Demolition Man's Writer Wasn't Trying to Be Prescient, He Just Wanted to Make a Funny Movie

By Beth Elderkin on at

If there was any piece of entertainment that no one expected to be a foreteller of the future, it was Demolition Man. However, the 1993 sci-fi action comedy predicted everything from corporate conglomerates to smoking bans – and now, social distancing. In a new interview, writer Daniel Waters said he’s just as surprised as we are that what happened in his film is coming to pass.

During a chat with Vulture, Waters talked about the latest global phenomenon to get the “Demolition Man predicted it” round of applause: social distancing. In the movie, physical contact has been largely banned. Sex is now done virtually, meetings can be called into remotely, and characters give each other air high fives instead of handshakes. What makes it feel even more eerie is the reason behind it: As explained by Lenina (Sandra Bullock), it was because people kept spreading diseases to one another. At the time, it was a commentary on the AIDS crisis, but now it takes on a different tone because of coronavirus.

“The mini-monologue she gives, about the different pandemics that led to this point – that speech, it seems so reasonable now. Slowly but surely, we’re getting them all,” he said. “I loved seeing the quote-unquote handshake Rob Schneider and Benjamin Bratt give each other in this. I can totally see it. Once you get into, ‘We don’t want anything icky in the future,’ then it’s funny how it just happens. You wouldn’t touch. You wouldn’t have sex, oh, god, no.”

That said, Waters isn’t one to toot his own horn about being a prognosticator of the future. He joined Demolition Man late in the game to rework the existing script (which had started out as a traditional action flick), adding humour and futuristic takes on modern popular culture. During his interview, he seemed kind of uncomfortable with all the praise about the film’s prescience.

“There’s a scene early on, where Wesley Snipes looks at who is in the prison with him, and the second name on the list is Scott Peterson – before he killed his wife,” he said. “So, this guy was saying, ‘Look at this! This movie predicted Scott Peterson was going to prison!’ Like, Jesus, let’s keep it down.”

This goes double for the hot takes coming from folks who are, shall we say, less inclined to support political correctness. One of Demolition Man’s main tenets is how the future is overly politically correct, something that Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes’ characters actively work to overcome over the course of the movie. The ending moral seems to be that there should always be a middle ground, but some folks have taken a more extreme interpretation. One that Waters does not appear to agree with.

“Somebody linked me to this die-hard – I’ll put it charitably – libertarian guy who wrote ‘Actually, Demolition Man is the great thesis statement of the ’90s.’ It’s like, whoa, whoa. What, am I going to be Mr. Anti-Politically-Correct now? No, just having a little fun.”