Say Anything… – Entertainment Weekly

Love Notes –¬†Entertainment Weekly’s List of the 25 Best Modern Movie Romances

It all comes down to one scene: John Cusack, standing at dusk, boom box aloft, blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” outside Ione Skye’s window. This, friends, is what rapturous, heartrending, soul-spinning love is all about. As unlikely sweethearts, Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court, Cusack and Skye navigate their way through the rituals of courtship – the awkward first date, the backseat consummation, the pen-centric breakup – while uttering lines so believable against a musical backdrop so meticulously chosen it could only be the handiwork of rock reporter-turned filmmaker Cameron Crowe. Though he’d further refine his style with 1992’s grunge ensemble Singles and 1996’s slickly romantic Jerry Maguire, Crowe’s genius for rendering modern love at its most vivid starts here. And like any screen gem, the back story is highlighted by now-famous names (including two possible 2002 Oscar contenders), Crowe’s first-time directing jitters, and a near miss with one Billy Idol tune. Say Anything… which debuts on DVD March 5, could have been anyone’s love story; here’s how it became everyone’s.

Cameron Crowe: A mutual friend introduced to me [executive producer] James L. Brooks. We made plans to get together, partially as a way of exploring something that we could work on, and partially to do research for Broadcast News, because Jim was talking to a lot of journalists. We just started talking about life and love. These conversations went on for four years. And out of that came Say Anything…

Polly Platt (Producer): Jim Brooks saw Paul Mazursky in Central Park walking along in this intimate conversation with his daughter. He had this terrifying thought: What if a father had done something terrible, committed a crime? He wanted to make a movie about that.

Crowe: The missing piece was [the leading man]. I worked on a guy character. It was stilted and hadn’t really come to life yet. I live at this townhouse in Santa Monica and one of the condos became empty and into it moved this gangly guy from Alabama named Lowell Marchant. He was this friendly guy with a crew cut who just wanted to meet everybody he could. He knocked on the door and said, “Hello, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Lowell Marchant, I am a kickboxer, and I’ll be living here for a little bit. Are you aware of kickboxing? It is now a major sport covered by ESPN.” I’d tell Jim, “The character’s not coming, and there’s this fucking guy down the way who keeps knocking on the door and he’s a kickboxer.” And Jim’s looking at me like, “And you’re wondering what to write?”

John Mahoney (James Court): I remember reading the script. I was doing Eight Men Out. I was talking to John Cusack and I said, “You’ve really got to read this.” He said, “No, I’m sick and tired of playing high school kids in love.” I said, “No, John, it’s so much more than that.”

John Cusack: I’m usually a little resistant to doing anything, so that’s not really new. But I didn’t want to go back to high school.

Crowe: There were a lot of people that came very close [to being cast as Lloyd]. One was Christian Slater, on was [In the Bedroom director] Todd Field, and Peter Berg [The Last Seduction] was another one who was a really amazing Lloyd.

Platt: I asked Cameron, “Who do you want?” He said, “John Cusack….” Both Jim and I said, “If you want him, you should go get him. Fly to Chicago and talk him into it.”

Crowe: I walked into this diner to meet him. I saw him before he saw me. [He was wearing] a long coat with a bandana, this big hulking blob of charisma at this table, and I knew just looking at him, I cannot leave Chicago without getting him to play Lloyd… The last thing he wanted was to say yes to somebody that in his mind represented a mortarboard and a cap. But we talked about the politics of Lloyd and he liked the idea of the character having a more political base. But he didn’t say yes. And so began a long courtship that ended with Jim talking him into coming out and just getting in some rehearsals and trying the part on. And he eased into it.

Platt: It was very difficult to find the girl… Cameron saw every young actress.

Crowe: Jennifer Connelly was the runner-up to Ione Skye. She was brilliant; she had all the languages… Elisabeth Shue did an amazing version of the graduation speech. But there was something haunting about Ione in River’s Edge. I had an instinct that Ione was right.

Ione Skye: I didn’t relate personally to someone like [Diane], who was really good in school and who had a close relationship with her father… But it was easy to pretend to fall in love with John Cusack! I really like the scene where [Cusack]’s teaching me to drive, because in real life I had a crush on John. We never hooked up.

Crowe: We had a hard time finding the dad. Rob Reiner was the first guy we went to. He said, “I’m not acting right now.” Dick Van Dyke really was amazing… We just kept hearing about John Mahoney, and then he came in and was so disarmingly charming and looked like William Holden… A lot of people, even actors coming up for the part, wanted to know, “Why does the father have to be guilty?” The answer was, without the father being guilty it’s Pretty in Pink.

Mahoney: The character just utterly fascinated me. I’ve played killers, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a character so remorselessly amoral like that.

Crowe: It was a period where real-life characters were knocking on the door all around me… There was a girl I knew from Philadelphia named Corey, who I named the Lili Taylor character after. She had this stormy affair with a real guy named Joe. She was always talking about this guy and she sent me a tape that had a whole bunch of songs and she said, “A lot of them are about Joe.”

Lili Taylor (Corey Flood): I just thought [Corey] was so unique and specific, and sure enough, she was based on a real person…. I met the real Corey. It was four years later, and she was still talking about Joe.

Crowe: “Joe Lies” actually had about 20 verses…. She had another song called “He Hurts Me” that was amazing. That’s on the DVD.

Eric Stoltz (Valhere/production assistant): I was friends with Cameron, and it was his first film as a director and I wanted to be present for that. I also wanted to learn as much as I could about the production side. So I said, “You know what, I’ll do grunt work.” It was really one of the greater experiences of my career, bringing coffee to John Cusack and John Mahoney and Ione Skye. They thought it was a trick somehow. They thought I was Cameron’s spy.

Cusack: Yeah, celebrity PA. I remember. I liked to give him shit about it because I thought it was a strange thing to do.

Skye: We would be in the makeup trailer in the morning and he would knock on the door with the headphones and a walkie-talkie and say, “Do you want some coffee?” John turned to me and said, “What is he doing?”

Crowe: The first day I shot this wide shot of Lloyd showing Cocoon to the old folks and it seemed good. I was like, “Cut! What are we doing next?” Polly came up to me and said, “You have to shoot close-ups now.” I’m like, “Oh, okay! Close-ups! So we do the scene again! Right, right!” I was so embarrassed that I went into the trailer at lunch and I didn’t want to come out.

Stoltz: He might have been nervous the first couple days or the first week, but it wore off when he saw that he was getting really fantastic stuff.

Crowe: [The boom-box scene] was the last thing shot on the last day with the last moment of sunlight. John felt that Lloyd was kowtowing too much by holding up the boom box, and that it was too subservient a move. He didn’t love the scene, he didn’t quite understand it yet – he certainly does now – and he wanted to be more laid-back. But my whole argument was, “Be defiant with the holding of the boom box.” The last take – it was a place across the street from a 7-Eleven on Lankershim in the Valley – he held up the boom box, and on his face is the whole story of the character – the love the girl, and, I think, John’s feeling that it was a little too subservient but he was going to do it anyway.

Cusack: I wanted to just have the boom box be on top of the car and him sitting on the roof. So I finally did it, but I did it without a look of longing and adoration and love. It was a different kind of feel than either one of us had originally planned.

Crowe: In one script the song was Billy Idol’s “To Be a Lover.” By the time we shot it the last song we wanted to hear was “To Be a Lover.” Cusack was loving Fishbone, so he’s actually holding up the boom box playing a Fishbone song, “Turn the Other Way.” But it didn’t work; it was like a crazed Fishbone fan. One day I popped in a tape I made for my wedding and “In Your Eyes” was on it. I raced to the editing room and put it up. Then it was a whole deal about trying to get the song. We heard that [it] was very personal to [Gabriel].

Platt: I think he wrote it for Rosanna Arquette.

Crowe: [Gabriel said] he’d look at a tape of the movie. So we sent it to Germany where he was recording. I called him and he said, “I can’t let you use the song. I hope you understand.” I was just about to hang up and I said, “Can you just tell me why?” He said, “Well, I just didn’t think it worked when he took the overdose.” I said, “What? Took the overdose?” And he said, “Yes. This is the John Belushi story, right?” And I go, “No! You’re thinking of Wired! I’m the teen movie!” He goes, “Oh, you’re the teen movie! I haven’t watched that yet. I’ll watch it tonight.” He called back the next day and said, “I love the movie….” I’ve never had the chance to talk to him since that day. I’ve always wanted to thank him.

Brooks: Getting the song, that became the nuttiest thing. I think it was $200,000 or $300,000.

Platt: It took much arm-twisting to get the studio [Twentieth Century Fox] to pay for that.

Crowe: The film really didn’t do that well [it grossed $20.8 million]. It found its audience on video.

Cusack: It’s probably No. 1 as far as people bringing it up to me. Women really love this character…. Everything that Cameron pushed me to do, I ended up being grateful for. I was lucky common sense prevailed and the gods intervened because it was a good film for me and my career.

Skye: A lot of people say, “What happened? We want to see you again.” But I realize they just mean, “We want to see you again in a good movie like Say Anything…” And so do I.

Taylor: [What keeps] coming up with people on the street is “Joe Lies.” It’s just classic. They’ll ask me to sing one of the songs. And I don’t really want to do that, you know? On the street! But it struck a chord with people. And I appreciate it.

Mahoney: Over the years, people have talked to me about three movies. The women all wanted to talk about Moonstruck, the men all wanted to talk about Tin Men, and the kids all wanted to talk about Say Anything… But as the years go by, less and less people talk about Moonstruck and Tin Men and virtually everybody talks to me about Say Anything… I was in a bar after doing a show in Chicago and some kid came up to me and said, “Can I do my John Mahoney impression? And he said, “I’m incarcerated, Lloyd!” And he brought the house down.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly – Dave Karger – February 8, 2002