Hollywood plays the name game

  • Article by: CARA BUCKLEY , New York Times
  • Updated: August 25, 2014 - 3:08 PM

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in “What If.”

“Not Tonight, Josephine.” “It Had to Be Jew.” “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.” All three count among the most notable American films of all time. Don’t sound familiar?

That’s because in the end their titles became “Some Like It Hot,” “Annie Hall” and “Casablanca,” respectively. Changing a film title, be it at the behest of a studio chief or because of audience feedback at screenings, is an enduring Hollywood tradition that came to the fore this summer, when these releases shed their original names:

“Edge of Tomorrow”

Originally “All You Need Is Kill”

Starring Tom Cruise as an alien-battling warrior who keeps reliving his dying day, this sci-fi action film, released in June, was based on the novel “All You Need Is Kill,” by Japanese writer Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Both the original and final titles arguably have the blandish ring of something featuring James Bond, who had already laid claim to “Die Another Day,” which would have been very fitting.

“Begin Again”

Originally “Can a Song Save Your Life?”

During the filming of this tale about the musical coupling of a former recording industry executive (Mark Ruffalo) and a lovelorn songwriter (Keira Knightley), people passing by the set would grimace when they learned its title was “Can a Song Save Your Life?” “Once you put a question mark in the title, you expect a lot of good answers,” said John Carney, who wrote and directed this June film. “This is a movie that asks questions.” The ultimate title of the movie, distributed by the Weinstein Co., “came from the brain of Harvey,” Carney said, referring to the producer Harvey Weinstein.

“What If”

Originally “The F Word”

No, it was not referring to that F word. At least not overtly. This Canadian-Irish film, released this month, stars Daniel Radcliffe as a medical school dropout with a crush on an animator (Zoe Kazan); she has a boyfriend, so they try to be just friends. The Motion Picture Association of America told the U.S. distributor, CBS Films, that the title had to be changed or the PG-13 film would receive an R rating. In Canada, the original name remains.

“Are You Here”

Originally “You Are Here”

Unclear what happened with this one, aside from a do-si-do with words that turned a titular declaration into a punctuation-free question. (One possibility: Another film called “You Are Here” was made in 2010.) Written and directed by Matthew Weiner of “Mad Men” fame, “Are You Here,” out soon, tells the tale of a randy weatherman (Owen Wilson) whose bipolar best friend (Zach Galifianakis) inherits a fortune, to the chagrin of his sister (Amy Poehler).

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  • Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow.”

  • Owen Wilson, left, Laura Ramsey and Zach Galifianakis in “Are You Here.”

  • Keira Knightley in “Begin Again.”

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