What is Caffeinated Clint’s Greats?
I’ve had plenty of emails from you guys asking such questions as “Who were your favourite actors growing up?”, “Do you have a favourite movie?”, “You’re producing films now, any particular film that inspired you to take that road?” and “Hey man, Got Kristen Stewart’s phone number?”, and it gave my an idea – why not profile some of my favourite films? (It saves me from flaming a pimply, unintelligent publicist or another fresh-from-junior-high exec over some harebrained remake he’s just greenlit for a couple of weeks, after all) and in doing so, why not make contact with some of the people from these films?
Title : Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Year : 1982
Director : Amy Heckerling
Starring : Brian Backer, Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Romanus, Sean Penn, Ray Walston, Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Scott Thomson, Vincent Schiavelli, Amanda Wyss
Anyone that knows me, knows I’ve a hard on for Cameron Crowe – and not just your token, everyday woody… but one of the you’re ‘Shit! I hope I’m not wearing those size-small jeans’ today variety. Ever since Crowe’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, which I first saw upon its release in the early 80s (oh how that Jennifer Jason Leigh sex scene thrilled at such a young age!), I’ve been a devotee of the former Rolling Stone reporter (well, he actually still does file stories for the magazine from time to time) cum filmmaker. I just love that movie.
Directed by Amy Heckerling and written by then-newcomer Crowe, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” explores the ups and down’s of youth-hood, by chronicling the lives of several high school students – including stoner Spicoli (the awesome Sean Penn), popular part-time worker bee Brad (Judge Reinhold), inexperienced young beauty Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and confident ladies man Mike (Robert Romanus).
And from “The Wild Life” to “Say Anything…”, “Singles” and, of course, later efforts like “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous” (the one I could really relate to, having gotten my job in the media industry -albeit in commercial radio – at 17), Crowe keeps knocking ‘em out of the park. Hell, I’ve even learnt to fall in love with “Elizabethtown”. But it’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” that my love affair with everything Cameron Crowe begun, so that’s the film of his I’m going to profile today (later on, we may do “…Say Anything” and “Almost Famous” – depending on whether or not I can get hold of Lester Bangs) and that’s the film we’re going to talk to ’80s icon Robert Romanus about.
To most of us, Robert Romanus will always be best known as “the guy that stole Stacey from Mark” in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, but ‘Mike’ is only one of Romanus’ many great turns – he was Scott in the classic “Foxes” (1980), Carlos in Steve Guttenberg-starrer “Bad Medicine” (1985), Miltie Horowitz in the TV spin-off of the feature film “Fame” (1984-1987), Snake Robinson on the legendary sitcom “Facts of Life” (1987-1988), and Office Gary Sharp on the awesome “21 Jump Street”. Romanus’ more recent credits include “American Pie Presents : Book of Love”, “Route 30″ and “The Runaways” with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.
Caffeinated Clint : Is it fair to say you’re most famous role is Mike in “Fast Times” ?
Robert Romanus : Fast Times is definitely the movie that most people recognize me from… And I have to say I feel pretty lucky to have been a part of it.
Caffeinated Clint : It’s an amazing movie – not just for our time, but wholly and completely. And a good one to kick your career off with, I imagine?!
Robert Romanus : It’s gotten me a few free drinks… and a lot of respect.
Caffeinated Clint : Sorry dude, but I gotta ask – the Jennifer Jason Leigh/Change-Room Sex scene… er, how nerve-wracking was that to do?
Robert Romanus : That was a trip!
Caffeinated Clint : Were you nervous?
Robert Romanus : I was very nervous… it was early in the morning, the set was closed – only the people who needed to be there were there – director, camera, sound. In my trailer – about eight AM – I remember pouring myself a shot of gin.. and i don’t drink really..tossing it back and thinking ‘Show time!’. The good news for me was that [Mike] Damone was supposed to be inexperienced and clumsy and nervous… just like me. I just went with it. Finally after the first 20 minutes…I wasn’t even putting my robe back on after a take, it just became business as usual.
Caffeinated Clint : I want that job! What do you attribute the success and longevity of “Fast Times” too?
Robert Romanus : Cameron Crowe wrote a very truthful script about the trials and tribulations of teen life. No matter what the generation, there are some very universal experiences in there. Amy Heckerling had the perfect sensibility to direct such angst in a truthful way, with a great sense of humor, and also, all the talent delivered honest performances. Then there’s a little fate… no one at the time would have predicted the outcome.
Caffeinated Clint : My buddy Eric Stoltz has a few stories to share about the shoot – mainly, remarking on what a big party it was, particularly with Penn etc – do you remember anything especially from the shoot?
Robert Romanus : What I remember most, honestly, was watching the other actors do their scenes and thinking to myself ‘Wow! these guys are good, I better go do my homework’. I hung out with Brian Backer mostly – we became pretty good friends, although I haven’t seen him in a long time now. It was fun and funny and there were no ego’s to deal with but mostly I remember coming home exhausted and working on the next days scenes.
Caffeinated Clint : I’m interviewing an old friend, Steve Guttenberg for this same category. What are your memories of working with him on “Bad Medicine”?
Robert Romanus : Now that was a party – we spent a few months in madrid together. Being in a foreign country together is an immediate bond already.
Caffeinated Clint : Different experience then to “Fast Times”?
Robert Romanus : It was very surreal. It was a fun cast and we were all excited to be in Spain. Steve – as the star – set the tone really for us all. He was funny and gracious and friendly the whole way. We worked again on a small film called Mojave Phone Booth, directed by John Putch, some 20 years later, we had a ball!
Caffeinated Clint : I guess it’s safe to say that a lot of the films you were in post-”Bad Medicine” weren’t nearly as successful as your earlier ones. What happened there? Did you have someone choosing your projects for you, as so many young actors do? Who deserves the kick in the ass!?
Robert Romanus : I was never offered projects after Fast Times or Bad Medicine, so I always just went for daylight – where there was work for me I’d go. I did soap opera’s, prime time TV, theatre, film. In an effort to make a living I guess I became a ‘gun for hire’.
Caffeinated Clint : Thankfully, producers are now starting to recognize your talent again – but not only, they consider you an icon. The producers of “American Pie : Book of Love” called you to appear as a ‘celebrity cameo’ in that film. Was that a good call to receive? I remember that they only wanted ‘actors’ that had mass appeal internationally – so it’s quite the compliment, I say!
Robert Romanus : I am always flattered when someone comes looking for me, plus the director (John Putch) is a good friend of mine. I got to travel to canada, work a little for fun and hang out with my friends… it’s the complete package!
Caffeinated Clint : What are you up to these days? Did I see you in “The Runaways”?
Robert Romanus : I did have a small part in the “Runaways”! I manage to work here and there – for me acting jobs have always been hard to come by, I’m always looking for daylight as an actor it seems. I took a break from acting for about 8 years – 2000 – 2008 – and took a job teaching at an elementary school and working with kids with behavioral problems.
Caffeinated Clint : Wow, great work!
Robert Romanus : That was an amazing experience – I did burn out a little bit though, so returned to acting a couple years ago. But in addition to acting I am a song writer and musician – I have a band called Poppa’s Kitchen and we play around Los Angeles.
Caffeinated Clint : Nice! Where can we hear your music?
Robert Romanus : I sell my music online (www.poppaskitchen.net) and have had a couple of songs in small films. I do have a film coming up in October that I’ll go to Pennsylvania to shoot – RTE 30 Too. Oh, and I also have three kids that take up the rest of my time – 15 year old twins, boy and a girl, and a twelve year old boy, they’re the reason I get out of bed every day.