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Nighthawks (1981) Poster

(1981)

Trivia

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The story was originally planned as The French Connection III by screenwriter David Shaber at 20th Century Fox, and would have seen Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle team up with a wisecracking cop, to be possibly played by Richard Pryor. The main plot was the same but when Hackman showed reluctance to do a third movie as Doyle the idea was scrapped and Universal acquired the rights to the storyline, which Saber then reworked into Nighthawks.
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Sylvester Stallone said of the cable-car stunt to 'Ain't It Cool News': "Hanging from the cable car was probably one of the more dangerous stunts I was asked to perform because it was untested and I was asked to hold a folding Gerber knife in my left hand so if the cable were to snap, and I survived the 230 foot fall into the East River with its ice cold 8 mile an hour current, I could cut myself free from the harness because the cable when stretched out weighed more than 300 lbs. I tell you this because it's so stupid to believe that I would survive hitting the water so to go beyond that is absurd."
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Prior to its theatrical release, Nighthawks was severely cut for violence by both Universal studio and MPAA. Amongst the scenes that were cut are the disco shootout which originally had Wufgar shooting and killing more people, and Wufgar's death scene in the ending which was almost completely cut out. An original uncut scene showed Wufgar getting shot five times (instead of twice) in slow-motion by DaSilva, and in the end, the final sixth shot hit him in the head blowing his brains out. An animatronic head of Rutger Hauer was made by special makeup artist Dick Smith and used in this scene. Although there never was an uncut version available, the soundtrack release for the movie included a track called "Face to Face" which was used in the uncut ending.
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When the original director, Gary Nelson, left the project, Bruce Malmuth took over production. When he couldn't make it on his first day to shoot the train chase, Sylvester Stallone directed the chase himself to not miss a day of shooting. This caused trouble with the Director's Guild. Guild rules state that a Director's Guild member cannot be fired so an actor can take over directing a film he is starring in, so the producers asked for and received special permission for Stallone to direct the scene.
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Dutchman Rutger Hauer's first American feature film.
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Amongst the scenes which were deleted from the original cut of the movie are almost all scenes between Sylvester Stallone and Lindsey Wagner, Rutger Hauer and Persis Khambatta, more scenes explaining the plot better, and many other scenes because Universal wanted a fast-paced action movie. They also cut most of the graphic and gory scenes due to the concern that the movie will get X rating. And indeed, even though it was already cut for violence by the studio, Nighthawks still got an X rating when it was submitted to the MPAA and it again had to be heavily cut for R rating. Stallone also had a hand in reediting of the movie. He was jealous of Hauer whose performance dominated the movie, so during filming he wrote and added more scenes for his character, and later he also cut some Hauer's scenes from the movie.
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In preparation for their roles as New York street cops, actors Billy Dee Williams and Sylvester Stallone spent a number of weeks working at night with the New York Street Crime Unit.
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Sylvester Stallone sports a beard throughout the whole of this picture. Rutger Hauer also has one but during the first act only.
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Reportedly, Sylvester Stallone did all his stunts on this movie.
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The meaning and relevance of this movie's title is that "Nighthawks" refers to the men and women street cops of the New York City Crime Unit who patrol the city at night-time.
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Original cut of the movie was almost two and a half hours long.
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Rutger Hauer lost both his mother and his best friend during the production of the movie. He returned to his native Netherlands for both their respective funerals, but returned to the production each time within a few days. Despite all the personal drama and all the difficulties on the set, Hauer stated in his autobiography that he was happy he stayed aboard, as this movie caused him to be noticed in Hollywood, and started an impressive international career.
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Sylvester Stallone was really disappointed with the way Universal studio reedited the movie (despite the fact that he did his share of reediting on the movie prior to studio's interference). He was really upset because of the removal of his dramatic scenes with Lindsey Wagner, including an emotional scene between him and Wagner in a restaurant (only mentioned in the final version of the movie) where his character breaks down and cries after his wife refuses to remarry with him.
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Rutger Hauer, before accepting to play Wulfgar's character, found himself faced with a choice. He had been offered to act in "The Sphinx", which was - contrary to "Nighthawks" - a big production, made by a major studio, and they were also offering him twice the salary he got for "Nighthawks", in addition to a well-known director to work with. But he chose Wulfgar's role.
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This was the first ever theatrical movie where Sylvester Stallone played a cop.
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Stallone reportedly turned down several other big roles to do Nighthawks because he said the material resonated with him.
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This movie premiered only just two-and-a-half years after another film which had the same title. Nighthawks (1978) was a very different film, a drama about a gay male schoolteacher.
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Of the three subway car numbers that are visible, 800 is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. 1802 remains on TA property and is operated several times a year on Transit Museum-sponsored excursions. 1208 has been scrapped.
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The 63rd Street tunnel, then under construction, was used in the underground chase sequence.
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The cable-car seen in the movie was the Manhattan to Roosevelt Island overhead tramway.
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The widescreen DVD release from Universal substitutes two songs during the disco shootout. The first is "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones and the second is "I'm a Man" by Keith Emerson. Earlier VHS releases from Universal Home Video, as well as some television versions, also contained the altered songs.
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First feature film solely directed by Bruce Malmuth. Malmuth's first film, Foreplay (1975), utilized three co-directors who directed three separate segments.
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Originally the script was based on a real character - the international terrorist Carlos.
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Joe Spinell's final cinematic appearance with Sylvester Stallone.
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The theatrical trailer shows three extended scenes; Wulfgar looking at a city map in a subway while being observed by a street cop, Wulfgar slowly moving towards the building which he is about to blow up, and Deke and Matt walking across the street searching for Wulfgar in disco bars.
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Some of Keith Emerson's score for the movie was also cut down due to the many reediting problems that movie had. Most of the tracks from the soundtrack are longer than their movie versions, and there are some which were intended for some longer scenes, ones of many which were deleted. Best example of it is the track "Face to Face" which is the music that Emerson composed for the infamous original ending where Wulfgar is torn to pieces in slow motion with his flesh and blood flying around the room while Deke shoots at him. Emerson did said some interesting things in the soundtrack notes about composing the music for deleted scenes between Deke and Irene (in notes he refers to character DaSilva as De Soto); "That bit when De Soto tries to get back with his ex-wife (Lindsay Wagner) we need some love interest there" said Harry. I made notes (Humm, love interest). Sly, whom I felt comfortable addressing as such, felt uncomfortable watching the rushes. His comments upon viewing the love scenes between Lindsay and himself led him to say, "That's the last time I go in Billy Dee's trailer". Most of it was cut along with the love interest music."

Emerson also said some things about his music being edited for the final theatrical version of the movie; "Universal got some old dyke as music editor that had worked on Jaws. She was a minimalist in maximalist clothing and immediately set about stripping everything down apart from my underwear in order for my entire score to reach the big screen as half the man I might have been. Sly, upset about Raging Bull was already working on another Rocky sequel, and couldn't be bothered."
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Sylvester Stallone is seen in 'drag' in this movie.
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The IND Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in Brooklyn was used for both the 57th Street and 42nd Street subway station scenes. The train, consisting of retired equipment, operated on one of the unused outer tracks.
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Joe Spinell's character of Lt. Munafo is named after actor and associate producer Tony Munafo, who appears in this film as Big Mike.
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Many American and international lobby cards and stills show several scenes which were deleted from the movie. These include; Deke and Matt on another drug bust, Wulfgar and Shaka showing a plastic surgeon photos of Wulfgar's desired look, couple of deleted scenes between Deke and Irene including a scene between them during some party in her house, Wulfgar picking up a MAC-10 machine gun from his suitcase, Deke and Irene talking inside her house and in her bedroom, love scene between Wulfgar and Shaka, longer version of the scene at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the United Nations meeting, Deke talking with the French ambassador whose wife was killed by Wulfgar during the tram car hostage scene, Deke and Irene holding each other while standing on stairs inside her house right after Deke killed Wulfgar.
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Pre-production began in 1979. Principal photography took place from January 1980 when the final draft of the script was completed and production ended in April 1980.
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This movie had two working titles: "Attack" and "Hawks".
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Publicity for this film described it as a cross between Serpico (1973) and The Day of the Jackal (1973).
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The department store sequence was filmed in London, England.
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Scenes in Paris, France featured the St. Chapelle and Gare du Nord railway stations.
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The song "I'm a Man" by Chicago was one of Stallone's favourites and he used that song as a temp track in the famous disco scene where Deke recognizes Wulfgar. Keith Emerson recorded his version of the song which was used in the final cut of the movie. Unfortunately, most of the DVD versions have different music in the disco scene instead of Emerson's song "I'm a Man".
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At 28:41, Wulfgar enters a subway station that has a sign reading "Manhattan the Bronx and Church Avenue" This is the 7th Avenue station on the F line in Brooklyn.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

First scene that Rutger Hauer had to film was his death scene that happens in ending of the movie. While filming the scene, Hauer got injured two different times. In the first accident, one of the squibs that was on him accidentally exploded on the wrong side and Hauer got severely burned. In the other accident, Hauer was rigged to a cable that was supposed to pull him back every time when he would get "shot" by Stallone but during filming he was pulled too hard and got injured. After the accident, Hauer found out that cable was pulled with such force because Stallone ordered it. Hauer got angry and threatened Stallone that he's gonna "break his balls" if he ever does something like that again. During the rest of the filming, more fights and arguments between the two actors occurred. According to Hauer, Stallone was very egoistic and he constantly interfered with filming of the movie, even writing and adding some new scenes for his character because he was jealous that Hauer's character was doing more "cool" stuff in the movie, like shooting up the cops and blowing up a building. Two test screenings of the movie were shown, one with more Stallone's scenes and other with more Hauer's scenes. The version with more Hauer's scenes was better received by audience. This is why Stallone, known for his big ego, cut out some of the Hauer's scenes from the final version of the movie.
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For the climax, Rutger Hauer was rigged to a rope which would jerk him back twice, to simulate bullet hits. However, when the scene was filmed, he was unexpectedly and roughly jerked sideways, to find out to his dismay that this was done on Sylvester Stallone's orders.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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