Enemy Mine is a 1985 West German-American dark science fiction drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and written by Edward Khmara, based on Barry B. Longyear’s novella of the same name.
The film stars Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as a human and alien soldier, respectively, who become stranded together on an inhospitable planet and must overcome their mutual distrust in order to cooperate and survive.
In the late 21st century, an interstellar war between humans (associated as the Bilateral Terran Alliance, or BTA) and Dracs (bipedal reptilian humanoids) is fought. Battles are periodically fought between fighter spacecraft, and no human hates the Dracs more than Willis E. Davidge (Dennis Quaid). During one such battle, Davidge and Drac pilot Jeriba Shigan (Louis Gossett, Jr.) engage in a dogfight which results in them both crash-landing on Fyrine IV. After initial hostilities where they viciously hunt one another, the two learn to cooperate to survive. Over the next three years they become friends, each saving the other’s life several times.
Davidge, haunted by dreams of spaceships landing on the planet, leaves in search of help. He finds evidence of humans, but learns that the planet has only periodically been visited by human miners known as Scavengers who use Dracs as slave labor. He returns to warn Jeriba (nicknamed “Jerry”) only to discover that Jerry is now with child; Dracs are hermaphroditic and reproduce asexually.
To pass the time, Davidge and Jerry memorise each other’s ancestry, agreeing that Davidge’s lineage is “very thin”. Jerry later dies in childbirth, but not before making Davidge swear to take the child, Zammis (Bumper Robinson), back to the Drac homeworld and recite his lineage and join Drac society. Davidge raises Zammis, who calls him “Uncle”.
One day a ship flies overhead and Davidge goes to investigate. Zammis is curious and follows. He is discovered by a pair of Scavengers. Davidge attacks the men, but Zammis inadvertently stands between Davidge and one miner, and Davidge is gunned down. Later, a BTA patrol ship finds Davidge apparently dead, and returns him to his base space station.
During an impersonal funeral ceremony, Davidge suddenly awakens. He is later reinstated to duty but not as a pilot, as his superiors want to make sure he has not been brainwashed. Unable to get help in rescuing Zammis, Davidge steals a ship to find the child by himself. He manages to find the Scavenger ship and sneak aboard. Davidge speaks to the Drac slaves in their own language; they know about Zammis and realize he is Uncle. Davidge enters the facility, fighting one miner after another, and the slaves revolt. Towards the end of the battle, they are assisted by the BTA crew who pursued the stolen ship.
In the epilogue, Davidge and Zammis are on the Drac homeworld: “… and when, in the fullness of time, Zammis brought its own child before the Holy Council, the name of ‘Willis Davidge’ was added to the line of Jeriba.”
Dune Drifter (2020) has a similar plot.
- Dennis Quaid as Willis “Will” Davidge (called “Dah-witch” by Jeriba).
- Louis Gossett, Jr. as Jeriba Shigan (called “Jerry” by Davidge).
- Brion James as Stubbs, the Scavenger leader.
- Richard Marcus as Arnold, Davidge’s squadmate.
- Carolyn McCormick as Morse, Davidge’s squadmate.
- Bumper Robinson as Zammis.
- Jim Mapp as Old Drac Slave.
- Lance Kerwin as Joey Wooster, Davidge’s copilot.
- Scott Kraft as Jonathan, a Scavenger.
- Lou Michaels as Wilson, a Scavenger.
- Andy Geer as Bates, a Scavenger.
- Henry Stolow as Cates, Davidge’s squadmate.
- Herb Andress as Hopper, Davidge’s superior officer.
- Danmar as Wise Guy.
- Mandy Hausenberger as 1st Medic.
The novella was published in 1980 and won a Hugo Award for Best Novella.
The film began shooting in April 1984 with Richard Loncraine (Brimstone & Treacle) as director and a budget of $18 million. However, after three weeks of shooting in Iceland and Budapest, producers became concerned about a mixture of budget overruns, creative differences and poor quality dailies.
“It looked like the planet Earth,” said one executive close to the production. “It was costing millions of dollars to create a different look and both the location and Lou Gossett’s costume made it look like a cheap ’50s horror movie.”
“He kind of directed himself into a corner,” Gossett said later. “Because of the weather, he couldn’t shoot anything that matched. We would still be there.”
Filming was stopped. The studio had already spent $9 million in production costs and had “pay or play” contracts committing an additional $18 million, so executives needed to decide whether to cut losses or go with a new director.
At the same time, Fox changed its upper management and new Chairman, Barry Diller, and head of production, Lawrence Gordon, decided to move ahead with a new director. The studio had faith in the story and actors involved, and asked Wolfgang Petersen to take over as director.
“They made it sound as if they were having a bad dream,” said Petersen. “I explained that I’m not the kind of director who can jump on a plane and finish someone else’s work.”
However Peterson changed his mind when he read the script. “I’m not a fan of Star Wars science fiction,” said Petersen. “I thought I would hate Enemy Mine, but after reading the script I realized that there was more going on than just a shoot-’em-up in outer space. I really was very much impressed with the script but I had too much to do. That’s when they offered to stop production until I was done with The Neverending Story.”
Petersen did not like any of Loncraine’s work. “All the magic was gone,” he said. “Lou Gossett Jr. looked like a man in a rubber lizard suit and Iceland looked like Iceland. You always had a feeling of a human inside something and the feeling of the (foreign) planet was missing.” He opted to start anew, scouting locations along the African coast. Stars Quaid and Gossett remained on during the duration of the film’s delays and were paid “holding” money. Petersen moved the production from Budapest to Munich and the studio he used for Das Boot.
Large sets were constructed, including a man-made lake, and Gossett’s Drac makeup was redesigned, taking several months on its own. Filming resumed in December 1984 in the Spanish Canary Islands before going on to Germany.
“I can’t tell you how much it cost to scrap the original,” says Petersen. “And I don’t even want to know. All I do know is between $24 million and $25 million was the new budget they gave me and I ended up with that figure.”
The film finished shooting seven months after its delay. The film’s budget, originally planned at about $17 million rose to $29 million, and ended up costing more than $40 million with marketing costs.
The score was composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre, and performed by the Studioorchester in Munich and a synthesiser ensemble. The soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande.
A limited “Deluxe Edition” compact disc, containing the original soundtrack album and unreleased and alternate cues, was released by Varese Sarabande in 2012.
The president of Fox’s marketing department felt the film was an “extremely difficult movie to market” – that its story of two species’ evolving from enemies to friends made the science fiction picture less about technology and more along the lines of brotherhood, as epitomised by the tagline: “Enemies because they were taught to be. Allies because they had to be. Brothers because they dared to be.”
The studio pushed the film with a full marketing blitz the Sunday before Thanksgiving with full-page advertisements in 43 of the largest newspapers in the United States. Meanwhile, Fox arranged for a television “network roadblock”: virtually simultaneous thirty-second prime time commercials on all three. Still that same day, 3,500 theatrical trailers were shipped to theatres across America, and 164 of the nation’s biggest shopping malls were covered with posters for the film.
The campaign received some critical scorn from those in the industry. The poster, with the two leads staring at each other, was singled out for failing to convey the warmth of the story. A marketing head at another studio called it “one of the worst of the year, really terrible. There was a way to make the movie much more palatable.”
In the United Kingdom, the original 108-minute movie was cut down to 93 minutes when first released theatrically, and later on VHS, although the full-length version was reinstated for the 2002 DVD.
Enemy Mine was met with mixed reviews upon its release.
With Enemy Mine costing over $40 million, the studio hoped for a large first weekend opening. That did not occur, with the film pulling in only $1.6 million at 703 theatres nationwide. As of Christmas day, the film had taken in $2.3 million at the box office. When asked exactly how much the movie would have to take in during its theatrical run to make its money back, an executive with Fox replied “It doesn’t really matter, because it’s not going to do it.”
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Wolfgang Petersen.
- Producer(s): Stephen Friedman and Stanley O’Toole.
- Writer(s): Edward Khmara.
- Music: Maurice Jarre.
- Cinematography: Tony Imi.
- Editor(s): Hannes Nikel.
- Production: Kings Road Entertainment and SLM Production Group.
- Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox.
- Release Date: 20 December 1985.
- Running Time: 108 minutes.
- Rating: 12.
- Country: US and West Germany.
- Language: English.