The Gods Must be Crazy® is a Trademark owned by Ace Films Corporation
Founded in 1905, the magazine Variety is the daily gospel of the USA's entertainment industry. In 1992 it published Variety: Comedy Movies, which represented an encyclopedia of the best of more that 300 comedies stretching 87 years. The list included pictures of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keyton, Mel Brooks, Blake Edwards, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg... and Jamie Uys.
In May 1983, gossip abounded that MIMOSA FILMS was secretly planning a sequel to THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY. Following the unexpected and explainable global success of THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY, Boet and Uys were hot property. The major Hollywood production houses showered MIMOSA FILMS with over the top offers…mammoth budgets, cutting edge technologies, expert editors, sophisticated crews, anything and everything they desired. But the film makers had never been keen on sequels.
Uys seriously toyed with filming the story of Rip van Winkle in Las Vegas. In the end, Uys preferred the Kalahari more than the casinos: “The Bushmen are very clever folks and N!Xau has such great talent and shows so much promise, that I ‘d really rather like to make a follow-up to GODS. ” Although nothing was definite, Uys remarked in the Spring of 1983 that he was indeed tinkering with a possible sequel to N!Xau’s adventure. “I ‘d like to start all over again. Show again how the Bushmen were living merrily and then suddenly the Coke bottle – wham! – falls amongst them and N!Xau picks it up and starts walking. From that scene to where N!Xau stands at the end of the world, at least ten films or more can be made about the space in between.”
On 23 September 1983 Boet announced that MIMOSA was to cut an astronomical deal with an American film house to make a sequel. Uys could now pick-and-choose from a-list celebrity actors to star in his follow-up. Names of starlets like Goldie Hawn, Kelly McGillis and Sharon Stone were rumoured. The filmmaker had never been awestruck by the glimmer of casting foreign stars. “The local actors held their own very well in THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY and there is really no reason why we shouldn’t use our own people in the new picture,” the director said. In any case: “The Bushman will be number one!” His mantra-like belief was that if a story needed celebrities to sell it, then the story was not good enough. In an unprecedented moment, Uys considered collaborating with an American screenwriter supplied by the film house that bankrolled the sequel. “I thought I'd try to find a little creative collaboration, though I've not had great luck in the past." He was well known for not easily going into collaboration on most aspects regarding his productions – particularly editing and writing. “I am not really as bad as people say – but something must be done juuust right!” Nonetheless, his pig headed do-it-alone approach to film making had given him two heart attacks before – editing BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE and once again with THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY. Uys though he could maybe write the mainstream story and have the Americans sort out the subplots. Uys’ painstaking process of writing could be cut to nine months. Moreover, with the more-than-bountiful assistance of the American backer, it was possible to wrap-up the entire production in eighteen months – compared to the original that spanned four years…well, that was the idea…
By October 1984 Uys was still mulling over storylines. Finally, in March 1985 he had a set story…of sorts…kind of… Instead of a Coke bottle, he was going to drop an American yuppie from the heavens. He traveled to the Big Apple to see how they exist. “I think that should work, because a New Yorker lives in a cocoon and you wouldn’t expect him to survive in the bush. And yet, he does because, after all, he is a New Yorker.” He was also thinking about a new title: When I first thought up the name, I thought it was wonderful – now I don’t think so.” At the end of the day, name recognition prevailed.
While THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY was still showing around the world and FUNNY PEOPLE 2 was circling the globe, Uys had driven 30 000 km doing location scouting (the final designated locations were on average about 1000 km removed from each other; the entire production would travel back and forth non-stop). All along he was still putting together an actual screen story. After two years, in November 1985, it was announced that the sequel to THE GODS finally had a final script...of sorts...kind of...
If he was going to have an American character in the female lead, he could as well cast an actual American. He traveled to the USA to meet with actresses and do screen tests. There were about fifty well-known names but he was not entirely sure. “I don’t want household names in my new movie.” Uys didn’t want to cast Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo again. He felt their characters were spent. He said in May 1986 that he wanted new faces and had to make up his mind quickly as primary film was to commence in two weeks’ time!
Uys said that his new and biggest picture of his entire career would have a production team of about twenty. “You know, I don’t always do right. I go and shoot a film in the bush and right at the end come back with rolls and rolls of film and only then start the editing process. This time I’ll send the celluloid ahead in advance.” The filmmaker really wanted to break with tradition and wrap the film up as quickly as possible. Although pleased by Uys’ commitment, executive producer Boet Troskie said: “I understand how Jamie works; he’s very slow and there is no way you can make him finish a film by a certain time.”
In 1986 Boet sold the unseen sequel at Cannes amidst tremendous media brouhaha. Filming of the $10 000 000 production could now really start. N!Xau, whom Uys called “a really brilliant actor,” would take the lead in THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II. Uys finally cast the drop dead gorgeous Lena Farugia (a born New Yorker who lived in South Africa) in the female lead: “In the sequal I’m the equivalent of the Coke bottle which dropped from the sky in the first GODS... It is a wonderful story and Jamie Uys has written some terrific comedy lines. I read for the part several times before Jamie decided to cast me.” She said that the original was very ‘charming’ but the next installment was much funnier. The dashing South African actor, Hans Strydom, was picked to play alongside Farugia.
By late 1987 Uys was still rolling cameras as the dream of a quick production was now forgotten. On set the Bushmen called him Ta-ra-ra, because that’s what he would hum if a shot was successful. That little tune was heard seldom as Uys as a rule would shoot a scene sixty times over – or more!
He sent word that he desperately needed a ‘tame badger’ that would have a “bloody important role.” He got one. The badger that tormented Strydom’s character, stranded in the desert, was viciously cute. Travelling between locations, hundreds of kilometers apart from one another, the badger had to sit on Farugia’s lap. She christened the critter Coco Chanel as it never stopped farting!
The entire picture was filmed exclusively outdoors. The picture was season bound and as such, the team had to wait a year for filming to continue – all the while hoping that the natural settings hadn’t been destroyed by pests, winds, floods or fire. With every minute being precious, it is important to consider that, for example, the scene where the micro-plane crashes in the gigantic Baobab tree took three weeks to film. The most stressful scene was where the poachers set the veld on fire. For obvious reasons, it could be done only once and controlling a bush fire (with lions, elephants and their trainers plus seven actors as well as a crew in it) was fantastically risky.
In 1989, special effects work started at the historical Pinewood Studios (synonymous with the 007-franchise) in England, and the picture, having taken about five years, was finished. “It’s like coming out of the army! You have to learn to adapt to normal life again,” said the exhausted film maker.
On 13 October 1989, THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II was released nationwide in South Africa. Within only fourteen days it was the single most successful film to be screened in South Africa – ever. Like its predecessor is steamrolled global audiences.
Maybe these reviews best sum it up:
The Washington Post: “Perhaps it's a naive conceit, but that is the great charm of Uys's Kalahari comedies. In these days of overproduced overstatement, of totally awesome turtle power and other toxic gimcracks, THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II feels like a vacation, a sort of enlightened "Wild Kingdom." It helps that Uys doesn't really seem to be suggesting that we set up our tents under the scanty shade of the baobab. He knows that we can't go home again; he seems only to be asking us to rethink our notions of sanity. It's not the gods who need straitjackets.”
Roger Ebert: “THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II is the work of a patient craftsman, who gets his laughs out of the careful construction of elaborate physical and plot situations. Some of his build-ups last for most of a movie, and his punch lines usually are inspired by character traits, not dumb gags. Uys' style sheds a sweet and gentle light on this new comedy, which is a sequel to the surprising international success - and, I think, a better film. if you happen to know any kids who have not yet given up on life, who like happy movies better than grim and violent ones, they're likely to enjoy THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II And so did I.”
TV GUIDE: “THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II delivers enough laughs and does it with enough charm to be worthwhile viewing, especially for fans of the first film. In addition, this film qualifies as entertainment genuinely suitable for the entire family. It manages to be wholesome, intelligent, and amusing without succumbing to smarminess. The comedy that appeals to children in this film will also, no-doubt, appeal to adults – a rare accomplishment.”