|Heaven Can Wait|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Warren Beatty
|Produced by||Warren Beatty|
|Screenplay by||Warren Beatty
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
|Cinematography||William A. Fraker|
|Editing by||Robert C. Jones
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||101 minutes|
Heaven Can Wait is a 1978 American comedy film directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. It is the second film adaptation of Harry Segall's stageplay of the same name, preceded by Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) and followed by Down to Earth (2001). Beatty stars in the lead role, playing a football player who, after being killed in a collision accident, is sent back to earth in the body of a millionaire.
Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a backup quarterback for the American football team Los Angeles Rams, is looking forward to leading his team to the Super Bowl. He is riding a bicycle through the Mulholland Drive tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles when he collides with a truck. An over-anxious guardian angel (Buck Henry) on his first assignment plucks Joe out of his body early in the mistaken belief that his death is imminent, and Pendleton arrives in the afterlife.
Once there, he refuses to believe that his time was up, and upon investigation, the mysterious Mr. Jordan (James Mason) discovers that he is right; he was not destined to die until much later. Unfortunately, his body has already been cremated, so a new body must be found. After rejecting several possibilities (men who are about to die), Joe is finally persuaded to accept the body of millionaire industrialist Leo Farnsworth. Farnsworth has just been drugged and drowned in his bathtub by his wife Julia (Dyan Cannon) and her lover, Farnsworth's personal secretary, Tony Abbott (Charles Grodin).
Julia and Tony are naturally confused when Farnsworth reappears, alive and well. Leo Farnsworth buys the Los Angeles Rams to lead them to the Super Bowl as their quarterback. To succeed, he must first convince, and then secure the aid of, long-time friend and trainer Max Corkle (Jack Warden) to get his new body into shape. At the same time, he falls in love with an environmental activist, Betty Logan (Julie Christie), who disapproves of Farnsworth's policies and actions.
As the film's plotline heads toward the Super Bowl, the characters all face a crisis. Julia and Abbott continue their murderous plans, and Abbott shoots Farnsworth dead. The Rams are forced to start another quarterback, Thomas Jarrett, in the climactic football game. After a brutal hit on the field, Jarrett is himself killed. With Mr. Jordan's help, Joe then occupies his final body, that of Jarrett. Joe, in Jarrett's body, is shown leading the Rams to victory.
During the team's post-game victory celebration, Mr. Jordan removes Joe's memory of his past life and departs. Joe becomes Thomas Jarrett and the cosmic balance is restored; the winning quarterback, Jarrett, is shown meeting Betty after the celebrations have ended, and as the film ends it is strongly implied that they are falling in love due to a mutual sense of déjà vu.
- Warren Beatty as Joe Pendleton/Leo Farnsworth/Tom Jarrett
- Julie Christie as Betty Logan
- James Mason as Mr. Jordan
- Jack Warden as Max Corkle
- Charles Grodin as Tony Abbott
- Dyan Cannon as Julia Farnsworth
- Buck Henry as The Escort
- Vincent Gardenia as Det. Lt. Krim
- Joseph Maher as Sisk
- Hamilton Camp as Bentley
- Arthur Malet as Everett
- Stephanie Faracy as Corinne
- Jeannie Linero as Lavinia
- John Randolph as Former owner
- Richard O'Brien as Former owner's advisor
- Deacon Jones as Gorman
- Les Josephson as Owens
- Jack T. Snow as Cassidy
- Jim Boeke as Kowalsky
- Charley Cowan (uncredited) as Football player
- Jerry Scanlan as Hodges
- Bryant Gumbel (uncredited) as TV sportscaster
- Curt Gowdy
- Al DeRogatis
- Peter Tomarken as Reporter
- Larry Block as Peters
In addition to the former Rams football players mentioned above, some well-known sportscasters also appear, playing familiar roles. Bryant Gumbel is seen in the background of one scene 'on the box', delivering a TV sportscast. Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis can be heard doing the Super Bowl play-by-play commentary. Dick Enberg conducts an abortive post-game interview of Joe Pendleton/Tom Jarrett.
Beatty had lobbied hard for Cary Grant to accept the role of Mr. Jordan, going so far as to have Grant's ex-wife, Dyan Cannon, urge him to take the part. But although Grant was tempted, he ultimately decided not to end his retirement from filmmaking.
Future game show host Peter Tomarken appears as a reporter in the film.
Beatty had initially wanted Muhammed Ali to play the central character, but due to Ali's continued commitment to boxing, Beatty changed the character from a boxer to an American football player and played it himself. The type of instrument he played was also changed; in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Pendelton essays "The Last Rose of Summer" on an alto saxophone, but in the 1978 film, he plays Ciribiribin on a soprano saxophone. The training music : Handel sonata no 12 op 1, in F major, HWV 370 allegro 2.
The year after the film's release, 'life imitated art' when the Rams made the Super Bowl and played the Pittsburgh Steelers, their fictional opponents in this film. (No Hollywood ending, however: in Super Bowl XIV, the Rams lost 31-19.)
Awards and nominations 
The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Paul Sylbert, Edwin O'Donovan, George Gaines), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Warren Beatty), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Warden), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Dyan Cannon), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Elaine May and Warren Beatty).
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Fantasy Film
References in popular culture 
The band, Iron Maiden's song "Heaven Can Wait" (from the classic 1986 album Somewhere in Time), is loosely inspired by the film. The lyrics deal with Near Death Experience and a man who cannot seem to die. It is most famous for its choir of unknown singers performing a sing-a-long, who were all found a local bar called "Tehe's Bar" during the recording.
- Box Office Information for Heaven Can Wait. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- "Heaven Can Wait, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- "Charley Cowan NFL & AFL Football Statistics". Pro-Football-Reference.com. 1938-06-19. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- "NY Times: Heaven Can Wait". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-12.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-12.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-12.