Sunday, May 10, 2009

running bravely from momentum-killing minutiae

I love facts and figures, but they often get in the way of the point I'm trying to make when I'm writing. (Their fault, not mine, of course. Hmm ... these parentheticals tend to get in the way too, don't they?) Here are the "deleted scenes" from my recent Popdose post about gay marriage and the 1986 action-comedy Running Scared.

(1) Chicago's James R. Thompson Center, formerly the State of Illinois Center, is located one block down from the Cook County Building, where the climax of The Blues Brothers was shot 30 years ago.

(2) Running Scared's narrative is supposed to take place in November and December, so fake snow is sprayed on trees, cars, and street surfaces in some scenes. But because filming began in mid-September, a week before summer was officially over, green leaves are still visible on some of those trees, which generally isn't the case in Chicago by the end of the calendar year.

(3) The screenplay is credited to Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston, with DeVore receiving an additional "story by" credit. Because he did uncredited rewrite work on Timecop, Sudden Death (both starred "the Muscles from Brussels," Jean-Claude Van Damme), and The Relic, three of Peter Hyams's films from the '90s, I'm going to guess he's the one who worked with the director to rewrite Huston's original script, instead of the other way around. The rules the Writers Guild of America uses to determine final screen credit and whose name goes where are complicated, to say the least. DeVore died in a car accident in 1997, but because of the mysterious nature of the accident, his body wasn't found until more than a year later. Entertainment Weekly described the action-film screenwriter as having "a bit of a cowboy streak."

(4) I had completely forgotten about the Rod Temperton Beat Wagon's existence as a "band"—it performs "Never Too Late to Start," which is played over the closing credits—until I watched Running Scared again. When I was 16 I wrote and recorded a novelty song called "Mr. Sporangiophore" with a friend, and I convinced him to call our "band" the Jonathan Vance Beat Wagon for the sake of our one-off project. Temperton must've been racing to complete all the songs in time for the film's final edit when an assistant asked him, "Who do you want the song Tommy Funderburk sings to be credited to?" As an ambulance wailed in the distance, he responded, "Uh ... the Rod Temperton Meat Wagon. No, wait—Beat Wagon. Yeah, that sounds more musical.")

Temperton had a good quote about songwriting in the Yorkshire Post three years ago: "You have to please yourself first. Once you feel the hairs stand up on the back of your hand—you can go for the world. Writing a song is the biggest moment of all. Yesterday it didn't exist. Today it does."

(5) After watching the film again, I wondered if a sequel was ever commissioned. Well, for one thing, Running Scared made $38 million in the summer of ‘86, which wasn’t boffo B.O. even then. (The number-one film that summer was Top Gun, which grossed $176 million, or $340 million when adjusted for today’s ticket prices.) But Lethal Weapon made $65 million at theaters the following spring and then became a huge hit on video and cable, paving the way for Lethal Weapon 2 to rake in $147 million in the summer of ‘89.

Was Running Scared a hit on video? I can’t find any figures, but IMDB and Wikipedia claim that one was developed, with Hines and Crystal chasing criminals in Paris. Gay Paree? Oui. (Wikipedia states: “Around the time of the original home video release of Running Scared … MGM announced that there definitely was a sequel forthcoming for the following year, taking the characters to Europe. A promotional photo showed Hines and Crystal in front of the Eiffel Tower.”) “Still Running” never came to fruition, though, supposedly because its stars didn’t like the scripts they read that placed Ray and Danny in the City of Lights. Coincidentally, Rush Hour 3, the 2007 installment of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan’s buddy-cop franchise, was set in Paris; previous installments took place in Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

(6) Hyams has doubled as cinematographer on every movie he's directed since 1984's 2010. The only other mainstream director I can think of who's taken a similar route with the cinematography of his films is Steven Soderbergh, who's doubled as DP on every film he's directed since 2000's Traffic, though he uses the pseudonym "Peter Andrews" instead of his own.

(7) This has nothing to do with Running Scared, but I don't care since I'm already indulging in random thoughts: The Paper, a newspaper movie I wrote about at Popdose back in November, was cowritten by David Koepp, who's also penned blockbusters like Jurassic Park,
Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the upcoming Angels & Demons. But he's also directed four of his own scripts over the past 13 years, including 1996's The Trigger Effect, which didn't hold up when I saw it a second time a few years ago, but the opening sequence is still an impressive distillation of the negative energy that can course through a movie theater on any given night.

None of the films Koepp's directed have been hits, including last fall's supernatural comedy Ghost Town, but he is skilled as a director, at least based on the two films of his that I've seen; he's clearly learned some tricks from collaborators like Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma. He had the misfortune of following The Sixth Sense (1999) a month after it debuted with his own supernatural thriller, Stir of Echoes; I remember it as being pretty suspenseful in its own right, but it didn't stand a chance once M. Night Shyamalan's film became a surprise hit that inspired repeat viewings. I didn't see Secret Window (2004), which starred Johnny Depp and was based on a Stephen King novella, but it was another supernatural thriller. Koepp has proven that he's intrigued by the great beyond. If he can just put ghosts or angels together with dinosaurs, a masked superhero, and an archaeologist who are on a dangerous mission, he might be able to come up with a blockbuster directing project of his own.

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