Arrive Alive (lost unfinished comedy film; 1990)

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Filming for Arrive Alive at Miami's Seaquarium

Status: Lost

Arrive Alive is a 1990 dramatic comedy which had approximately 18 days of filming completed before production was abruptly halted. The script was written by Michael O' Donoghue and Mitch Glazer and had progressively gained interest around Hollywood during the 1980's before entering production at Paramount. It starred Willem Dafoe and Joan Cusack and was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. Filming was shut down due to studio executives dislike of Dafoe's comedic performance after $7 million dollars had already been spent on principal photography. No footage from the partially completed film has been released to the public.


The film is about Mickey Crews, a self-centered hotel detective working and living in Miami's fictional De Soto Hotel. He runs into former exotic dancer turned prospective real estate agent Joy after investigating her missing dog; a disappearance he in fact orchestrated in order to get close to her. Following the murder of killer whale trainer Mary Osceola at the Seaquarium, a series of events brings Crews and Joy into an investigation involving corrupt city officials, crooked contracting, shady land deals in the Everglades, and a local tribe of Miccosukee.


Mitch Glazer and Michael O’ Donaghue started as a writer on Saturday Night Live, who would move to writing feature films. They co-wrote the 1988 comedy Scrooged, which starred Bill Murray, and shortly after Glazer pitched him the script for Arrive Alive. The character of Mickey Crews was written with Murray in mind and was tailored to his dry and sardonic sense of humor. Murray liked the script but turned down the role as he had recently become a father and did not feel comfortable making a movie that featured some of the violent scenes called for in the script.[1]

Joan Cusack was cast in the role of Joy, and Jeremiah S. Chechik was signed on to direct having just come off the success of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Willem Dafoe was cast to play Crews instead and filming commenced in 1990. Dafoe had received great critical praise for his recent films including Platoon and The Last Temptation of Christ, and Paramount was eager to have him headline more films. Arrive Alive would be a departure from Defoe’s more dramatic work.

Filming lasted for approximately 18 days before studio executives viewing the dailies became concerned that Dafoe did not have the correct comedic sensibilities to deliver the cynically comedic dialogue that was originally written for Murray.

"It was written for Bill Murray, and Willem was intense and brilliant and exciting, but there was kind of a casual, off-handed Bill Murray thing that was baked into the character. The guy had to be really charming. You had to be breezy with it." - Mitch Glazer[1]

Filming was taking place at Miami’s Seaquarium when the call came from the studio stating that production was to be shut down. This would have been for the opening scene where the character Mary Osceola is murdered, and would have involved Lolita, a real, performing killer whale at Miami’s Seaquarium.


None of the filmed footage has been made public, and it's not clear if any of it still exists. The film's script was released along with an article about the film's failed production in the online movie magazine Backstory in December 2021. A video uploaded by YouTube user ‘gfyhjbk kjn’ titled "ARRIVE ALIVE" UNRELEASED LOST FOOTAGE purports to show segments of rough film from the shoot, but the video only has three film stills. Two are of Dafoe and Cusack and may be from Arrive Alive, the third is a photo of hotel, possibly the one used as the stan-in for the De Soto, but it's unconfirmed if it is a still of the hotel from any of Arrive Alive's footage.[2] A dress supposedly worn by Joan Cusack in the film was sold by a movie memorabilia dealer on eBay in April 2023.[3]


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