting streaks in Hollywood history, but Waterworld seriously dented his career.

Waterworld was at the time the most expensive film ever made, and it ended up being a massive failure at the box office. Subsequent disappointments such as The Postman, which Costner also directed, only exacerbated Costner’s downfall as a bankable leading man.

3. It was nominated for an Academy Award

Though the film wasn’t exactly universally loved, Waterworld was still admired enough to be nominated for an Academy Award.

The film was nominated in the Best Sound category at the 68th annual awards, alongside Crimson Tide, Braveheart, Batman Forever, and the movie that took home the gong, Apollo 13.

2. There was a novel, video game, and three theme park attractions

The marketing push for Waterworld was huge, with the film being released alongside a novel by Max Allan Collins and a video game for the Super NES, Game Boy, Virtual Boy, and PC.

There are also three ‘Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular’ attractions that are still running today at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore, and Universal Studios Japan.

1. The film made a profit thanks to its overseas popularity

Waterworld was initially unable to make back its budget, which was around $172 million for the production, increasing to $235 million once you took into account marketing costs.

It made a disappointing $88 million at the US box office, although it did fair better overseas, bringing home $176 million in other regions. This, in addition to home video sales, meant that the movie did eventually post a profit.