I have been watching a lot of movies lately, and noticed that a lot of movies incorporate magazine covers into the storyline to make the fiction less fictitious. All major American publications’ frontpages are subjected to this ‘fair use’, but the magazine that is seemingly hijacked the most by the filmmakers is TIME magazine. With 3,400,000 per week within the U.S. only, it seems to be the media a lot of people can identify with.
According to the magazine itself, the first prominent mention of TIME in Hollywood was in 1932’s Murder on the High Seas, when the main characters read the magazine during a voyage to Europe. The first manipulated mock-up cover came in 1950’s A Woman of Distinction. In the movie, Rosalind Russell plays Susan Manning Middlecott, the dean of a small women’s college named Benton whose face graces the cover of TIME. Russell, a TIME magazine collector herself, had the make-believe-cover painting framed, and hung it in the lounge of the bathhouse beside her swimming pool in Beverly Hills. When friends would drop in and remark, “Oh. I didn’t know you were on TIME’s cover,” she would answer casually “Sure, look, there it is.” She was finally given her own cover in 1953.
In 1983 film The King of Comedy, Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) kidnaps a famous talk show host to have his “big break”. During his act, Rupert noted, “Better to be king for a night, than schmuck for a lifetime.” The line was immortalized in a news report of Rupert’s release from prison at the end of the movie, as well as on TIME’s cover:
The next year, in the film 2010, the magazine was seen again. The cover was about the U.S.-Soviet tensions, in which the U.S. President is represented by 2010’s author Arthur C. Clarke and the Soviet Premier by 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick.
In 1992 movie Bob Roberts was set earlier before the Gulf War. It depicts a fictitious senatorial race between conservative folk singer (and anti-Bob Dylan), Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) and the incumbent Democrat, Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal). Roberts was shot by a would-be assassin and paralyzed from the waist down, but he eventually won. Although TIME had covered Huey Long and George Wallace quite extensively, never since the 80s did the magazine pay substantial attention to regional elections let alone put it on the cover.
Also in 1992, Kim Basinger plays TIME magazine reporter Vicki Vale, who has come to Gotham City to do a story on Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman. She covered ‘Corto Maltese’ Revolution, which in the Batman canon was an island at the centre of an incident not unlike the Cuban missile crisis. Her pictures on the cover and throughout the magazine show a desert war zone strewn with dead bodies. In the 80s and the 90s, TIME magazine indeed put international news story like crises in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia on the cover, but the magazine would never misspell their photographer’s name as they did below:
In 1996, Al Pacino made the cover as Mayor John Pappas, an idealist New York mayor who fought against big city neighborhoods, mafia and crime. Five years later the movie City Hall, Mayor Rudi Giuliani made the cover as Man of the Year.
Simone, short for SIMulation ONE, was the name of 2002 movie starring Rachel Roberts. A desperate director makes a computer-programmed actress and she became an instant superstar in a movie that makes the viewers think about our celebrity-obsessed world. In the movie, Simone won the Oscar for Best Actress and become TIME magazine Person of the Year. Ironically, no entertainer has ever been chosen for that honor (Bono won it for his humanitarian work) but ‘computer’ was once chosen as the Machine of the Year.
In 2001, Smallville, a TV show about young Superman premiered on the Warner Brothers. The first season contained two TIME covers, one honoring Dr. Virgil Swann as Man of the Year. Virgil Swann, a scientist who was able to translate the Kryptonian tongue, was played by Christopher Reeve himself. In the pilot episode, Superman’s eventual first girlfriend Lana Lang made the cover after her family was killed by the meteor shower that brought Superman to our planet. (In real-life, both Swann and Lang won’t make it to the cover, their fame being to localized and narrowly defined; however, Lang cradled by her (later) adopted aunt can made an iconic image).
The next year, 2002, came the movie Reign of Fire, probably one of the most ridiculous sci-fi/fantasy movies of our time. During London Underground construction, a huge, hibernating dragon is discovered. It springs to life and creates havoc all over the world. Time was there to cover it too:
In 2004, Pixar joined the TIME magazine bandwagon in The Incredibles. The cover logo was a tribute to the 40s and the 50s, but the magazine itself never used the following format, and the phrase ‘The Weekly Magazine’ was retired in the 50s. But, it is perhaps the first animated TIME magazine mock-up:
The magazine was used twice in 2006 movie, Man of the Year, where Robin William plays a comedian Tom Dobbs, who was erroneously elected the President of the United States. The movie title itself was based on the magazine’s tradition to name whoever won the presidential election as their Man of the Year. The Man of the Year cover is a little funny because the producers not only copied the magazine, but the pictures of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson on the right were the drawings that appeared on TIME magazine’s covers previously.
Alan Moore himself have used TIME magazine as a prop in his 1984 graphic novel, Watchmen. The movie adaptation in 2008 used the magazine in what is perhaps the most authentic-looking mock-up I have ever seen (which is ironic because of the subject matter):