|Directed by||Robert Greenwald|
|Produced by||Lawrence Gordon|
|Cinematography||Victor J. Kemper|
|Edited by||Dennis Virkler|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$23 million|
Xanadu is a 1980 American musical fantasy film written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel and directed by Robert Greenwald. The film stars Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck and Gene Kelly in his final film role. It features music by Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, Cliff Richard and the Tubes. The title is a reference to the nightclub in the film, which takes its name from Xanadu, the summer capital of Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty in China. The city appears in Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an 1816 poem quoted in the film.
Xanadu was released in the United States on August 8, 1980 by Universal Pictures. A box-office disappointment, it earned negative critical reviews and was an inspiration (along with Can't Stop the Music) for the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards to recognize the worst films of the year. Despite the film's lackluster performance, the soundtrack album became a great commercial success around the world and was certified double platinum in the United States. The song "Magic" was a U.S. number one hit for Newton-John, and the title track (by Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra) reached number one in the United Kingdom and several other countries. The film has since become a cult classic for its mixture of 1940s music and culture with modern-day aesthetics.
Sonny Malone is a struggling freelance artist in Los Angeles who has failed to find passion in his art. He tears one of his sketches and throws it into the wind, drifting toward a mural of nine sisters that suddenly comes alive. The sisters fly across Earth, but one of them roller skates through town and deliberately encounters Sonny. She kisses him before skating away, leaving him confused.
Returning to his old job of painting album-cover reproductions at AirFlo Records, Sonny is tasked with painting a reproduction for a group called the 9 Sisters. The cover shows the mysterious woman whom Sonny had met in front of an abandoned art deco-style auditorium. The photographer tells Sonny that the woman was not supposed to be on the cover but suddenly appeared in a few of his shots. Sonny traces her across town to the auditorium, where she introduces herself as Kira but refuses to reveal anything else about herself.
Sonny also meets and befriends Danny McGuire, a former big-band orchestra leader turned construction mogul. Danny was romantically involved with a singer in the 1940s who resembled Kira, and her departure resulted in his own loss of creative passion. Kira encourages Sonny and Danny to open a nightclub at the auditorium called Xanadu, and the two begin working together as partners. Sonny and Kira fall in love, culminating in a magically animated sequence. On the night before the club's opening, Kira confesses to Sonny that she is actually Terpsichore, one of the Nine Muses of Olympus. She was sent to inspire the creation of Xanadu, but she cannot stay despite their mutual feelings. Sonny becomes upset at the revelation, and Kira departs Earth having fulfilled her duty.
Danny tells Sonny to keep pursuing Kira, encouraging him to not abandon his dreams as Danny had done after his own muse left him. Sonny manages to enter Kira's home by roller skating into the muses' mural. Inside the realm of the gods, Sonny pleads with Kira's father Zeus to allow Kira to return to Earth, and Kira's sympathetic mother Mnemosyne attempts to influence Zeus. However, Zeus sends Sonny back to Earth. Kira professes her feelings for Sonny, and Zeus ultimately relents, allowing her to be with Sonny for "a moment, or maybe forever." Kira and the muses perform at the grand opening of the Xanadu club before returning to their realm. Sonny is initially saddened by their departure, but upon seeing a waitress with Kira's face, he starts a conversation with her.
Members of the Tubes
See also: Xanadu (soundtrack)
The album grouped Olivia Newton-John's and ELO's songs on separate sides of the soundtrack album, and some songs heard in the film were excluded from the album. The following is the actual order in the film:
Originally conceived as a relatively low-budget roller-disco picture, a number of prominent performers joined the production, which evolved into a much larger project. However, roller skating was retained as a recurring theme, especially in the final scenes of the club's opening night.
Earlier versions of the story established that Sonny was the artist who created the mural from which the nine goddess sisters emerge. This provided a much stronger explanation for the muses' interest in helping him achieve artistic success. However, continual rewrites and editing during production caused this plot point to be abandoned, except for one line spoken by Sonny as he laments his failure as a freelance artist: "I paint his van...I paint somebody else's mural..." This element of the plot was recycled and used in the later stage adaptation. The Marvel Comics adaptation published as Marvel Super Special #17 retained the more strongly emphasized connection between Sonny and the painting.
The plot of the 1947 film Down to Earth was used as the basis for Xanadu. In that film, Rita Hayworth plays Terpsichore, with Larry Parks as a stage producer. The name of Danny McGuire was also that of the lead character in Cover Girl (1944), also played by Kelly. The role was Kelly's final in a feature film.
Kenny Ortega and Jerry Trent served as choreographers.
The Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles was used for exterior shots of the nightclub. Sonny refers to the venue as "a dump," and the real Pan-Pacific Auditorium had fallen into disrepair. Danny remarks that "they used to have wrestling here," which was indeed true of the Pan-Pacific. The building was destroyed by fire a decade later. Xanadu's nightclub interior was built on Stage 4 of the Hollywood Center Studios beginning in 1979.
Newton-John recalled problems with the script and the many story changes that occurred during filming.
The film underperformed at the box office, grossing only $23 million against a reported $20 million budget, a total that was insufficient to offset all related costs and return a profit. The soundtrack album (UK #2, US #4), was a major hit. It was certified double platinum in the U.S. and gold in the UK, and also spent one week atop the Cash Box and Record World album charts.
The soundtrack album contained five top-20 singles:
Universal canceled press screenings, suggesting that the studio was not confident in the film, which received negative reviews. Variety called it "a stupendously bad film whose only salvage is the music." Roger Ebert awarded the film two stars out of a possible four, describing the film as "a mushy and limp musical fantasy" with a confused story, redeemed only by Newton-John's "high spirits" and several strong scenes with Kelly. Ebert criticized the choreography, saying that "the dance numbers in this movie do not seem to have been conceived for film." He noted that large dance scenes were not photographed well by cinematographer Victor J. Kemper, who shot at eye level and failed to capture the larger patterns of dancers, with dancers in the background muddying the movement of the foreground.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 30% of 43 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The website's consensus reads: "Not even spandex and over-the-top musical numbers can save Xanadu from questionable acting, unimpressive effects, and a story unencumbered by logic." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 31 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". The German television show Die schlechtesten Filme aller Zeiten (English: The Worst Movies of All Time) featured the film in its third season. Janet Maslin wrote in her review: "Like The Wiz ... Xanadu is desperately stylish without having any real style."
A double feature with Xanadu and another musical released several months earlier, Can't Stop the Music, inspired John J.B. Wilson to create the Golden Raspberry Awards (or Razzies), an annual event recognizing the worst in cinema for a given year. Greenwald won the first Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director, and the film was nominated for six other awards.
|Golden Raspberry Awards (1980)||Worst Picture||Lawrence Gordon||Nominated|
|Worst Director||Robert Greenwald||Won|
|Worst Actor||Michael Beck||Nominated|
|Worst Actress||Olivia Newton-John||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel||Nominated|
|Worst Original Song||"Suspended in Time" – John Farrar||Nominated|
|Golden Raspberry Awards (2005)||Worst "Musical" of Our First 25 Years||Nominated|
|Grammy Awards||Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female||"Magic" – Olivia Newton-John||Nominated|
|Ivor Novello Awards||Best Film Song, Theme or Score||Jeff Lynne||Won|
|Jupiter Awards||Best International Actress||Olivia Newton-John||Nominated|
|Stinkers Bad Movie Awards||Worst Picture||Dishonorable Mention|
|Least "Special" Special Effects||Nominated|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Major Motion Picture – Family Entertainment||Nominated|
|Best Family Music Album||Xanadu||Nominated|
Xanadu was released on DVD on June 24, 2008. The Magical Music Edition features a "Going Back to Xanadu" featurette, the film's trailer and a photo gallery. A bonus music CD with the original soundtrack album was included, with no extra tracks.
The film was officially released on Blu-ray disc on March 8, 2016. It has also been released in digital high-definition format for download and streaming.
Over the years, the film has developed a cult audience.
Douglas Carter Beane, who wrote the book for the musical based on the film, later called Xanadu "what happens when you let straight men near the musical ... I blame cocaine. It's like people say, 'When you hear Ray Charles play, you can hear the heroin?' When you watch Xanadu, you can see the cocaine up on the screen."
In 2001, an unauthorized stage show titled Xanadu Live! was performed in Los Angeles, with actors speaking the film's dialogue and miming the songs.
Main article: Xanadu (musical)
A $5 million Broadway musical adaptation of the same name began previews on May 23, 2007 and opened (with Newton-John and songwriter Farrar in attendance) on July 10, starring Kerry Butler as Kira, Cheyenne Jackson as Sonny and Tony Roberts as Danny. In the musical, Kira is the muse Clio, not Terpsichore. Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa costarred (in a plot twist new to the Broadway version) as evil muse sisters. The show, which humorously parodied the plot of the film, was a surprise hit, receiving praise for its satirical approach, and was nominated for several Tony Awards.
The original cast recording was released in December 2007. The Broadway production closed on September 28, 2008 after 49 previews and 512 performances, and a successful national tour followed.