Over the decades, few film debates have endured as much as Demolition Man’s three seashells. The weird, seemingly throwaway detail in the 1993 film starring Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, and Wesley Snipes has long been a point of contention among fans and now we can at least put one aspect of that debate to bed: where, exactly, that detail came from.
To briefly recap, Demolition Man (which was released 30 years ago this week, actually) is about a 1996 cop (Stallone) who is frozen and reanimated in 2032 to help stop a criminal from his time (Snipes). The future is filled with all sorts of excellent, hilarious details (Taco Bell!) and one is that humans no longer use toilet paper in the bathroom. They use three seashells.
The film offers no explanation of how, exactly, three seashells help with personal clean-up and it doesn’t have to. It’s just an imaginative, somehow futuristic bit of worldbuilding unrelated to the plot. But you instantly think about it and, in an interview that recently surfaced on X, one of Demolition Man’s writers, Daniel Waters, explained where he got the idea.
Apparently, this is a story that’s been out there before but we hadn’t heard it and figured you all might be interested too. Basically, Waters couldn’t think of something futuristic in the bathroom, called his friend and fellow writer Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt) who happened to be in the bathroom at the moment. He looked around, saw some seashells as part of a potpourri set, and mentioned it to Waters. The rest is history.
How exactly does one… use the seashells? Well, that’s a whole other debate that doesn’t have a definitive answer. But now two things are definitive about the three seashells. Where they came from and that they remain one of the most talked-about aspects of the 30-year-old film.
Demolition Man is currently available to stream on Tubi.
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