James McKenna THE MACGUFFIN MEN: This is Just a Working Title

Magnus Rex is about to have the biggest opening weekend of all time, and you’ve probably never even heard its name. That is, in fact, the working title for The Dark Knight Rises, even though it was never going to be a title Nolan and company kept. If you’re a movie nerd (and if you’re on this website, odds say you are), you may have noticed that many high profile movies go by a different name at various times in their production or exhibition. Perhaps while looking through an Internet Movie Database trivia page or the deep, probing investigative journalism of a free movie magazine at a theatre, you saw something like “Ocean’s 12 was originally titled Clowns Can’t Sleep” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street was shipped under the title Back Scratch.” As part of the MacGuffin Men’s Ongoing Film Education Public Service Initiative, I will explain the need for all these differing titles, why some titles were never meant to be used, and why some movies are intentionally disguised as others.

Titles that are used for a period of time and are ultimately changed fall into one of two categories: tentative titles or fake titles.

A tentative title is the name a project is given so people have something to call it when discussing the film. Sometimes this title is merely a placeholder that everyone understands will be changed if this movie ever gets made. When the script for American Pie was originally floating around Hollywood, it was titled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Your Reader Will Love But The Executive Will Hate. No one ever thought that if this movie got made, that title would stick, but there was nothing deceptive about it, as we will see with fake titles.

Often, a tentative titled isn’t even seen as such until it’s changed. In many cases the title has been with the project since its inception but a new one is deemed necessary for one reason or another. Perhaps somewhere on its journey from pitch to movie theatre, a project has to pass across the desk of someone who feels the name needs to be changed. Annie Hall was nearly titled It Had To Be Jew until someone thought Woody’s idea of a title was a bad one. John Carpenter’s Halloween was originally going to be called The Babysitter Murders. Changing this gave the horror film a better name and gave Gary Marshall one less holiday to make a shitty movie about.

To read the rest of this article, or more on the MacGuffin Men: http://themacguffinmen.com/2012/07/18/this-is-just-a-working-title-it-will-change-soon/

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