The Gershwin song "Someone to Watch Over Me" is heard in the movie in three separate renditions. They were by: (1) Sting, heard at the start of the film (2) Roberta Flack, heard over the end credits and (3) Gene Ammons with Richard Wyands, Doug Watkins and J.C. Heard, from an original 1961 version. The Sting and Roberta Flack versions were new takes recorded especially for this movie. No movie soundtrack album for Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) was ever released. Sting's version of the song got distributed as the B-side track on his "Englishman in New York" single as well as also being included on the later 1999 compilation album "At The Movies". The Flack rendition of the song has never been officially commercially available other than where it is heard in this movie.
Sharon Stone screen tested for the role of Claire Gregory which in the end was cast with Mimi Rogers. In reverse, Rogers later auditioned for the Catherine Tramell role in Basic Instinct (1992) which instead Stone won.
The film takes its title from the 1926 Gershwin (George Gershwin - Ira Gershwin) song of the same "Someone to Watch Over Me" name. This movie was made and released about sixty-one years after the song was first performed.
Some movie posters for this film featured a long blurb that read: "He's a streetwise cop who just made detective. She's a stunning sophisticate who just saw a murder. A killer is the only thing they had in common. Until tonight. Someone to Watch Over Me. A classic thriller with a twist of romance ".
One of two late 1980s Hollywood thrillers with a title based on a famous song. The other was Harold Becker's 1989 film Sea of Love (1989). Both movies were set in New York City and both pictures prominently feature their famous tunes in each's film.
For the part of Claire, director Ridley Scott made it a priority to cast a sympathetic contemporary woman. Scott said: "I found Mimi Rogers in the best possible way, by looking at a lot of people, and then seeing her three times to be absolutely sure. I didn't want the character to be unreachable or so separated from reality because she lives in a $3 million apartment in New York. That in itself can be thought of as being pretty unsympathetic. It's a very delicate role to play. The character has everything. Yet she has to show vulnerability and at the same time demonstrate sensibility and normalcy within her rarefied environment. I found that in Mimi".
The movie boasts a rich visual style for which Ridley Scott had become known, it also marked something of a departure for the director. Scott said: "In the past, I've either done period films or science fiction. I was looking for a change of pace, for material which would take me into a contemporary world of contemporary people dealing with contemporary problems. My initial attraction to 'Someone' was the simplicity of the plot, three characters drawn together, yet two of them never meet. I love the tight encapsulation of two worlds seen through the eyes of the central character, who is played by Tom Berenger, and how he fares in a world he's not used to".
The project began in 1982 when Ridley Scott met writer Howard Franklin at a social gathering and listened to the screenwriter describe an idea for a screenplay called "Someone to Watch Over Me". Scott recalled: "He described it in length and in great detail. It sounded like a great idea of exactly the scale and focus that I was looking for. It was a very personal story, and I think I gravitated to it because of that.". At the time, Scott was working with a Frenchman named Thierry de Ganay. The pair had been collaborators on advertising projects for a number of years and Scott invited de Ganay aboard as producer. "I liked the subject very much", said de Ganay, "and felt that it completely corresponded with the tastes and special sensitivities of Ridley Scott. Howard Franklin manages to illustrate the persistence of the class system in the United States but his interest and his intentions are timeless".
Screenwriter "Howard Franklin delivered the script in the winter of 1982", said director Ridley Scott who added, "for various reasons, I was already into my next project, Legend (1985), which took me to England for two years. The film really stayed on the shelf without much movement on it until I finished in England". In the summer of 1986, Scott began casting Someone to Watch Over Me (1987). Scott explained: "I go on instinct and frankly, I'd been casting for months, and couldn't quite place the individual to portray the central character of Hike Keegan. I had seen Tom Berenger's work in The Big Chill (1983) and was very impressed by it. In a funny kind of way, the role he played was a tough one because the character he was portraying was a cliché, an actor playing an actor. However, he completely pulled it off and managed to make the character both sympathetic and vulnerable".
Director Ridley Scott commented on finding an editor at the same time he was looking for leading man Tom Berenger: "At the same time, I had started to look for an editor. I had really liked Claire Simpson's work on Salvador (1986) and persuaded Oliver Stone to let me see a rough cut of Platoon (1986) to see more of her work. As soon as I saw Tom, I thought 'Bingo!', Sergeant Barnes is the antithesis of Hike Keegan. But after seeing him play Barnes and knowing what he did in The Big Chill (1983), I just said, 'I've got to have this guy!'."
The actors also brought their own brand of humor to their respective parts. Director Ridley Scott explained: "It's interesting how you shift on characters depending on whom you cast. You envision something one way, cast the part, get to know the actor, and realize there's a much better way to do this. For instance, Claire's boyfriend Neil was always written as being the archetypical jerk. However, John Rubinstein has such a nice comedic sense that we took the character in that direction. He now comes across as a rather charming character who has a great sense of humor but can also be a 'stuffed shirt' when he wants to. By bringing his own brand of humor to the part, it makes his character much more dimensional and, in a way, helps make the first few scenes in Claire's apartment quite funny. Humor is always good. What was intended to be one side of the river looking at the other side of the river, people say there's no class system in America, but there is, came off much less serious than originally planned. What came out instead is really rather hilarious". Tom Berenger commented: "Ridley likes humor during very heavy scenes as well as something serious in comedic scenes. I like to work that way too, to keep a nice balance. Cops aren't always busting each others' chops. There's always this humor going on. They do it for the same reason we do it in the film, to break the stress and to keep the energy alive".
Known for portraying varying and wide-ranging roles, Tom Berenger's interest in "Someone to Watch Over Me" was in keeping with his reputation of an ever-changing screen persona. Berenger said: "I've never played a cop before. I liked the character because even though he is the hero of the story, he has negative qualities and makes some big mistakes. I always find that interesting, a character with a dilemma to face, confronting his personal morality".
The role of Ellie Keegan was portrayed by then newcomer Lorraine Bracco. Director Ridley Scott said: "Again, it was a hunting process trying to cast Ellie. I wanted somebody who was fiercely independent and an interesting humorous character. It had to be someone who was the antithesis of Claire and yet someone who was equivalent to her. I think Lorraine fulfills those requirements very well".
"There's a very delicate balance of sympathy between the society woman and the wife", said director Ridley Scott who added, "If [Tom] Berenger's character is simply attracted to a beautiful woman, sympathy starts to weigh against him. I wanted to create that dilemma in the central character's mind by giving him a very strong home life and a very strong wife. I wanted his attraction to Claire to be more than sexual. I wanted it to be cerebral to be everything. [Ellie] Keegan is facing a very difficult question that has nothing to do with bank balance or other external forces. It's a choice between women. Proper casting was crucial to creating this balance and making it work".
Two relatively new actresses were cast in the film by director Ridley Scott. He said: "Casting is a very thought-provoking process. By the time I've seen actors enough times, I start to get my own gut instincts about what they can do, who they are, and how they're going to deal with the material. By the time principal photography begins, frankly it makes no difference to me whether I'm dealing with an experienced actor or dealing with somebody who's relatively new. Somebody who is relatively new will sometimes be a little rough around the edges but they bring something dynamic to the film partially because of their naivete. If you can tap that, it's great. The constant battle is to retain freshness".
The picture began principal photography on location in New York City on 8th December 1986. The production company shot such well-known New York establishments as the Bergdorf Goodman and the Guggenheim Museum. Exteriors for Mike and Ellie's house were shot in Long Island City, while other locations included the Harbor View Restaurant on Old Fulton Street, Central Park, the former police headquarters on Centre Street, the New York City subway, and the streets of the Upper East Side.
On 19th January 1987, the filming company moved to The Burbank Studios. There, production designer James D. Bissell had built the interior of Mike and Ellie's house, as well as Claire Gregory's palatial apartment.
The locations that director Ridley Scott chose for the opening of "Someone to Watch Over Me" exemplified Scott's strong sense of style and vision. In the opening scene, the director used New York, Los Angeles, and the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach for a scene scripted at a Manhattan disco. Other locations included the Wilshire Ebell Theater. The entrance to downtown Los Angeles' Rex Il Ristorante and the now vacant Lakeview Hospital.
The Queen Mary ship in Long Beach, California was the site of the disco interiors, including a practical swimming pool that was drained, lit from below, and covered with a plexiglass floor to create the disco's private art gallery. The ship's bar also doubled as a New York bar. Producer Harold Schneider said "Ridley's different. No one can do what he does. The Queen Mary has been photographed hundreds of times, but never the way Ridley photographed it for this film. His vision is awe-inspiring". Scott explained: "I had looked at the Queen Mary for Blade Runner (1982) and I remembered the architecture. The design, the detail, the veneer and the paneling of the ship. It was magnificent. I wanted something glossy, unique, and interesting to represent this gallery disco at the beginning of the film. As soon as I saw the swimming pool of the Queen Mary, I thought 'This could easily be the basement of one of New York's art deco buildings'. We covered the pool with a plexiglass floor and created an art gallery bar".
The RMS Queen Mary ship seen in the film is a Cunard Line ocean liner launched in 1934 and now retired as a hotel in Long Beach, California, USA according to the Wikipedia website which states: "[The] Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936" and " . . . sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line (known as Cunard-White Star Line when the vessel entered service). Built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, Queen Mary along with her running mate, the RMS Queen Elizabeth, were built as part of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City. The two ships were a British response to the superliners built by German and French companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Queen Mary was the flagship of the Cunard Line from May 1936 until October 1946 when she was replaced in that role by [the RMS] Queen Elizabeth".
"So the film opens with a shot of Manhattan, then cuts to the art deco entrance of Rex in downtown Los Angeles and follows our characters as they walk through the doors and into the interior of the Queen Mary [ship]. Architecture and style hold the whole thing together" explained director Ridley Scott.
Actress Mimi Rogers said of her director on this film: "Ridley Scott is the most visual director I've ever worked with. He doesn't neglect the actors, in fact, we're very well taken care of. But he is fascinating to watch. He actually paints with light and with lenses and with angles, and it's a very unique process. It becomes an element of the story because Ridley creates such a strong mood with his visuals".
The classical piece of music entitled "Lakmé" (Viens Malika... Dôme épais le jasmine) by Léo Delibes featured in this Ridley Scott film had previously featured in his brother Tony Scott's earlier movie The Hunger (1983) which had been made and released around four years earlier.
Early draft of the script are credited to Howard Franklin, Danilo Bach and David Seltzer, with a later revision written by Bach. The final release of the film gives sole writing credit to Howard Franklin.
This 1988 movie featuring an affair between the picture's two leads was frequently compared during its initial release with Fatal Attraction (1987), the then recent Adrian Lyne thriller from the previous 1987 year, which also was set around an affair.
One of two late 1980s Hollywood thrillers with a title based on a famous song. The other was Harold Becker's 1989 film Sea of Love (1989). Both movies were set in New York City and both pictures prominently feature their famous tunes in the movie.