The

NZV8 - - STRAIGHT TALK -

Amer­i­can Film In­sti­tute ranked as No. 62 in its 2007 list of the great­est movies of all time, so there’s no ar­gu­ment as to the film’s pedi­gree as a cin­e­matic suc­cess. For me, how­ever, rated against the sim­ple cri­te­ria of im­pact and in­flu­ence, it will al­ways be my No. 1. Film crit­ics cite one of the rea­sons for the suc­cess of the movie — which was nearly called ‘An­other Slow Night in Modesto’ or ‘Rock Around the Block’ — as be­ing di­rec­tor Ge­orge Lu­cas’ will­ing­ness to al­low im­pro­vi­sa­tion through­out the film­ing. Some were sim­ple lines: Wolf­man Jack’s com­ment to Curt (Richard Drey­fuss) in the stu­dio “Sticky lit­tle moth­ers, ain’t they?” wasn’t in the script. Wolf­man just thought it, said it, and Lu­cas ran with it. Clearly, Lu­cas had a healthy ap­petite for al­low­ing some of the scenes and sec­tions of script to run off course as un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances arose. A good ex­am­ple of this is the scene in which the girl in the four-door Cadil­lac driv­ing along­side Mil­ner’s (Paul Le Mat) Deuce coupe throws the wa­ter bal­loon through Mil­ner’s win­dow and it hits Carol (Macken­zie Phillips) full force in the face. You might re­call that Carol ini­tially screams and then im­me­di­ately cracks up laugh­ing. That scene ac­tu­ally all went wrong. The wa­ter bal­loon was sup­posed to miss Carol and hit the side win­dow to her right, and Carol was sup­posed to be fu­ri­ous about it — but, when the shot went wrong and she cracked up laugh­ing, Lu­cas liked it and kept the cam­era rolling. Ev­ery time I watch I gig­gle at Toad’s clumsy, outof-con­trol ar­rival at the drivein dur­ing the movie’s open­ing se­quence. I’d al­ways thought it was clever of Charles Martin Smith to make that fa­mous bun­gled ar­rival ap­pear so re­al­is­tic, but I’ve just learnt that he was in fact com­pletely out of con­trol! Just af­ter climb­ing the kerb, he thought he’d give a lit­tle twist on the throt­tle but got his tim­ing all wrong and slammed rather em­bar­rass­ingly into a nearby vend­ing ma­chine. Toad just throws his hand in the air — per­haps as if to apol­o­gize to the team film­ing and wait­ing for the in­evitable call of ‘Cut’ from Lu­cas. But the call never came — Lu­cas liked the ac­tion and kept film­ing, so Toad and Steve (Ron Howard) quickly re­gained their com­po­sure, clev­erly im­pro­vised their way back to the script, and car­ried on just as if it had all gone to plan. It must have been fun dur­ing the film­ing; sto­ries abound of chaotic events that would give to­day’s oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety peo­ple heart pal­pi­ta­tions. Har­ri­son Ford was ob­vi­ously a bit of a lad back in the day; to­gether with Paul Le Mat (Mil­ner) and Bo Hop­kins (Joe, leader of The Pharaohs), he was fre­quently drunk be­tween takes, and the three of them would of­ten com­pete to be the first to climb to the top of the tow­er­ing Hol­i­day Inn sign on the mo­tel where they were stay­ing. Even though the whole movie was filmed in only 29 days, Ford man­aged to get thrown out of a bar for fight­ing and kicked out of his mo­tel room. Paul Le Mat threw Richard Drey­fuss (Curt) into the swim­ming pool, caus­ing Drey­fuss to gash his head on the edge of the pool on his way in, and in turn caus­ing a chal­lenge for the make-up staff, who had to try to patch him up for the close-up film­ing that was just about to take place. It seemed no one was im­mune to be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of pranks: Ge­orge Lu­cas

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