An unconventional 1980s action movie with middling box office returns and mostly negative reviews at the time, director John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China blended the American Western with a classic kung fu movie sensibility and put American everyman Kurt Russell at the center of it all. Russell stars as Jack Burton, a blue-collar truck-driver who gets pulled into a bizarre web of mysticism and note-perfect B-movie schlock, eventually leading to a showdown with Lo Pan (James Hong), an ancient sorcerer dwelling underneath San Francisco’s Chinatown. In honor of this beloved cult classic hitting its 30th anniversary on July 2, here’s a look at some of the more interesting facts about Big Trouble in Little China. (And be sure to check the site next week for a bunch of Big Trouble-related features.)
It Was First Written As A Western
The film’s original screenwriters, David Z. Weinstein and Gary Goldman, set the film in 1880s San Francisco and framed the story as a Western, which starred a character named Wiley Prescott. 20th Century Fox hired another screenwriter, W.D. Richter, best known for directing The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension, to do a re-write. Richter completely redid the script, keeping the story in San Francisco, but updating to a modern era, swapping out Wiley Prescott and his horse for Jack Burton and his semi, (more commonly known as the Pork Chop Express).
Richter had called Weinstein and Goldman’s original draft of the screenplay “dreadful,” and believed that since Rosemary’s Baby had worked in the modern era, then there would be no reason Big Trouble wouldn’t as well. Weinstein and Goldman, who were never invited to the set or been introduced to John Carpenter, still received screenwriting credit, but only after getting the Writers Guild involved. Richter ended up listed in the credits under “Adaptation.”