David Bruce: Movies Anecdotes

An advantage of being a journalist is that you may occasionally get to interview actors you adore. For example, when Guardian reporter Libby Brooks was 13, she saw Dirty Dancing on video and fell in love with Johnny Castle, who was played by Patrick Swayze. Lots of young girls who saw the movie, including Ms. Brooks, wanted to lose their virginity to Johnny Castle. Years later, she got to interview Mr. Swayze, who repeated for her his famous line from the movie: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” Ms. Brooks’ interview with Mr. Swayze was never printed, and she admits today, “In retrospect, I think that my editor was less interested in Swayze than in bringing an end to my relentless badgering to let me interview him.” The movie’s rating prevented many girls from seeing the movie in theaters—they had to wait to see it on video. This meant that some girls were able to be cool by seeing the movie in theaters. Ms. Brooks remembers when a French teacher asked Lindsay Cameron in class, “Lequel est le dernier film tu as vu?” (What is the last film you saw?). Ms. Cameron confirmed her status as the coolest girl in class by replying, “Le Dirty Dancing.”

Film director Terry Gilliam has had hits with The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys, but he also has had misses with movies such as the 2006 fantasy Tideland, which made only $66,453, perhaps because it starred the excellent actor Jeff Bridges as a decomposing corpse. Following the financial disaster of that movie, movie studios wanted nothing to do with Mr. Gilliam, and so he walked the street of New York City while holding this sign: “Studio-Less Film Maker. Family to Support. Will Direct For Food.” By the way, Mr. Gilliam had a fantastic childhood growing up in Minnesota. He and his family lived in a house that his father, a carpenter, insulated. After the house acquired indoor plumbing, he and his father worked on the old outhouse, turning it into a three-story treehouse. During snowy winters, young Terry would often jump from the top story and try to grab onto telephone wires, but instead fall into ten feet of snow. He remembers that this experience was “fantastic!” He also built igloos—sometimes with unfortunate results. On one occasion, a neighbor’s dog climbed on top of an igloo, urinated, and crashed through the roof on top of the people inside.

Director Werner Herzog originally wanted Jason Robards to star in his movie Fitzcarraldo, in which a 340-ton steamship is carried over a mountain (the people involved in making the film actually did this) in the Peruvian rainforest, but Mr. Robards contracted amoebic dysentery and was unable to keep on filming the movie. Therefore, Mr. Herzog hired Klaus Kinski, whom critic Giles Harvey describes as an “incendiary, egomaniacal, tantrum-prone bull.” Of course, Mr. Kinski acted in such a way as to live up to Mr. Harvey’s description of him, and a Native American chief who had been hired for the movie told Mr. Herzog that he was more than willing to kill Mr. Kinski. Mr. Herzog declined the offer—which was appreciated.

Stuart Hample turned Woody Allen, whose standup comedy he had enjoyed, into a comic strip in the 1970s. Mr. Allen approved the comic character, and they worked together on the jokes, which included some of Mr. Allen’s standup material. Mr. Hample wondered why Mr. Allen had approved the comic strip, but of course there were advantages. For example, Mr. Allen cast the actress Mary Beth Hurt as the sister of the character played by Diane Keaton in his movie Interiors. Ms. Hurt telephoned her mother and said that she was going to be in a movie “by somebody you probably haven’t heard of, a director named Woody Allen.” Her mother replied, “I know about him. He’s in the funny pages.”

How did Sandra Bullock know that she had really, really made it as a movie actor? While making the movie Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone, she engaged in conversation with producer Joel Silver about the best kind of marshmallow fluff—she thinks that the best kind comes in a plastic jar rather than in a glass jar. She happened to mention that she would like a fluff sandwich, which is made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, and three days later, a crate of marshmallow fluff appeared as a gift for her. She says, “They couldn’t get it out in California, so they had somebody look for it on the East Coast and flew it out.”

While making The Apartment, actor Jack Lemmon had a scene with a young actor who was supposed to hit his character and knock him down. Of course, such “fights” are carefully choreographed so that no actual hitting occurs. Unfortunately, the young actor was inexperienced in fight scenes and really did hit Mr. Lemmon and knock him down. Mr. Lemmon reacted well, telling the young actor, “It was really my fault. I didn’t duck fast enough”—even though he and everyone else knew that the young actor had thrown the punch too soon and too fast.

Penny Marshall directed Big, a movie for which Tom Hanks was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. Later, she directed A League of Their Own. Mr. Hanks wanted the role of the drunken coach of one of the women’s baseball teams, but he had a nice-guy image and Ms. Marshall was reluctant to give the role to him. However, she agreed to give him the role on one condition—he had to apologize to the other actors for the last five films he had made, films that were not as good (in most people’s eyes) as Big.

Mel Gibson, star and director of Braveheart, is known for his practical jokes. On the set of Braveheart, during an intense dramatic scene, Mr. Gibson asked someone to stand just outside the range of the camera —while wearing a clown’s red nose.

While comedian Chris Rock was stopped for a traffic light, a man in the car next to his told him, “I just saw Head of State, and I want my $4 back.” Mr. Rock smiled, gave the man a $5 bill and told him, “Keep the change.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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