I have two favourite films – two that stand head and shoulders above all others no matter how good or dear to me they are. The two are Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) and The English Patient (1996).
As far as films go, The English Patient has a fairly high profile. It is the screen adaptation of a Booker prize winning novel and won no fewer than nine Oscars.
Some Kind of Wonderful, on the other hand, not only didn’t win awards, but isn’t even its own film – the story is a retelling of Pretty in Pink. Instead of Andie, we have Keith Nelson. Both are outsiders at school. Duckie is replaced by Watts. And Blane becomes Amanda Jones. In the original ending of Pretty in Pink, Andie walked away with Duckie. Test audiences hated this, however, so in the revised version, she fell in love with Blane.
80s teen-film maestro, John Hughes, who wrote both Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, however, was determined to see his original ending on the big screen, so he wrote Some Kind of Wonderful. As a result, Keith and Watts come together at the end.
I first saw Some Kind of Wonderful in 1989 it immediately resonated with me. Why? Because I identified very strongly with Keith and because I fell in love with Watts. Why do I still love the film so much today? I am, after all, now old enough, to be Keith’s father. I guess it’s because although I am no longer a teenager or even ‘young adult’, in terms of my age, I am still the same person as I was then: creative, a bit of an outsider, shy. In essence, I’m still Keith. I imagine the same will be the case should I reach the age of 70 or 80.
Why do I mention the film now? Well, a few days ago, I went on to You Tube to see if there were any videos about the making of the film. I had just watched one about Notting Hill – another favourite film – and was in the mood for more.
I didn’t find a ‘making of’ video, but did get something just as good: a fan of the film visiting some of the film’s locations:
This was a joy to watch! The host, Jordan the Lion (rawwwr) is clearly a big fan of Some Kind of Wonderful as he peppers his commentary throughout with quotes from the film. I’m so happy that I found someone who loves the film as much as I do.
After watching the video, I continued my search on Google. There, I had a bit more success. In 2019, Entertainment Weekly published an interview with the several of the film’s leading cast in an ‘oral history’ of its production. You can read it here. A website I had not heard of before, Moviehole, also published this ‘behind-the-scenes’ account of the film’s making.
Both articles contain some great insights into the making of the film. My favourite concern the development of Watts’ character. Here is what Mary Stuart Masterson says:
This version of Watts presents a much more radical version of the character than the one we see on screen. To be sure, some elements of ‘Keith Watts’ remain in the final film: she still wears men’s underwear and is known only in the film by her surname (in the book of the film her first name is revealed to be Susan) but while still a tomboy, the film doesn’t emphasise either her ‘butchness’ or her relationship with Keith as that of, practically speaking, two guys.
I’m not surprised Watts’ character was softened – ‘Keith Watts’ would surely have been too radical for studio executive to accept in a straight-down-the-line teen romance. On the one hand, I’m not disappointed because I love the Watts that we are given. On the other, what an interesting film it would have been had the original conception of Watts been maintained. It would have allowed Some Kind of Wonderful to transcend its status as teen-romance and offered the opportunity to explore the nature of identity and love in a far deeper way: a way that would have been ahead of its time.