Taken from a series of emails
with Marvin J. McIntyre during June/July 2003. Marvin also provided the wealth
of new photos shown down the right hand side. Many thanks to Marvin for all his
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
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. Everyone 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!
"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 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
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.
I don't get recognised 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.
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
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