Foley: Get into your fatigues, Mayo. By the end of this weekend, you'll quit.
A young man has signed up for Navy Officer Candidate School. His name is Zack Mayo, a "Navy brat" who, in part because of his upbringing, has an attitude problem. It's bad and teeters on the selfish side. When he comes across GySgt. Foley, Zack will find that Foley is a force to be reckoned with. Foley puts up with absolutely no nonsense whatsoever. The Navy needs respectable, tough officers, not irresponsible, rebellious ones. During his grueling training, Zack meets Paula, a girl who falls in line with what the rest of her family does: work at the local factory. Paula has a way of getting into Zack's head, as well as his heart. Now Zack has a decision to make: Leave the NOCS and build a life with Paula, or put his pride aside and become the officer and gentleman he knows he can be.
After making its limited release in the US on July 28, 1982, "An Officer and a Gentleman" went to a wider release a couple of weeks later on August 13. It's interesting to note that during the early 80s, Hollywood seemed to have had a military theme to its big screen projects, giving us such hits as "Taps," "Stripes," "Private Benjamin," and, of course, "An Officer and a Gentleman." The same theme continued on into the mid-80s as well with such Box Office hits as "Heartbreak Ridge," "Full Metal Jacket," and the Oscar-winning "Platoon."
Having only directed one feature film ("The Idol Maker" in 1980), "An Officer and a Gentleman" was the second feature film for director Taylor Hackford who would follow it with "Against All Odds," "White Nights," and the documentary "Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll." For his achievement, Taylor Hackford would be nominated an award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America.
"An Officer and a Gentleman" had a strong and brilliant cast, most of whom had been in various television and motion pictures before. The film starred Richard Gere (Zack), Debra Winger (Paula), David Keith (Sid), and Louis Gossett, Jr. (Sgt. Emil Foley) who would win the Academy Award for his performance. It also co-starred Lisa Blount (Lynette), Lisa Eilbacher (Casey), and Robert Loggia (Byron).
Nominated for 8 Golden Globe awards including Best Actor (Gere), Best Supporting Actor (Keith), Best Actress (Winger), and Best Picture, "An Officer and a Gentleman" won two: Best Supporting Actor (Gossett, Jr.) and Best Original Song for "Up Where We Belong." Later, it would be nominated for 6 Academy Awards, winning two which mirrored the Golden Globes: Best Supporting Actor (Gossett, Jr.) and Best Original Song ("Up Where We Belong"). Oddly enough, Richard Gere was snubbed at the Academy Awards, having not been nominated at all.
Filmed mainly in the western side of Washington in the US at such locations as Bremerton, Commencement Bay, Port Townsend including Fort Warden State Park, the Olympic Peninsula, Tacoma and Seattle, here are some other behind-the-scenes information you might like to know regarding this fantastic film which was the third biggest Box Office hit in 1982...
1. The script languished around Hollywood for almost eight years with no studio willing to finance it. Finally at Paramount, former executive and then Disney CEO Michael Eisner was very much against the film, but relented after much persuasion by producer Don Simpson. The final budget was only a mere $6 million - part of it is due to Navy's refusal to support the production and the skepticism of the studio on whether it will be a commercial success. The film went on to gross over $129.7 million.
2. Following the advice of his agent, John Travolta turned down the role of Zack Mayo.
3. Jeff Bridges was director Taylor Hackford's original choice for the lead role in "An Officer and a Gentleman," but he had to turn it down due to a busy schedule. However, Hackford would get to work with Jeff Bridges in his next film, "Against All Odds."
4. Dennis Quaid was considered for the role of Zack Mayo. Kurt Russell also turned down the lead role. Believe it or not, John Denver was considered, but turned it down, saying it read like a "50's movie." Later, Eric Roberts was seriously considered for the lead, but his manager, Bill Treusch, attended the meetings between Eric and director, Taylor Hackford , which led Hackford to finally have reservations that Treusch would not allow for a vital director/actor relationship to develop between Taylor and Eric.
5. Meg Ryan was considered for the role of Paula Pokrifki. Kristy McNichol and Brooke Shields were also offered the role of, but both turned it down.
6. According to "High Concept", Charles Fleming's biography of producer Don Simpson, the producer was alleged to have said to the auditioning Debra Winger, "There may be somebody else for this part. I need somebody f**kable. You're not f**kable enough."
7. Debra Winger negotiated her own contract (no agent) before she had seen the revised script and was not happy when she found out that she would be doing a nude scene. She asked to be covered up for the scene, but was told that since she hadn't thought to ask for a "no nudity" clause in her contract, she would have to do the scene as written.
8. In the original script, Mayo's Dad, played by Robert Loggia in the film visited his son during training and had a much bigger role.
9. Casting the Sgt. Foley role was very difficult. First, none of the A-list actors approached for the part (including Jack Nicholson) were interested. Second, Mandy Patinkin gave an audition that the producers loved, but director Taylor Hackford nixed their plan to cast Patinkin because he felt the actor was "too ethnic" to play a drill sergeant. Finally, the producers did research in Pensacola, Florida and learned that all of the top drill sergeants there were African-Americans; this led to Louis Gossett Jr.'s being cast for the role that would win him an Academy Award.
10. Former Marine drill instructor turned actor R. Lee Ermey coached Louis Gossett Jr. for his role as Sgt. Foley. Ermey would later play a tough and profane drill sergeant himself in "Full Metal Jacket." Ironically, he was initially hired as a coach for that movie as well, before landing the role.
11. Director Taylor Hackford purposely kept Louis Gossett Jr. living in separate quarters from the rest of the movie's cast to further his character's intimidating presence as a drill sergeant.
12. At the beginning of the movie, when a young Zack was mugged by a group of young Filipinos, their lines actually meant, "Gut the son of a bitch," and then, "How much did we get? How much?" A Sidenote: This was the first and only feature film for Tommy Petersen, the boy who played Young Zack. He was in two television productions before the film, one after, and then was evidently done with Hollywood.
13. Richard Gere rides a 750cc Triumph T140E Bonneville introduced halfway in the 1978 selling season. Two T140E Bonnevilles were supplied by Dewey's Cycle Shop in Seattle, Washington. One had Receipt no.16787 dated April 8, 1981 as sold to Paramount Pictures.
14. Actress Lisa Eilbacher said the hardest part about doing her obstacle course scenes was pretending she was out of shape.
15. The motel scenes were filmed at the Tides Motel in Port Townsend, Washington. The room they used still has a wooden plaque on the door commemorating its use in the movie.
16. Producer Don Simpson unsuccessfully demanded that the ballad "Up Where We Belong" be cut from the film, saying, "The song is no good. It isn't a hit." The song later became the #1 song on the Billboard chart and won the Academy Award for Best Song. He wanted a similar song called "On The Wings Of Love" by Jeffrey Osborne. The song was released a few months later. It peaked at #29 on the Billboard charts. (Someone obviously didn't know a future big hit when he heard it.)
17. Louis Gossett Jr.'s Best Supporting Actor Academy Award win was the first ever Oscar in that category won by an African-American and the first for an African-American in any acting category since Sidney Poitier Best Actor Oscar for "Lilies of the Field."
18. Richard Gere said to Barbara Walters he did the movie strictly for the money. It wound up being his biggest box office hit until "Pretty Woman."
And now you know.
"An Officer and a Gentleman" touched on various levels: humor, wit, the price of pride and rebellion, tumultuous love affair, the human and American spirit, courage, and love. Though released over 30 years ago as of this date, it stills speaks to the hearts of all people everywhere in some way or another.
Enjoy these picture still from the film...
Mayo: I'll never forget you.
Foley: Get the hell out of here.