A Fish Called Wanda


1h 48m 1988

Brief Synopsis

Four crooks pull off a daring heist, then plot to doublecross each other.

Film Details

Also Known As
En fisk som heter Wanda, Fish Called Wanda, Un poisson nommé Wanda, poisson nommé Wanda
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Crime
Romance
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
1988
Production Company
Agfa; British Airways; Cts Studios; Panavision, Ltd.; Twickenham Film Studios; Twickenham Studios
Distribution Company
METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC. (MGM )/UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES (UIP); CBS Video; MGM Distribution Company; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.; United International Pictures
Location
London, England, United Kingdom; Oxford, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m

Synopsis

Archie Leach is a repressed English barrister whose life is thrown into upheaval when he meets Wanda--a sexy American thief who needs his help in order for her band of thieves to pull off the heist of the century.

Crew

Steve Abbott

Executive Producer

Leon Apsey

Construction Supervisor

Lynda Armstrong

Makeup

Jonathan Bates

Sound Editor

Jonathan Benson

Assistant Director

Bruce Bigg

Property Master

Neil Binney

Camera Operator

Andy Birmingham

Production Accountant

Bobby Bremner

Gaffer

Peter Byck

Assistant (To Michael Shamberg (Usa))

Sophie Clarke-jervoise

Assistant (To John Cleese)

John Cleese

Screenwriter

John Cleese

From Story

John Cleese

Story By

John Cleese

Executive Producer

Pauline Clift

Animals Supplier

John Comfort

Associate Producer

John Comfort

Production Manager

Robert Conway

Technical Advisor (Legal)

Stephen Cornish

Wardrobe Assistant

Charles Crichton

Story By

Charles Crichton

From Story

Nick Daubeny

Location Manager (Oxford)

Diana Dill

Continuity

John Du Prez

Music

Bill Edwards

Unit Publicist

Paul Engelen

Makeup Supervisor

Roy Evans

Construction Manager

George Gibbs

Special Effects Supervisor

Romo Gorrara

Stunt Coordinator

Graham Hall

Other

Jenny Hawkins

Wardrobe Assistant

Yvonne Heeks

Accountant Assistant

Peter Holt

Music Editor

Alan Hume

Dp/Cinematographer

Alan Hume

Director Of Photography

Simon Hume

Grip

Simon Hume

Other

Gerry Humphreys

Sound Rerecording Mixer

Andre Jacquemin

Music Producer

David James

Stills

Priscilla John

Casting Director

John Jympson

Editor

Ralph Kamp

Production Assistant

Chris Knowles

Location Manager Assistant (London)

William Lang

Location Manager

Liz Lehmans

Production Assistant

Dick Lewzey

Music Recording (Orchestral)

Melvin Lind

2nd Assistant Director

Janine Lodge

Production Coordinator

Lee Lighting Ltd

Lighting Equipment

Stephenie Mcmillan

Set Decorator

Ian Miles

Other

Janine Modder

Production Coordinator

Chris Munro

Sound Recording

Roger Murray-leach

Production Designer

Hazel Pethig

Costume Designer

Kevin Phipps

Art Direction Assistant

Brian Read

Production Buyer

Barry Richardson

Chief Hairdresser

Michael Shamberg

Producer

Andrew Sissons

Sound Maintenance Engineer

David Skynner

3rd Assistant Director

Alfie Smith

Supervisor

Alexandra Stone

Assistant (To The Producer)

Micky Swift

Propman (Standby)

Bill Thornhill

Bestboy

Billy Thornhill

Best Boy

Ray Usher-cooper

Wardrobe Master

David M Watson

Special Effects

David Watson

Special Effects Technician

William Webb

Assistant Editor

William Webb

Assistant Editor

John Williams

Guitarist

Colin Wood

Boom Operator

John Wood

Art Direction

Film Details

Also Known As
En fisk som heter Wanda, Fish Called Wanda, Un poisson nommé Wanda, poisson nommé Wanda
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Crime
Romance
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
1988
Production Company
Agfa; British Airways; Cts Studios; Panavision, Ltd.; Twickenham Film Studios; Twickenham Studios
Distribution Company
METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC. (MGM )/UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES (UIP); CBS Video; MGM Distribution Company; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.; United International Pictures
Location
London, England, United Kingdom; Oxford, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m

Award Wins

Best Supporting Actor

1988
Kevin Kline

Award Nominations

Best Director

1988
Charles Crichton

Best Original Screenplay

1988

Articles

A Fish Called Wanda


A Fish Called Wanda (1988), one of the best-loved British comedies of the past 20 years, is a caper story full of wacky characters and clever twists. It sends up British stereotypes (inhibition, formality) and American stereotypes (intuitiveness, lack of sophistication). More interestingly for film buffs, it's a blend of two grand traditions of British comedy: the wry 1950s Ealing Studios style and the outrageous, sometimes cruel nature of 1960s Monty Python.

While 77-year-old director Charles Crichton had made the Ealing classics The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), by 1988 he hadn't directed a feature in 20 years. He received sole credit on this finished film, but Monty Python alum John Cleese's name was listed in the credits through production mainly as insurance in case Crichton died or would be unable to complete the film. In truth, though, Cleese generally worked with the actors on the set while Crichton guided the overall production. On the first day of shooting, Cleese gave Crichton a t-shirt that said "Age and Treachery Will Always Overcome Youth and Skill." Sure enough, Crichton's years of experience paid off: the production finished shooting every day at 6pm and still came in under budget. To top it off, Crichton received an Oscar nomination - as did the original screenplay by Crichton and Cleese.

The script was a true collaboration. The two men worked together on thirteen drafts and also sought input from their cast, even organizing script readings a full 8-10 months before shooting. One such read-through encouraged Cleese to make his character - a straightlaced, uptight barrister - "a bit more like me. More real, more vulnerable and more romantic about Wanda, as opposed to just wanting to get into bed with her." Cleese's character, by the way, is named Archie Leach - Cary Grant's real name - because Cleese and Grant were from the same English hometown, and because, Cleese explained, "it's the nearest I will ever get to being Cary Grant."

On the set, Cleese created a relaxed atmosphere for the actors so that the collaboration could continue. (Kevin Kline described Cleese as having "hosted" the film.) It worked - for everyone. Jamie Lee Curtis turned in one of her best-remembered performances. Kevin Kline, a comic delight as a stuttering, armpit-sniffing animal lover, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Cleese's own performance benefited, too. He said he tended to find acting dull because, having written the dialogue himself, there was no sense of discovery for him. "But on Wanda I got interested again, because when we came to the more romantic scenes with Jamie, she said, 'Don't rehearse. Let's just see what happens.' I'd never done that. It's scary if you're addicted to rehearsing, as I am - like pushing a boat off from shore without any oars. Sometimes, between takes, Jamie would see me running lines in my head. She'd say 'Don't' and wave a finger at me." Curtis was so full of advice, in fact, that co-star Michael Palin gave her a t-shirt that read, "Wait, I have an idea."

As hilarious as A Fish Called Wanda is, it was not an easy film to finance and produce. Cleese spent over $150,000 of his own money on development and pre-production while trying to arouse interest from the Hollywood studios. Four of them passed before MGM/UA finally agreed to put up the $8 million budget. A good call, for the movie made over $100 million worldwide and became a gigantic hit on video. In fact, A Fish Called Wanda became the most successful British comedy ever released in the U.S. Interestingly, while the picture debuted on July 15, 1988, it didn't reach No. 1 in the weekend box-office rankings until Sept. 16 - a testament to its incredible popularity and still the longest a film has ever taken to reach the top of the weekend rankings.

Test screenings led to some of the more cruel humor being toned down, including a shot of a dog's entrails displayed in a pattern and a scene where Kline uses cats' tails for target practice. The title was a challenge to translate for international release. In Japan, the film was called Wanda, the Diamond, and the Good Guys."

Producer: Steve Abbott, John Cleese, Lee Rich, Michael Shamberg, John Comfort
Director: Charles Crichton
Screenplay: Charles Crichton, John Cleese
Cinematography: Alan Hume
Film Editing: John Jympson
Art Direction: John Wood
Music: John Du Prez
Cast: John Cleese (Archie Leach), Jamie Lee Curtis (Wanda Gershwitz), Kevin Kline (Otto West), Michael Palin (Ken), Tom Georgeson (Georges), Maria Aitken (Wendy Leach).
C-108m. Letterboxed.

by Jeremy Arnold
A Fish Called Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda (1988), one of the best-loved British comedies of the past 20 years, is a caper story full of wacky characters and clever twists. It sends up British stereotypes (inhibition, formality) and American stereotypes (intuitiveness, lack of sophistication). More interestingly for film buffs, it's a blend of two grand traditions of British comedy: the wry 1950s Ealing Studios style and the outrageous, sometimes cruel nature of 1960s Monty Python. While 77-year-old director Charles Crichton had made the Ealing classics The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), by 1988 he hadn't directed a feature in 20 years. He received sole credit on this finished film, but Monty Python alum John Cleese's name was listed in the credits through production mainly as insurance in case Crichton died or would be unable to complete the film. In truth, though, Cleese generally worked with the actors on the set while Crichton guided the overall production. On the first day of shooting, Cleese gave Crichton a t-shirt that said "Age and Treachery Will Always Overcome Youth and Skill." Sure enough, Crichton's years of experience paid off: the production finished shooting every day at 6pm and still came in under budget. To top it off, Crichton received an Oscar nomination - as did the original screenplay by Crichton and Cleese. The script was a true collaboration. The two men worked together on thirteen drafts and also sought input from their cast, even organizing script readings a full 8-10 months before shooting. One such read-through encouraged Cleese to make his character - a straightlaced, uptight barrister - "a bit more like me. More real, more vulnerable and more romantic about Wanda, as opposed to just wanting to get into bed with her." Cleese's character, by the way, is named Archie Leach - Cary Grant's real name - because Cleese and Grant were from the same English hometown, and because, Cleese explained, "it's the nearest I will ever get to being Cary Grant." On the set, Cleese created a relaxed atmosphere for the actors so that the collaboration could continue. (Kevin Kline described Cleese as having "hosted" the film.) It worked - for everyone. Jamie Lee Curtis turned in one of her best-remembered performances. Kevin Kline, a comic delight as a stuttering, armpit-sniffing animal lover, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Cleese's own performance benefited, too. He said he tended to find acting dull because, having written the dialogue himself, there was no sense of discovery for him. "But on Wanda I got interested again, because when we came to the more romantic scenes with Jamie, she said, 'Don't rehearse. Let's just see what happens.' I'd never done that. It's scary if you're addicted to rehearsing, as I am - like pushing a boat off from shore without any oars. Sometimes, between takes, Jamie would see me running lines in my head. She'd say 'Don't' and wave a finger at me." Curtis was so full of advice, in fact, that co-star Michael Palin gave her a t-shirt that read, "Wait, I have an idea." As hilarious as A Fish Called Wanda is, it was not an easy film to finance and produce. Cleese spent over $150,000 of his own money on development and pre-production while trying to arouse interest from the Hollywood studios. Four of them passed before MGM/UA finally agreed to put up the $8 million budget. A good call, for the movie made over $100 million worldwide and became a gigantic hit on video. In fact, A Fish Called Wanda became the most successful British comedy ever released in the U.S. Interestingly, while the picture debuted on July 15, 1988, it didn't reach No. 1 in the weekend box-office rankings until Sept. 16 - a testament to its incredible popularity and still the longest a film has ever taken to reach the top of the weekend rankings. Test screenings led to some of the more cruel humor being toned down, including a shot of a dog's entrails displayed in a pattern and a scene where Kline uses cats' tails for target practice. The title was a challenge to translate for international release. In Japan, the film was called Wanda, the Diamond, and the Good Guys." Producer: Steve Abbott, John Cleese, Lee Rich, Michael Shamberg, John Comfort Director: Charles Crichton Screenplay: Charles Crichton, John Cleese Cinematography: Alan Hume Film Editing: John Jympson Art Direction: John Wood Music: John Du Prez Cast: John Cleese (Archie Leach), Jamie Lee Curtis (Wanda Gershwitz), Kevin Kline (Otto West), Michael Palin (Ken), Tom Georgeson (Georges), Maria Aitken (Wendy Leach). C-108m. Letterboxed. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Wide Release in United States July 29, 1988

Released in United States on Video February 23, 1989

Released in United States September 1988

Shown at Birmingham Film & Television Festival September 1988.

Shown at Deauville Film Festival September 1988.

Broadcast premiere in USA on ABC on September 15, 1991.

Completed shooting September 1987.

Began shooting July 13, 1987.

Released in United States Summer July 15, 1988

Wide Release in United States July 29, 1988

Released in United States on Video February 23, 1989

Released in United States September 1988 (Shown at Birmingham Film & Television Festival September 1988.)

Released in United States September 1988 (Shown at Deauville Film Festival September 1988.)

Released in United States Summer July 15, 1988