Road Trip movies are some of the most unexpected gems over the past decades, as they usually sneak up on you–but they are definitely at the top of my list as some of the greatest comedies of all time. Here’s my list for the top 15:
15 – Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
A Coen Brother’s classic, you probably wouldn’t think about this being a road movie…but it is. It’s also based on, arguably the biggest literary road trip…Homer’s The Odyssey! Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen claim never to have read “The Odyssey” and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations. The title of this movie didn’t come from the book at all, but rather another movie. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” comes from the title of the movie-within-a-movie in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). John Turturro has called this movie “a hillbilly musical comedy adventure.”
You would probably be surprised to find out that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church had to audition for their roles in the film. You’d be even more surprised to find out that for the scene that Thomas Haden Church read for during the audition, it called for the actor to strip naked, which he did and was later surprised to find out that out of all the actors who auditioned for the same part with the same scene…he was the ONLY one to strip naked. And it got him the role. George Clooney campaigned for the part of Jack, but Alexander Payne thought Clooney was too big a star. However, Clooney got to play the lead in Payne’s next full feature, The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti admitted to faking every bit of wine knowledge, and not understanding why anybody would care about it. He also claims he was shocked that he was cast in a lead role and initially thought it was a practical joke. Paul Giamatti admitted in interviews that he doesn’t like wine.
13 – Kingpin (1996)
The Farrelly brothers bowled a strike with this one. It came out the same year as the Big Lebowski and I have to admit liking this one just a touch better. As is the case with most of his films, Bill Murray ad-libbed virtually every line he spoke. He would read over the script, get the “general” idea, and then discard it. The Farrelly brothers, on the DVD commentary, said that they’re very glad he did because it was funnier. Turned out, Bill was also a very good bowler. Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row in the scene where his character, Ernie McCracken does the same. The crowd’s reaction is genuine and is actually for Murray. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, was a terrible bowler and according to the Farrelly brothers maybe got one or two strikes throughout the filming.
12 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Steve Carell, at the time he was cast for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), was a relative unknown in Hollywood. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film worried that he wasn’t a big enough star and didn’t have much acting experience. However, between the time the film was shot in the summer of 2005 and its release in the summer of 2006, Carell became a huge success as the star of the high-grossing film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) in August 2005 and the leading character of the popular NBC Emmy-winning television series The Office (2005), which premiered in March 2005 and for which Carell won a Golden Globe in 2006 for best lead actor in a comedy television series. In the span of just one year, Carell had become such a star that the producers had gone from protesting his casting to tapping him to do prominent promotion for the film. Bill Murray was the original choice to play Frank. The second choice was Robin Williams. Thomas Haden Church turned down the role of Richard Hoover, a decision he said he later regretted.
11 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
Stanley Kramer, who was known for doing serious films like Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), set out to make this the ultimate comedy film. It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted. When this film was made there were about 100 stunt performers in the US. About 80 of them worked on this film. When the cast first assembled for a meeting with director Stanley Kramer, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. Buddy Hackett was so impressed that he went to Kramer and asked, “What do you need US for?”
The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. For one particular stunt, a billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy. 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne Airport.
10 – Midnight Run (1988)
The boxcar scene where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends, was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin’s famous, “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?” line, he was told by Director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh. The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene, the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids, was shot in New Zealand, because the water was too cold in Arizona. I have to pause here…too cold. In Arizona.
9 – Paper Moon (1973)
I talk about this movie in a post about Madeline Kahn, you can read it here: KAHN Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum O’Neal are both excellent as well as Madeline Kahn, in this. Tatum O’Neal was 10 years old when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this movie, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar in a competitive category. As of 2018, she still holds this record. She was four years younger than her rival nominee, Linda Blair, in The Exorcist (1973). Some Hollywood insiders suspected that Tatum O’Neal’s performance was “manufactured” by Peter Bogdanovich. It was revealed that the director had gone to great lengths, sometimes requiring as many as fifty takes of some of her scenes, in order to capture the “effortless” natural quality for which Tatum was critically praised. Either way, Bogdanovich maintained later that working with the young actress was “one of the most miserable experiences” of his life.
Prior to finalizing casting, Peter Bogdanovich says he met with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal at their Malibu home. When Ryan invited Bogdanovich to start an exercise regimen of running on the beach, Tatum countered he wasn’t the type. When she explained to Bogdanovich she said that because he wouldn’t take his shoes or shirt off, he told Ryan, “She’ll do.” Peter Bogdanovich didn’t think the movie would make much money or would be very successful. He certainly didn’t think Tatum O’Neal would win the Oscar. The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster.
8 – Cannonball Run (1981)
I talk about Cannonball run at length at a post you can read HERE. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) said “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).
7 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
According to director Stephan Elliott, he took the three leads out in drag prior to the beginning of filming. None of them were recognized: Guy Pearce took the opportunity to be outrageously rude, Terence Stamp eventually forgot he was in drag and started hitting on girls, and Hugo Weaving got super-drunk and lay under a table for hours, tapping his finger in time to the music. This last detail was incorporated into the film in the hotel room scene.
Harry and Lloyd are named after the (silent) comedy star Harold Lloyd. The feature film debut for Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. They said years later that the main reason they got the job was that Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) had been directed by someone who had never done a feature film before (Tom Shadyac) and after a positive first meeting with the Farrellys, Carrey decided to give them the job in hopes of replicating that success. According to the Farrelly brothers, Jeff Daniels wasn’t wanted for the film, but Jim Carrey wanted him in it. In order to ensure a no from him, they offered Daniels $50,000 for the role. He accepted without any hesitation nor did he attempt to negotiate, despite insistence from his agent the film would “kill his career.” By 1994, the film was Daniels’ most successful.
5 – It Happened One Night (1934)It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a “clean sweep” of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category. According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for “The Men Who Made the Movies”, “We made the picture really quickly–four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn’t care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be ‘It Happened One Night’.” Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.
4 – Tommy Boy (1995)Rob Lowe played the supporting role of Tommy’s stepbrother and is uncredited. The reason for this is because Rob was contractually obligated to Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) at the time, so he took the part simply as a favor for friend Chris Farley. According to David Spade, he and Chris Farley got into a physical altercation on the set. Spade had gone out for a drink with Rob Lowe the night before. Farley had become very jealous and angrily repeated: “How’s Rob Lowe?”. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs. After the fight, Spade walked off the set and refused to continue filming. The pair would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc.
3 – The Blues Brothers (1980)During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi as “America’s Guest”. John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.
2 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice were improvised. Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds’ description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of “sumbitch”, a colloquial pronunciation of “son of a bitch”. Jackie Gleason said the cafe scene with himself and Burt Reynolds was not in the original story, it was Gleason’s idea. Adding the Junior Justice character was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”
Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stuntman and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention. Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented “East Bound and Down” to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn’t like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: “If you change one note, I’ll kill you!” The song went on to become one of Reed’s biggest hits.
1 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)John Hughes, in an interview on the “Those Aren’t Pillows” DVD, said he was inspired to write the film’s story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes. Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk. John Candy and Steve Martin’s favorite film that they have made. Although John Hughes was in a bad mood throughout the filming, as his life was falling apart, John Candy and Steve Martin had a great time together during production.
May 25th, 2017 – Los Angeles: The film, “Capture The Flag”, about a Navy veteran (Dick Van Dyke) and an Army veteran (Louis Gossett Jr.) fighting over a flagpole in a retirement community recruit a group of ragtag US military vets to wage war against each other in a game that would give the winner the right to raise the flag every morning.
Twin Brothers Donovan and Adam Montierth team up with Producers Barry Van Dyke and Eric J. Adams to adapt the Emmy Award winning short film, “Reveille” into what they call their patriotic “Grumpy Old Men”. The film boasts an impressive ensemble that includes some of Hollywood’s great character actors, such as Barry Corbin, Paul Dooley, John Amos, and Rance Howard.
It feels like a natural progression to try and turn the Emmy Award winning short film, Reveille, into a feature film comedy. The twin brothers behind the veteran tribute are Adam and Donovan Montierth, and their company Brothers’ Ink Productions. The short film has also won awards at over 20 film festivals worldwide, as well as appearing on the Armed Forces Network and the Pentagon Channel. It’s touched a cord with audiences online as it’s become a viral sensation with over 10 million views.
In Capture the Flag, the playful banter, teasing and prank war that escalates into a paintball war game seems to fit the rivalry between different divisions of the US military well, and the bickering veterans degrading to childish behavior seems real and effective within the confines of their environment. Besides, it’s great fun.
“We felt that this was a movie that could find an audience and that people would connect with the heartfelt, comedic and patriotic tone of the screenplay.” Adam recently said. The twins soon realized that was true when they had the opportunity to have Barry Van Dyke see the short film and from there read the feature film screenplay, the twins were developing. He immediately felt a connection to Reveille and told the brothers that he wanted to help them get the film made.
It was just the spark the Indie film needed. “We’ve always been impressed with Barry and his work, so to have him come back with such a strong reaction helped validate the importance of the project to us.” Donovan goes on to say, “He immediately connected with the fun and heartfelt story.” So much so, that he shared the script with his Father, the legendary actor Dick Van Dyke. And Dick, having served himself in the Army Air Corp for two years from 1944-1945, immediately connected with the story and the characters. To the point where he surprised Barry by asking to play the lead role. Dick told Barry, “These are actor’s dream roles, I would love to play this part.”
Barry recalls that the response has been incredible. Everyone he’s introduced the project to has had a similar reaction. As a result, the team has been able to attach the Brother’s dream cast by adding Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., and legendary character actors such as Barry Corbin, John Amos, Paul Dooley and Rance Howard.
They have been courting some excellent directors for the project, but are keeping their choices under wraps for now. Barry has, however, managed to pick up another Hollywood great by introducing the project to his friend stunt coordinator / second unit director, Allan Graf.
The team behind the production is very passionate about creating a film that realistically but thoughtfully depicts the lives of a handful of war veterans and that would stand as a tribute to all men and women who have ever served under the American flag.
This Memorial Day Weekend, if you would like to know how you can honor our vets and help to bring back the type of family comedy that could be seen on TV during many US patriotic holidays for years to come, please visit www.Film4Vets.com.
For press inquiries, please contact:
Brothers’ Ink Productions
Over the years, I’ve been a big fan of Luc Besson. Not only has he been a fantastic director, but a great writer and producer as well. I can really appreciate that kind of career, he’s got his hands on so many projects. He is amazing at developing interesting projects. Sometimes the ideas are originated by him and then handed off to other filmmakers, sometimes he takes them all the way through till release and he’s never one to turn away a great project that needs him to just produce. Here are my top 15 favorites that he’s had a hand in creating:
OK, Ok, this hasn’t come out yet, but I just know it’s going to hit my list. It’s the original inspiration for Star Wars and The Fifth Element, so I know I’m going to like it. This film is based on a French sci-fi comic book series created in 1967 by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres. Mezieres was also involved in creating visuals for Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.
Many of his best stuff lay in 2 genres; Science Fiction and Action. This one film combines both aspects very well. In an interview on March 8, 2014, Besson said that this project took ten years to become a reality. Also, he admitted that he knew that some scientific assumptions were erroneous, ie; that humans use only ten percent of their brains. Nonetheless, he said that “(such an assumption) would be a great start for a sci-fi movie”. A woman, (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.
Here’s one that Besson wrote but didn’t direct. It was directed by McG. A dying CIA agent (Kevin Costner) trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. The meaning and relevance of the film’s title is that it refers to the estimate number of days that Ethan Renner (Costner) has to complete his mission prior to facing death from terminal brain cancer. Reminds me a great deal of a great film noir movie called DOA (Dead on Arrival) about a man who has been lethally poisoned and has to solve his own murder before he dies.
If you can excuse the main character’s dive out of a spaceship and not burn up on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and sky dive to a city below, then this is a pretty dang good flick. It totally would have made a fantastic “Escape From…number 3″ with Snake Plissken, but only because of Guy Pearce. He’s great. The plot totally reads like a Snake Plissken movie: A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. (Guy Pearce) is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates. Call it Escape From Outer Space. Besson came up with the original idea and even wrote a draft of the screenplay.
Zoe Saldana is great, I did a blog about her a while back called Zoe Saldana Takes Over the World. Here’s a starring vehicle with her as an assassin, kind of a reoccurring theme with Besson, just look at Leon and Nikita. It’s no wonder as this film was originally supposed to be Leon part 2. The film was based off a script that was set to be a sequel for Leon: The Professional. The story was set to follow Natalie Portman’s character Mathilda as she tracked down and killed characters that had wronged her and Leon. Portman’s success kept her from availability and the script was eventually re-written into Colombiana and cast with Saldana.
In Paris, a young employee (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in the office of the US Ambassador hooks up with an American spy (John Travolta) looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city. John Travolta is the real reason to watch this film, he just crackles with electricity. When Caroline enters James’s apartment you can clearly see the book ‘Nikita’ which was written and directed by Besson, who wrote “From Paris with Love”. This is a spy genre film and it is interesting to note that the title of the earlier film To Paris with Love (1955) is said to have been the inspiration for James Bond creator Ian Fleming for the title of his 1957 James Bond spy novel, From Russia With Love which was later made into the 007 movie.
This is a sequel to one of my all-time-favorite stunt movies, District B13. Follows up with great stunts and action with Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle. For those of you that like the Daredevil series on Netflix, you’ll recognize Elodie Yung (Elektra) in the film. Cyril is a great stunt coordinator and he choreographed all the fight scenes in the movie and David, who invented Parkour, did all of his own stunts, without practice ahead of time. Most of the ones that you see in the film were of him performing the stunt for the first time.
Luc Besson was lucky this project crossed his path. He was one of the Executive Producers on the film and it’s based on a fantastic book by Harlan Corben. Police find two bodies at an old murder scene and evidence to suggest the first victim’s husband is a murderer. The husband receives clues suggesting his deceased wife is actually alive and begins to investigate. This film is definitely worth finding, but it is in English subtitles, as it’s a French-language film. Originally, author Harlan Coben had optioned off his novel to Hollywood, with director Michael Apted attached. During this time, director Guillaume Canet, who had loved the novel, had been calling up Coben with his take on the novel. Coben was immediately impressed with Canet’s passion for the story, and his vision, stating that Canet understood that the novel was a love story first, and a thriller second, which Hollywood never got. When the option with Hollywood fell through, Coben contacted Canet and decided to give him a chance.
In turn-of-the-century Mexico, two very different women (Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz) become a bank-robbing duo in an effort to combat a ruthless enforcer terrorizing their town. This is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who are coming out with Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales later this year. Steve Zahn also plays a character in the film, and it’s good to see Penelope and Steve back together again.
Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin (Jean Reno), after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade. Luc Besson got the idea of doing this movie while working on his previous movie, La Femme Nikita (1990). In that film’s third act, Victor the Cleaner appears to deal with the aftermath of Nikita’s botched mission. Realizing the potential of the character was underused in that movie, Besson decided to create a story that focused on the activities of such a character. Both Victor and Leon appear dressed in a long wool coat, sunglasses and a knit cap. Both are played by Jean Reno. The film’s working title was “The Cleaner”.
The rivalry between Enzo and Jacques, two childhood friends and now world-renowned free divers, becomes a beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. This film was such a hit in France that it played for over a year in theatres. The most financially successful French film of the 1980s. This film was probably the closest to Besson’s own upbringing. “I was never polluted by the world of cinema. I didn’t even have a TV until I was 16. My expression is a reflection of the world I have seen, and in that world everyone was barefoot in bathing suits, following the order of the sea, the natural order of sunrise and sunset. I never went to the cinémathèque. I didn’t know much about the masters of world cinema,” Besson has said.
Convicted felon Nikita (Anne Parillaud), instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin. Luc Besson had Anne Parillaud train extensively with guns so that she would be completely at ease with them. Parillaud took to practicing loading and unloading a fake gun in her car which led to her being pulled over by the police and having their guns drawn on her in traffic one day as they thought her weapon was real.
I wrote about this great stunt film in my blog: David Belle and District B13. Set in the ghettos of Paris in 2010, an undercover cop and ex-thug try to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.
I just love this film, although, I would have to admit that Chris Tucker has ruined it for me over the years. He’s so obnoxious in the film that he virtually makes it impossible to re-watch the film. Other than that, fantastic film. I was so upset after the film was released that no toys followed the film, as I wanted to buy all the action figures after I saw it. They could have really sold a lot of toys if they had this prepped like the Star Wars films. Another film that I loved enough to write a whole blog about; Fifth Element.
1 – Taken (2008)This film proves that Luc Besson has a magic touch. Again, he just wrote and produced this one but was genius when he hired Pierre Morel to direct as he was perfect for the job. It also gave Liam Neeson new life as an action star. Liam Neeson initially expected the film to bomb, but he signed on, in order spend four months in Paris, and learn karate, while playing the kind of role he had rarely been offered in the past. Ironically, not only was the film a massive hit, but created a new on-screen image for Neeson, as an action hero. Liam Neeson performs a good amount of his own stunts. Over the course of the movie, Bryan kills 35 people in order to get to his daughter.
Pat Roach was a great character actor and stunt man, primarily recognizable in a slew of films from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Pat started out in England as a wrestler and because of his huge stature at 6’5″ and over 250lbs he became sought after as an actor for big beefy roles. His first few roles were for Stanley Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon, where he played a bouncer and a brawler, respectively.
Pat’s career would blossom and his roles would get larger and because he was very physical, would do his own stunts over the years. Also, who could they find of his size to body double for him? His most recognizable roles were in the Indiana Jones movies, where he played the airplane mechanic that Indiana gets into a fight with as Marion and Indy try to chase after the Ark of the Covenant, then a giant Thuggee Guard in Temple of Doom and then as Gestapo in the Last Crusade. He unfortunately died of throat cancer in 2004 before he could appear in the last one.
Other memorable roles would come from Clash of the Titans, Never Say Never Again, Conan the Destroyer, Willow, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and then later as the very popular Bomber Busbridge in Great Britain’s ITV-BBC production of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Pat would often continue to wrestle under the “Bomber” name. Eventually, Pat Roach developed throat cancer before the filming of series three began. Although he would appear in series’ three and four, he would undergoing chemotherapy at the same time. In the third series, it’s painfully obvious that Pat was ill, and some scenes of his had to be changed to accommodate his medical condition. Although he felt fit enough to appear in series four, his family were angry at him because of the physical toll it was taking out on his well-being. Pat was too ill to appear in what would be the last Auf Wiedersehen Pet series (“The Specials”) in 2004. He sadly died during filming of that two-hour special. In a touching scene, Dennis reads a letter from Bomber to the rest of the group while they are all dining in a restaurant, where he explains his reasons for not having joined them. The group lift their glasses and drink a toast; “To Bomber!”
Over the years I’ve really enjoyed Val Kilmer and his movies. I find him to be very funny in person, as you can see from any interview he’s ever done or if you’ve ever seen any of his blooper reels…but his acting is top notch too. He’s gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years, but I can appreciate that he acknowledges that he could have been easier to work with at times over the years. He’s mellowed a lot with age and by all accounts a real joy to be around for the most part, engaging, funny and authentic.
Here’s my top 15 movies that feature Val Kilmer:
Great cast, interesting western. Kilmer once said that he would play in a bad western on a great horse any day and this mini-series can live up to that assessment. It’s a Larry McMurtry story, with his characters from the Lonesome Dove series and stars the ever likable Steve Zahn as well as Karl Urban, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Studi, Adam Beach, Linda Cardellini, and Rachel Griffiths. Some of the scenes were filmed on Val Kilmer’s ranch in New Mexico. Val Kilmer’s work with the New Mexico Film Investment Program over the years fueled a nearly 40-fold growth in the state’s annual film production revenue, from $3 million in 2002, up to $117 million in 2006.
This film would probably be in the top 5 on most people’s lists for Val Kilmer, but I’ve never liked it over some of his other movies. Besides, I’m not sure if you would consider, Top Gun to be “his” movie…but he sure is cool in it. Originally, Kilmer did not want to be in this film, but was forced to as he had contractual obligations. However, it became one of his most iconic roles in his career. His humor shines through and his perchance to improv while on the set, when the guys, as students, were first being spoken to by Charlie in the hanger, Maverick explains that he gave “the bird” to a MiG. She asks how he saw the MiG up close, and he says he was flying inverted. Right then, Val Kilmer as Ice coughs “bullsh*t” and the guys laugh. The “bullsh*t” line is ad-libbed. According to co-star Anthony Edwards, “A lot of the humor was discovered at the moment. The script was skeletal.”
Some people don’t like this Batman movie, but I loved it. How can you go wrong with Val Kilmer as Batman and then a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O’Donnell and Drew Barrymore. (most people at this point, go, “Drew Barrymore?”, yep, she’s in there, take a closer look.) Most of Val Kilmer’s bad press comes from this movie as he didn’t get along with director Joel Schumacher that well. I think the moments where he could have been a little more helpful in the filmmaking are blown way out of proportion over the years. He has said later, “I probably complained more when I was younger. The movie industry can be frustrating but I think sometimes I could have been more helpful, approaching a film as a partnership rather than being critical of a director’s ignorance. I wasn’t sensitive to the fact that it’s very hard to direct.”
In this film, there is a huge shootout in the middle of the city between Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer and their crew and Al Pacino and the cops. They had to do a lot of training to be able to shoot the guns realistically. Kilmer was thrilled to learn that the moment in the gun battle scene where he runs out of bullets and rapidly changes his magazine is regularly shown to Marine recruits as an example of how to perform the action properly. Also, in order to prepare the actors for the roles of McCauley’s crew, Michael Mann took Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Robert De Niro to Folsom State Prison to interview actual career criminals. It helped that Danny Trejo, who plays a member of the crew, had in real life been an inmate at Folsom Prison. It’s interesting to note, before Danny Trejo was cast, both Edward Bunker, a writer, and Trejo were hired to be armed robbery consultants, since they both did time for these crimes and knew the ins and outs of performing such crimes. After meeting Trejo and talking with him at length, Michael Mann would later offer him a role in the film.
11 – Mindhunters (2004)
This little gem, directed by Renny Harlin, was caught in a studio’s bankruptcy and held for release up to two years later, even then it was silently released straight to video…but it’s actually a really fun film. Has some really good moments and has Jonny Lee Miller, LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, Clifton Collins Jr, and Eion Bailey in it. It reminds me of an FBI training version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which I love a lot. This one would be on the top of the list of films that were made with her plot device of people dying one by one in a remote place, trying to figure out which one of them is the killer. You can see my blog post on that by clicking here.
10 – At First Sight (1999)
This one has Val Kilmer playing a blind man that regains his sight. His sister is played by Kelly McGillis, his co-star from Top Gun. The cast is excellent with Nathan Lane, Steven Weber, Mira Sorvino, Bruce Davison and Ken Howard. Val Kilmer prepared for his role by studying with a sculptor friend of his in New Mexico who had lost his sight in Vietnam. At 49:30 (NTSC) he is admiring a sculpture when he first visit’s Amy’s flat. Now, if you want to see how good an actor Kilmer is then watch this movie as he’s very good in it. There are a few times when I think he really should have gone up for an Oscar nomination at the very least and this is one of those performances. Other performances where he deserved recognition would be as Doc Holliday in Tombstone and as Jim Morrison in The Doors.
Kilmer’s first movie and it’s flat out hilarious! My brother and I love this movie. He’s so funny in this. It’s done by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker right after they did Airplane and Police Squad…so they were really on a roll. You can thank his casting in this film to Kilmer’s first Broadway acting role in 1983 in a play called Slab Boys which also starred Kevin Bacon, Brian Benben, Sean Penn, and Jackie Earle Haley. Kilmer would sing all of the Nick Rivers songs in the film himself, which would help him later when he decided to do The Doors.
This is based on a true story and is quite a good thriller. It’s about 2 lions that start to hunt and attack construction workers on a railroad track in Africa. The title of the movie is the nicknames for the 2 lions. Michael Douglas’s character Remington is fictionalized for the movie. In real life, Val Kilmer’s character John Patterson killed both lions (both nearly nine feet long). The real Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson published a book about his experiences, titled “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo“, which the movie is based on. The book is still available after nearly 100 years, and well worth reading. Originally, the movie was only to be produced by Michael Douglas, with Kilmer as the lead character, but somewhere in pre-production he insisted on having the Remington character created for him and as filming progressed his part was widened to what is in the film now. He eventually got top billing. Despite having top billing, Douglas still doesn’t appear on screen until 45 minutes into the movie.
This is a really good sci-fi thriller that again seemed to be released straight to video, but is definitely worth finding, if you haven’t seen it. It has another fun cast with Tom Sizemore, Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Terence Stamp and Simon Baker. It didn’t help the release of the film that another Mars movie was in production at the time and often gets confused with it; Mission To Mars. It also didn’t help that the movie’s release date was pushed back twice. The original release date was slated March 31, then it was pushed back to June 16, and again it was pushed back to November 10. Studio officials said it was due to the movie’s extensive, expensive special-effects work.
Now, here’s a movie that my brother and I just love, but if you were to take Val Kilmer out of the movie, then we wouldn’t even like it probably, he’s that good in it. He really stands out and it’s this movie that convinced us that he was going to be a big star. I think the studio knew it too, that why the title seems to refer to him and all the posters feature him by himself, when he isn’t even the main character. The marketing strictly pushed him as the whole film.
The singing that Kilmer does in the film is so close to the real Jim Morrison that even the real band members of the Doors couldn’t tell a version of a song sung by Morrison than that of Kilmer. In one scene during the filming of the movie, Kilmer broke his arm badly when he performed a jump from the stage into the crowd. The stuntman failed to catch him, leaving Kilmer with an abnormal growth on his right elbow. The growth is clearly visible in Heat, when McCauley discovers Shiherlis sleeping in his living room and begins briefing him on their itinerary. Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan were also in Top Gun together. Incidentally Kilmer worked with director Oliver Stone on this film and Tom Cruise worked with Stone on Born on the Fourth of July.
I just like this movie, even though a lot of people who loved the Saint TV show was disappointed with it. Val Kilmer got to use several disguises in the film, which I thought were a lot of fun. Plus it had, Elizabeth Shue…what’s not to like? Fun Fact – the poetry written by Simon Templar’s disguised-long-haired artist character, Thomas Moore, was actually written by Val Kilmer himself. Kilmer decided to do this movie instead of Batman and Robin. It was the first big-screen Saint film since the 1950s. Plans for a Saint film date back to the 1980s, when Pierce Brosnan was reported to be a leading contender for the Templar role in a Saint movie that was to be produced by Roger Moore, the original TV Saint. This project never materialized. The Saint (Simon Templar) over the years has been played by Vincent Price (over the radio), Roger Moore on TV, Louis Hayward, George Sanders, Hugh Sinclair, Felix Marten, Jean Marais, Simon Dutton, and Ian Ogilvy at the movies.
Anyone who wants to see how truly funny and spontaneous Val Kilmer can be should watch the blooper real to this movie. Robert Downey Jr., who is incredibly witty in his own right has a hard time keeping up to the laughs Kilmer produces. Val Kilmer met Robert Downey Jr. for the first time at a Hollywood party. A week later he received the screenplay for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and agreed to do it before he’d even finished reading it. Upon agreeing, and much to his delight, he was informed that Downey Jr had already been cast. As a sign of support to Robert Downey Jr.’s recovery from alcohol and drugs, Val Kilmer refused to drink during the entire production. I’m a big Raymond Chandler fan and I learned that Shane Black read several stories by Raymond Chandler when writing this script. As a result, the story is divided into chapters and the chapter titles come from Chandler works. Specifically: 1. “Trouble is My Business”, 2. “The Lady in the Lake”, 3. “The Little Sister”, 4. “The Simple Art of Murder”, and Epilogue: “Farewell, My Lovely”. The title makes reference to James Bond, Thunderball where a song was produced and recorded for the film called, “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” has since become a slang description of the James Bond-style spy genre. The film’s original title was “You’ll Never Die in This Town Again”. When Harmony is seen on the bus leaving Indiana at age 16, she’s asleep with the Johnny Gossamer book, “You’ll Never Die in This Town Again” in her lap.
Here’s pretty much his only fantasy movie, but it’s a great one. He plays a swordsman Madmartigan, a rogue and a really fun character. He had a real fun time working on this film with George Lucas, Ron Howard and Warwick Davis and met his future wife Joanne Whalley on. His comedy really came into play again on this one, and it’s documented that a lot of his dialogue is improvised.
This movie flat out rocks with a great cast of Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Booth, Charlton Heston, Michael Biehn, Jason Priestley, Dana Delaney, Billy Bob Thornton, Thomas Haden Church and Stephen Lang. Kilmer would go on to say, “I liked being Doc Holliday. It’s fun to be insightful and aristocratic, to stand up for your friend and make sacrifices for him. It was fun to be arrogant like he was and have the goods to back it up. He was a very noble character. Although, let’s not forget, he did kill a lot of people.” Val Kilmer has also been quoted as saying that screenwriter Kevin Jarre insisted the actors wear real wool costumes, in accordance with the time period. In the Birdcage Theater scene, Val Kilmer says, a thermometer was placed on the set, and it read 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Kilmer suggested jokingly that this was the reason Doc Holliday killed so many people: “It’s just, like, he wore wool in the summer, in the Arizona territory, and that made him mad.”
Val Kilmer practiced for a long time on his quick-draw speed, and gave his character a Southern Aristocrat accent. The expression “I’m your huckleberry” spoken by Doc means “I’m the perfect man for the job.” It could indeed be a reference to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, then known as the sidekick of Tom Sawyer before Huck got his own book. The phrase also refers, rather ominously, to the pallbearers who carry a coffin or casket to the actual grave site & specifically the one elected to sit, completely sober, in case the grave bell rings. So saying, “I’m your huckleberry ” could also be a threat like “I’ll put you in your grave.” It’s interesting to me that this would be attributed to Mark Twain as later on Twain would be an inspiration to Kilmer and he would go on to write and star in 2 plays about the writer, and star as Twain himself.
I first met James McEachin when I worked for a marketing firm around 2002, called BookZone. I was an online marketing consultant for authors and publishers and one of my clients, turned out to be James McEachin. At that point, James was a retired actor…but I knew him as an independent author and publisher. He had written the books; Farewell to the Mockingbirds, The Heroin Factor, Pebbles in the Roadway, Say Goodnight to the Boys in Blue, and The Great Canis Lupis. We were helping him with his website and helping him with marketing his books online.
We would have several discussions a month and often found ourselves talking about his acting career. Being a big film buff and at-that-time, wannabe writer and director myself, I was very interested in his acting and writing career. He is most famous for his roles in movies such as Play Misty For Me, Buck and the Preacher, 2010, True Grit, The Undefeated and on TV in Tenafly, the Perry Mason Mysteries, The Rockford Files, First Monday and so, so much more.
I was interested in his Army career as well and at that time, my twin brother and I had decided that we wanted to showcase our abilities in writing and film, by directing and producing the proper short film to do so. But we didn’t want to just do any old film. Our grandfather had died some months before and we were tossing back and forth, an idea of doing some kind of tribute film, for him as an American Veteran. We wrote a script we liked, very short about 3 pages and so I mentioned this to James after we were talking about his service one day and he asked me to send it to him.
I did, and he literally flipped for it. He wanted to play the Army Veteran so badly in our short. I was thrilled. Very quickly after that all the pieces seemed to fall into place and that summer in July in 2004, we set to film what would become our signature film, Reveille, with him and David Huddleston as the Navy Veteran. It was a magical 4 days, even through what would be the hottest days of the year. David and James went home and told us, they didn’t give the project much thought after that.
We finished post on the film and then scheduled a small screening in Los Angeles for David and James. They both loved the film, but afterwards, James said something that proved prophetic later. He said, “I don’t think you know what you have here. This is a really powerful film.” I think he was right. Here we had a short film, a tribute to our grandfather, that we then decided to add a tribute to all people who had served…which was supposed to be a sample of our work. A short film that could establish our abilities, become a calling card to get us hired as filmmakers in Hollywood.
The film became so much more than that. I think James, more than any other person recognized that early on. He asked if he could put the film online…now this was in 2005, before “films” went online. We filmed the short in 35mm and back then they didn’t have digital transfers, or digital was still in it’s infancy. We told him that would be fine. He got the film digitized in low rez, because video still took up a lot of space and he found a place to put it. There was a new thing called Google Video. A pre-cursor to YouTube. He put it up there and it went viral before anyone really knew what viral was.
It took off! It started to get passed around like you wouldn’t believe. Now, Adam and I were still going the traditional route with this little film, in 2005 and 2006 we went to over 30 film festivals with it, submitted it to the Academy Awards…all while online, it was being shared. We found that it became quite the little hotcake…1 Million views, 2 Million views, 3 Million…it would top out the year in 2006 just over 4 Million views. We were flooded with requests to show the film at schools, churches, events, tributes, memorials, to the troops in Iraq, on the American Forces Network, on the Pentagon Channel…we were overwhelmed.
Now, on the side, James McEachin started to represent the film and his character in his own way. He reached back and embraced his military career and started to speak to large groups of people in uniform. He spoke about what it was to be a Veteran, have pride for the service and the flag. He became an inspiration to so many people. He wrote a monologue featuring the “Old Soldier” character and performed that in front of massive audiences all across the country. He released a patriotic CD. He even produced, directed and wrote an unofficial sequel to Reveille that also had David Huddleston reprising his Navy character. James McEachin had a great career in the Army, then as an actor, then as a novelist and now it all came back full circle and he was having his last career as an image of pride.
We salute you, James, and your wonderful service to your country, our little film, and especially to the men and women who all serve under one flag.
Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 2000-2009 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!
The motorcycle stunts in this John Woo Directed film performed by Tom Cruise and the rest of the stuntmen are worth the ticket of admission. Great bike stunts here.
Military precision is on full scale display in this fine film directed by Ridley Scott. The actors went through a serious boot camp to get them ready and to make this as realistic as possible. Very well done.
The first time a successful movie was released with UNTRAINED stuntmen performing all the stunts. Some of them are quite dangerous and most of them just downright silly and stupid. But all of them entertaining.
Stuntman-turned-Actor Tony Jaa sparkles in this fantastic martial arts film. In the past most martial arts films uses wires and then cgi to cover the wires later, but not in this one. Jaa seems to have elastic legs with the kicks, jumps and splits he performs at lightning speed.
The French turn in a fantastic film full of Parkour stunts performed by one of the creators himself, David Belle and another great stuntman and top stunt choreographers in his own right, Cyrill Raffaelli. If you are a fan of Taken with Liam Neeson, then you’ll love this film as Pierre Morel directed this one first.
Now another Director who likes to film the action scenes himself enters the list, Christopher Nolan with this film and the sequel 3 years later. He wanted to direct a bond film and got this franchise instead and really took it to heart. He’s a big fan of doing practical effects and the audience gets the benefit of it all the way. Thank you, Mr. Nolan.
Speaking of Bond, Daniel Craig‘s first entry as bond has some great Parkour in it as well. I liked it so much I used a still as the cover for the 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts book. It also boasts a World Record by flipping a car a record seven times!
I love to be able to announce another bad-ass stunt woman on the scene and Zoe Bell is not one who disappoints. She spends the better half of Quentin Tarantino‘s movie strapped to the hood of two racing cars, with Stuntman Mike in the other car trying very hard to kill her at every chance. Stuntman Mike played by Kurt Russell.
2008 – The Dark KnightHere’s Christopher Nolan‘s sequel to Batman Begins and in so many ways it tops the original. He manages to flip an eighteen wheeler end to end for this one by driver Jim Wilky and an amazing stunt crew.
The previous versions of this series were more racing films and this one transforms the series into a more stunt spectacular series from here on out. All of the original cast is back and film is chocked full of great stunts. Justin Lin would be the Director I would give credit to making this franchise more Universal. And we are all the better for it.
In 2004, twin brothers Adam Montierth and Donovan Montierth along with writing partner, Jason Walters, wrote, produced and directed a little 35mm film that changed their lives. That film, which started out as a tribute to their grandfather, was called Reveille and starred film and American Forces Veteran’s David Huddleston and James McEachin. Reveille soon was screened at over 50 film festivals, winning over 20 awards and was shown on The Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Network. In 2007, it was viewed by the Armed Forces in Balad, Iraq, became a viral sensation by being viewed to over 5 million people on Google Video (before there was YouTube) and won the twins an Emmy Award.
Adam and Donovan spent the next few years trying to get a feature film based on Reveille produced called Capture the Flag. At one point, in 2008-2009, the film looked like it was finally going to be made, they had a $5 million dollar budget through a hedge fund and signed actors and Veteran’s James Garner and Louis Gossett Jr. The recession hit and the hedge fund withdrew the funds before they could start production and the film went into turnaround.
Brothers’ Ink Productions went on to make Locker 13 with Ricky Schroder and a slew of great actors and Capture the Flag was eventually optioned by Sleeperwave Films and Producer Eric J. Adams. Eric is a producer, screenwriter, journalist and author. He wrote the script and produced (consulting) the feature film“Supremacy” (2015), starring Danny Glover and Joe Anderson, and he co-wrote and produced “Archie’s Final Project” (aka My Suicide) (2011). Archie’s Final Project won 21 major international film festival awards, including the Crystal Bear in Berlin.
Sleeperwave Films is still in development on the project but has already brought Producer Michael Birnbaum (Bandits, The Big White and John Tucker Must Die) and Director Jeremiah Chechik (Benny and Joon, Christmas Vacation, and The Avengers).
Reveille, the short film that started it all is now available on Facebook. Please share and like the film, as the more people that see the short film, the faster we can get the feature film made:
David Belle has some remarkable skills in this film. He is the Co-Inventor of a discipline known as Parkour, which consists of moving quickly and efficiently in any environment, using only the abilities of the human body. Another notable use of this technique is at the beginning of the Bond Film, Casino Royale (2006) with Daniel Craig chasing an African Bomb Maker.
Cyril Raffaelli is one of the top stunt choreographers in France over the last ten years. His work on previous stunt favorites include Ronin, Brotherhood of the Wolf, and The Transporter. Together David and Cyril make an unforgetable team. They spent 3 months preparing the Parkour stunts for this movie.
Pierre Morel (director), in an interview with www.sffworld.com explained how important Cyril became to the choreography of the fight scenes. “Cyril suggested various choreographies and highly different fight sequences to us, and we did our utmost to adapt them into the script. They were prepared far ahead of time. They were surrounded by stuntmen, genuine martial arts fighters, specialists in kung-fu, ultimate fighters and top-level boxers. In the small world of fighters, they all more or less know each other. Cyril has a special background: he started in circus school before moving on to martial arts. Only after that did he become first a professional stuntman, then an actor. So he brought to the film a large number of people from many different fields.”
District B13 was directed by Pierre Morel for Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp. It’s interesting to note that Pierre Morel goes on to direct another action favorite, Taken with Liam Neeson.
Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB ):
Glossary of Stunt terms as defined Wikipedia: Parkour (abbreviated PK), also called as the “art of displacement”, is a training discipline that developed out of military obstacle course training.
Practitioners aim to move from one place to another, negotiating the obstacles in between. The discipline uses no equipment and is non-competitive. A male practitioner is generally called a “traceur”, a female a “traceuse”.
Developed by Raymond Belle, David Belle, Sébastien Foucan and other members of the original Yamakasi group, parkour became popular in the 1990s and 2000s through a series of documentaries and films featuring these practitioners and others.
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!