And they said it wouldn’t last. It’s been several years now since movies popped into bed with video, and the affair just keeps heating up. Hollywood’s top-grossing holiday flicks (Rocky IV, Spies Like Us, White Nights) all have videos in MTV rotation using the potent sounds of James Brown, Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie to help hustle the box office. Michael Douglas, the star and savvy producer of The Jewel of the Nile (a sequel to Douglas’ 1984 hit, Romancing the Stone), is not one to miss a lucrative gimmick. Douglas had planned a video from the start, having signed Billy (Caribbean Queen) Ocean to write and perform Jewel’s theme, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going. Ocean is not exactly head-of-the-coin material in the recognition department, however. Douglas enlisted his co-stars, Kathleen Turner and Danny De Vito, to join him as Ocean’s amateur backup group. “I thought it would be fun,” says Douglas, 41. “Lip synching is a great excuse for an actor to be a ham.”
Relaxing in his Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park, Douglas exudes the confidence of a born promoter whose hunch has paid off. His $20 million Jewel is shaping up as a blockbuster ($27.6 million to date)—and the video (the song is Top 40) clearly provided a boost. Working with Ocean, says Douglas, was a joy. “The man’s an angel—a lovely, lovely guy.” Harmonizing with Turner and De Vito was “a ball. No anxiety at all.” Let that pass for producer talk. You had to be there.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon last November, the Jewel video team commences taping at the dilapidated Academy theater in London’s gloomy Brixton. Huddling in a corner of the damp stage, sipping tea from Styrofoam cups, the stars don’t look happy. Still, De Vito and Turner must surely agree this gloomy rock palace is better than the dysentery and heat of Morocco, where they spent four months shooting the film. To repeat her role in the sequel, Turner had to be threatened with a $25 million lawsuit. Mention such troubles now and Douglas bristles: “That’s history. Kathleen was happy to do the video.”
Turner just smiles. She looks great, as do Douglas and De Vito in matching white outfits. As Ocean struts center stage, the backup trio—with only three hours’ rehearsal—apes the silky moves of those sultans of smooth, the Temptations. “We’re hot,” says De Vito, a native of Asbury Park (Springsteen country), who does an inspired bit of Clarence Clemons mugging with a sax. The ear-piercing prerecorded playback hides the sound of the trio’s actual caterwauling. “That’s the beauty of it,” adds Douglas. “We were singing our——- off. You begin to believe in yourself until they turn the sound off and you’re there croaking.”
Despite everyone’s effort to put a good face on it, the tension eventually shows. Douglas paces, De Vito looks gloomy and Turner’s smile wilts with her coiffure as she peers out into the dark calling “hair, hair.” After more than 20 takes and six hours of shooting, the day Ocean describes as “long and grueling” finally grinds to a halt at 9:30 p.m. The finished video, natch, reveals none of the strain. Neither does Douglas. Despite Jewel’s megacarat receipts, the prospect of profit is a wonderful cure for fatigue.