The biggest movie star of the early '90s? Arguably, it was this massive St. Bernard who wreaked hilarious havoc on the Newton home in "Beethoven."
Released 25 years ago this week (on April 3, 1992), "Beethoven" was a huge hit that spawned a cartoon series, a video game, and a litter of sequels. It also launched the career of one of today's busiest actors, and it was the semi-secret project of one of the most celebrated comic screenwriters of the past 30 years. Read on to learn more secrets about the movie '90s kids can't get enough of.
1. One of the credited screenwriters of "Beethoven" is "Edmond Dantes." The real writer, who used the "Count of Monte Cristo" protagonist's name as his pseudonym, was none other than John Hughes. "Beethoven" is one of the few movies he wrote that doesn't take place in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois.
2. Among the comic actors reportedly considered for the role of dog-averse dad George Newton were Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Danny DeVito, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, and Robin Williams.
3.Charles Grodin was 56 when he played George. He is 26 years older than Bonnie Hunt, who was 30 when she played mom Alice Newton.
4. Answering to "Beethoven" was no acting challenge for the movie's St. Bernard, since that was his real name.
5. She's not credited in the film, but Eleanor Keaton, widow of silent comedy legend Buster Keaton, was Beethoven's trainer. He was a descendant of the Keatons' dog, Junior, as were some of the other St. Bernards used in the sequels.
6.Steve Rash ("The Buddy Holly Story," "Can't Buy Me Love") was the original director, but he was replaced by Brian Levant ("Problem Child 2") shortly after filming began.
7. "Beethoven" was the first film for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then 10 years old. He played a schoolmate of son Ted Newton (Christopher Castile).
8. The casting of Dean Jones as veterinarian Dr. Varnick was a wink to his starring role in Disney's 1976 movie "The Shaggy D.A.," where he played a man cursed to transform at awkward moments into a big fluffy pooch.
9. Jones had made a career of playing nice guys in wacky circumstances in similar Disney movies, so playing the villain in "Beethoven" offered him a real chance to stretch. Reports from the set say he tried Method acting for the first time, refusing to break character even when cameras stopped rolling. Given how many young viewers found Dr. Varnick an unusually chilling bad guy for a family movie, he must have done something right.
10. The film cost a reported $18 million to make. It earned back $57 million in North America and another $90 million overseas.
11. The "Beethoven" animated series ran for one season (1994-95) and featured only Jones and Nicholle Tom (daughter Ryce Newton) from the original film. Jones actually took on the role of George, reverting to nice-guy form once again.
12. So far, there have been seven (?!) "Beethoven" movie sequels, only the first of which (1993's "Beethoven's 2nd") was released in theaters. The most recent of the straight-to-video sequels was "Beethoven's Treasure Tail" in 2014.
13. Levant went on to direct such canine classics as "Snow Dogs" and the TV live-action movies "Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins" and "Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster."