Cool Runnings director fought with Disney over the Jamaican accents

As the classic sports film celebrates its 30th anniversary, the cast and director share some secrets in the making of the movie.

One of Disney’s most beloved sports movies is turning 30. 1993 saw the release of Cool Runnings, the movie that’s based on the story of the first Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The film starred Leon, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis and John Candy as their coach. The loosely adapted story was directed by Jon Turteltaub, who would also collaborate with Disney for the National Treasure franchise. Turteltaub and the cast recently unveiled some behind-the-scenes details of the movie in an interview with The Independent.

According to Variety, it was revealed that Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the Chairman at Disney at the time, wanted the director to Americanize the Jamaican accents for a general audience. Turteltaub said he received a call in the middle of the night by Katzenberg, “He said, ‘If you can’t get these accents to where I can understand them clearly, I’ll find a director who can.’” Turteltaub then said, “The next day, I told the cast, ‘I’m going to get fired if you don’t sound like Sebastian the Crab. Please don’t get me fired.’ We joked about it but they got it. They understood. ‘We’re not going to do Sebastian the Crab but we’re going to make an Americanized version of the movie that people around the world can understand’.”

Leon, who portrayed Derice Bannock, mentioned, “They wanted me to sound like a black Aladdin. They wanted a Disney version. It was tough because if anybody wants to be authentic, it’s me — but I’m a professional and I had to do the job.” Malik Yoba, the tough team member, Yul Brenner, added, “They’d say, ‘People in Middle America won’t be able to understand you.’ At that time, people had less access to cultural differences and didn’t know how Jamaican really sounded.”

While the movie is now a Disney film, Rawle D. Lewis, who played the rich team member, Junior, revealed the original script was far from a Disney movie as it was filled with “drugs, racism and the characters were getting laid a lot.” He continued, “I saw it morph into the movie that it is now. It was something that had never been told before – Jamaicans in tights? People were like, ‘How’s this going to go under the Disney umbrella?’”

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/cool-runnings-director-jamaican-accents/

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