Picking a movie title is often a fraught affair. Just ask sci-fi alum Andrew Niccol, whose latest journey into the future, “In Time,” hit theaters Friday.
That wasn’t always the title 20th Century Fox had penciled in for the movie. The Justin Timberlake-starrer was previously titled “Now” and, before that, “I’m.mortal."
As Fox was working on Niccol's film back in spring 2010, Relativity Media was preparing its own fall 2011 film, a Greek epic by Tarsem Singh (“The Fall,” “The Cell”). It was initially dubbed "War of Gods."
The “I’m.mortal” title hadn’t been registered with the Motion Picture Assn. of America yet when “Immortals” switched its title from “War of Gods” in April 2010. Relativity, Niccol said, demanded Fox give his sci-fi flick a new name to avoid confusion with their Nov. 11, 2011, release.
Niccol recalled his aha moment when he came up with "I'm.mortal." “I was so happy when I finally saw that ‘I’m mortal’ is inside the word ‘immortal,” the writer-director told 24 Frames. “And then someone goes and steals it from you,” he added with a laugh. (Not everyone, though, was as enthusiastic as Niccol was about "I'm.mortal" — online opinions about it ranged from “sure-to-be-tweaked” and “dumb” to “cute, quirky.” )
Re-titled “Now” last fall, the movie became "In Time" in May.
“[‘Now’] was just more difficult for people to grasp. So we made it something even more accessible,” Niccol said.
As for that title revision for Singh's movie, Relativity and the filmmakers decided "Immortals" was a more original-sounding title that better spoke to the novel take on Greek mythology than "War of Gods."
“We love ‘Immortals.’ It’s a strong title. It sounds like an event movie and very epic,” a spokesperson for Relativity Media said.
Niccol is no stranger to having to think up new titles. His 1997 cult favorite, “Gattaca,” was filmed under the name “The Eighth Day,” a reference to Genesis and the genetic engineering that defines the film’s “not-so-distant future.” When a Belgian film with the same name, “Le huitième jour,” made it to theaters before Niccol’s movie, he was forced to come up with a new title. He decided on the name of the spaceflight corporation in the story, Gattaca, derived from the four letters of DNA bases.
“That [title] actually got better, I think. It was just so unique,” Niccol said. “It’s sort of lasted the test of time.”
Whether “In Time” and “Immortals” stand that test of time remains to be seen, but their test at the box office comes first. "In Time" opened Friday to challenge "Puss in Boots" and "Paranormal Activity 3," finishing in third. Starring the new Superman, Henry Cavill, "Immortals" opens Nov. 11 against Leonardo DiCaprio's "J. Edgar" and Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill."
— Emily Rome
Left photo: Henry Cavill and Joseph Morgan in "Immortals." Credit: Jan Thijs
Right photo: Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried in "In Time." Credit: Stephen Vaughan / 20th Century Fox.