Over the Top (1987)

PG | 94 mins | Melodrama | 13 February 1987

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HISTORY

Actor Sylvester Stallone first signed on to star in Over the Top in 1983. The 16 Aug 1983 DV announced that Stallone would receive $12 million for his participation, a record salary at that time. Filming was expected to begin in the second half of 1984. The 14 Sep 1986 LAT explained that Stallone was paid a $500,000 holding fee while Cannon Films looked for financing. A year after signing Stallone, Cannon, whose business strategy was to pre-sell ancillary rights to finance film production, declared the film was a go, as it had garnered $5.6 million in pre-sales, the 31 Oct 1984 DV reported. By the time filming began, the company had raised $27 million, according to Cannon Films head Menahem Golan, who was directing the film. That $27 million completely covered the $13 million in production costs and Stallone’s $12 million salary.
       The script was written by Gareth Carmody, who used the stage name Gary Conway for his acting career. Onscreen credits attribute the story idea to Gary Conway. According to the 31 Oct 1984 DV, Stallone would also be paid $1 million for his writing services, which did not include a profit sharing deal. However, by the summer of 1985, Cannon had hired veteran writer Sterling Silliphant to rewrite the script, as reported in the 25 Jul 1985 HR.
       Although the film was scheduled to start in early 1986, the 3 Jan 1986 HR announced that Stallone was postponing Over the Top, preferring to do an action adventure titled The Survivalist for Warner Bros. as soon as filming ... More Less

Actor Sylvester Stallone first signed on to star in Over the Top in 1983. The 16 Aug 1983 DV announced that Stallone would receive $12 million for his participation, a record salary at that time. Filming was expected to begin in the second half of 1984. The 14 Sep 1986 LAT explained that Stallone was paid a $500,000 holding fee while Cannon Films looked for financing. A year after signing Stallone, Cannon, whose business strategy was to pre-sell ancillary rights to finance film production, declared the film was a go, as it had garnered $5.6 million in pre-sales, the 31 Oct 1984 DV reported. By the time filming began, the company had raised $27 million, according to Cannon Films head Menahem Golan, who was directing the film. That $27 million completely covered the $13 million in production costs and Stallone’s $12 million salary.
       The script was written by Gareth Carmody, who used the stage name Gary Conway for his acting career. Onscreen credits attribute the story idea to Gary Conway. According to the 31 Oct 1984 DV, Stallone would also be paid $1 million for his writing services, which did not include a profit sharing deal. However, by the summer of 1985, Cannon had hired veteran writer Sterling Silliphant to rewrite the script, as reported in the 25 Jul 1985 HR.
       Although the film was scheduled to start in early 1986, the 3 Jan 1986 HR announced that Stallone was postponing Over the Top, preferring to do an action adventure titled The Survivalist for Warner Bros. as soon as filming of Cobra (1986, see entry), was completed. HR indicated that Stallone was opting to do The Survivalist because he felt more comfortable staying “in the hero genre that has worked so well for him.” The actor’s previous foray into new territory, singing with Dolly Parton in the 1984 comedy Rhinestone (see entry), proved disastrous. While Warner was originally scheduled to produce The Survivalist, the studio was negotiating a deal to have Cannon produce the picture instead. Stallone was expected to direct the film, which was planned as a Christmas 1986 release. However, the project was eventually dropped.
       On 21 Jan 1986, HR announced that Stallone had changed his mind and again agreed to star in Over the Top. A Mar 1986 start date was anticipated, and Stallone was noted to be rewriting the film’s script in Hawaii. Before his return to the project, actor Don Johnson was in consideration for the lead role. However, Cannon and Johnson could not reach an agreement.
       Principal photography began on Over the Top on 9 Jun 1986, according to the 25 Jul 1986 DV production chart. Promotional material in AMPAS library files indicate the film was shot in the Los Angeles, CA area, before continuing in Las Vegas, NV, at the first World Arm Wrestling Championships held at the Hilton Hotel. The film completed in mid Aug 1986, according to the 19 Aug 1986 DV.
       Conflicts on the set arose between Stallone and director Menahem Golan, the 14 Sep 1986 LAT reported. The two disagreed repeatedly on how scenes should be shot, but ultimately compromised by agreeing to film scenes two ways and deciding which to use in the editing room. Stallone had final cut on the film. As for rumors of shooting an alternate ending in which Stallone’s character lost the arm wrestling championship, Golan denied ever filming such an ending.
       To build buzz about the film, Cannon and the International Arm Wrestling Council sponsored a year-long series of contests around the world. Champions from each of the regional contests went to Las Vegas to be part of the Cannon-sponsored World Arm Wrestling Championship. More than 700 regional champions from seventeen countries were expected in the finals, according to the 17 Jul 1986 HR. The 10 Aug 1985 LAHExam reported the grand prize was $250,000. Many of those regional champions also appeared as arm wrestlers in the film.
       Over the Top opened on 1,758 screens on 13 Feb 1987, earning a mere $5.1 million over the four-day President’s Day holiday weekend, the 18 Feb 1987 DV reported. While the disappointing news drove Cannon stock prices down, the 20 Feb 1987 LAT reported that distributor Warner Bros., which in Dec 1986 had given Cannon a $75 million bailout to keep the company from going bankrupt, took a much larger hit with Over the Top’s failure. Warner had spent $12 million purchasing the North American distribution rights from Cannon in 1985, plus another estimated $5 million for prints and promotion. Cannon, having pre-sold television and home video rights to finance the film, was already in the black.
       The 26 Jan 1987 DV reported the pharmaceutical company Squibb Corporation filed a suit against Cannon for $67,500 claiming they had a contract to have their Theragran Vitamins featured in the film, but such a scene was not included. Additionally, the 27 Apr 1987 LAT reported Tennessee-based Laredo Boot was suing for $1 million after their boots and logo failed to be included in the film. The 29 Jan 1988 HR reported that brothers Robert Jeffrey and Lawrence W. Jeffrey, who owned an arm-wrestling table manufacturing and distribution business, filed a $60 million suit claiming Cannon appropriated the use of the term “over the top,” a patented arm wrestling technique first described by their late brother, Ernie Jeffrey, in his 1977 book Arm Wrestling: How to Become a Champion. That suit claimed the Jeffrey brothers had been manufacturing merchandize with the Over the Top trademark, but Cannon seized the trademark, arranged licensing deals using the Over the Top name, and refused to let them continue to use it in their business. The brothers also alleged that original screenwriter, Gary Conway, promised to make them technical advisors and share merchandising rights should a film ever be made from his script, but Cannon reneged on that agreement. No additional information about these lawsuits could be found.
       Over the Top marked the first theatrically released feature film for child actor David Mendenhall, who previously appeared in several television movies and series.
       Several characters incorrectly refer to "Lincoln Hawk" as "Hawks" in the film.
       End credits state: “With sincere appreciation to: California Film Office; Hilton Hotel Corporation; State of Nevada Motion Picture Division; Richard H. Bryan, Governor; city of Las Vegas, Nevada; city of Jacksonville, Florida; Summa Corporation.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1983.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1984.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1985
p. 1, 7.
Daily Variety
25 Jul 1986.
---
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1987.
---
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1987
p. 3, 32.
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1985
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 1986
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1987
p. 3, 31.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1988
p. 26, 46.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
10 Aug 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1987
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1987
Section A, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
27 Apr 1987.
---
New York Times
12 Feb 1987
p. 21.
Variety
11 Feb 1987
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. Presents
A Cannon Group, Inc./Golan-Globus Production
A Menahem Golan Film
A Golan-Globus Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d ast cam
2d asst cam/Loader
2d asst cam/Loader
Still photog
Gaffer
2d elec
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Video eng
Asst video eng
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Swing
Prop master
Asst prop master
Construction coord
Propmaker foreman
Standyby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus coord
Mus ed
Mus supv
Exec prod soundtrack album
Mus legal consultant
Synthesizer programmed and performed by
Synthesizer programmed and performed by
Mus eng & mixed
SOUND
Boom op
Cable
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec eng
Foley mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Helicopter pilot
Exec in charge of prod
Exec in charge of prod
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Asst to Mr. Stallone
Secy to Mr. Stallone
Asst to Mr. Golan
Asst to Mr. Brubaker
Secy to Messrs. Brubaker & Munafo
Prod coord
Asst prod coord (L.A.)
Asst prod coord (L.V.)
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Limousines provided by
Prod consultant
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Tech consultant
Arm wrestling tech adv
Promotional coord
International pub
First aid
Craft service
Craft service
Security for Mr. Stallone
L.A.P.D. coord
Addl catering
Voice casting
Projectionist
Cranes and dollies provided by
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Extra casting (Los Angeles)
Extra casting (Las Vegas)
Prod admin
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“In This Country,” performed by Robin Zander, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder, courtesy of Epic Records
“Bad Night,” performed by Frank Stallone, written by Frank Stallone & Peter H. Schless, produced by Frank Stallone & Peter H. Schless
“Gypsy Soul,” performed by Asia, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder, courtesy of Geffen Records
+
SONGS
“In This Country,” performed by Robin Zander, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder, courtesy of Epic Records
“Bad Night,” performed by Frank Stallone, written by Frank Stallone & Peter H. Schless, produced by Frank Stallone & Peter H. Schless
“Gypsy Soul,” performed by Asia, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder, courtesy of Geffen Records
“All I Need Is You,” performed by Big Trouble, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder, courtesy of Epic Records
“I Will Be Strong,” performed by Eddie Money, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder & Richie Zito. Courtesy of Columbia Records
“Meet Me Half Way,” performed by Kenny Loggins, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder, courtesy of Columbia Records
“Mind Over Matter,” performed by Larry Greene, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder
“Winner Takes It All,” performed by Sammy Hagar, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock
produced by Giorgio Moroder, Sammy Hagar & Edward Van Halen, courtesy of Geffen Records
“Take It Higher,” performed by Larry Greene, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock, produced by Giorgio Moroder
“The Fight,” performed, written & produced by Giorgio Moroder.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 February 1987
Premiere Information:
New York, Los Angeles opening: 13 February 1987
Production Date:
9 June--mid August 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Cannon Films, Inc., Cannon International, B.V., Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 May 1987
Copyright Number:
PA327334
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo®
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28410
SYNOPSIS

Following his graduation ceremony from Summit Crest Military Academy in Colorado, twelve-year-old Michael “Mike” Cutler waits for his wealthy grandfather, Jason Cutler, to arrive and take him home. However, Mike is surprised to learn that his unwell mother, Christina, has sent his estranged father, long-haul truck driver Lincoln Hawk, there in his grandfather's place. Mike, who has not seen Lincoln in ten years, claims not to have a father, and demands identification before agreeing to leave with him. Undeterred, Lincoln presents a photograph of he and Christina on their wedding day. Mike reluctantly departs with him, upset that they are traveling in Lincoln’s semi-truck rather than flying home to Los Angeles, where his mother will be undergoing heart surgery in a few days. Lincoln explains that it was Christina’s idea that they travel cross country together as a way to get acquainted. Mike is chilly toward his father, addressing him as “sir.” He is surprised to see that Lincoln has many photographs of him taped throughout his truck cab. Lincoln explains that Mike’s mother, whom he never officially divorced, has been sending him photographs over the years at his request. Mike demands to know why he has never received so much as a birthday card from his father, and Lincoln is stunned, claiming to have sent his son at least one hundred letters. Distraught, Mike orders Lincoln to pull over, then leaps from the truck and runs across the street, through on-coming traffic. Lincoln chases after him, embracing the weeping boy who declares, "I hate you!" They continue their journey, stopping for lunch at a trucker bar. There, a man named “Smasher” challenges Lincoln to an arm wrestling match, ... +


Following his graduation ceremony from Summit Crest Military Academy in Colorado, twelve-year-old Michael “Mike” Cutler waits for his wealthy grandfather, Jason Cutler, to arrive and take him home. However, Mike is surprised to learn that his unwell mother, Christina, has sent his estranged father, long-haul truck driver Lincoln Hawk, there in his grandfather's place. Mike, who has not seen Lincoln in ten years, claims not to have a father, and demands identification before agreeing to leave with him. Undeterred, Lincoln presents a photograph of he and Christina on their wedding day. Mike reluctantly departs with him, upset that they are traveling in Lincoln’s semi-truck rather than flying home to Los Angeles, where his mother will be undergoing heart surgery in a few days. Lincoln explains that it was Christina’s idea that they travel cross country together as a way to get acquainted. Mike is chilly toward his father, addressing him as “sir.” He is surprised to see that Lincoln has many photographs of him taped throughout his truck cab. Lincoln explains that Mike’s mother, whom he never officially divorced, has been sending him photographs over the years at his request. Mike demands to know why he has never received so much as a birthday card from his father, and Lincoln is stunned, claiming to have sent his son at least one hundred letters. Distraught, Mike orders Lincoln to pull over, then leaps from the truck and runs across the street, through on-coming traffic. Lincoln chases after him, embracing the weeping boy who declares, "I hate you!" They continue their journey, stopping for lunch at a trucker bar. There, a man named “Smasher” challenges Lincoln to an arm wrestling match, offering $1,000 if Lincoln can beat him. Accepting the challenge, Lincoln uses an "over the top" technique to defeat Smasher. Mike hides his interest in the proceedings, and calls his father a “hustler.” When Mike telephones his mother and complains about Lincoln, Christina encourages him to get to know his father. Back on the road, Mike asks his father if he is still dealing drugs, as his grandfather reported. Lincoln warns that Mike's grandfather has told him lies, and declares that the only mistake he ever made was leaving the boy and his mother. Meanwhile, Jason Cutler visits his daughter in the hospital and chastises her for allowing Mike to become reunited with Lincoln. He argues that he is the only "father" that the boy needs. Afterward, Cutler sends his henchmen to find his grandson. Elsewhere, Lincoln pulls the truck over to sleep on the side of the road, and tells Mike he is a "good kid." The next day, father and son begin to bond. However, Mike insults Lincoln's intelligence and demeans his working class job. Lincoln pulls onto a country road and challenges Mike to prove his intellect by driving the truck. Lincoln coaches his son, and Mike is exhilarated by his accomplishment. At a roadside diner, Lincoln coaxes Mike to arm wrestle a teenager named Richie. When the teen beats Mike in their first of three rounds, Mike runs off, accusing Lincoln of setting up the match just to embarrass him. His father tells Mike he believes in him, but chastises him for being a spoiled brat who has had everything handed to him. Lincoln encourages him to return, and this time, Mike defeats Richie in the next two rounds, using Lincoln's "over the top" hand placement technique. Mike credits his win to "good genetics," and telephones his mother to brag about his exploits. Christine speaks to Lincoln and explains that she wants Mike to stay with him, asking that he work things out with his estranged father-in-law. As Lincoln hangs up the phone, Cutler’s henchmen kidnap Mike and flee in a pickup truck. Lincoln brawls with one of the men, then drives after the pickup truck, forcing it to crash, and rescues his son. Elsewhere, Cutler’s lawyer tells him he could only obtain custody if Lincoln has no means of supporting his son. Cutler orders him to find a loophole. Lincoln tells Mike about an upcoming arm wrestling competition in Las Vegas, Nevada, and shares his dreams of starting a small business. He vows to never leave his son again. By the time they arrive at the Los Angeles hospital, doctors inform them that Christina died during surgery that afternoon. Through tears, Mike blames their long drive on preventing him from seeing his mother before her death. He runs away, taking a taxicab to his grandfather’s house in nearby Bel Air. After Christina’s funeral, Lincoln drives to Cutler’s mansion, but when he is turned away by the guards, Lincoln drives his big-rig through the gate and into the front door. Cutler accuses him of deserting his son. Mike sobs as police arrive and arrest his father. Later, Cutler’s assistant, Tim Salanger, visits him in jail, extending Cutler's offer to drop the charges if he leaves the state. Lincoln asks what Mike wants, and the boy enters to speak with his father. Mike does not want his father to leave town, but worries where they would end up if he joined him on the road. “Together is all I can guarantee,” Lincoln replies, expressing his desire to share what little he has with his son. Despite his heartfelt appeal, Mike chooses to stay in the security of his grandfather's home, prompting Lincoln to agree to Cutler’s deal. Lincoln travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he sells his truck for $7,000, and enters the International Arm Wrestling Championship, which offers a grand prize of $100,000 in cash and a new $250,000 semi-truck. With his odds of winning at twenty-to-one, Lincoln bets all $7,000 on himself. In Bel Air, Mike goes through his mother’s belongings, searching for the letters that Lincoln claimed to have sent. Finding stacks of correspondence, Mike finally trusts his father completely. He sneaks out of his grandfather's house, borrows a pickup truck from his garage and races to the airport to join Lincoln in Las Vegas, as Cutler's men pursue. Unaware that Mike is also en route, Cutler exits his private jet on a Las Vegas runway. Meanwhile, Lincoln quickly advances through the preliminary rounds, making it into the semi-finals. He loses the first of the double-elimination round to John Grizzly, and is discouraged. Arriving in Las Vegas, Mike evades Cutler's men at the airport, and rushes to the arm wrestling tournament. During a break in the competition, Cutler invites Lincoln to his hotel suite and declares that Mike is the only family he has left. Although Lincoln has already signed over Mike's custody to him, Cutler offers Lincoln $500,000 plus a top-of-the line semi-truck to not pursue Mike in the future. Lincoln refuses, and vows that when the championship is over, he will obtain custody of Mike once again. Lincoln beats one of Cutler's henchmen before leaving. Winning the next two matches, Lincoln moves on to the four-man finals, and beats his first challenger, Harry Bosco. Mike arrives and finding his father backstage, declares that he wants to stay with him. Lincoln wants the same thing, but worries that Cutler will stand in their way. He tells Mike that he spent all his money, and worries that he may not beat his next opponent, five-time undefeated champion, Bob “Bull” Hurley. The boy reiterates Lincoln's advice to never give up, and tells him that winning or losing does not matter; the most important thing is that they are together. Mike tells his father he loves him and they embrace. Lincoln and Bull Hurley face off, and Lincoln turns his trucker hat around, "flipping a switch" that readies him for the match. When Lincoln begins to lose, he pulls his hand away, and the judges use a strap to bind their hands together to ensure they will not lose contact again. Cutler sees Mike in the crowd, and demands they will return home after the competition. After an intense struggle, Lincoln finally gets Bull’s arm down on the table and is declared the new world champion. Lincoln embraces his son and holds him up in victory. Mike raises his father's trophy above his head as the crowd cheers. For the first time, Cutler sees the love they share and gives up his fight to keep them apart. Later, as Lincoln takes possession of his new semi-truck, Mike suggests they start a trucking company and name it “Son and Hawk.” Lincoln counters with “Hawk and Son,” and Mike agrees. Father and son drive away to begin their next road adventure. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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