I was only eight when Romancing the Stone debuted in theaters on March 30, 1984.
I think I saw it more than once that year. The first time would have been right after it premiered, and the next time was probably when it hit the 99¢ cinema. (Yes, boys and girls, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when a movie could be seen at the theater for under a dollar.)
Anyway, it really doesn’t matter when exactly I saw it. What matters is that while I might have grown up since 1984, Romancing the Stone is one film that I’ve never outgrown.
In fact, I’m fairly certain that it played at least a partial role in inspiring me to want to be a novelist.
As an 8-year-old, I was mostly just swept away by the adventure of timid romance writer Joan Wilder traveling from her home in New York City to Columbia in an effort to save her sister, who’d been taken hostage by a couple of Brooklyn thieves who were using her to obtain ransom in the form of an old treasure map.
The Malibu waitress who penned the script, Diane Thomas, created an instant classic with all the necessary elements for a breakout success.
In fact, her screenplay had enough story magic to give director Robert Zemeckis his first box office success.
Adventure, comedy, romance and suspense — all beautifully woven together in this movie set in the jungles of Columbia (though it was actually filmed in Mexico) — had something for everyone.
It is a great tragedy that Miss Thomas ended up being killed in a car crash in the brand new Porsche that had been a gift to the talented writer from the film’s producer and lead actor, Michael Douglas. She was 39.
We would never know what story-writing greatness she might have otherwise achieved.
The part about being a novelist
While I’m sure some small part of my 8-year-old self thought the idea of Joan Wilder being a romance novelist was pretty cool, it wasn’t until I revisited the film as a teenager — on VHS, no less — that it really occurred to me that the heroine’s career was something that I’d love to do, myself, although not necessarily in the romance genre.
First, there was that Waldenbook award for the Book of the Month club (remember Waldenbooks? It was where we all used to shop before Barnes & Noble and Amazon came along.) and the various posters of Joan’s previous book covers.
Then there were the headphones and that cluttered apartment workspace where the writer poured herself out as she finished those last pages.
And of course there was the private celebration with her cat, Romeo, once she’d finally written her ending.
I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to share in that kind of personal, emotional victory?
To nurture the seeds of an idea, cultivate them into words with God-given creativity, and then see the fruits on the printed page — what more could a writer ask for?
And let’s not forget the feisty agent, Gloria, who was determined to see Joan find a real man, rather than holding out for the seeminly unrealistic hero from her novels, Jesse.
She offered her opinion of potential suitors during her happy hour meeting with Joan, “Wimp. Wimp. Loser. Loser. Major loser. Too angry. Too vague. Too desperate… Oh God, too happy! Oh wait, that’s Mr. Mondo Dismo. You know, I actually used to date him once… Wait a minute, wait a minute! Hold everything! Get a load of this character!”
Then, the most ridiculously wonderful icing on the cake was when the lives of Joan and Jack (Michael Douglas) were actually spared by a Columbia drug dealer because, “I read your books! I read all your books! Esta es Juanita Wilder, la que escribe las novelas que los leo los sábados!”
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Joan. Her agent, Gloria, had told her, “Your books do very well in these macho countries!”
So there it is. My small tribute to a film that will always hold a special place in my heart.
Thirty years after it’s release, I can still pop it in the Blu-ray player knowing it’s a guaranteed ticket to my happy place.
And also a surefire way to stoke the fires of my writing inspiration.