Who Didn’t Love the Classic Comedy Airplane!? Here Are Some Fun Facts

Aside from the insanity of the year 2020 and the need to be reminded that there are still good things in this world, there’s always room for a look back at one of our favorite movies. And if you love 80s comedies, then you definitely loved Airplane!

Jerry Zucker, Robert Hays, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Writer/director Jerry Zucker, actor Robert Hays, actor/athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, writer/director David Zucker and writer/director Jim Abrahams participate in the “Airplane” 30th Anniversary Reunion Press Conference to announce filming of 3 new 30 second commercials for Travel Wisconsin.com held at Air Hollywood in Pacioma on September 19, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

The movie was intended to be a parody of all the disaster movies of the 70s, but it ended up making a heck of a lot more than they spent on the budget. Airplane! was a hit with moviegoers and the film managed to even resurrect a few acting careers in the process.

It Was based on 1957’s Zero Hour!

Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker were childhood friends who chose to make movies together. They created the sketch comedy group Kentucky Fried Theater and the trio made a habit of recording late-night TV, looking for commercials they could parody.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actor Robert Hays
Actor/athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actor Robert Hays along with Otto the autopilot participate in the “Airplane” 30th Anniversary Reunion Press Conference to announce filming of 3 new 30 second commercials for Travel Wisconsin.com held at Air Hollywood in Pacioma on September 19, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

They discovered the film Zero Hour!, which featured a main character named Ted Stryker, whom they knew they had to make a parody of it.

Three Directors, One Film

The fact that it was made by Abrahams and the Zuckers meant there was a legal issue when it came to the credits. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) ruled that all three of them couldn’t be credited for directing. They also weren’t allowed to credit themselves under the fake name of “Abrahams N. Zuckers.”

American actress Julie Hagerty and American actor and singer Sonny Bono clinging to American actor Robert Hays
American actress Julie Hagerty and American actor and singer Sonny Bono clinging to American actor Robert Hays piloting an airplane in the film Airplane!. Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images

A DGA representative made sure that only Jerry Zucker was the one who directed the actors, making him the official director. The rep saw Jerry next to the camera, who would then go to the trailer where the other two were watching the feed. He had to then go back to the actors to give them his notes. Eventually, the board decided to grant all three of them one-time rights to share the credit.

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