For many people growing up in the 1990s, Hook is thought of fondly as a childhood favorite. With a star-studded cast including Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, and Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg’s 1991 re-imagining of the Peter Pan story will conjure up magical memories of Neverland and of trying to crow like the Lost Boys. Although the movie holds a special place in many people’s hearts, Hook wasn’t actually very well received when it was released. Critics accused it of being sappy, messy, and bloated. Spielberg himself has been critical of his movie, and because of all this, Hook has gone down in history as being one of Spielberg’s worst films.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the movie, it can’t be denied that there is something charming about this story of regained childhood. Robin Williams is as charismatic and wonderful as he always was in films, and Dustin Hoffman surely convinced you that Captain Hook was more than just a one-dimensional villain.
From bad blood between Spielberg and a main actor to unexpected cameos, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about this film, even if you wore out your VHS copy back in the day. While it might not be Spielberg’s most celebrated movie, there’s something undeniably enchanting about Hook. With its infectious score, its captivating performances, and its ability to make us all yell Bangerang!, we’ll bet you can’t help but take a walk down memory lane with these fun facts behind the making of this true '90s classic.
Here are 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Hook.
20 Rufio Got The Part Because He Scared Steven Spielberg
Everyone will agree that Rufio was the M.V.P. of Hook. With his red mohawk, incredible sword skills, and insane crowing ability, every little kid wanted to be him and every adult feared the power and leadership he so clearly exuded.
Dante Basco was just 16 years old when he played the part of leader of Neverland’s Lost Boys, and according to News.com, he only had to attend one audition before being given this role of a lifetime. Speaking to the news site, Basco explained why he landed the part so quickly: “I asked Steven Spielberg why he gave me the part and he told me out of all the kids that auditioned for the role, that I was the only kid that scared him.”
19 Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg did not get along
Hook is a movie that for many inspires memories of happy childhoods, so it’s disappointing when stories of disputes and bad blood come out of such a magical, joyful film. Although everyone might look like they’re having a great time on set, not all actors taking part in Hook were entirely happy during its production. Julia Roberts famously played Tinkerbell in Spielberg’s movie, and according to Vanity Fair, the actress got slapped with the famous Hollywood euphemism “difficult” during its filming.
Roberts’ reputation for being less-than-agreeable was solidified by Spielberg in a now-infamous 60 Minutes interview during which he said: “It was an unfortunate time for us to work together” and stated that he would never work with Julia Roberts again.
18 Spielberg wasn’t a fan of his own movie
You would hope that a director would like their film after putting in all the time, effort, and money it takes to create a big-budget story, but sadly for anyone who is a fan of Hook, we’re here to tell you that Spielberg wasn’t a fan of his own movie.
Despite this being a children’s classic for many people growing up in the 1990s, Spielberg has always been disappointed with the way it turned out. In an interview with BBC's Kermode and Mayo, Spielberg said: “I don’t go back and look at my old movies [...] and I keep promising myself someday I will. I want to see Hook again because I so don’t like that movie and I’m hoping someday I’ll see it again and perhaps like some of it.”
17 Dante Basco got a special leaving present from Robin Williams
In an interview on News.com with Dante Basco, who played Rufio, the actor spoke about his fondest memories with his co-star Robin Williams. According to Basco, the two used to speak at length about Dead Poets Society as this film had been highly influential on Basco, who was an aspiring poet at the time.
Apparently Williams and Basco would chat about their favorite poets and as a leaving present, Robin Williams gave the young Rufio actor a limited edition copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a work that was heavily featured in DPS. Basco added: “Consequently I ended up opening a poetry venue out of my living room which is now the largest open mic poetry venue in America called The Poetry Lounge.”
16 Michael Jackson Almost Starred In It
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Robin Williams playing the part of Peter Banning, the uptight workaholic who suddenly finds himself to be Peter Pan. However, as perfect as Williams might seem for the role, there was someone else eyeing up the part.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Steven Spielberg revealed that a surprising celebrity was actually keen to play Peter Pan, and it’s someone who had a strong connection to Neverland. Spielberg said: “Michael [Jackson] had always wanted to play Peter Pan, but I called [him] and I said, ‘This is about a lawyer that is brought back to save his kids and discovers that he was once, when he was younger, Peter Pan.’ So Michael understood at that point it wasn’t the same Peter Pan he wanted to make.” Too bad Michael didn’t get the part - maybe we could have ended up with a Hook that was a thriller.
15 There are some surprising cameos you might have missed
Hook is full of great performances by some of Hollywood’s biggest names, and this includes some less obvious parts that were actually played by some very well-known people as well. Look closely, and you’ll see all sorts of interesting cameo appearances lurking in the background.
One of the more well known but still surprising cameos is Glenn Close’s turn as the bearded pirate whom Captain Hook puts in the “boo box” as a punishment. Glenn Close is hardly recognizable with all the facial hair, but if you look closely at her face, you’ll see it’s definitely her. Other surprising cameos in the movie are Carrie Fisher and George Lucas, who can be seen embracing on a bridge in London while Tink is carting Peter back to Neverland.
14 The Hook prequel
According to Digital Spy, Dante Basco is planning on making a prequel to Hook, focusing on the origin story of his character Rufio. The actor has started crowdfunding in order to make his dreams of making his film come together, which he plans on calling Bangerang after the famous Lost Boys battle cry. It’s set to be a coming-of-age story that will answer a lot of the questions surrounding Rufio, like how he became the leader of the Lost Boys.
Basco has managed to get the project somewhat off the ground, releasing a 17-minute short titled Bangerang back in 2017, written and directed by Jonah Feingold. Whether or not there will be a longer prequel released remains to be seen, but we’re sure none of us would be opposed to seeing a feature-length Rufio movie hit our screens.
13 Robin Williams Didn’t Like Peter Banning
Any kid who remembers watching Hook will recall feeling distressed and dismayed with how Williams’ character Peter Banning acts around his children before he becomes Peter Pan. Constantly talking on his cell phone, putting work before his family, Banning wasn’t exactly what most youngsters would consider a model parent. Even Robin Williams who played the part was bewildered by Banning’s selfish, workaholic behavior.
According to an article in Boca Raton News, Williams found it very difficult playing such a square, Type-A guy. This was confirmed by Steven Spielberg who said: “That character is the antithesis of who Robin is. It was a real challenge for him." Well, it may have been the hardest thing for Williams to do, but he sure convinced us he was just as capable of playing a grump as he was a boy who never grew up.
12 Spielberg didn’t like having a star-studded cast
While a movie with a star-studded cast list might get us excited and entice us to watch it, director Steven Spielberg wasn’t exactly thrilled that his movie Hook included such big Hollywood names. The book Steven Spielberg: A Biography reveals that the director preferred having lesser known actors in his projects, saying: “he never wanted anyone who had been on the cover of Rolling Stone” in his movies. Well, unfortunately for Spielberg, all three of his main actors, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, and Dustin Hoffman, had been.
It’s strange, then, that Spielberg went along with the casting of these big names, but clearly he made the right choice as they all fit their characters wonderfully. Knowing that Spielberg wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie though, we wonder if he regrets his choices.
11 David Bowie Almost Played Hook
For many children who grew up watching this Steven Spielberg classic, Dustin Hoffman will always be the definitive version of Captain Hook. Oddly charming yet undeniably frightening, Hoffman dazzled as the pirate leader.
Although it’s now obvious that Hoffman was the perfect choice for the role, he wasn’t the only celebrity being considered for this famous part. According to The Daily Mail, famous British singer David Bowie was offered the part of Captain Hook, but turned it down. Bowie was an extraordinarily talented musician whose unique style and swagger would have given a very interesting and different take on Hook’s character. As phenomenal as Bowie was, we can’t help but be grateful that Hoffman was the one who got to be Captain in the end.
10 Hook was inspired by a three-year-old
It makes sense that a movie about a boy who never really grows up was the brainchild of a young boy. According to Steven Spielberg: A Biography, it was Hook’s screenwriter Jim V. Hart’s three-year-old son who inspired the idea of making the film after drawing a picture of Captain Hook escaping being eaten by the crocodile.
Apparently Hart had been trying to come up with a different version of Peter Pan for ages, and the idea of Hook surviving the crocodile sparked an idea in him. Hart recalls that a few years later, his son put forward the idea of what would have happened if Peter Pan actually grew up. Thus the idea of Hook was well and truly born, all thanks to the imagination of a young boy who has now grown up himself.
9 It went way over budget
Watching Hook today, much of the production design and technology might seem very outdated and not entirely impressive. However, back in 1991 when it was being made, Hook was a huge-scale film that was at the forefront of film technology, and as such it had an impressive budget.
According to Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hook had an original budget of $48 million dollars. By the time it was completed, however, the movie had spent between $60 million and $80 million dollars in production costs, far exceeding its initial expenditure goal. Because of the excess money that was poured into it, Hook has gone down in history as one of the biggest money-wasting projects Sony has ever been a part of. This is especially true considering the movie had lower-than-expected box office numbers and was seen by many critics as a flop.
8 How Gwyneth Paltrow got her part
If you haven’t seen Hook in a while, you may have forgotten that a young Gwyneth Paltrow is seen at the end of the movie, playing a young Wendy.
According to an interview with Steven Spielberg in Entertainment Weekly, Paltrow is actually Spielberg's goddaughter. She got the part when Spielberg was driving back with Paltrow and her parents after seeing The Silence of the Lambs. Spielberg reveals: “I was looking at her in the rearview mirror, and she was talking about the film and she had this really frightened look on her face, and it suddenly clicked, and I said, ‘Hey, you could be the young Wendy! You could be the young Maggie Smith!’ So I turned around and said, ‘Do you want to make a movie?’” Thus, Paltrow landed one of her very first film roles.
7 It was almost a musical
Although there are only a couple of instances in the film where a full-on song is used as opposed to just score, it’s not hard to imagine Hook as a musical. According to Little White Lies, Steven Spielberg had originally come up with an idea to do a musical version of Peter Pan back in the mid-1980s. The director even got the celebrated composer John Williams to come up with several potential musical numbers that could be used in such a film.
Although Spielberg’s original vision of having a full-blown musical Peter Pan didn’t materialize, the feel and essence of the director’s initial plan still made its way into the Hook we have today. It's fun to picture the pirates and Lost Boys breaking into song and dance at any given moment.
6 Carrie Fisher Helped With the Script
Aside from having a sneaky little cameo in the movie, Carrie Fisher was also involved in the making of Hook by contributing to its script. Although Fisher was known for her wonderful acting, one of her other major skills was script doctoring. Fisher was instrumental in bringing many big movie scripts up to snuff, including The Last Action Hero, the Star Wars prequels, Sister Act, The Wedding Singer, and of course Hook, according to Slash Film.
Most of the time, Fisher was uncredited for her work, as she was in Spielberg's movie, but her contribution to these scripts was paramount to their success. Apparently Fisher wasn’t a huge fan of Hook, though, telling Jonathan McNamara that she “took another rewrite job” in order “to get off of that.”
5 There was a hidden clue about Hook’s demise all along
It’s always fun to spot little gems in movies that are hidden right under our noses the whole time, especially when they reveal a secret message or foreshadow something in the movie’s plot. There's a great one in Hook that tells us everything we need to know about Captain Hook’s future. Did you spot it?
If you look closely at Captain Hook’s pirate hat, you’ll notice the triangular detailing around it. According to Metro, this design is meant to reflect crocodile’s teeth, since as we all know, that's how Hook meets his end in the original story of Peter Pan, and in the movie itself. How could we all have missed this significant detail for so long? We’ll bet you won’t be able to unsee it next time you watch this 1990s classic.
4 it attracted a lot of stars to set
Hook is full of famous faces, from its main actors to its cameo appearances, but in addition to having some of the biggest names in Hollywood included in its cast list, the movie also attracted a lot of stars to its set, even when they didn’t even have a part in it.
An article in People from 1991 reports that a lot of very recognizable faces came to visit the set during the filming of Hook as everyone wanted a sneak peak of Neverland and its giant Jolly Roger pirate galleon. The article states that Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, Warren Beatty, Mel Gibson, Annette Bening, and Prince were all visitors to the Hook set. Dustin Hoffman, an actual star of the film reportedly said: “I don’t think they all came just to see the sets. They knew something special was going on.”
3 Spielberg saw himself in Peter Banning
Steven Spielberg is one of Hollywood’s most celebrated directors, and with a filmography that spans decades and genres, it can safely be said that Spielberg has tried almost everything when it comes to making movies. Despite the fact that the director wasn’t especially pleased with how Hook turned out, he did identify with his movie’s main character, perhaps more so than in any other film he’s made.
According to Steven Spielberg: A Biography, the iconic director saw a lot of himself in the workaholic, yuppie protagonist Peter Banning, even admitting that: “I’m part of a generation very motivated by career, and I’ve caught myself in the... position of being Peter Banning from time to time. I’ve seen myself overworked, and not spending enough time at home, and I got a couple of good lessons from making the movie.”
2 A first edition of Peter Pan appears in the book
One of the things that makes Hook such an enjoyable watch, no matter what age, is the fact that it's a celebration of childhood. It highlights the magic that comes with being a child and the imaginary worlds that come out of an age of innocence. Spielberg’s film is full of delightful details that make Hook a sincere portrayal of childhood, including the lovely little addition of using a real first edition of Peter Pan in one of the movie’s scenes.
In the book Children in the Films of Steven Spielberg, the author explains how adding the real life version of the almost-mythical text on which the film is based adds to Hook's authenticity. Peter Pan is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness, that by adding the real life text in the film, a layer of legitimacy is added.
1 Spielberg and Robin Williams became firm friends thanks to Hook
The whole world was bewildered with grief when Robin Williams suddenly passed away in 2014. One of the world’s most talented comedians had been lost, and his passing is still being mourned. One person in particular who was dismayed by the news was Steven Spielberg.
According to the book Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Williams and Spielberg became friends thanks to this children’s movie, with Spielberg saying to Entertainment Weekly in 2014: “Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can’t believe he’s gone.” Williams even used to call Spielberg up during the filming of Schindler’s List in order to cheer the director up while filming the somber movie, according to Vanity Fair.
Do you have any trivia from Hook to share? Let us know in the comments!