The film began production in Budapest in April 1984 under the direction of Richard Loncraine, who quickly ran into "creative differences" with producer Stephen Friedman and executives at 20th Century Fox; the project was shut down after a week of shooting. Petersen then took over as director and reshot Loncraine's scenes after moving the production to Munich.
Originally budgeted at $17 million, the film ultimately cost more than $40 million after marketing costs were factored in, and was a box office bomb during the 1985 holiday season, earning only a little over $12 million. It gained a cult following afterwards.
In the late 21st century, an interstellar war between the humans (associated as the Bilateral Terran Alliance, or BTA) and the Dracs (a sentient, bipedal reptilian humanoid race) is fought. Battles are periodically fought between fighter spacecraft, and no human pilot hates the Dracs more than Willis E. Davidge (Dennis Quaid). During one such battle, Davidge and Drac pilot Jeriba Shigan (Louis Gossett, Jr.) engage in a dogfight which results in both crash-landing on Fyrine IV, an alien world uninhabited by intelligent life, with two moons, a breathable atmosphere, water, native fauna, and a hostile environment.
After initial hostilities, the two eventually learn to cooperate to survive. They work together to build a shelter for protection against meteorite storms, a natural phenomenon that periodically strikes the planet. Over the next three years, they overcome their differences, become friends and learn each other's languages and cultures. Each saves the other's life several times.
Davidge, haunted by dreams of spaceships landing on the planet, leaves in search of help. He finds evidence of humans, but learns that the planet has only been periodically visited by human miners known as "Scavengers", who use Dracs as slave labor. He returns to warn Jeriba, (nicknamed "Jerry"), only to discover that Jeriba is pregnant; Dracs are hermaphroditic and reproduce asexually.
A blizzard and an attack by an indigenous predator forces Davidge and Jeriba to flee their shelter. To pass the time Jeriba teaches Davidge his full lineage. Jeriba later slowly dies in childbirth, but not before making Davidge swear to take the child back to the Drac homeworld and recite his full ancestry, so that he can join Drac society. Davidge raises the child Zammis (Bumper Robinson). Davidge and Zammis form a very close bond and the young Drac loves Davidge as any sentient child loves a parent, despite referring to Davidge as "uncle".
One day a ship flies overhead and Davidge goes to investigate. However, Zammis is curious and follows. He is discovered by a pair of Scavengers. Davidge attacks the men, but Zammis inadvertently stands between Davidge and one miner, and Davidge is gunned down. Later, a BTA patrol ship finds Davidge apparently dead, and returns him to his base space station.
On the station during an impersonal funeral ceremony, Davidge suddenly awakens when a disposal technician tries to steal the book Jerry gave him years before to learn the Drac language. Davidge's old team vouch for his loyalty, even after they find he speaks the enemy's language fluently. Davidge is later reinstated to duty, but not as a pilot, as his superiors want to make sure he has not been brainwashed by the Dracs. Unable to get help in rescuing Zammis, Davidge steals a spaceship to find the child by himself. He manages to find the Scavenger ship and sneak aboard. Davidge speaks to the Drac slaves in their own language as he searches for Zammis. The slaves know who Zammis is and realize that Davidge is "uncle". Davidge enters the facility and fights with one miner after another as he searches for Zammis. In the confusion caused by Davidge, the slaves revolt against the miners. Towards the end of the battle, Davidge is assisted by the BTA crew who pursued the stolen ship. They realize that whatever it was he experienced while missing in action (MIA) has made him more human; he no longer hates Dracs.
In the epilogue, Davidge and Zammis return to the Drac homeworld of Dracon for Zammis's heritage ceremony before the Drac Holy Council. As he promised Jerry, Davidge recounts the complete Jeriba ancestry before the Holy Council in the traditional ritual as he was taught. The narrator explains that when "in the fullness of time, Zammis brought its own child before the Holy Council, the name of 'Willis Davidge' was added to the line of Jeriba."Dennis Quaid as Willis "Will" Davidge (called "Dah-witch" by Jeriba)
Louis Gossett, Jr. as Jeriba Shigan (called "Jerry" by Davidge)
Brion James as Stubbs, the Scavenger leader
Richard Marcus as Arnold, Davidge's squad-mate
Carolyn McCormick as Morse, Davidge's squad-mate
Bumper Robinson as Zammis
Jim Mapp as Old Drac Slave
Lance Kerwin as Joey Wooster, Davidge's co-pilot
Scott Kraft as Jonathan, a Scavenger
Lou Michaels as Wilson, a Scavenger
Andy Geer as Bates, a Scavenger
Henry Stolow as Cates, Davidge's squad-mate
Herb Andress as Hopper, Davidge's superior officer
Danmar as Wise Guy
Mandy Hausenberger as 1st Medic
The film began shooting in April 1984 with Richard Loncraine (Brimstone & Treacle) as director. However, after weeks of shooting in Iceland and Budapest, producers became concerned about a mixture of budget overruns, creative differences and poor quality dailies. Filming was stopped. The studio had already spent $9 million in production costs and had "pay or play" contracts committing an additional $18 million, so executives needed to decide whether to cut losses or go with a new director.
At the same time, Fox changed its upper management and new Chairman, Barry Diller, and head of production, Lawrence Gordon, decided to move ahead with a new director. The studio had faith in the story and actors involved, and hired Wolfgang Petersen to take over as director. Petersen did not like any of Loncraine's work and opted to start anew, scouting locations along the African coast. Stars Quaid and Gossett remained on during the duration of the film's delays and were paid "holding" money. He moved the production from Budapest to Munich and the studio he used for Das Boot.
Large sets were constructed, including a man-made lake, and Gossett's Drac makeup was redesigned, taking several months on its own. The film finished shooting seven months after its delay. The film's budget, originally planned at about $17 million rose to $29 million, and ended up costing more than $40 million with marketing costs.
The president of Fox's marketing department felt the film was an "extremely difficult movie to market", that its story of two species evolving from enemies to friends made the science fiction picture less about the technology used to film it and more "along the lines of brotherhood." This was epitomized by the film's tagline: "Enemies because they were taught to be, allies because they had to be, brothers because they dared to be."
The studio pushed the film with a full marketing blitz: On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, full-page advertisements ran in 43 of the largest newspapers in the United States. Meanwhile, Fox arranged for a "network roadblock": three 30-second television commercials ran at virtually the same prime time moment on what were then the three television networks. Still that same day, 3,500 theatrical trailers were shipped to theaters across America and 164 of the nation's biggest shopping malls were covered with posters for the film.
The campaign received some critical scorn from those in the industry. The poster, with the two leads staring at each other, was singled out for failing to convey the warmth of the story. A marketing head at another studio called it "one of the worst of the year, really terrible. There was a way to make the movie much more palatable."
In the United Kingdom, the original 108m 38s movie was cut down to 93m 5s when first released theatrically, and later on VHS, although the full-length version was reinstated for the 2002 DVD.
Enemy Mine was met with mixed reviews upon its release, and in 2015 scored 59% positive on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film 2 1⁄2 out of 4 stars, saying it "made no compromises in its art direction, its special effects and its performances – and then compromised everything else in sight." Janet Maslin of The New York Times referred to it as "This season's Dune", referring to the critically panned science fiction epic from the previous year. Variety magazine called it "an anthropomorphic view of life but touching nonetheless." Seventeen years later, another New York Times reviewer gave the film a more positive assessment, noting that if it were "taken in the intended spirit it's often moving, suggesting what might happen if two of earth's perpetually warring peoples were stranded together." The Los Angeles Times praised the film, calling it "surprisingly coherent, surprisingly enjoyable." The movie received similar praise from critics Gary Franklin, Gene Siskel, and Leonard Maltin.
With Enemy Mine costing over $40 million, the studio hoped for a large first weekend opening. That did not occur, with the film pulling in only $1.6 million at 703 theaters nationwide. As of Christmas day, the film had taken in $2.3 million at the box office. When asked exactly how much the movie would have to take in during its theatrical run to make its money back, an executive with Fox replied "It doesn't really matter, because it's not going to do it."
The score was composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre, and performed by the Studioorchester in Munich and a synthesiser ensemble. The soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande.
- Fyrine IV (5:03)
- The Relationship (3:55)
- The Small Drac (2:45)
- The Crater (2:15)
- The Birth of Zammis (6:14)
- Spring (1:27)
- The Scavengers (4:48)
- Davidge's Lineage (3:33)
- Football Game (:44)
- Before the Drac Holy Council (9:54)