On This Day, 25 Years Ago: Stakeout was the no.1 film across the country


“On This Day” is a new column, one which we hope to be somewhat of a regular constituent of the ‘hole, that will explore the box-office on a given date in history – usually, 20 or 25 years ago (keeping it nice and round-numbered; no loose change so we don’t weigh down our pockets). It’s always interesting to look back at films that opened on the same week/day/month as current offerings, but more so, enjoyable – we believe, anyway – to revisit, if even in text form, some of the classics from yesteryear. We’re almost providing a service to both the film-fan and the local video library’s ‘classic’ shelf here.


The no.1 film across the country 25 years ago.

“48 Hours” and “Lethal Weapon” may have redefined and solidified the buddy-cop movie, but “Stakeout” proved even those that are a comedy at the centerpiece of the tin badge also have a good chance of critical, commercial and consumer success.

Jim Kouf’s script embodied charm, diverse and detailed heroes and villains, a fun plot, but mostly, large helpings of well-written and tasteful humour.

But as I’m sure anyone involved in the production will attest, and that includes director John Badham (“WarGames”) ant the immense crew on the Vancouver-lensed production. “Stakeout” would never have been successful without the dynamic duo of Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez.

Though aptly supported by a terrific ensemble featuring the likes of foxy Madeline Stowe, then-unknown Aidan Quinn and future Oscar Winner Forest Whitaker (also in Touchstone’s “Good Morning Vietnam” that year), it was the magic repartee and fun personas of Dreyfuss’s and Estevez’s Chris Lecce and Bill Reimers that really sprung the “Stakeout” slinky to life.

Released under the [then newly established] Touchstone Pictures banner, “Stakeout” told of two cops assigned to keep watch on the estranged girlfriend of a crook. At the risk of blowing their cover, and consequently having his own head blown off, Chris (Dreyfuss) falls in love with the woman (Madeline Stowe).

I recall going to see the film with my late grandmother in an empty theatre on opening weekend – but clearly that’s a weak representation of the films appeal and performance (and more to do with my choice of cinemaplex at the time; in fact, this particular cinema was tucked away in a country corner where nobody could’ve found it, so no wonder they were rarely sold tickets). The film was top of the box office for several weeks in a row, pocketing (and later helping “Good Morning Vietnam” find it’s huge audience by way of a double feature pairing) over $5 million on it’s opening weekend (Aug 5-9, 1987).

The sequel, released some six years later, tarnished the rep of the original, if even slightly, but 25 years later devotees of officers Reece and Reimers are still looming large.

• “Stakeout” was released on August 5 (my birthday!) 1987.
The films snazzy trailer and attractive TV spots had bums beseeching seats from day one. Remember the trailer? It included the song ‘Is it Love’ by Mister Mister. (not in the movie, by the way)
But I think it was the terrifically-designed poster that probably pulled punters in…

• John Badham brought so much to “Stakeout”, but he wasn’t Touchstone’s first choice to helm. History has it that Disney had offered Leonard ‘Spock’ Nimoy the job – who was tied up with “Three Men and a Baby”, his big claim to fame as a director, at the time – before handing the directors cap to John Badham.

Star Emilio Estevez tells Moviehole that Badham, who also directed flicks like “Saturday Night Fever” and “WarGames”, was a fast and financially friendly director who deserves much praise for the money made on that movie.

“John is a wonderful technical director. And I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. I just think he is cutting the movie as he is shooting it. He is economical, he comes in under budget. He used to direct Richard Dreyfuss and I with a stopwatch. And he would say, “You know, you guys did that in 45 seconds. It could be a lot funnier in 30.” And he was right. You know what I mean?
He was spot on. It was funnier in 30 seconds. As opposed to the 45 and he just knew he just had a wonderful instinct for the material. And I really enjoyed working… I used to go into work on my days off just to watch him set up shots.

• The film was packed with considerable talent in front of and behind the camera. “Stakeout”, atypical of the adult Disney fare, looked frigging lovely (those sweet Vancouver locales – standing in for Seattle – helped, of course). Estevez attributes its slick look to the Aussie born cinematographer on it. “We had a wonderful DP from Oz, John Seale. He somebody who I just adored working with and again there I am as an actor but I never took it for granted. I always made sure that I was absorbing as much as anybody wanted to share with me.”

• Though Dreyfuss and Estevez were the names at the time, the two actors playing their cop ‘colleagues’ in the film ended up going on to carving out significant acting careers for themselves too. That’s “Wonder Years” legend Dan Lauria and a then-unknown Forest Whitaker playing the roles of co-Stakeout’ers, Phil and Jack.

• Though the dialogue teased the suggestion of a whale in the role, Madeline Stowe absolutely stole our hearts – and Officer Lecce’s, as it were – as Maria McGuire.
Who can forget Dreyfuss and Estevez’s converse when they first peek inside her police profile though? Hilarious stuff!

Bill Reimers: And, the moment we’ve all been waiting for… 313 pounds.
Chris Lecce: 313 pounds? Let me see that.
Bill Reimers: I would imagine that’s fully clothed.
Chris Lecce: Oh my God, she could be the house! I hate this job!

“We talked to every member of the screen actors guild”, says Badham, on how difficult it was to cast the part of Maria.
Writer Kouf had a half-Latin half-American wife in real-life, and wrote the character of Maria to be of the same heritage. Badham finally found the perfect person in newcomer Stowe, in what would become her first ‘released’ film.

• Aidan Quinn would later go on to be a much-used ‘good guy’ in films (even playing the male protagonist in another Madeline Stowe movie “Blink”), but in “Stakeout” he convincingly played an unbalanced convict.

• The “Stakeout” Soundtrack, though not much of a seller, encompassed a boatload of great tunes, including Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’, Gloria Estefan’s “The Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, and Randy Crawford’s “This Night Was Made (For One Thing Only)”

• “Another Stakeout”, released in 1993, was a “disaster” as Estevez freely admits. But he enjoyed getting to work with Dreyfuss again. And had a great time with Rosie O’Donnell (who at the time of writing this piece, had sadly just suffered a minor heart attack). Estevez says she’s a doll and one of the best comediennes he’s ever worked with.

“It was funny because the scene that I had with Rosie [O’Donnell] where she says… Where I said, “I had this mustache for 15 years. How long have you had yours?” We probably shot it… We probably did 20 takes on it. I couldn’t stop… I couldn’t get through the line. I could not get through it. I was laughing. She would crack up..I would crack up. Richard was just a complete disaster. I think we all had the piecemeal it together because it was… I couldn’t say the line.”

• As much as fans of the 1987 original might wish for a third film, Estevez is certain there won’t be one. “The second one was a complete disaster. And I think it opened at like a $4 million weekend and we had spent four or five times that to make the sequel and… Well the thing about sequels is that they’re tricky. The conventional thinking is that we keep on window between the decay of the first one and at least mounting the second and we waited, what six years in between and that was just… It was too long.”

• “Stakeout” is usually playing somewhere, sometime, around the world most days. As evidenced by this recent TV promo from Korea…

5 years later, we know the answer… we definitely ‘love’ “Stakeout”!

On this Day : “Can’t Buy Me Love”