"I suppose we have to register you as a Hot Shot!" Doesn’t have the same ring to it at all, now, does it? And yet, the infamous line spoken by Danny Glover to his new partner, Mel Gibson, almost had to go down this way because studio executives didn’t appreciate the title Lethal Weapon. They wanted to go with something a little more generic. Something all audiences could tolerate. They told writer Shane Black that they preferred the title Hot Shots. I wish I was joking.
Shane Black made this admission while on the promotional rounds for his latest crime comedy The Nice Guys (which is a must-see movie, in our opinion). He was speaking with the guys on the Nerdist podcast, and talking about how studio executives at the time didn’t like that the hero of Black’s Lethal Weapon screenplay was suicidal. This, of course, is a defining trait of Martin Riggs (Gibson), and the reason why he’s so good at his job. He truly doesn’t care if he dies, because he has nothing left to lose. But according to Black, the execs wanted to make a change:
Cut to the studio meeting. They hear the hero’s suicidal — that’s the core of it, that’s kind of why the series succeeded — they didn’t like it at first. Couldn’t he just be a really good cop? And the title Lethal Weapon doesn’t test well with women. I said, ‘Well, what do you wanna call it?’ [They wanted to call it] Hot Shots. I’m not kidding.
That, at the very least, would change this brilliant scene (which is NSFW, just so you know):
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Lethal Weapon, the movie, would have been better or worse with the title Hot Shots. For all that we know, Shane Black’s tremendous writing, his quirky characterizations, and the iron-clad chemistry between Glover and Gibson would have all been in play in Hot Shots, and audiences would have flocked back to Hot Shots parts two through four over the years. Except, the title Lethal Weapon is unique, and memorable. It personifies Martin Riggs, and the explosive franchise. And it doesn’t make us think of this Charlie Sheen spoof comedy!
God, I hope the executive who pushed Black to rename his movie just kept suggesting it to everyone within earshot until the 1991 Charlie Sheen comedy finally picked up on it. Anyway, rent Lethal Weapon tonight. Then go see The Nice Guys. Both movies prove Shane Black knows what he’s doing, and should be spared from studio notes.