The Man Stopped From Naming a Film after Steven Spielberg’s boat

A 1996 movie originally went by the title of Mr Spielberg's Boat. Until lawyers got involved...

In recent years, film writer and director John Huddles has been busying himself with several projects, not least his reasonably well-received thriller After The Dark. Yet he nearly came a cropper with his debut feature, 1996’s Far Harbor.

The film, which would go on to star Jennifer Connolly, Dan Futterman, and Marcia Gay Holden, originally went by a different title. A title that brought it to the attention of director Steven Spielberg’s lawyers.

Huddles named the movie Mr. Spielberg’s Boat, after seeing the bearded-director’s then 131-foot yacht anchored at New York’s Sag Harbor. The draft of the film followed the story of a bunch of young professionals who see the yacht anchored off-shore, and production duly began.

As Premiere magazine reported back in August 1996, “Huddles meant the title as a metaphorical tribute to ‘someone who represents success, fame and power at the highest level’.” Things were going duly to plan, too. Until the project got the attention of Spielberg’s lawyers.

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Huddles, half-way through filming, received an official request to change the name of the film. The young filmmaker tried to argue his case, sending in-progress footage and a copy of the script to the lawyers’ offices. But to no avail: Spielberg’s lawyers wouldn’t budge an inch, and thus Huddles had to change the name of his film.

He first changed the title to Mr. Spreckman’s Boat, before it landed on its final name of Far Harbor.

Interesting, Spielberg himself wasn’t involved in the clampdown, and by the time he was aware of the problem, his lawyers had dealt with it.

As for Huddles? He had no resentment, but did wryly note to Premiere that “in future projects, I will not make any reference to anyone living, dead or likely to be born.”