The 1996 film DragonHeart is now a nostalgic cult classic, and many see Draco as one of cinema's greatest dragons, but what many people don't know is that the released film is, in fact, far from what it was intended to be. It was a film written for mature audiences, but it got dumbed down into a cheesy fantasy flick to cater to families.
Patrick Read Johnson came up with the concept for DragonHeart and co-wrote the story with Charles Edward Pogue, who also wrote the screenplay. Charles Edward Pogue's screenplay for the film was praised by all who read it, claiming it sent them on an emotional roller coaster and that it was one of the best scripts they had ever read. Even composer Jerry Goldsmith literally begged Johnson to be part of the project after hearing about it.
Johnson was an initial choice for the director before being replaced by Rob Cohen, reportedly after being fired from the project for struggling to stay within budget constraints and his casting choices, like wanting Sean Connery as the voice of Draco, Liam Neeson as Bowen, Kenneth Branagh as Einon, and Elizabeth Hurley as Kara. Universal felt that Liam Neeson wouldn't be believable as an action hero, so they looked at stars like Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, and Arnold Schwarzenegger; they even suggested that Whoopi Goldberg voice Draco to be more "hip and current." As a result of studio interference from Universal and actions on Cohen's part, Pogue's lauded screenplay was diminished. The film was ultimately deemed a disappointment by him and Johnson, a feeling shared by a fair amount of audiences and critics alike, causing DragonHeart to be mostly remembered as 'the film with Sean Connery as the voice of the dragon.'
Hollywood is currently in a phase where studios are churning out remakes and reboots of popular films, so I wonder why no one is bringing up DragonHeart? The film has now celebrated its 20th anniversary, so why not have a second look at it? It isn't like no one has been asking for it all these years, especially after reading Charles Edward Pogue's novelization of the film and learning what DragonHeart could have been.
Since its theatrical release, DragonHeart has gained cult classic status thanks to strong video sales and a devoted fan base, which I am a proud member of. Pogue wrote a novelization of the film based on his screenplay, which was published to widespread acclaim. After ordering it and reading it for myself, I can definitively say it is a tragic shame that Pogue's work was butchered because whatever the film does wrong, the novel does it right. The book fleshes out the characters' emotions and motivations. It has far more interaction between Draco and the human characters, does away with the film's plot holes, and has the poetic Shakespearean feel that Johnson and Pogue wanted the film to have. The book also gives the clear distinction of being for teens and adults as opposed to young children, given some of its descriptive graphic imagery.
Some films have benefited from a remake or reboot and proved successful in their own right. Some examples being Cape Fear (1991), the Planet of the Apes franchise, King Kong (2005), The Parent Trap (1998), Mighty Joe Young (1998), Pete's Dragon (2016), and recently Beauty and the Beast (2017). DragonHeart had a ton of potential to be the epic fantasy Johnson and Pogue had written it to be. Still, it was held back by the CGI technology of the time and ruined by studio interference and choices made by the director Rob Cohen, who's also noted for displaying unprofessional behavior during production.
In 2013, Johnson expressed the desire to remake DragonHeart in line with his original vision. The film cemented my love for dragons as a kid, and I still love it despite its flaws. However, ever since reading the novelization, I've been watching the film less and less. With dragons currently enjoying a massive surge in popularity and all of the fantasy-based movies and TV shows being made these days, there's no reason why a DragonHeart remake couldn't work. Plus, with today's technology, the features removed from Draco during production due to money, lack of time, and the state of CGI tech can now be easily implemented. It's now possible for Draco to have far more screen time and for the film to have more scenes of interaction between him and the actors.
So, with Liam Neeson as Bowen, Sean Connery returning to voice Draco, a proper cast of English actors, appropriate medieval-style costumes, a longer running time, and an appropriately larger budget, DragonHeart could become the serious transcendent epic fantasy it was always meant to be.
For more info, check out the video interview featuring Patrick Read Johnson at the top, starting at 3:19. Another video to check is here on YouTube.
Here's a link to an early version of the screenplay for additional context on what the film could've been.
To get more in-depth information on the differences between the film and the book, visit its page on the DragonHeart Fandom.
These days Hollywood is full of sequels, remakes, and reboots of popular franchises. Over the years since its release in 1996, DragonHeart has gained cult classic status. It also went on to spawn its own franchise comprised of a sequel and two prequels. Given the development process it went through, perhaps DragonHeart was made a bit too early as CG film characters were only starting to take off after Jurassic Park came along changed everything.
With the resounding success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the films of the Harry Potter saga, interest in the fantasy film genre was renewed. Everyone's eyes were reopened to the possibility of fantasy films being mainstream and properties that could be met with critical acclaim and endure the test of time. Ever since, Hollywood has seen a resurgence of fantasy films, and with visual effects technology continuously evolving, the sky's the limit!
Please take these points into conderation and think about remaking DragonHeart more faithfully to Charles Pogue's novelization to tell the story of Draco and Bowen to a new generation and give current fans like myself the true version of the film, as it was meant to be.