Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Fandango is one of my favorite movies, not to the fact some parts where
filmed in Tulsa and  "Truman Sparks" kind of fits me, character wise
more at the time. It's just something that hits me as funny.

"Oh, no. She's not my wife, she's just my old lady."

"I'd rather burn in at 200 mph and have some laughs, then to eat it in
a car accident, I mean thats a really dumb way to go."
I told my college friend that once when we got in my car before we took off.
It was just something funny I thought of at the time.

In the 90's I was working at the Marriott hotel this table I was working at
a banquet was full of sort of redneck / south women and they where bugging me
a lot, nothing was good for them. This lady at the table wanted something she said
hold out your hand, look at this, it was a overheated bread roll dry as anything.
I looked at it and there was a plant next to me at the time.
So I grabbed the plant lifting it up and threw the roll down in the bottom
of the pot and put the plant back and with my water pitcher gave it
some water and went on. She later got the banquet manager and
told him to look under the plant and he did I never seen him laugh so hard.
From that time on he would tell me to give no rubber biscuits out today!

So the Truman character does fit me that's why I like the movie.
You got to have character in life!

The real purpose of this story is to note about something I did not know.
The luck of Chuck Bush getting the part getting the part walking into a 7-11 store.
Usually to win the lottery you have to buy the ticket, he won with no ticket!

And to note the need to join the Screen Actors Guild and get into it.
Other than that the need to be easygoing with a need to point something out
that would help, don't hold back!


Getting the role

Back in 1981 Kevin Reynolds was at the University of Southern California making 
his graduate student film, called Proof. This short film was basically the parachute school 
sequence we all know from Fandango. At that time I was a member of the 
Screen Actors Guild (I still am), which ran a program with the American Film Institute 
called the SAG/AFI Conservatory. Among other things it serves as a means of connecting 
SAG members with student filmmakers. Actors submit a picture and resume, which are 
made available to student directors at the LA schools that have film programs 
(AFI, USC, Cal Arts, UCLA, etc.).

I joined as soon as I found out about it and not long after that Kevin arranged an audition 
for me, where I read for him and Mark Illsley. They liked it enough to cast me, 
and over several weekends we shot the film up in the Palmdale area. 
It was a terrific experience, which turned out exceptionally well. 
Then Steven Spielberg saw the film and gave Kevin money to write a feature screenplay. 
That led to the deal with Amblin and Warner Brothers to make Fandango.
Kevin wanted to re-create the Proof section as closely as possible for Fandango 
and hired me to reprise the part of Truman Sparks. (He did make a few changes and 
additions, including the blackboard speech. Also, the later scenes when I fly in to collect 
Suzy Amis 'turn left at band-aid' and the helicopter chase were added for Fandango). 
While mine was still not the usual route to getting cast, interviews and readings, 
it was much less unique than that of Chuck Bush, who was spotted by Kevin and 
Mark at a 7-11. The reason Chuck's story is so interesting is that it happens so seldom.

The Texas heat

I almost dehydrated myself while out walking on my first day in El Paso. 
Luckily one of the film's prop masters, I don't remember if it was Rick Young or 
Tom Shaw, was out on an errand and spotted me, giving me a ride back to the hotel 
the fates were with me!

Working with the cast and crew

Fandango was unique among my location-shot experiences. It is the only film about 
which I can truthfully say that every person who worked on it, in the office, on the crew 
and in the cast, had a good time. I was not on for the entire shoot, I did three and 
one half of the ten weeks, but while I was there other people affirmed my observation. 
My time was a drop and pick-up so I was there in the early stages and at the end.
I saw this part as a major career move and tried to behave accordingly. 
I made it a point to be as professional, open and friendly as I could. 
I interacted with during the shoot returned that behaviour to me. 
The rest of the cast were all great to me and very open to my style of working.

I especially enjoyed working with Glenn Headly [who played Trelis, Truman's 'old lady']. 
She was terrific on every level - I should have paid closer attention and learned more from 
her but I was so focused on what I was trying to do that I missed the opportunity. 
But, as I said, everyone was great. I also want to mention Randy Deluca and Bill Warren, 
the two stunt pilots for my character. Randy was also the co-ordinator for the film. 
Mike Hancock applied my make-up, Jean Austin managed to make my 
hair consistently dishevelled, and Michelle Neeley and Art Brouillard handled my wardrobe. 
A quick story of their ingenuity-my flight jacket looked much too new for something Truman 
would have. They tied it to the back of one of the production cars, which then dragged it 
down the highway as it went from the office to the set.
That created the desired appearance. I could mention more people but suffice it to
say everyone there helped make my job easier;  I credit and thank them all!

The last thing I would like to add is to credit the caterers, and Tim Zinnemann and 
Barry Osborne for finding and hiring them. It was a company called 'For Stars.' 
They were helped in getting started by Francis Coppola (to drop a name). 
Saying they were first class all the way is an understatement. 
It is very unusual for a film with the budget of Fandango to get food, and service, 
of the quality they provided. Frank and Bubba (master of the bubbaque) and their crew
(time has not served me in remembering the other names) were amazing
from start to finish. The difference a great caterer makes on a movie set is not very
often mentioned and should be more. 'For Stars' were the vanguard of a movement of
major improvement in movie catering. They were, as I said, a major reason for the
great atmosphere on the set. Please don't think I am forgetting Kevin Reynolds.
The absence of pressure on the set, considering the amount he must have been under
(his first film, the first film for Amblin Productions, people watching because of
Steven Spielberg's connection to the project)
is a huge achievement and helped the cast more than any other factor.

Getting recognized

I don't get recognized very much, but when I do it is usually for Fandango
I do get recognised from other films too, usually those which are televised more.

Playing a pilot

To answer your question, there was not the prerequisite of being a pilot - there very seldom 
is of any such skill in any picture. The company has no interest in risking the actors and 
prefers to hire experts.

Mark Illsley did all of the flying in Proof and Randy Deluca and Bill Warren 
did the plane work in Fandango. Mark went on to direct Happy, Texas
Bill Warren flies in air shows (Bill Warren's Aerial Circus); he flew a bi-plane and had a 
two woman wing-walking act when last I saw him. Unfortunately, Randy died a short time 
after we finished Fandango - he was as great a friend as he was a pilot. I still miss him. 
All three of them were great to work with, and to know. I always appreciate people 
who make my job easier and make me look better on screen. The two helicopter pilots, 
Ross Reynolds and Karl Wickman, were also terrific, both personally and professionally.

The freeway scene

We shot the freeway scene in Oklahoma, on an interstate just outside of Tulsa 
(as Don Williams would sing, we were 'living on Tulsa time'). 
It was originally supposed to be shot outside of Dallas, Texas, but the police there said 
they would not be able to shut down the freeway. 
The film commission in Oklahoma said it would not be a problem, so off we went. 
Only those involved in the stunt were allowed to be at the freeway, 
so I did not get to see the actual landing. Bill Warren flew the plane, and got it in one take.

The picking-up-the-girl scene

The scene where I picked up the girl was shot is a suburb of Tulsa. 
Randy and Bill did the driving of the plane. I did a very small amount, just enough to 
get the plane moving so they could cut to a shot of the plane.
Just as a quick aside, has anyone mentioned that the plane was nicknamed 'Picasso'? 
It was a moniker Randy Deluca came up with. In another aside, I was responsible for the 
Rolls Royce being in the driveway of the house of the girl. 
If you look you can see it when she runs out the door to the plane.

The man whose lawn was being used to film from owned a Rolls Royce. 
I suggested that we put it at the house being filmed, to show that the girl's family
had money. The owner said fine. A crew driver took it over and parked it. 
Just before the filming was to start I noticed that it was parked face in. 
I explained that it should be parked with the front showing because the grill
is the most identifying feature of a Rolls Royce.
They turned it around and shot the scene. 
I don't know how interesting that is, but to me details like that help a scene.

Filming the flying scenes

There was absolutely no blue screen used in Fandango. The entirety of the plane interiors, 
with Judd and me, were filmed on the ground. Camera angles and wind machines created 
the illusion of being in flight. All of that was filmed in one day.
Judd and I worked in the morning, and I did my solo scenes in the afternoon. 
Because we had filmed it all before in Proof, with a different actor (Clifford Martin) 
than Judd, and Kevin wanted to re-create the shots and pace of Proof
(he and the Tom Del Ruth, the DP, used Proof as a storyboard) we were able to 
move quickly. It was a wonderful day. There is nothing better for an actor's ego than to 
have the entire crew concentrating solely on him.

The scene with the helicopter rising to tell me to follow it to Love Field was shot
in Oklahoma. The plane was placed on top of a cliff. The helicopter pilot,
Karl Wickman, took the helicopter below the cliff's top and, on cue,
brought it up into the shot. When the time came he took the helicopter away from
the plane to create the look of me turning the plane.
He was, as I have said, a terrific pilot. I got to work with him again on   
Short Circuit. Karl also flew the helicopter in the chase scene.
Ross Reynolds flew the camera copter. Bill Warren was my double for that, 
and all else shot in Oklahoma. I did shoot some stuff flying the plane,
but none of it was used.

Truman's Dialogue

No one could ask for a better working relationship than the one I, and I assume the rest 
of the cast, had with Kevin Reynolds.
Most of my dialogue came with the script, and most of that was in Proof. Kevin's attitude 
was that if I had an idea to either let him know or just try it. If it worked, it stayed. 
The dialogue did not have to be done word for word, although that was almost always 
the best way to do it (and the way most of it was done). 
The important thing was the spirit and energy of the scene.
I did contribute a few things in Proof, some of which even made it through editing, 
and we kept for Fandango. I appreciate to this day that Kevin let me keep in calling 
Gardner Barnes "Mr. Burns". It is not a big deal, and few people have commented on it, 
but I think it says something about the character, and helped me in doing Truman.

The best illustration I can give you is the blackboard scene. As I mentioned, it was
not in Proof. Before he left for Texas Kevin told me about the scene,
and gave me the script and a handbook on parachute jumping.
He told me if I wanted to change or add anything to go ahead and 
we would go over it when I got down to the location.
I wrote a version that even Leo Tolstoy would have considered long. 
If filmed it would have consumed more screen time than the rest of the movie,
which, while not my intention, I wouldn't have objected to. 
What I wanted to do was add as much parachuting nomenclature as I could. 
So I put in every example in the book. After he read it and we discussed it Kevin 
edited the scene down. When we got ready to shoot his only direction was 
"Have fun with it." Everyone was happy with take one, but I had thought of a bit
I wanted to add and Kevin agreed to another take, in which I added my bit. It, 
I'm happy to say, made the movie.



1 comment:

raw hide said...

that's a good point Truman!