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‘Romancing the Stone’ Is Turning 40! Read 10 Little-Known Facts About The 80s Adventure

Learn more about the behind-the-scenes story of the 1984 adventure film!


The 1980s brought us many memorable trhilling movies with a romantic subplot — Romancing the Stone being a key example — as the hero and heroine chase down some precious artifact through foreign, treacherous jungles and deserts, the bad guys pursuing them. Meanwhile, the man and woman at least kiss, with the surrounding action and suspense heightening the emotion.

Indiana Jones and his series of adventures come to mind as the most famous example, but the 1984 hit Romancing the Stone – starring Michael Douglas as Jack Colton, the rugged bird hunter in mud-stained pants living in Colombia; and Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder, the damsel-in-distress New York City novelist who comes to the wild jungle to save her abducted sister – offers a happy ending for the romance, too.

In a flashy, wacky gesture, Jack comes to New York to claim his lady post-adventure via a yacht on a trailer. They had found the “El Corazon” jewel – a giant, heart-shaped emerald – in Colombia, and now it was time to tend to their own “corazones” (Spanish for “hearts.”)

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For the movie’s 40th anniversary in March, enjoy these 10 mostly fun facts – but, be warned, the first one is tragic.

1. Romancing the Stone screenwriter died in an accident

For screenwriter Diane Thomas, selling the Romancing the Stone screenplay was a dream come true: It was her first script. Thomas, a marketing graduate from the University of Southern California, was working as a waitress when she sold the script to Columbia Pictures for $250,000.

Sadly, she didn’t get to enjoy her success for long, because Thomas was killed in a car accident the year after the movie came out. The screenwriter was just 39 when her Porsche Carrera, which her boyfriend was driving, spun out of control on the Pacific Coast Highway, according to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Costar and producer Douglas said that Thomas being a novice made her script more attractive, according to the obituary. “It just had a spontaneity about the writing,” Douglas said. “She was not cautious. The script had a wonderful spirit about it … There was a total lack of fear to the writing. It worked.”

The sequel, Jewel of the Nile from 1985, was dedicated in memory of Thomas.

2. The movie was filmed in Mexico

Romancing the stone
Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone (1984) Century Fox

Romancing the Stone was filmed in the Mexican jungles around Veracruz and Hidalgo. It was as treacherous as you would expect a jungle to be, with rain, mud, and critters.

“It was very, very tough,” director Robert Zemeckis told Variety. “When the movie was over, I said to my agent who gave me the script, who is now my partner – Jack Rapke – if another script ever comes across your desk that has a slug line in it that says ‘Exterior. Jungle. Night. Rain,’ never send it to me.”

3. The film’s reviews were mostly good

Reviews were mostly positive. Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times favorably compared Romancing the Stone to Raiders of the Lost Ark in his review. “What follows is an adventure that will remind a lot of people of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it will be a pleasant memory,” Ebert wrote. “After all the Raiders rip-offs, it’s fun to find an adventure film that deserves the comparison, that has the same spirit and sense of humor.”

But Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wasn’t impressed, and he called Romancing the Stone “a miscalculated clone of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

4. Some say the film is a rip-off of some other classics

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Pictures

What about Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1981? A brilliant adventure thriller, some of us have probably watched this movie more than any other in our lifetimes. But is Romancing the Stone really a Raiders rip-off, as some have said? Opinions aside, the factual answer is, absolutely not. Screenwriter Thomas wrote her script around 1979, some two years before Indiana Jones and five years before Jack Colton.

5. Romancing the Stone was a first for this genre

It seems that Romancing the Stone is the original member of the “authors-in-their-own-adventures” subgenre of film – or at least, it’s the first major one. Other movies about writers transported into situations and settings they write about, like The Lost City in 2022 and Argylle in 2024, came decades later.

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6. Romancing the Stone was also a book — after the film’s release

The film was also a book; romancing the stone
Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone (1984) Century Fox

While the script was written first and is not based on a book, author Catherine Lanigan novelized the script for a matching book that was released in 1984. While the fictional Joan Wilder’s name is printed on the cover of Romancing the Stone as the author, the real-life ghostwriter is Lanigan.

7. No animals were harmed in the making of this film

woman next to a snake
Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone (1984) Century Fox

We animal lovers can rest assured that a real snake was not killed in Romancing the Stone – an unfortunate incident that happened during the filming of the original Friday the 13th (1980). In a scene where Joan and Jack are camping out in an abandoned, marijuana-filled airplane in the jungle, Joan gripes about Jack’s lack of manners. “Would you please do me the courtesy of looking at me when I’m speaking to you?” she says.

But Jack has a good excuse for avoiding eye contact: He’s looking over her shoulder at the snake rising behind her head. He jumps up and hacks the snake with a machete before it can bite Joan. The rising snake is real, but Jack “kills” a fake one. According to California Herps, the Romancing the Stone snake is supposed to be a Bushmaster, but doesn’t resemble one.

8. But there was an accident with the snake on set

two men smiling
Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito (2008)Michael Loccisano / Staff / Getty

Speaking of serpents, Danny DeVito claimed on The Talk that he saved Douglas’ life from a snake bite on the Mexico-based set of Romancing the Stone, where someone had a bunch of snakes in the bed of a truck. DeVito said he warned Douglas to stay away from the snakes, but Douglas couldn’t resist touching one, and got bitten on the hand. DeVito claimed that he sucked the venom out of Douglas’ hand and saved his life.

We’re not sure what’s weirder: that story, or the fact that DeVito came clean four years later and admitted that he made it up. (Seriously!)

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9. The film led to the beginning of a partnership for the ages

Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri
Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri (2021) Dave Benett / Contributor / Getty

Romancing the Stone marks the beginning of the partnership between composer Alan Silvestri, who has created countless beautiful movie soundtracks, and director Zimeckis. They have been working together on scoring and directing movies since 1984, and together they have made classics including Forrest Gump and Back to the Future.

10. There is a real meaning behind the name Romancing the Stone

The phrase “Romancing the Stone” actually is jeweler jargon that describes the process of a jeweler deciding how to cut and facet a gem for jewelry. Neat, huh?

For more of your entertainment favorites, keep reading!

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