What is LEGEND?

When film buffs talk about movies they consider missed opportunities, they usually discuss those films that have a troubled production history, a minimal impact on the box office, and which garner a cult following after the general public has turned a blind eye. A lot of discussion is given to studio interference that destroyed what should have been an otherwise excellent movie. These theories are based on rumors of cut footage, different versions of the film in different countries, readings of scripts from various stages of the production and, sometimes, interviews with those involved in the actual production. The idea is that if the film had been left alone and allowed to be released in the director's original, and usually longer, vision then the film would have done better at the box office. Of course, not every movie has film fans clamoring for a longer cut to be released. There must be something inherent in the film that allows the audience to overlook the flaws produced by rewrites, re-scoring and re-editing decisions. There is something in the story, the visuals, the actors, the storytelling, or maybe the era that the film captures on screen that helps it to achieve a cult status.

One such film that has fallen into this category of missed opportunities, and with the release of this Director's Cut may now be reconsidered as a lost treasure, is Ridley Scott's LEGEND.

Whittling Away at a LEGEND

Every film ever made goes through several editing stages after the footage has been shot. All films begin as a rough cut called a workprint that give the director and editor an idea of how all the footage is working together. This footage is then edited again and again until the director is happy with the way the film is flowing and telling the story. Unfortunately the director's vision of the film is not what always ends up on the screen in your local movie theater.

The workprint of LEGEND clocked in at 140 minutes and this version is what film score composer Jerry Goldsmith claimed he originally scored. [i] The film's editor, Terry Rawlings, claimed that the first official cut of LEGEND ran at 125 minutes. Neither of these versions of LEGEND were ever seen by the general public. The 125 minute version was eventually shortened to a 113 minute cut that Scott deemed perfect. This was previewed for an audience in Orange County, CA and, based on the unfortunately negative reaction of the audience, the film was further reduced to 94 minutes. The 94 minute version of LEGEND was released outside of the United States in 1985 with the Jerry Goldsmith score in place. The next step was to release LEGEND in the United States but this was not to happen without additional and radical editing changes.

Loss of Innocence

What happened between the release of LEGEND in Europe in 1985 and the United States in 1986? Every version up to and including the 94 minute version of LEGEND sought to retain as much of the story elements from the longer cuts as possible. Terry Rawlings edited each version with Ridley Scott in an attempt to get the film down to a shorter running time while using the Goldsmith score. When the time came to release LEGEND in the United States Sidney Sheinberg, the president of Universal Studios at the time, decided that LEGEND still needed some work to make it a “better”, more marketable film. Scott worked with Sheinberg to re-edit the film to emphasize the action elements and love story of LEGEND over the larger issue of saving the world. The Jerry Goldsmith score was replaced by the electronic rock group Tangerine Dream, who had successfully scored the Tom Cruise hit RISKY BUSINESS, in order to appeal to the teen audience. While most fans like to place the blame for changes made to the American version of LEGEND at Sheinberg's feet, Scott himself takes issue with making Sheinberg the scapegoat. Scott takes the blame and responsibility for all changes made and says that the only thing Sheinberg was trying to do was help the film. [ii] LEGEND was eventually released to theaters in the United States in 1986 with a running time of 89 minutes and the Tangerine Dream score. The film failed to capture an audience.

The Rebirth of A Fairy Tale

Although LEGEND was a misfire in theaters, the film quickly gained a cult following and second life on video. The two versions of the musical score, one by Jerry Goldsmith and the other by Tangerine Dream, were released on album, tape and CD in the years that followed. Two versions of the script, including the original first draft called LEGEND OF DARKNESS, appeared in script shops for anyone to read. While only the American version of LEGEND was available in the United States, the 94 minute European version was available overseas. Soon bootlegs of the longer European cut found there way into the United States.

In 1995, ten years after the original release of the film, the LEGEND Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) website appeared on the Internet as a central storehouse of all available information on the film. The LEGEND FAQ was created in an attempt to raise awareness of the different versions of the film and to help work towards the goal of getting a Director's cut released someday. Soon other LEGEND web sites began to appear where fans of the film could show their appreciation of a film they loved. Many people were shocked to discover that LEGEND had such an involved history and that the American version was such a far cry from the original 113 minute cut. The desire for a Director's cut strengthened and grew.

In 1999, Universal decided to go ahead with a Collector's Edition of LEGEND on DVD. The search was on for any surviving longer cuts of LEGEND. A few tense months followed as storage facilities were scoured and then, in a film container marked with only the words “RSA” (which stands for Ridley Scott Associates), the 113 minute cut of LEGEND was found. The renamed Ultimate Edition DVD was officially a go.

The 113 minute Director's Cut was released in May, 2002. The film contains a whopping 24 extra minutes of footage than is found in the 89 minute American version as well as the original Jerry Goldsmith score. The Director's Cut of LEGEND, the Holy Grail among fans worldwide, was seen only once previously by a preview audience in Orange County in 1985.

Foot Notes

[i] Benair, Jonathan, LEGEND - Jerry Goldsmith Interview, Los Angeles Reader, May 2, 1986.

[ii] Sammon, Paul, Ridley Scott Close Up - The Making of his Movies, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999 Page 84.

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This page was last updated on January 1st, 2005.
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