Cool Runnings: What you never knew about the 1993 movie

Based on a true story, the hilarious tale of four men on a mission to compete at the Winter Olympics.
Based on a true story, the hilarious tale of four men on a mission to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Because we are all in the Olympic spirit this week, it's fun to reminisce about our favourite team of underdogs.

Yes, the games have been amazing so far, but to paraphrase Kanye West, "Yo, Rio, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish, but Cool Runnings is the best Olympics production ever made!"

So to celebrate the 1993 classic, here are some film facts you might not be aware of:

Under the influence


'Cool Runnings' Writer Tommy Swerdlow (left), director Joshua Leonard and recording artist Benji Lysaght attend a screening. Photo / Getty
'Cool Runnings' Writer Tommy Swerdlow (left), director Joshua Leonard and recording artist Benji Lysaght attend a screening. Photo / Getty

The guy who wrote the screenplay for Cool Runnings was high on heroin at the time.

Tommy Swerdlow made the confession during a Reddit AMA three years ago and said the drug gave him "structure".

"It allows you to be rebellious and at the same time, completely structures your time and focus," he wrote.

"It gives you everything and it asks for everything."

Swerdlow almost died from his heroin addiction in 2007 but eventually managed to get clean.

"I couldn't stop - I went to 25 rehab centres, and I was unwilling to go through the pain of withdrawal," he said to Vice.

"I wasn't even that bad of a drug addict. I was a bad detoxer. I got so sick I had to have open-heart surgery. It was endocarditis, which is where a valve next to the heart valve is inflamed [and is indirectly caused by heroin use]."

It wasn't always so family friendly

Cool Runnings is one of those movies that parents or teachers have been showing kids for years because it doesn't contain any adult themes.

But it wasn't always meant to be that way, according to screenplay writer Tommy Swerdlow.

"I started off writing Sanka having sex with snow bunnies and smoking pot, you know what I mean?" he said to Vice. "F*****g the Scandinavian ski team and smoking spliffs".

"And Chris (Chris Meledandri, the executive producer's right hand man) would just move it a little bit here, a little bit here, and he slowly - without ever taking any of my passion away - just moved it into this family G-rated movie."

Accidental casting

Rawle D. Lewis, who played Junior Bevil in Cool Runnings, was originally hired as an intern to read scripts with actors auditioning for the film and to help them with their accents (he was born in Trinidad).

And then somehow he just landed a part in the film.

"We had to do a table read for all the Disney people," he said to Entertainment Weekly.

"They had the potential cast members lined up, which at the time was people like Jeffrey Wright, and at one point Cuba Gooding Jr. So they had me to the table read which I thought was weird.

"During the table read, that's when I started to get suspicious, because the Disney execs were like, 'Hey great to meet you.' I was so young and naive I started to say, 'Wait a minute, I'm just a reader.' But I caught myself, and then they had a screen test.

"I show up with all the papers to read with the other actors. The director goes, 'What are you doing?' I go, 'I don't have all the scenes memorised.' And he goes, 'No you don't get it. You're screen testing.' And that's how I ended up in the movie."

Who wrote the 'Bobsled Team' song?


Malik Yoba wrote the infamous Bobsled Song for his audition. Photo / Getty
Malik Yoba wrote the infamous Bobsled Song for his audition. Photo / Getty

"Nuff people say they know they can't believe, Jamaica we have a bobsled team."

The lyrics for the Jamaican Bobsledding Chant were actually written by one of the Cool Runnings stars.

Malik Yoba, who played Yul Brenner in the movie, wrote the song for his audition.

"I've got some Jamaican roots and just being around Jamaican culture, I knew that every Jamaican has a song in his heart even if he can't sing or she can't sing," he said to Entertainment Weekly.

"And when I did the screen test they said, 'Okay you guys have just won a race, go! Celebrate!' I pulled the song out and pretended it was an improv, but it was actually pre-written. And then...it ended up in the movie, and then it ended up on the soundtrack, and I ended up getting a record deal as a result of that."

They never actually drove a bobsled


The Jamaican four man bobsleigh team in action at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games held on February 25, 1988 in Calgary, Canada. (Photo by David Yarrow/Getty Images)
The Jamaican four man bobsleigh team in action at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games held on February 25, 1988 in Calgary, Canada. (Photo by David Yarrow/Getty Images)

An actor known simply as Leon played Derice Bannock, who was the bobsled driver in the movie.

But as the director Jon Turteltaub revealed, the actor was never allowed to have a crack at driving a bobsled for real.

"They had to learn how to push; they had to learn how to jump in," he said to Entertainment Weekly.

"But as any bobsledder will tell you, once you jump in, you're a passenger. You don't have to bobsled. Only the driver has to know how. And Leon did the most he could to learn how but I think movie insurance prevented him from ever getting a shot at driving one."

Leon is probably relieved he never had to have a go at driving a bobsled.

Accent issues

If you've watched the film and you think the actors' accents were all over the place, well, they agree.

"We were getting constant notes from Disney about our accents, that we were being too authentic Jamaican and we needed to have it be clearer," Leon said to EW.

Doug E. Doug, who played Sanka, said he was asked to try and speak like another famous Disney character.

"They wanted me to sound like Sebastian the crab, which is really more like a Trinidadian accent, it's kind of sing-songy," he said.

"I ended up just having an accent that's not Jamaican at all really."

Prized props

Actors like to take mementos with them once they've finished working on a film, and Doug E. Doug swiped one of the most famous props from Cool Runnings.

"I have the eggs!" he said to Empire.

"They're all rubber, by the way. They're not just rotting in my basement. I actually have a room - you might call it a junk room - and it's got the bobsled T-shirts, production stills, lots of stuff."

- news.com.au

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