Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" has got to be one of the most iconic 80s movies of that decade.  Sure, there were many 80s films that could be labeled "most iconic," but I want to touch on just this one for now.

Accompanied with a great soundtrack, FT@RH's plot was what teenagers could identify with: love, sex, fantasy, drama, smoking pot, comedy, clicks in high school, first jobs, stiff-necked teachers, football rivalry,... it pretty much had everything.  Not only that, it featured three actors who would not only further their careers in acting in films, but would win Academy Awards for their acting achievements (Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, and Nicolas Cage).

Cameron Crowe (yes, that guy -- director of "Say Anything...," "Singles," "Jerry Maguire," and 9 other movies) wrote a book about this story and then wrote the screenplay of this film.  What you see in FT@RH are chronicled events that actually happened in Crowe's life.  It's about a group of high school students growing up in southern California, two of whom are Stacy and Mark (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Brian Backer).  Both Stacy and Mark are looking for a love interest and are helped along by their older classmates, Linda and Mike (Phoebe Cates and Robert Romanus).  The center of the film, however, -- the glue, if you will -- is none other than Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), a perpetually stoned surfer dude who faces off with the rigid teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), who is convinced that everyone is on dope.

Making its premiere on August 13, 1982, FT@RH was the debut film for Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards who both played roles as Jeff Spicoli's stoner buds.  It is also the film debut of Nicolas Cage who played the role of one of Brad's friends (played by Judge Reinhold).  Just like Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker, all three furthered their acting careers.

Here's some other fun bits of trivia you might find entertaining about this film...

1.  Nicolas Cage was originally considered for the role of Brad Hamilton, but after his audition the studio thought his performance was too dark and the role went, instead, to Judge Reinhold. Additionally, Cage was 17 at the time and could not work as many hours as actors over 18 (Nicolas appeared as the name Nicolas Coppola for the first and only time in his film acting career).

2.  When Stacy and Ron Johnson end up going to "the point", the words "The Cinch" are spray-painted on the wall. The group that plays the last dance of the year is called Reeves Nevo and The Cinch.   

3.  The role of Mr. Hand was originally offered to Fred Gwynne (legendary actor who played Herman Munster -- a.k.a. Frankenstein -- in TV's, "The Munsters) who turned it down due to his objections over the tone of the sexual content in the film.

4.  It was filmed at Van Nuys High School in Van Nuys, California.  The mascot of Ridgemont High is the wolf, which is the same mascot of Van Nuys High School.

5.  Stacy works at Perry's Pizza. Jennifer Jason Leigh actually worked at Perry's Pizza for a month after she got the role of Stacy Hamilton but before filming began.

6.  In the scene where Ratner is getting dating advice from Damone in Damone's bedroom, Ratner is wearing a T-shirt for the movie, "Popeye" which starred Ray Walston, who played Mr. Hand.  In "Popeye," Ray Walston played Popeye's father.

7.  When it comes to Jeff Spicoli, 1) Sean Penn was asked to read for the part of Brad Hamilton as well as that of Jeff Spicoli.  2) Penn extinguished a cigarette in the palm of his hand in order to better understand his character Jeff Spicoli.  3) During shooting of the film, Sean Penn got so into character that he only answered as Spicoli (in fact, the door on his dressing room was labeled "Spicoli" instead of "Sean Penn").  And 4) Sean Penn improvised during his takes and tried to find ways to aggravate actor Ray Walston, who played Mr. Hand, even off camera. He also did things to get genuinely startled reactions from the extras who played his classmates through unexpected improvisations.
8.  Universal didn't think the film would become a hit. In fact, the studio had thought about not releasing it on the East Coast so that the film would die quickly at the box office.

9.  For his masturbation scene, Judge Reinhold brought a large dildo to work with, unbeknownst to the rest of the cast.  So when Phoebe Cates walks in on him in the bathroom, the look of horror and disgust is very real.

10.  The scenes in the mall (which was actually the Sherman Oaks Galleria) were shot during the night from when the mall closed at 9:30 to when it opened at 9. The two kids who Damone scalps the tickets to, were under 18 and due to labor laws couldn't film past certain hours, so they only had a 10-minute window to shoot their scenes.

11.  Near the beginning of the movie, right after Mr. Hand sends Spicoli to the front office for being late to class, Mr. Hand passes out the class schedule of quizzes. After the paper is passed out, the students put the page up to their noses and deeply inhale. This was a popular school ritual of the '60s, '70s and early '80s as photocopying machines were very expensive, so spirit duplicators were used. The spirit duplicators used a colored wax as the "ink" and a noxious solvent as a transfer agent to impress the ink on the paper. These solvents sometimes took a long time to dry, hence the students' use of these solvents as a short-term "high".

12.  Filming lasted five weeks.

13.  In the scene where Brad is washing the Cruising Vessel, you can see he has a Springsteen (for Bruce Springsteen) bumper sticker. Pamela Springsteen, Bruce's sister, is also in the movie (she played the role of Dina).  On the set of the movie, Sean Penn asked Pamela out and she accepted.

14.  Some of the actors who had auditioned for roles were Diane Lane, Melanie Griffith, Tatum O'Neal, Ralph Macchio, Matthew Broderick, Meg Tilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lori Loughlin, Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Preston, Rosanna Arquette, Carrie Fisher and Ally Sheedy.  Jodie Foster was considered to play Stacy, but was not interested in the role due to her commitment at Yale.  Both Brooke Shields and Ellen Barkin reportedly turned down an offer to play Stacy.  Justine Bateman was offered the role of Linda but declined. Instead, she preferred to star in a TV pilot for the TV series Family Ties which ran for 7 years.

15.  The script caused a controversy because some actual first names of Clairemont High School students were used in Cameron Crowe's script.

16.  In the tradition of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Reese's Pieces, this movie product-placed an obscure brand and it became famous: The checkerboard canvas decks Spicoli hammered himself with, Vans, became a national brand soon after.

17.  Tom Hanks was considered for the role of Brad.

18.  First-time director Amy Heckerling said she was seeking to make a comedy that was less structured than conventional ones, and more like "American Graffiti" so that "if you woke up and found yourself living in the movie, you'd be happy. I wanted that kind of feel."

19.  A scene where Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) was full frontal nude was originally in the movie, but had to be cut due to getting an X rating. It was either that or the 'carrot scene' had to go, and Romanus was happy for that.

20.  CAMEO:  Nancy Wilson: wife of writer Cameron Crowe and Heart band member appears as the woman in the car beside Brad's, laughing at his pirate costume.

And now you know.

Here are some other pictures from the hit movie...

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