Friday, May 31, 2013

Airplane! (1980)

Q: What's slower than a speeding bullet, and able to hit tall buildings at a single bound?
A: Airplane!

Ted Striker has a dilemma: Though they've been separated, he still has a craving for the love of his life, Elaine.  So much so, in fact, that he insists on following her onto a plane on which she works as a stewardess.  That ends up being a bit of a mistake because not only has he had a bad experience on a plane, but passengers are getting sick from food poisoning including the crew... which includes the captain!

In what is still considered one of the best film comedies of all time, "Airplane!"'s cast includes such stars as Robert Hays (Ted Stryker), Julie Hagerty (Elaine), Leslie Nielsen (Dr. Rumack), Robert Stack (Rex Kramer), Peter Graves (Captain Clarence Oveur), Lloyd Bridges (Steve McCroskey), Stephen Stucker (Johnny), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Roger Murdock), Lorna Patterson (Randy), and Otto (Himself).  Other cameos consist of Barbara Billingsley (Jive Lady), Ethel Merman (Lieutenant Hurwitz), and Windy (Horse in the bed).

It boggles the mind and is hard to believe, but "Airplane!" was directed by three people: Jim Abrahams (this being his directorial debut), and David and Jerry Zucker.  All three of them wrote the screenplay as well.  Nominated for six awards including a BAFTA award for Best Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Picture in the Musical/Comedy category, it did win a Writers Guild of America (Screen) award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium and an award landing itself in the National Film Registry from the National Film Preservation Board.

Still, probably the most rewarding trophies it has ever achieved and continues to achieve to this day are the hurting stomaches of people of all ages all over the world which ache because they've laughed so much during this film.

Having been budgeted and estimated $3.5 million to make, "Airplane!" made its premiere on July 2, 1980 and went on to rake in a phenomenal gross of more than $83.4 million.  It did so well, in fact, that the first two days of the film's gross covered its entire production budget.

Here are some more fun tidbits of behind-the-scenes trivia for you to enjoy...

1.  The film was specially geared to spoof the "Airport" series, but chiefly spoofs "Airport 1975," where Karen Black is a stewardess forced to pilot a plane after both pilots are incapacitated, Linda Blair is a girl needing a kidney transplant, and Helen Reddy plays a singing nun.

2.  The first draft for the movie was written in 1974. Even then, Robert Stack was first choice for the part of Rex Kramer.

3.  The character "Dr. Rumack" was named after a neighbor of the Zuckers', Dr. Barry Rumack, who is now a noted toxicology expert.   

4.  Universal threatened to sue when they found out that the directors were trying to get Helen Reddy to repeat her role as the singing nun from "Airport 1975." George Kennedy from the original Airport movies was also being courted for the film but thought better of running afoul of Universal.

5.  To get the film green-lighted by Paramount, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker pitched it as "'Animal House' on a plane" - which, of course, was far from the truth, but the only way they could get the studio execs to understand it was a zany comedy.

6.  The three directors had a full-on fight on their hands with the Directors' Guild who initially refused to allow for a three director credit.

7.  The entire production took just over a month. Robert Hays was doing the television show "Angie" at the same time.

8.  David Letterman screen-tested for the role of Ted Striker.

9.  Singer/songwriter Barry Manilow was considered for the role of Ted Stryker before Robert Hays was hired.   

10.  Film debut of Julie Hagerty.

11.  The doctor role was Leslie Nielsen's first comedic part. He later said he was delighted to get the offer, fearing that he was getting too old for anything but "elderly grandfather" parts.   

12.  According to his autobiography, Christopher Lee turned down the role of Dr Rumack.

13.  In a 2008 interview on the Today Show, Peter Graves said he was initially insulted and offended by the script for "Airplane!", but was convinced by friends and colleagues to do the movie.  In that same interview on the same show, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told the story of being on a European flight and asked to sit in an empty seat in the cockpit during takeoff so the crew could say they flew with Roger Murdoch.

14.  Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker chose actors such as Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film, these actors had not done comedy, so their "straight-arrow" personas and line delivery made the satire in the movie all the more poignant and funny. Bridges was initially reluctant to take his role in the movie, but his sons persuaded him to do it.

15.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's role was originally to be played by Pete Rose, but he was playing baseball at the time of the filming, so the part went to Kareem. He was offered $30,000 to appear in the film, but he asked for $35,000 to buy an oriental rug.

16.  The "Jaws" spoof in the beginning of the film was made of layers of cotton on a piece of plywood with a hidden wire track for the airplane to "fly" around.

17.  The argument between the two P.A. voice-overs about an abortion comes from "a cheap, dime-store novel" according to the trivia track of the DVD version. That "novel" is actually Arthur Hailey's "Airport" (which inspired the movie "Airport").  Also...

18.  For the argument between announcers concerning the white and red zones at the airport, the producers hired the same voice artists who had made the real-world announcements at Los Angeles International Airport. At the real airport, the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only, and there's no stopping in the red zone (except for transit buses). They were also married to each other in real life.   

19.  The directors for "Airplane!" made their cameo appearances in it: Jim Abrahams as the second religious zealot who is pushed aside by Rex Kramer upon his arrival in the Chicago Airport terminal.  Jerry Zucker and David Zucker appear as the ground crew at the beginning of the film (they're the ones that direct the plane into the window of the terminal).

20.  For the famous scene of the 747 crashing through the large windows inside the terminal, producer Jon Davidson mentions (in the DVD extras) that after the movie, he received numerous letters from various pilots telling him that they have come very close to re-enacting that very scene in real life, with some pilots admitting that they've come so close as to touch the glass with the noses of their airplanes.   

21.  The Mustang used in the scene where Rex is being brought to the airport was owned by Robert Hays. He got paid $35 a day for its use and they used it for two days.

22.  Most of the jive talk between the two black passengers was improvised by the actors, as the ZAZ team weren't sufficiently "conversant" in black street language.  In the Italian version, the talk between the two black passengers was dubbed in Neapolitan dialect.  In the German version, the talk between the two black passengers was dubbed in heavy Bavarian dialect (with subtitles in standard German).

23.  Stephen Stucker ad-libbed all of his lines as Johnny.

24.  When Captain Oveur asks the young boy if he'd ever seen the inside of a cockpit before, it's not the original line which was ultimately deemed to be too risqué. (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker originally wanted the line to be "Have you ever seen a grown man's c**k?")  (And, no... I don't mean "cook.")

25.  Ethel Merman insisted on bringing her own hairdresser to set.  She could only be on set after noon as it took all morning to set her hair.

26.  "Stayin' Alive" was sped up for the dance scene of the film. Permission from The Bee Gees had to be obtained to speed it up.
27.  Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty rehearsed their "Stayin' Alive" dance routine for a month before filming it.   
28.  Despite featuring a spoof of the beach scene of "From Here to Eternity," none of the three directors had actually seen the original film.
29.  In the scene where the husband turns on the air for his sick wife, you see in the background a man wearing a large beard, it was supposed to fly off in the wind, but the adhesive they used wouldn't let the beard come loose. The man can be seen moving his face back and forth and scrunching his face trying to help it come off.
30.  A disco station in the film is called WZAZ, a reference to filmmakers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. The same initials appear on one of the microphones in the scene with the reporters in the control tower.
31.  In their own languages, the Italian title of the movie is "The Craziest Plane In The World."  The film's title in Argentina was "And where is the pilot?"  The film's title in Germany was "The Incredible Trip in a Crazy Airplane."  The title in Brazil is "Tighten your seat belts... The pilot is gone!"  In Spain the title was "Land As You Can."  In Norway, the title of this movie is "Help! We're flying!"  The French title of the movie translates to "Is there a pilot on the plane?"  And the Polish title of the movie is "Is the pilot flying with us?"
32.  Co-writer/director David Zucker said that years after the movie's release, Woody Allen came up to him at a New York Knicks game and told Zucker how much he loved the movie. Zucker said that, since he and the movie's other writer-directors were heavily influenced by Allen's early comedies, Zucker was very touched.
33.  The directing trio passed on the opportunity of making "Airplane II: The Sequel" as they felt that they'd exhausted every airport gag with this film.
34.  Three serious actors who made their comedy debuts in this movie - Peter Graves, Barbara Billingsley and Leslie Nielsen - all died in 2010, the film's 30th anniversary year.
35.  Otto, the automatic pilot, ultimately disintegrated after spending several years in Jerry Zucker's garage. (May he/it Rest In Peace.)

36.  Final film of Ethel Merman.  (May she Rest In Peace, too.)
Without further hestitance, enjoy some of these pictures from the film that remind us of the hilarious moments throughout...

Reporter: What kind of plane is it? Johnny: Oh, it's a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol.

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Watts is a teenage tomboy who loves to play the drums.  She's quite good at it.  What she's not quite good at is being open about her feelings for her best friend, Keith, which run deep.  When Keith gets a date with the most popular girl in school, Watts' friendship with him begins to get shaky and runs the risk of ending.  The popular girl, Amanda, however, has a former boyfriend, Hardy, who is from the rich side of town and is unable to let her go.  Revenge is on Hardy's mind and Watts must decide what to do.

Directed by Howard Deutch who had previously directed the 80s hit, "Pretty in Pink," "Some Kind of Wonderful" made its premiere on February 27, 1987.  However, it would come shy to doing half as good at the box office having only grossed a little over $18.5 million. 

Why didn't this film do better at the box office than it did?  Was it the story?  The screenplay was written by John Hughes who had written the storylines for such successful films as "Vacation," "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," so certainly it couldn't have been that.  Was it drowned out by other competition?  Popular films that came out earlier that month were "Light of Day" starring Michael J. Fox, "Mannequin" which starred Andrew McCarthy, "Over the Top" with the action star Sylvester Stallone, and quite possibly "Sister, Sister" with Eric Stoltz (who would also be in "Some Kind of Wonderful") or "A Tiger's Tale" starring Ann Margaret and C. Thomas Howell.  "A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" opened at the box office on the same day as "Some Kind of Wonderful," so perhaps that might have been it.  People tend to be suckers for sequels, after all, and it did gross over $44.7 million.

It wasn't like "Some Kind of Wonderful" didn't have an untalented cast.  Eric Stoltz had been in "Mask" for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award, Mary Stuart Masterson had been in seven other films and television productions, and Lea Thompson (who would win the Best Young Artist award at the Young Artist Awards ceremony for this film) starred in such mega-hits as "Jaws 3-D," "All the Right Moves," "Red Dawn" and "Back to the Future."

Perhaps the film would have been more of a success if it had a better soundtrack; "Miss Amanda Jones" by the Rolling Stones and "Catch Me Fall" by Billy Idol weren't exactly huge hits.  In fact, they were forgetable.  As far as the song "Pretty In Pink" by the Psychadelic Furs goes, well... we'd already heard it.

In my opinion, what kept the film alive is that it had a decent story, viewers could relate to the character wardrobe and style, and the soundtrack, though less than stellar, was okay throughout.  Mary Stuart Masterson, on the other hand... I'm guessing people really enjoyed seeing her rock out whilst playing the drums.  With the exception of the Go-Go's music videos on MTV, we hadn't really seen that before.

All that aside, here are some behind-the-scenes information you might find amusing....

1.  Martha Coolidge (who had directed "Valley Girl," "Joy of Sex," and "Real Genius") was originally signed to direct the film but left shortly before production began and was replaced by Howard Deutch.

2.  When Martha Coolidge was hired to direct, she cast 'Kim Delaney' as Amanda Jones and Kyle MacLachlan as Hardy Jenns. When Coolidge dropped out before filming was to begin and Howard Deutch replaced her, he replaced Delaney with Lea Thompson (after Eric Stoltz suggested her for the role) and replaced MacLachlan with Craig Sheffer.

3.  The role of Keith Nelson was written with Eric Stoltz in mind.
4.  Before this movie was filmed, Eric Stoltz had been the original choice to play Marty McFly in "Back to the Future," and he had even shot five weeks' worth of footage as Marty before he was replaced by Michael J. Fox.  Lea Thompson, who plays one of Stoltz's love interests in "Some Kind of Wonderful," played his would-be character's mother in "Back to the Future."
5.  Molly Ringwald was offered the role of Watts but refused it, ending her successful relationship with John Hughes.
6.  Lea Thompson originally turned down the lead when she was approached by Howard Deutch. She then accepted the role after "Howard the Duck" flopped, and Howard Deutch again asked her to play the role of Amanda Jones.
7.  This film marks the feature film debut of Candace Cameron Bure (she played the role of Cindy Nelson and would continue being in various television movies and program series up to this present day).
8.  The three main characters have names relating to The Rolling Stones: Amanda Jones, named after a song of the same name (which is played in the film); a drummer called Watts (Charlie Watts) and a character called Keith (Keith Richards).
9.  The car that Watts drives in the movie is a very dilapidated mini cooper modified for driving in America. Between 1960 and 1967 only 10,000 were sold in the U.S. and then discontinued. Although they are very popular now, they were quite alien and unknown to most of the American public in 1987.
10.  Most of the extras in the film that play the "bad kids" in the detention scene and around campus weren't thugs at all. They were football players from the various high schools in the area. They were chosen mostly because they could tower over the actors and look menacing.
11.  In an earlier version of the script, Keith proposes to Susan (Watts' first name) at the end (August 1986 script).

12.  Howard Deutch and Lea Thompson fell in love while filming this film and they are now married (they've been married since 1989 and have two children).

And now you know.

Take a look at some pictures from this film of which is still considered a cult-classic to this day...

Watts: Because I'm driving you crazy and you're driving me crazy and I'd rather not see you and have you think good things about me than have you see me and hate me. 'Cause I can't afford to have you hate me, Keith. The only things I care about in this goddamn life are me and my drums and you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Less Than Zero (1987)

In Beverly Hills, you can have anything your heart desires. You just can't have it the way it used to be.

Three friends -- Clay, his girlfriend Blair, and Julian -- have just graduated from high school located in posh Beverly Hills, California.  As is the case in most post-graduation situations, their lives go in different directions and seem to stay that way because of something that happened.  Clay, now a college freshman in New Hampshire, comes home for Christmas vacation and finds that Blair is now involved with his now ex-best-friend, Julian, who is not only using a lot of drugs, but is extremely deep in debt.

Premiering November 6, 1987, "Less Than Zero" wasn't the usual campy and cheeky teen 80s movie.  It dealt with relationships and drug problems.  Having already had a long and successful run at directing episodes for TV programs, this film was only the second for mostly unknown Marek Kanievska (his first being the "Another Country" starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth).

Very loosely based on the novel written by Bret Easton Ellis, "Less Than Zero" wasn't nominated for any awards and it only grossed a little over $12.3 million at the theaters.  The theme of the film wasn't what people wanted to go watch: People were okay with the drug and party scene, they already knew the consequences of overdoing it, and it was a part of everyday life.  Perhaps the reason it drew a certain attendance was either because of curiosity or its cast.

Andrew McCarthy (Clay) had previously been in such films as "St. Elmo's Fire," "Pretty In Pink," and "Mannequin."  Jami Gertz (Blair) had previously been in "Sixteen Candles," "Quicksilver," and "The Lost Boys."  Robert Downey, Jr. had been in "Weird Science," "Back to School," and "The Pick-Up Artist."  James Spader was in "Pretty In Pink," "Mannequin," and "Baby Boom."

"Less Than Zero" had a message to deliver in that even though friends go their separate ways, there comes a time when they should be there for each other and to help each other, regardless as to what is going on or why or even one's opinion on the matter.  Personally, it's a message I happen to support and believe in.

Here's some behind-the-scenes information regarding the film...

1.  Keanu Reeves was originally cast as Clay Easton, the role that eventually went to Andrew McCarthy.
2.  Look for a much younger Brad Pitt who was paid $38 for his uncredited appearance.

3.  This is the first film that Robert Downey, Jr. is billed as "Robert Downey, Jr.".  All films previous he was billed as simply "Robert Downey".  

4.  Both "Less Than Zero" and its reported sequel, "Imperial Bedrooms" which was expected in 2012  are aret titles named for Elvis Costello songs and album respectively. "Less Than Zero" is the first single off of "My Aim is True" (1977), and "Imperial Bedroom" is the name of Elvis' 1982 album. 

5.  This is the third film both Andrew McCarthy and James Spader were in together.  The other two were "Pretty In Pink" and "Mannequin."

6.  The soundtrack for this film includes such 80s favorites as "A Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles, "Rock and Roll All Night" by Poison, and "Going Back to Cali" by LL Cool J.

7.  This was the first screenplay written by Harley Peyton.  After "Less Than Zero," he went on to write and produce over 20 episodes for the hit TV show, "Twin Peaks."

8.  Referenced in the film, "17 Again" (2009).

9.  The sequel for "Imperial Bedrooms" was reported to air or be released in 2012, but as of right now (May 2013) it is still in its development stage.

And now you know.

Like Rip (James Spader) said, "This is not recess.  Everyone is accountable."  So hold yourself accountable and watch this cult classic.

Here are some pictures from the film...