The 1996 film Twister has stood the test of time. It has everything you'd need for a perfect action film -- Steven Spielberg as executive producer, Michael Crichton as screenwriter, and Jan De Bont ,who directed Speed, leading the charge onset (that's why the car scenes are so good). It's no wonder it was a biggest box office hit when it was released. (It was surpassed only by Independence Day.)
The film follows two storm chasers who are also an estranged couple on the verge of divorce, Bill and Jo, played by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. Inspired by The Wizard of Oz, they created a machine they named "Dorothy," which they believe will help give people more time to prepare before severe storms hit. Accompanied by their misfit group of storm chaser friends and Bill's fiancee Melissa (Jami Gertz), Bill and Jo set out to release their creation into the eye of the storm. There's some competition to get there first between the gang and Jonas, the cocky meteorologist (Cary Elwes) and nothing really goes as planned on their wild ride. The film delivers multiple incredible tornado scenes that still feel almost too real today.
Here are some things you probably didn't know about the beloved film.
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman took his role so he could move
Who could forget Hoffman's unique character, Dusty, who jammed out to music videos whenever they were driving into the action and regaled Melissa with stories of Bill's days as "The Extreme." He told Esquire that he took the role because he was trying to move across the country and needed the paycheck. Fair enough.
"I was living in L.A. at the time....and I knew if I took that job, I'd be able to move back to New York."
2. The two leads were blinded during filming...temporarily
Paxton told Entertainment Weekly that in order to make the weather look accurate, there were a lot of lights on set that ended up giving him and Hunt temporary blindness. Luckily, there was no permanent damage after a few days. They wore special glasses and the crew put a filter over the lights.
"Those lights, they were like sun balls," says Paxton. "They had to pump light into the cab to get the exposure down, to make the sky behind us look dark, stormy. Because it was too bright outside. And these things literally sunburned our eyeballs. I got back to my room, I couldn't see."
3. Joss Whedon worked on the script
Whedon, who is now known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story and The Avengers, was brought on to help with rewrites. After getting bronchitis, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Schindler's List, Steven Zaillian, was brought in. Whedon came back to help one more time before leaving again to get married.
4. The director Jan De Bont was...difficult at times
According to Entertainment Weekly, De Bont threw a camera assistant into the mud at one point for ruining a take and even had up to 20 people just completely leave the set due to his intense attitude. But De Bont defended his actions, saying that it was a really difficult story to capture on film.
"With the wind machines it was very loud," says De Bont, "so the crew had to watch my hand signals. I cued action, and he [walked] right in the middle of the scene. We kept losing good performances because of stupid things like that. I don't think I'm a hothead, but I do believe you have to be passionate. These crews get paid well, and when they screw up, I'm going to call them on it."
5. The film really was shot in Oklahoma
Though there were certain filming locations in Iowa, like the cornfield, the majority of filming took place around the state of Oklahoma. Apparently the original plan was to film in California but De Bont refused to film anywhere other than the heart of the real tornado alley.
6. The town of Wakita now has a Twister Museum
The real-life small town was first scouted as a solid film location since it was not only tiny, but also had already endured some damage from a hailstorm a couple of years prior. Apparently, local residents were paid $100 a day to be extras in the film, and an older part of the town was even demolished during filming (on purpose, of course) to capture the aftermath of the tornado that ripped apart Aunt Meg's house.
Now the town has a museum dedicated to the film that's full of memorabilia including one of the Dorothy models. There's even a Twister-themed pinball machine that Paxton gifted to the museum. The film helped keep Wakita alive and even features a walking tour throughout to see all of the film locations. According to the museum's website, the town's residents loved Bill Paxton during filming as he was known to have a football on him at all times to play catch with the extras.
7. Those sounds weren't made by tornadoes or even wind
According to Variety, the film altered sounds from a camel's moan to create the sounds of the twister. That's one way to do it. Other reports have also claimed that a lion's roar was also added in to create the "roar" of the wind.
8. The film's tagline was almost "It Sucks"
Luckily, producers worried that tagline would be taken too far by critics who didn't like the film, so this was changed to "the dark side of nature." Probably a good call.
9. Bill Paxton wished there had been a more intense sequel
Paxton told the AV Club that there had been talk of a sequel but nothing had happened. He even had a great idea for it because he felt the original was too "Pepsi Lite."
"There's a tougher version of that movie that I think now... I've kind of designed it so that me and Helen [Hunt] would have a daughter, a junior in high school, but she's already dating a guy in college, and we'd kind of hand it off to them. There's a great story of the Tri-State Tornado I'd like to tie into it as well."
10. Garth Brooks allegedly turned down the lead role
Can you imagine watching country sensation Garth Brooks chasing around an f5 tornado instead of Bill Paxton? Well, according to a 2013 lawsuit, Brooks turned down the role because the twister was the real star of the film. The lawsuit was filed by Brooks' former employee Lisa Sanderson. Brooks has never publicly addressed the allegations. In 2014, Brooks won the lawsuit against Sanderson.
11. The story was based on a Cary Grant film
Michael Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, were hired by Speilberg to write the script. You might remember another movie they worked on together...Jurassic Park. When an aspiring screenwriter sued Crichton and the studio saying that he had already pitched a script that was similar, Crichton claimed that the story was inspired by the film His Girl Friday as well as seeing real storm chasers on the TV.
12. The film was nominated for two Oscars
Does anyone else find it weird that a film that came out in the mid-'90s has better special effects than movies coming out today? Just me? Well, apparently the Academy was so impressed that the film scored nominations for Best Sound as well as Best Visual Effects. You literally see a drive-in movie screen ripped apart so that seems pretty well deserved.
13. There's a reboot in the works
Is nothing sacred Hollywood?? According to Variety, Joseph Kosinski, director of the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick film is in discussions to direct. We can only hope that they do the beloved blockbuster justice as well as the late, great Bill Paxton.