Category Archives: 1976

Top 15 Jodie Foster Movies

 

Here’s another fine actress, that transitioned well from child star to great adult actress. A Disney player of the 70’s who managed to make intriguing and emotional role choices over the years and won an Academy award for her efforts. I loved her early Disney movies and respected her choices later on; easily as comfortable in a drama as a thriller or a comedy. Like all of my favorites, she’s versatile and adept at all genres. Here’s a list of my top 15 favorite Jodie Foster films:

15 – Taxi Driver (1976)

Jodie Foster has chosen some gritty roles over the years, not one to shy away from an uncomfortable role by any means. She seemed to do this early on in her career, trying as hard as possible to stretch herself as an actress, beyond her comfort zone. This is one of those roles. It’s interesting to me that she chose to do this role of a teenage prostitute in the midst of her popularity as a Disney star. Dangerous move, but one that ultimately proved to the Industry, at least, that she was an Academy Award caliber actress. I personally drift to her more funny or light-hearted movies, but there certainly is no denying her talent and ability to master any role and genre. This was her first nomination for an Oscar. Tough subject matter.

14 – One Little Indian (1973)

Now this Disney film was pretty neat because it’s the first time that James Garner and Jodie Foster would work together and when they worked together again it was over 20 years later, for Maverick (1994). Pretty typical fare overall, and similar to her other Disney work at this time, she was gearing up to be the star, even then you can see she was something more than a supporting actress.

13 – The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

I put this film on the list because I think it’s pretty scary, although I haven’t seen it in 20 years, it spooked me pretty bad. To be fair, in interviews, Jodie Foster usually refrains from saying which of her films are her least favorites, but she has let it slip that this movie isn’t one she is fond of, explaining, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” It was first top-billed lead role in a major motion picture for Jodie.  1976 was definitely her breakout year, although from the 5 movies she did that year I prefer the Disney film, Freaky Friday, the most.

12 – Inside Man (2006)

Jodie, being fluent in French, dubbed herself in the French version. Jodie filmed her part in three weeks, and it’s a very different part for her, but as always she’s very good. It’s a pretty fun heist movie and my favorite Spike Lee film. Denzel Washington and the cast was allowed to ad-lib at times, he just seemed especially adept at it. The scene in the coffee shop was improvised. On the DVD commentary, Spike states that when Denzel ad-libbed the line, “I’ll bet you can get a cab though,” he nearly ruined the take by laughing really loud.

11 – The Brave One (2007)

Interesting to note, Nicole Kidman was originally cast as Erica. Jodie would be cast when Nicole dropped the project. Jodie also took over Kidman’s role in Panic Room (2002). It was Jodie’s idea for Erica to record sounds of the city for her radio show. Foster walked for miles all around Manhattan with headphones on to prepare for the role. The movie is like the female version of Death Wish, with Jodie playing the Charles Bronson role.

10 – Flight Plan (2005)

Jodie Foster’s role was originally written for Sean Penn. The original character’s name of “Kyle” was even kept. Coincidentally, Penn’s role in The Game (1997) was originally intended for Jodie Foster. A bereaved woman and her daughter are flying home from Berlin to America. At 30,000 feet, the child vanishes, and nobody will admit she was ever on the plane. It’s Lady Vanishes, on a plane!

9 – The Accused (1988)

Probably the most brutal role for any actress ever. What she has to go through to even film this is unfathomable. The movie is based on a real-life gang rape that occurred on 6 March 1983 at Big Dan’s Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The bar lost its liquor license the very next day. Upon seeing a pre-screening of the film, Jodie Foster thought her performance as Sarah Tobias was so awful that she immediately began preparing for and taking the GRE’s for graduate school. She was prepared to leave her film career behind and focus on academia…until she won the Academy Award for her performance.

8 – Stealing Home (1988)Stealing home jodie Foster

This is one of those rare movies that no one seems to know about, but that I love. I tell people about it all the time and convince them to watch it and they usually thank me for it later. Mark Harmon plays a washed-up baseball player who is called back home to handle the ashes of his childhood sweetheart/ first love (Jodie) who had committed suicide. As he searches for what to do with them, he remembers the past and the relationship they had. In doing so he finds himself again. This movie was reportedly based on the real-life experiences of its writers, former Second City troupe members and WKRP in Cincinnati writers Steven Kampmann and William Porter. The two lead actors (Jodie and Mark) never even have a scene together.

7 – Panic Room (2002)

Another one of her great thrillers. This one is top notch, great cast, great crew all around. A divorced woman and her diabetic daughter take refuge in their newly-purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. As I stated earlier, Nicole Kidman was originally cast in the role of Meg Altman. Then, only eighteen days into filming, Kidman had to leave the film as well, due to a recurring knee injury, suffered during the filming of Moulin Rouge! (2001). David Fincher suggested that the studio close the production and collect the insurance, but the studio decided to go on. Jodie Foster was offered the role. She was due to be the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury but withdrew to work with Fincher, with whom she was originally supposed to work on The Game (1997) in the role now played by Sean Penn. Foster had only nine days to prepare for the role. Kidman left a small mark in the film nevertheless, however, as the voice of the girlfriend of Foster’s husband in the movie, heard answering the phone when Foster’s character calls him in a desperate attempt for help.

6 – Sommersby (1993)

An example that she can do it all, this is a great romantic film. A farmer’s wife begins to suspect that the man in her bed is an impostor after he returns home from the Civil War, based on the French film, The Return of Martin Guerre. Steven Reuther, one of the producers behind the project commented about the casting of Gere and Foster: “A lot of people questioned us about this coupling. And it was a gamble, because there are the obvious romantic leading females, and Jodie really is not one of them. Also, I don’t think anyone had ever seen Jodie in a period costume. But once we got her in the period clothes and the hair, it was like, ‘How could there have been a question?’ I think that part of why she was attracted to the character was because it was something she had never done before.”

5 – Candleshoe (1977)

I love this movie, which is kind of an alternate telling of the story of Anastasia but with a treasure hunt mixed in. Helen Hayes and David Niven are just fantastic in it as well as Foster. It’s the last of three theatrical movies that actress Helen Hayes made for the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The earlier films were Herbie Rides Again (1974) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975). Screenwriter David Swift, who in the early 1960s directed Pollyanna (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961) for Walt Disney, developed this project for the company and was set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. Boy, was he wrong, she is really great in this.

4 – Freaky Friday (1976)

The most popular of Jodie’s Walt Disney films, it’s a really fun movie and still holds up today, even with all the period clothes. The only time I can remember Jodie singing for a film, the title song “I’d Like to be You for a Day” is sung by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Both Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris were nominated for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy at the 1977 Golden Globes for this film. Technically, as they also played each other’s characters, they were both nominated for playing the same characters. Jodie Foster said of the film whilst doing press publicity for the picture around the time the movie first launched: “I think it’s important for my career that I make all different kinds of films. I’m proud that I made Freaky Friday. And I thought the idea was terrific. A lot of my friends think it’s my best picture. I really like working for Disney”.  The date of the “Freaky Friday” in the movie’s story-line was a Friday the 13th.

3 – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This is the movie that comes up generally as the best of Jodie’s films, and I do love it, but it’s not my favorite. It is Jodie’s 2nd Academy Award win after The Accused. Anthony Hopkins won as well for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster claims that during the first meeting between Lecter and Starling, Anthony Hopkins’s mocking of her southern accent was improvised on the spot. Foster’s horrified reaction was genuine; she felt personally attacked. She later thanked Hopkins for generating such an honest reaction. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster only share four scenes throughout the course of the film. With 24 minutes and 52 seconds of screen time, Anthony Hopkins’s performance in this movie is the 2nd shortest to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, with David Niven in ‘Separate Tables‘ beating him at 23 minutes and 39 seconds. Clarice Starling was chosen by the American Film Institution as the sixth greatest film hero (out of fifty), the highest ranked female on the list; Hannibal Lecter was chosen as the #1 greatest film villain (also out of fifty).

2 – Maverick (1994)

This film is just really great fun. Not only does Jodie get to work with one of her favorite actors, Mel Gibson, but she was reunited with James Garner again after 20 years when working with him when she was a child. They all have some funny stuff in this. Jodie Foster’s character’s gracelessness in the film stems from the first scene she shot, when she waited for Mel Gibson to help her down from the stagecoach. Instead, he took her parasol and walked away. She tried to get down alone and flopped to the ground. Director Richard Donner liked it so much he kept the shot in the film, and staged more scenes of Foster stumbling, being dumped through windows, etc. In the stagecoach chase sequence, stuntman Mic Rodgers (doubling for Mel Gibson) had to go under the coach and get up at the back. This is a direct nod to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt’s similar stunt in Stagecoach (1939). By coincidence, second-unit director Terry Leonard, a former stuntman himself, performed this same stunt in the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I specifically talk about the stunt in the blog post, http://brothers-ink.com/2015/09/stagecoach-and-zorros-fighting-legion/ and again for the Indiana Jones stunt in the blog post http://brothers-ink.com/2015/12/stunt-team-for-raiders-of-the-lost-ark/

1 – Contact (1997)

This is one of the finest films, in what is a library of marvelous films by director Robert Zemeckis. It’s got one of the most remarkable tracking shots I’ve ever seen for any film. Ask my wife, I have literally watched and rewound this shot a hundred times trying to figure it out. Apparently, I learned later, this impossible shot, the long shot of Ellie as a child running up the stairs to get medicine, was actually filmed as a normal shot would have been and then flipped and placed in the mirror which, at the time of shooting was a blue screen placement in the cabinet. Any way you look at it, it’s a thing of beauty. Sorry, back to Jodie…Jodie Foster was interested in this movie as early as 1995. After initially deciding to drop out, her interest was resparked by a new revision of the script. Her character, Ellie is based partly on real radio astronomy pioneers and extra-terrestrial intelligence researchers. There’s also some Carl Sagan in her. He wanted a female hero to inspire girls to pursue science. Jodie really connected with that, being an academic herself. So much so that in 2011, Jodie was part of a group of private donors that saved SETI’s telescope array in California.

Stuntman Spotlight: Allan Graf

 

Often called “Coach” by his crew on any given set, because he works on so many sports films coordinating stunts or second unit direction. After playing football with USC during their remarkable undefeated season in 1972 and then briefly for the Los Angeles Rams in the early 70’s, he got his start in the movies as a stuntman on the Walt Disney sports film, Gus (1976) doubling Dick Butkis and he never looked back. For the next 40 years he moved from stuntman to stunt coordinator and then to second unit director on some of Hollywood’s biggest films.allan-graf-red-heat

You may recognize Allan as he often casts himself in roles for realism and safety when he coordinates stunts on a film or is the 2nd Unit Director. A great example of this is during Walter Hill’s Another 48 Hours (1990) with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, where he was the stunt coordinator and he cast himself as the bus driver in the incredible bus flip. He performs a “cannon-roll” using the prison bus at speed, lifting the bus 17 feet (5.2 m) in the air with dynamite, and rolling it down the highway for 285 feet (87 m). Very cool stunt indeed, here’s the clip, judge for yourself:

For a successful football player to organize and coordinate some of the biggest football movies over the past 40 years makes sense. Like Necessary Roughness (1991), The Program (1993), Jerry Maquire (1996), The Waterboy (1998), Any Given Sunday (1999), The Replacements (2000), Friday Night Lights (2004), Gridiron Gang (2006), The Express (2008) and When the Game Stands Tall (2014).

Here’s his football reel I found on IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/video/demo_reel/vi3445660697

But what is equally impressive is his list of stunts, stunt coordinator and/or 2nd unit director work he’s done on such non-sports related movies, which includes: The Cannonball Run (1981), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Wayne’s World (1992), Broken Arrow (1996), Independence Day (1996), We Were Soldiers (2002),  Due Date (2010), The Hangover II (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and The House (2017) which comes out next year with Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. And that’s just to name a few, trust me this guy’s a machine!

Here’s his full reel, I found on YouTube:

allan-graf-deadwood

Top 15 Gene Wilder Movies

 

Many of us were shocked to hear of Gene Wilder’s death this week due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, and so it’s given us a chance to pause and think about this great actor and comedian. It was interesting to me listen to a recent interview of his and he said that he really didn’t consider himself to be a comedian as he didn’t find himself to be very funny. That may be true, but to us, he was hilarious. Here is my list of his top 15 movies, let’s see if your list would be similar to mine:

15.  Thursday’s Game (1974)Thursday's Game

This would be a banner year for Gene Wilder as 3 of the movies on this list were released in 1974. 2 of them would be considered to be “classics” to most people. Classify this one as a forgotten little gem. Thursday’s Game was released as a TV movie and starred Gene with a great cast of comedians with Bob Newhart, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Nancy Walker, Valerie Harper, Norman Fell, Rob Reiner and Martha Scott. The movie is about two guys who’ve been going to a Thursday night poker game for years, when suddenly a disagreement breaks up the game. The two guys then decide to keep getting together every Thursday night doing different things, under the pretense that the game is still going on. When the wives find out they are upset and wondering what they’ve been doing all that time. The budget for this film was so tight that the wardrobe department was practically non-existent. According to Gene Wilder, he and co-star Bob Newhart had to make do with their actual clothes.

14.  The Producers (1967)Producers

We mention the Producers in another blog, CLICK HERE TO READ THAT BLOG POST.  Mel Brooks is almost synonymous with Gene Wilder as they made 3 movies together. These 3 are almost always mentioned as their top 3 movies respectively.  That wasn’t always the case, as the Producers flopped initially but found new life when Mel made it into a smash hit on Broadway. Now, of course, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were great in this but, Kenneth Mars is also really fantastic in this as well. I talk about him in a blog CLICK HERE.

13.  Haunted Honeymoon (1986)haunted-honeymoon

I find Dom Deluise to be hilarious, but put him in drag and he’s drop dead funny. Gene and Dom appeared in 4 movies together. Now, if you don’t know already, Gene Wilder was a wonderful writer and director in his own right and this is one of the films he wrote and directed. It also stars his then wife and comedian Gilda Radner. This is a notable entry also because it was Gilda’s last movie before she died of cancer. It did not do well at the box office, but I like it because of the 3 actors and I especially like the scenes from the radio show.

12.  Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes-smarter-brother

Gene reunites with Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman in this gem that he also wrote and directed after they did Young Frankenstein. Favorites of mine, Dom Deluise, Leo McKern and Roy Kinnear round out the cast! Originally, Gene tried to get Mel Brooks to direct this film as well, after they did Young Frankenstein, but he declined and convinced Gene that he could direct it himself. Gen would go on to direct 4 movies and 1 segment of a 5th one. This one is my favorite of all the films he directed.

11.  Death of a Salesman (1966)deathofasalesman

Up until Gene did the made-for-tv version of Death of a Salesman in 1966, he only had acted in a handful of TV shows. It was this film that ultimately put him on the path of stardom. This movie was relatively forgotten over time but had some very strong performances and included some very fine actors with Lee J. Cobb leading the cast. In his autobiography “Timebends”, Arthur Miller says that Lee J. Cobb was his favorite Willy Loman. The original Broadway production of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller opened at the Morosco Theater on February 10, 1949, ran for 742 performances and won the 1949 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. Lee J. Cobb recreated his stage role 17 years later in this television production.

10.  Murder in a Small Town (1999)murder in a small town

Gene Wilder would write 8 movies over his career and a segment of a 9th one. This is the 2nd to the last one he would write and was 1 of 2 mysteries featuring his Cash Carter character for A&E. I enjoy a good mystery and for some reason I really like it when my mysteries are a little understated as these two mysteries are. This one is about a widowed theatre director who moves to a small Connecticut town where he gets involved in solving the murder of a millionaire, who was the most despised man in town. Gene is very good in this.

9.  Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)start the revolution without me

When 1 Gene Wilder is not enough, we get two! This one has Gene and Donald Sutherland playing two mismatched sets of identical twins – one aristocrat, one peasant – who mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution. Gene Wilder originally wanted Charles Grodin to play the part of Charles/Pierre, but Grodin declined, having committed to directing the original Broadway production of Lovers and Other Strangers, which would have been really fun to see, but Donald does a great job. Gene liked this film especially because he got to fence. Gene was already adept with a sword from his days on his college fencing team.

8.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967)bonnie-clyde-gene-laughing

In less than a year after his appearance in Death of a Salesman, Gene would be cast in 2 films Bonnie and Clyde and The Producers. He would never look back. In Bonnie and Clyde, he got to work with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle and Michael J. Pollard. This was technically his theatrical feature film debut. Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder would later appear together in Young Frankenstein (1974). Hackman had a small, uncredited cameo as the blind hermit while Wilder portrayed the title character.

7.  Stir Crazy (1980)

We talk about the greatest comedy teams of all time in a previous blog post, CLICK HERE TO VIEW THAT BLOG…but definitely one of the best comedy teams of all time would have to be Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. They hit the list with 3 of their collaborations…almost 4, more on that in a sec…Stir-Crazy

Sidney Poitier directed this movie, and enjoyed working with Gene and Richard, even though Richard was sometimes difficult to work with on this production due to his frequent drug use. When they clicked, they were quite funny.  Sidney would let them improvise during scenes for the movie. This is one of the four movies Pryor and Wilder teamed together, and was the most successful of the four at the box-office. There was no doubting their second match-up was an all-around success. “Our instincts seem to coalesce. The difference, this time, is that ‘Stir Crazy’ is an out-and-out comedy while Silver Streak (1976) was a mixture of mystery, adventure and romance”. Pryor interjected: “You might say that our Pryor picture was a ball but this one is Wilder”. Wilder responded: “You might,” needles Wilder, “But you’ll say anything”.

6.  Blazing Saddles (1974)

Full shot of Cleavon Little as Bart offering whiskey bottle for Gene Wilder as Jim, both seated in sheriff's office. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Here’s the almost in that last paragraph…believe it or not, Richard Pryor was set to play the role that eventually went to Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles. Richard Pryor even wrote some of the script with Mel Brooks. Although, Gene Wilder was not the original choice for his role either. They had cast and went into production with Gig Young, but he was coming off of alcohol and couldn’t function properly and Mel had to call upon his friend Gene to fly out last second to fill in, as a personal favor to him. One of the best comedy pairings of all time almost happened, two years before they finally appeared together in Silver Streak.

5.  Young Frankenstein (1974)young frankenstein

First film written by Gene Wilder and the only film directed by Mel Brooks, that Mel didn’t write. He didn’t direct anything he didn’t also write, but Gene talked him into directing as a personal favor to him. According to Mel Brooks (in the commentary for Spaceballs (1987)) when Gene Wilder came on to Blazing Saddles at the last minute as a favor to Mel, he requested that Mel Brooks do “his” movie idea next; that movie turned out to be this film. It was a perfect match. Gene Wilder has stated that this is his favorite of all the films he’s made. The cast and especially Mel Brooks had so much fun and were so upset when principal photography was almost completed, that Mel added scenes to continue shooting.

4.  See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)See no evil hear no evil

I forgot Kevin Spacey was in this with Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Joan Severance. Gene Wilder almost wasn’t in this movie. Per his autobiography, he turned the script down twice (due to its treatment of the deaf and the blind). He intended to do the same when offered it a third time, but his agent talked him into meeting with TriStar (the studio behind the film). The TriStar people asked Gene to re-write the script for himself and Richard Pryor, which he agreed to do…and the rest is history. Gene Wilder went to the NY League for the Hard of Hearing to study for his role. There he was assigned to speech pathologist Karen Webb, who would ultimately become his fourth wife. They were married 25 years, up until his death. With its dead body murder plot and villainous crime characters, the movie returned director Arthur Hiller and stars Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor to the suspense-adventure-comedy genre that had made their earlier picture Silver Streak a success around thirteen years earlier.

3.  Frisco Kid (1979)The_Frisco_Kid

Now this one is probably the biggest surprise on the list, but it’s just so under-appreciated! Not only is Gene Wilder pitch-perfect in this film as a Jewish Rabbi, Harrison Ford plays an old school cowboy like he was born to it. I just love this movie. In his autobiography, Gene Wilder says that John Wayne was offered the part that was eventually played by Harrison Ford. Wayne loved the role and was eager to work with Wilder. However, an agent tried to offer Wayne less than his usual fee and the legendary actor turned the film down. The sad thing about this movie is that it was a flop when released and has had a very small but devoted following on VHS and DVD…but it’s a wonderful film!

2.  Silver Streak (1976)Silver-Streak

One of five movies where actor Gene Wilder plays a man wrongly accused of committing a crime. The films include Silver Streak (1976), The Frisco Kid (1979), Stir Crazy (1980), Hanky Panky (1982), and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). Actor Gene Wilder loved his part because he could get to do scenes which were fitting of Errol Flynn doing action or Cary Grant being romantic. When meeting Gene Wilder after having seen Silver Streak, Cary Grant asked him if the script had been in anyway inspired by North by Northwest (1959). As Wilder admitted it was correct, Grant then added, “I knew it! Have you noticed that each time you take ordinary people, say, like you and me, then take them in a situation way above their heads, it makes a great thriller?” First of two consecutive comedy thrillers written by Colin Higgins. The second released two years later was Foul Play (1978). Higgins conceived “Silver Streak” in mid 1974 when he was traveling by train from LA to Chicago. We talk about Foul Play in another blog post, CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

On a sad note…Director Arthur Hiller and co-star Gene Wilder died within 12 days of each other.

1  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

This is number 1 for me. It’s his most iconic role and to be honest, one of my favorite films of all time. willy wonka

According to director Mel Stuart’s “Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka”, when Gene Wilder walked in to audition, Stuart knew before he’d even uttered a single word that he had found his Willy Wonka. The audition convinced him even further, so when Wilder finished and left the room, Stuart chased him down the hallway, cut him off at the elevator bank, grabbed his arm and told him “You’re doing this picture, no two ways about it! You are Willy Wonka!” Producer David L. Wolper, however, was furious because he hadn’t yet had the chance to negotiate a fee. After reading the script, Gene Wilder said he would take the role of Willy Wonka under one condition: that he would be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When the director asked why, Gene Wilder replied that having Wonka do this meant that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” The director asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?”, and Gene Wilder said “I’m afraid that’s the truth.” Even Julie Dawn Cole was fooled by the scene in which Willy limps out of his factory to greet the Golden Ticket winners. She mentions in the DVD commentary that she thought that Gene Wilder had injured his leg for real (and that the filming would have to be temporarily halted because of it). This resulted in her being just as stunned by Willy’s somersault as the audience is.

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, got very close to Gene while filming. He later told ABC News, “As a young actor filming ‘Willy Wonka,’ I had the rare privilege of working with Gene who I greatly admired,” he continued. “He became my mentor and personal friend. For that I will always be grateful. So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Eat My Dust, Grand Theft Auto

 

Ron Howard was already a household name when he went to work as a teenager for producer Roger Corman. Roger Corman is famous for knowing how to turn a good idea into a very low budget movie. He concentrated on action, sci-fi and horror aspects and many times mixed them whenever he could. He also had a bargain for actors that worked, “…act in one movie and I’ll let you direct one.” He did this with budding actor-turned-director Ron Howard and both of them got boosts in their careers and we got 2 of the craziest car chase movies ever to be made; Eat My Dust (1976) and Grand Theft Auto (1977).Grand Theft Auto

Charles B. Griffith, the screenwriter, came up with the title of the film when the crew were shooting the car chase at the sand dunes. The crew got covered with sand and dirt so much that Griffith turned to Roger Corman and said “We ought to call this picture ‘Eat My Dust'”. The original title for this film was “The Car.” The movie took 4 weeks to shoot. Ron Howard did all of his scenes in 10 days. A body double drove the car for the rest of the filming. The film was shot for only $300,000. Much of what makes this movie good can be attributed to Charles B. Griffith imaginative script and to the fantastic stunts in the film. Griffith was paid a paltry sum for his work with Roger Corman, but over time became a legend for independent filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino dedicated his film Deathproof (2007) to Griffith, whom he referred to as one of his main influences and called “the father of redneck cinema”. He also is often cited as the father of American black comedy, due to his screenplays for A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and Death Race 2000 (1975).Eat My Dust

Eat My Dust did well at the box office, so Roger Corman gave Ron Howard double the money to direct the next car crash spectacular, Grand Theft Auto, which was still a very low budget for movies, even back then.  Ron Howard asked Roger Corman to hire more extras for the crowd scene at the end of the film. Corman said no because he did not want to go over budget. They also had a very short schedule on this film, for example, the demolition derby sequence was done in a single day. This film also has the added historical value of being the only film that Ron Howard directs and acts in at the same time. He moved permanently behind the camera soon after and never really went back. This film started his wonderful career as a director and went on to make over $15 million at the box office, not including what it did on TV, Video or DVD. A big hit all around for Roger Corman.Grand Theft Auto2

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer

 

A successful screen pairing usually last for 3 or 4 films. Some of the really great pairings did 15 or more films together, but most of these were comedy teams, not just actors who would come together every so often and do a film together.  Actors who did this that come to mind is Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who did 10 movies together and Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who’ve done 4 movies together so far. It’s unheard of that Terence Hill and Bud Spencer performed in 18 films together over their lifetimes! My brother wrote a great post on comedy teams here.bud-Hill

They appeared together in a movie for the first time in 1967 for God Forgives…I Don’t. The movie has many of the elements that made them a popular pairing over the years, being a spaghetti western and having them “buddy” up, but it wasn’t until they were featured in a comedy that they really became popular worldwide.  This is, however, identified as a trilogy, as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer play the same characters Cat Stevens and Hutch Bessy again in Ace High (1968) and Boot Hill (1969) all directed by Guiseppi Colizzi. He would direct them one more time for the 1972 film, All The Way Boys, but it is not a western, but it’s a comedy and is considered a “Trinity” film.bud-terence

You may be wondering what that means…it’s important to note that after awhile all the films they did together would be classified under one word, “Trinity”, to denote that the actors appeared together in a film, but was not necessarily a western. It could have been modern day, or in the past, but was always action, and mostly comedy. It became almost a genre of it’s own, their genre. It refers to their most popular film which came out in 1970, They Call Me Trinity, and really had all of the elements in place by then…comedy, action, fighting, buddy-buddy, some kind of clever con…it was all there. Billed as E.B. Clucher, the movie was directed by Enzo Barboni who has helmed a number of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer comedy collaborations. They are: They Call Me Trinity (1970), Trinity Is STILL My Name! (1971), Go For It! (1983), Crime Busters  (1977) and Double Trouble (1984).budspencerhill

They did the movie Blackie the Pirate (1971) the same year they made the sequel Trinity is Still My Name!. By then the Trinity movie was a huge hit and they went back into production on the new one. While on the set they improvised a bit and started to play with the set and made up a few scenes on the spot.  This would be a technique that Jackie Chan would utilize in many of his movies from the 80’s and 90’s and Hill and Spencer would continue with in their future films. You can see all of these things and how their fight scenes and comedy are used in very similar ways. In 1974 they released, Watch Out, We’re Mad and The Two Missionaries.  Their next film, Crimebusters (1976) was the first movie that my brother and I saw and we loved them instantly. We went home within a short time caught up on all their movies. Little did we know back then that we would eventually work with a star from that movie, David Huddleston in our first film, Reveille and later in our movie, Locker 13.  David Huddleston would also star in Go For It (1983). In 2004, when we first worked with him, he told us he was still very good friends with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.budhilldavid

About this time, Hill and Spencer teamed up with a director also famous for spaghetti westerns to make a few of the modern day – non-western Trinty films. The director was Sergio Corbucci and the films were Trinity: Gambling For High Stakes (Odds and Evens) (1978) and Who Finds a Friend, Finds a Treasure (1981). To make things a little confusing, Sergio’s brother, Bruno Corbucci, also made several movies with Hill and Spencer and directed his last one Miami Cops in 1985. To make the connection between Hill-Spencer and Jackie Chan and “brothers” even closer, the film they made in 1984 Double Trouble and the film Chan made in 1992, Twin Dragons are very similar. They both feature all 3 of the actors playing a set of twins that get mixed up with another twin. One set of twins in both films are even musicians. Now over the years, Bud Spencer and Terence Hill felt a lot like brothers.  In their last film together, they played brothers again in Troublemakers (The Night Before Christmas) in 1984, directed by Terence Hill himself.bud spencer terence hill

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None

 

This original novel by Agatha Christie has become the number 1 mystery novel of all time, selling over 100 million copies. Written first in 1939, it went on to become a smash hit.  It’s no wonder really that it’s had multiple versions and imitations of it on film over the years.

The main plot device of using the 10 figures to showcase each death has changed over time, with good reason. Originally Christie wrote them as well as the title as, “Ten Little Ni**ers” (I can’t even write it, it’s so offensive) and then to “Ten Little Indians” and then changed to “Soldiers”. The title that is retained most commonly at that point is the end of the nursery rhyme, “And Then There Were None“, which I think fits perfectly.And_Then_There_Were_None_1945

Now as for my favorite version of the film, it would still have to be Rene Clair’s version from 1945. Interestingly, enough it’s not based on the book but rather the play by Christie that was written a short time later and has a difference in that the two main protagonists Lombard and Claythorne are innocent and manage to survive the whole affair. In the book they were guilty and die like everyone else. This version is just fantastic, however, with a very strong cast and great dialogue. It’s in the public domain, and so it is difficult to get a hold of a quality copy.nine suspects - Ten Little Indians (1965)

The next version worth noting is the George Pollock version (1965), titled, “Ten Little Indians” and is fantastic in it’s own right.  I have to point out at this time the plot seemed to inspire a lot more films that are fantastic as well, my first being the very well written Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death” (1976).  He added a flair to the proceeding by making all the guests themselves world-famous detectives modeled after a slew of my favorite all time literary characters! Characters modeled after Charlie Chan, Nick and Nora Charles, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple. The works of Earl Derr Biggers, Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett all in one movie is just too good to pass up!Murder+By+Death+Dinner+with+Truman+Capote

Another one that my brother and I just love is the movie made from the board game, “Clue” (1985). The game itself, ironically enough is also inspired by Agatha Christie’s book and originally featured 10 characters as well when it was first created in 1944. Anyway, the movie Clue is great fun and features one of the best comedic casts to ever be gathered for one film. The last one film to note is the most recent, “And Then There Were None” (2015). The most recent one is done by the BBC and is the only one to retain the original ending of killing Lombard and Claythorne.clue-blu-ray-still-550x285

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1970-1979

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1970-1979 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1970 – They Call Me Trinitythey_call_me_trinity_poster_02

The Spaghetti Western and Spaghetti Western Comedies were starting to come into their own and a string of “Trinity” films starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer would arise.  They became worldwide stars and did all their own fighting in their films.  These are great fun!

1971 – The Big Bossbig-boss-lobby

Bruce Lee would become a bonafide sensation after his first film and there really was no one quite like him. He had the skills and a way about him that everyone after him tried to copy.  Martial Arts got it’s very own movie genre after this.

1972 – The Poseidon Adventureposeidon-adventure wallpaper

Another new genre, would be this sub-category inside the action genre, that became the disaster film.  This one has a very good fall into a ballroom skylight done by a non-stuntman at the time, Ernie Orsatti.  He would go on to become a stuntman after this, he found he had a knack for it.

1973 – Live and Let DieLive Boat

James Bond would appear this decade a record 4 times!  This is the first on the list with a speedboat jump over land by Jerry Comeaux of 110 feet, which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

1974 – The Man With The Golden Gunman_with_the_golden_gun_stunt

This one had a great car jump stunt that is a breath-taking, “I can’t believe I saw that” …mathematical stunt devised by Raymond McHenry at Cornell University and performed by Bumps Willard.

1975 – The Man Who Would Be Kingman who would be king

Joe Powell would perform a jump from a rope bridge between two ravines 100 feet into a pile of boxes that would lead legendary Director John Huston to say, ” That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”

1976 – Gatorgator car

This would be the start of a great collaboration between Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds.  Hal Needham would body double Burt in this film and there’s a nifty car flip at the end of the movie with Hal in the truck bed.

1977 – The Spy Who Loved MeSPY-WHO-LOVED-SKI-1

This is a bond film with one of the most extensive pre-credit sequences than all the previous films and right before they go to the opening song and credits, they have a fantastic ski-stunt by Rick Sylvester right off a mountain and then slowly fall until finally has a parachute open. Really great opening.

1978 – HooperHooper3

Hal Needham directed Burt Reynolds this time in a movie inspired by and about stuntmen! Can’t name just one stunt to highlight in this film as it’s just chocked full of them, but if I had to, A. J. Bakunas has a world record breaking jump from a helicopter into an airbag (232 feet!).

1979 – MoonrakerMoonsky7

BJ Worth and Jake Lombard fight over a parachute in this Bond entry and it’s fun to watch.  I would definitely include all the camera men who had to jump and film the sequence which included 88 jumps over all.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Hal Needham and Gator

 

Hal, having been a stuntman for years and for having doubled Burt Reynolds for 18 years had a great rapport with his cast and crew.  He had a stunt coordinator’s abilities and a stunt director’s eye that made for a match made in heaven.  This film’s car chase scenes had the most effect on Hollywood than any other film other than Bullet.gator car

Hal Needham, went on to direct Smokey and the Bandit the very next year, which was 2nd at the box office to Star Wars. All of Hal’s movies were centered around several stunts, and can be seen as the genesis to the Hollywood Blockbuster Tentpole movie which, in general, has a 3 act “stunt” or “action sequence” as its primary structure.  Hal, along with Glenn Wilder and Ronnie Rondell Jr. started the legendary Stunts Unlimited.

Hal mentions in his autobiography, Stuntman, that the boat stunt he performs in this movie breaks a world record. Gator was directed by Burt Reynolds for Levy-Garner-Laven Productions and is a sequel to his film White Lightning.gator (1)

Things to look up ( go to IMDB ):

  • Hal Needham
  • Gator
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Levy-Garner-Laven Productions

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia: Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions was an American film production company based in Beverly Hills, California.

The principals, Jules V. Levy, Arthur Gardner, and Arnold Laven, met while serving in the Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit during World War II. While serving, they decided to form their own production company after the war ended. The three men formed Levy-Gardner-Laven in 1951.

Laven produced both films and television shows, and he directed many popular American television shows, including episodes of The A-TeamCHiPsMannixThe Big ValleyThe Greatest American Hero and Hill Street Blues. Gardner was an actor prior to World War II, but chose to produce after the company was formed. Along with Levy, who was a script supervisor prior to the war, Gardner wrote the story for a 1982 movie called Safari 3000. Levy-Gardner-Laven also produced classic T.V. series for Four Star Productions such as The RiflemanThe Big Valley, and The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, all for ABC.

Levy-Gardner-Laven maintains an office in Beverly Hills, but their last production credit was in 1982.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Burt Reynolds is Gator McKluskey

 

Burt Reynolds played Gator McKluskey in White Lightning (1973) and again in Gator (1976). These are two fantastic films about a moonshine-running King of the Bayou, with high octane, super-charged, double-barreled action, mystery, murder and adventure.  I loved these films and really wished they made more of them.1973-white-lightning-movie-poster

The fun starts with White Lightning, that was supposed to be Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical film, as he spent months on the pre-production, but was eventually replaced with Joseph Sargent, who himself was fired from Buck and the Preacher and replaced by Sidney Poitier the year before.   Joseph would go on to make the very successful The Taking of Pelham One Two Three the year after.  Burt Reynolds met the writer, William W. Norton on Sam Whiskey (which he wrote) and Burt loved the idea of this ex-con character that gets drawn into working with the feds to catch a moonshine ring.

Burt’s good friend, Hal Needham, did the stunts in this movie and would eventually direct Burt in several films including Hooper (a film about a legendary stunt man) and the Smokey and the Bandit films. There was a scary moment in the chase sequence that ends with Gator’s car sailing from a river bank onto a barge that went seriously wrong. The plan was for the car (driven by Hal) to land squarely on the mound of soft earth in the barge, on the take he fell short and landed on the rear of the barge with the rear of the car hanging into the water. Hal was hurt and stunned, Burt watching the scene from behind the camera, dove into the water, swam to the barge and helped pull Hal out of the car. Needham recovered from his injuries and would go on to do the stunts in Gator three years later.gator posters

The film was so successful that Burt decided he wanted to do another film with the character and decided to direct the sequel himself. Up until this point he had only directed one episode of the TV Show, Hawk (which only lasted for 1 season) 10 years before, but managed to get the studio to agree to let him direct the film.  Burt got William to write the sequel and also had Hal doing the stunts again.

Hal Needham’s luck didn’t change on this film as he was hurt again on a stunt at the end of the final chase scene.  The truck that Gator (Hal doubling for Burt) gets thrown from flips over and it broke Hal’s back in the process.  He was a very good stunt man, by all accounts, but this does make sense why he turned to directing in the subsequent years.

Great films, both of them are a lot of fun to watch.  Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Sylvester Stallone: The Ultimate Underdog

 

Sylvester Stallone, American icon, one of the most well-known actors in Hollywood’s history, was once unknown and broke.  He was so broke, that he sold his beloved bull mastiff, Butkus, for $50.  That same dog appeared in Rocky, the movie that launched his career.  How?

Stallone did what all wannabe actors/writers wanted to do and still want to do today; he was able to negotiate the deal of a lifetime and got to star in the first movie he wrote.  He was able to beat out stars the likes of Burt Reynolds (coming off a box-office hit in The Longest Yard) and Ryan O’Neal (coming off an Academy Award nomination for What’s Up, Doc?).  He received $35,000 for writing Rocky, then went back to the guy he sold Butkus to, and bought him back for $3,000!

Oh, about that little-known film, Rocky, there are many accounts of the underdog actor making it big.  Here’s another.  Stallone was working odd-jobs, attempting to keep his dream alive, even with a pregnant wife at home.  He was determined.  He was able to land a highly-coveted meeting with a producing duo that were at the top of their respective games, Irwin Winkler (not Fonzie) and Robert Chartoff.    If you’re scoring at home, their movies have combined to win 12 Oscars and 40 nominations.

He pitched them the story about a Philadelphia club fighter vying for the heavyweight championship of the world.  They loved the ending.  Even when United Artists (one of the hit-making studios of the time) offered him over $250,000 just for the script, he stood his ground.  Nope, “Bob Chartoff and Irwin Winkler promised me I could star in it, and I believe in them.”

Good choice.  Score one for the underdog.