Director Jan de Bont Had No Idea That ‘Twister’ Cow Would Become So Famous

The Big Picture

  • ‘Twister’ follows storm chasers Jo and Bill as they unite to create an advanced weather alert system to combat violent tornadoes.
  • Director Jan de Bont reflects on the film’s success, groundbreaking visuals, and the iconic cow scene, now available in 4K.
  • The upcoming sequel, Twisters, directed by Lee Isaac Chung, takes the legacy forward with advancements in technology and a new story.

First released in theaters on May 10, 1996, the action-packed disaster thriller Twister is now available on 4K Ultra HD with the new special feature, The Legacy of Twister – Taken by the Wind. After watching her father meet his fate during a massive tornado, Dr. Jo Harding became a scientist and storm chaser looking to study and understand the destructive side of nature. Even though her marriage is falling apart, Jo and Bill must work together to create an advanced weather alert system, survive the largest tornado ever to strike Oklahoma, and fend off rival scientists.

Directed by Jan de Bont, the film pushed boundaries and raised the game in its visual effects, and thanks to performances from Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, along with a special cameo appearance by a very memorable cow, it became a fan favorite that’s still a fun, entertaining ride. And now, nearly three decades later, a sequel called Twisters is hitting theaters on July 19, 2024.

During this one-on-one interview with Collider, filmmaker de Bont talked about how good it feels to make a movie that connects with audiences around the world, what it was like for him to revisit Twister for the 4K transfer, how the production ultimately changed the film industry, what it was like to work with producer Kathleen Kennedy, and how surprised he is that what started as a funny little moment with a cow become so iconic. He also shared how he feels about the upcoming sequel, Twisters.

Collider: I remember seeing Jurassic Park and then Twister in the theater and thinking about how mind-blowing those two films were with what they achieved. As a filmmaker, what’s it like to know you’ve made and shaped a film that was so successful and connected with so many people that it really did change movies?

JAN DE BONT: The main feeling is how good you feel that there are a lot of people that like the movie, in all the countries in the world. You can go to Japan or China or anywhere in Europe, and they know what you’re talking about. They’ll be like, “Oh, really? You did that?” And then, before you know it, you’re in a discussion about it. It’s really great to see that. To be honest, I was extremely happy to make this video transfer because it was already a really good movie, but there were still things that felt like they should have been better and could have been better, but the technology didn’t quite exist. I was really happy to work on this 4K Ultra.


‘Twister’ Just Got Easier To Watch Ahead of ‘Twisters’ Theatrical Release

Here’s where you can stream ‘Twister,’ starring Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Had you ever revisited and watched the film, in the time between making it and doing this transfer?

DE BONT: Not very often, I have to say. Before we started this transfer, I had to look at it again because I really hadn’t. You remember the movie, but you don’t remember all the details. Suddenly, you see it back and you’re like, “Oh, my God, we did that?” There are some things in there that were really amazing to see happen on screen, but also things that I could have done a little bit better. The feeling that it is so highly respected is a great feeling, of course.

Director Jan de Bont Explains How ‘Twister’ Changed the Film World

Is there something that you feel would have been very different in the film, if you had been able to use the technology of today?

DE BONT: I don’t think so. When this movie was made and put together, the technology didn’t exist, so we couldn’t make the movie as was written. And so, having been a part of creating technology that’s now being used by almost everyone to really create visual effects, is a really great contribution to the film world, and internationally, not just in the United States. Everybody uses this system. They’ve improved it dramatically and made it more user-friendly, which is really great. But I wouldn’t miss all the tension and excitement of, “Is it gonna happen? Is it not gonna happen? Can they develop the software? Can they really make this happen?” We were already in pre-production, and it just didn’t succeed right away. That’s what happens with technology. The first shots were not looking good and everybody got really worried because there was already an end date for the movie. But ILM kept working on it, and they did make it work. After three or four really ugly shots, the next one started to look like a tornado. And then, they got better and better, as they got more experience and they got more feedback. Then, it finally started speeding up. Thank God, because two weeks later, it would not have worked.


The Making of ‘Twister’ Was a Whirlwind of Chaos

Before ‘Twisters’ with Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones, let’s unpack the production drama on Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton’s 1996 disaster thriller.

You made Twister in between making Speed and Speed 2. What did you learn from your experience making Speed?

DE BONT: Speed was a project that nobody wanted to make before Fox agreed to make the movie because they thought it was impossible. They were like, “How can you make a movie about a slow-moving bus with people sitting on the bus? How can that be possibly exciting?” But I saw the exact opposite. I saw all the difficulties the bus could run into, and trying to escape, and that made it really exciting. What they didn’t see, I saw. And when I explained it to Peter Chernin, the head of Fox at the time, and I acted scenes out in his office, he loved it. He finally got it. He saw what I meant, when you explore all those things, like near misses, close calls, and the horrible things happening at the same time, in the bus, underneath the bus, and on top of the bus.

You worked with Kathleen Kennedy on Twister? What was she like to work with, as a producer?

DE BONT: I really enjoyed working with her. It was Ian Bryce and her, who were the only ones that actually ever came to the set. You have to realize that we were in the middle of nowhere, in a location where there were no hotels. No studio head will go there when there are no good hotels there, and they were not interested in camping out or in mobile homes, so they never came. So, they were the only two that I had to deal with, which was great, by the way, because you don’t want an army of producers talking to you. I liked her a lot. She helped us tremendously, especially when the development took place and all those things had to be researched. A lot of uncertainties were happening with this movie, in the beginning. And how do you deal with that budget wise? Nobody had any idea how much it would cost because you can develop technology, but then what? How much is one shot? One shot was really expensive at the time. It’s not anymore. Now, it’s a fraction of that.

Director Jan De Bont Says ‘Twister’s Iconic Cow Moment Was Based in Reality

A red truck driving down a road toward a giant tornado in Twister
Image via Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment

Are you surprised that the flying cow in Twister became such a big thing? Could you ever have imagined that would end up being one of the most referenced aspects and that it would have become an internet sensation?

DE BONT: No, absolutely not. I did not know that, of course. I only thought it was a really great idea when I saw a picture of a live cow in a tree. I didn’t really believe it was real. I thought it was a commercial shoot for a milk company. But then, they said it was real and that there are live animals that end up in trees. Even one time, there was a baby in a tree that survived. So, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to see a cow, suddenly being sucked up and turned around and around and around, traveling through the air and then landing. What would the cow be thinking?” That was so intriguing. I talked to the writers and said, “We have to put the cow in there.” At the time, I thought it was just fun as a quick thing. But then, it became an iconic moment in the movie that people remember forever. That was only basically because of the six words that were said in the car, “A cow. Another cow. No, I think it’s the same cow.” That made it so funny. Everybody mentions that immediately. They go, “You did the movie with the cow?!”

Twisters is coming out now. Are you interested in seeing what’s been done with that, with all the advancements now? Are you curious about what movie they’ve made?

DE BONT: I’m for sure gonna see it, but it’s not my movie. I was not involved in it. It’s a good director (Lee Isaac Chung). I’m just gonna see it like everybody else.


Meet Glen Powell’s Tornado Wranglers in New ‘Twisters’ Sneak Peek

The legacy sequel also stars Anthony Ramos, Daisy Edgar Jones and Katy O’Brian.

It has to have a cow, or it isn’t a Twister movie?

DE BONT: That’s funny. Maybe it does.

Twister is now available on 4K UHD. Check out the trailer:

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