Tag Archives: Planes Trains and Automobiles

Top 15 Comedy Road Trip Movies

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.”

14 – Sideways (2004)

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.

6 – Dumb and Dumber (1994)

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.

Steve Martin, the Writer of Roxanne

 

Over the years Steve Martin has written a lot of material, especially knowing how much time he’s spent as a leading actor, comedian and musician. He technically started writing comedy right out of college by writing for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he won an Emmy.  He would go on to several TV Shows after that and also  on a very successful run as a stand-up comedian, writing his own material. He released several comedy albums and wrote several songs including a hit song, “King Tut” where he won 2 Grammys, then after his movie career would write and perform several “serious” musical albums where he won a few more Grammys.

Now at this point, as everyone knows, he would go on to an enormous movie career and wrote a lot of his movies, especially at the beginning with The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains, 3 Amigos, LA Story, A Simple Twist of Fate, Bowfinger, Shopgirl, and the Pink Panther movies. I thought he deserved an Academy Award in there somewhere as a writer or at the very least as an actor. Martin would later write numerous books and plays and although some of those were quite brilliant, it’s here I’d like to mention my favorite of all he’s written…Roxanne (1987).roxanne-darryl-hannah-steve-martin

Now for those of you who’ve never seen it…stop reading this and go out and buy it on DVD or digital, or whatever you do to get your movies and watch it…you won’t regret it. It’s wonderful. It’s based on the play “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmund Rostand, where large nosed C.D. Bales falls for the beautiful Roxanne while she falls for his personality but another man’s looks. Sounds confusing, but it’s delightful and hilarious. Steve Martin was a driving creative force behind ‘Roxanne’, as both writer and star of the comedy. Martin’s inventive comic mind was turned loose as he undertook the considerable challenge of creating a 1980s comedic hero based on the witty work of playwright Edmond Rostand. Martin remembered: “I was about twelve years old when I first saw the play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ and I found it to be very compelling. I kept thinking about it; the story and structure are flawless; the play is moving, beautiful and funny. About four years ago, I started thinking that it also has everything you could want in a movie romance, high comedy and a great story. It seemed a perfect vehicle for me to update. But the play is very, very 11th Century, especially in the joke department. And there are lots of swords, lights, and monasteries, you know, things that don’t really function much in our lives anymore”. So Martin adapted the classic, retaining the triangle dilemma, but moving the story to a modern-day trendy ski resort town, within the backdrop of a volunteer fire department. The town’s handsome, inarticulate swordsman becomes a tongue-tied firefighter in ‘Roxanne’. The source original Cyrano de Bergerac’s brave militant regiment has become his inept volunteer fire brigade. C.D. [Bales] fights fires and not battles and rescues treed cats and not ladies’ honor. Steve Martin noted: “But the story is still there, the classic story of how this beautiful woman comes to understand whom she really loves”.steve-martin-roxanne

When Bales is challenged to tell 20 nose jokes, after he tells 19, he asks “How many’s that?” to which he is told, “Fourteen!” He goes on to tell another six, making 25 in total. My brother and I would count these out as he did them, when we were watching in the theater.  I think he did this because he wrote too many good nose jokes and didn’t know where to cut them off…I think it works, because it’s a great sequence in the film.  Now, I’d also like to mention that this was the first time as an actor that Steve Martin was genuinely starting to be viewed as an actor and not as a stand-up comedian, who acts. In a radio interview, Steve Martin said about his role in Roxanne that it was the first time he felt respected in a film role as opposed to being recognized for his celebrity as a one-time stand-up comedian.

Technology lent an important hand in providing Steve Martin with the imposing, legendary proboscis designed by makeup designer Michael Westmore. A specialty lab made plaster impression of Martin’s own nose was sculpted into a genetically appropriate, larger version. This was then cast into a mold from which they made a supply of foam-rubber noses, at least one a day was used for filming, which were applied with spirit gum, edges feathered with rubber, and blended with Martin’s other facial make-up. Make-up artist Frank Griffin for Steve Martin said: “This was, in some ways, one of the most difficult ‘jobs’ I’ve ever done because we had to match the skin color, with very little surrounding make-up to blend into. If it just ended abruptly, it would stick out like a sore thumb”.darryl-hannah-roxanne-steve-martin

 

 

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

 

Continuing the trend of quotable movies this week is the ultimate…Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) starring Steve Martin and John Candy and written and directed by John Hughes. This would have to be one of John Hughes best movies, for me. John Hughes, in an interview on the ‘Those Aren’t Pillows’ DVD edition, 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 5 days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first-draft of the screenplay in 3 days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about 3-5 days with 20-some rewrites.steve-martin-planes

Upon receiving the script through his agent, Steve Martin was surprised to discover the script’s 145 page length, with a comedy typically aiming for 90 pages. When Martin met with John Hughes, he asked if the director had any intention of cutting the script. According to Martin, Hughes looked at Martin strangely and said “Cutting?”, making Martin realize the director had no intention of cutting the script. 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.steve-martin-trains

The film was also, reportedly, a favorite of John Candy’s. Interestingly, the car in the film that Steve and John drive was modeled after the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), which John Hughes wrote 4 years earlier and which also stars John Candy as the security guard at Wallyworld.

Here’s some really great dialogue from the movie:

Neal: Del… Why did you kiss my ear?
Del: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal: [frowns] Where’s your other hand?
Del: Between two pillows…
Neal: Those aren’t pillows!
[they both leap out of bed, screaming and shaking their hands in disgust]those-arent-pillows

or

Neal: You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle! Your stories have NONE of that. They’re not even amusing ACCIDENTALLY! “Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecodotes for you. Oh and here’s a gun so you can blow your brains out. You’ll thank me for it.” I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, “How can you stand it?” I’d say, “‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take ANYTHING.” You know what they’d say? They’d say, “I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Woah.” It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!

orpta-airport

Del: You play with your balls a lot.
Neal: I do NOT play with my balls.
Del: Larry Bird doesn’t do as much ball-handling in one night as you do in an hour!
Neal: Are you trying to start a fight?
Del: No. I’m simply stating a fact. That’s all. You fidget with your nuts a lot.
Neal: You know what’d make me happy?
Del: Another couple of balls, and an extra set of fingers?

or

Del: Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak.

Classic…just classic…thanksgiving