Friday, April 23, 2010

Blue Sky

Around 1989 or 1990, a movie crew came to Selma to film a movie about nuclear weapons testing called BLUE SKY. Tommy Lee Jones, Powers Boothe and Jessica Lange all rolled into town to star in the movie. Perhaps most forgettable, and completely uncredited, I made my major motion picture debut in that film.

This is the closest I'll ever get to winning an Oscar (or any other award for that matter); that blurry, big-nosed skinny kid in the background is me:

At 1:17:45 into the film, the announcer says, "The Selma High School Drum and Bugle Corps"... that was us. At around 1:18:30 Jessica Lange drives her car right through our band, chasing us off the road. When she pulled up to the grandstand, where Powers Boothe was seated, she stopped and jumped out. The first time she did it, her dress came up over her head. A couple of guys said, "She doesn't have on panties!" I didn't see that, but it definitely got my attention.

Of course, they had to re-shoot it, and when they did, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything like that again. That's why I'm all standing on my tiptoes straining to see what's going on. That's probably why I barely made the cut... being a pervo.

Before they started shooting, they got us all into a line and informed us that we were about to get haircuts. I had shoulder-length hair at the time, and I wasn't about to get my hair cut. I slipped out of the line, probably the only person who did, and hid until everyone had their hair cut. I then put my plumed hat back on and rejoined my band mates. With my hair up in my hat, no one was the wiser. When it was over, I pulled my hat off, and a few of the crew members gave me a good natured hard time.

I was 14 or 15 years old at the time, too young to drive. When the filming was over for the day, it was several hours before I could get a ride to take me home. While waiting, I talked to some of the crew folks. I didn't get to talk to the big stars, but not because they didn't talk to anyone, I was just too shy. There were other people who hung out with them while they were living in town.

Jessica Lange would go on to win numerous awards for her performance in the movie, including an Oscar. I went on in complete obscurity. Having been that close to that kind of thing, even just for a day, was pretty cool, though.

The movie wasn't released until 5 years after filming ended. The director died before it's release. Although, in some ways, it plays like a Lifetime movie, it's really a lot darker and has a strange vibe.

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Blogger Don said...

My brush with movie celebrities came in, of all places, Libya, probably around 1956. I was stationed at Tripoli AB just outside of Tripoli. One weekend a few of us guys took a trip to one of the Roman ruins sites east of there, either Leptus Magna or Sabratha, but I can’t recall which one. An American film crew was there shooting scenes for what would turn out to be, at best, probably a “B-grade” movie called Legend of the Lost (Google it). The principal actors in the movie were of a higher caliber, though…..John Wayne and Sophia Loren.

While there, they shot a scene of Sophia Loren in the Roman bath (which is more the size of a swimming pool). I believe she was supposed to be washing bat guano off of jewels they had searched for and found. They shot the scene twice, once for American audiences (films in the USA were censored in those days) and again for the rest of the world. In the shooting for the rest of the world Loren was naked and all of our eyes bulged nearly out of their sockets as we watched. In the version for the USA she wore a garment made from fabric about as thin as your great Aunt Sally’s lace window curtains, and when it got wet in the pool it clung to her body making her appear almost naked anyway, as I seem to recall. I think they did something to the film before it was released to make the garment appear to be less revealing.

That evening my friends and I went down to the Hotel in Tripoli where Wayne and Loren were staying..... hoping to find Loren, naturally. We failed at that, but we found “Duke” Wayne in the hotel bar and introduced ourselves to him. He was very gracious, friendly, and just as “down-to-earth as anyone could possibly be. We chatted for a couple of hours and Wayne insisted that all of our drinks and our dinners be put on his tab. He was quite a guy. He had pock marks on his face that I assume were always covered by makeup for his films and photos.

Some people claim that scenes for this movie were filmed in Algeria, or elsewhere in the Sahara desert, but I was there when the scenes I mentioned were filmed and I know where I was at the time.

11:12 AM  

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