When you ask anyone for a list of their favourite films and favourite filmmakers it’s likely you’ll find the same names popping up – Lynch, Scorsese, Tarantino, De Palma, Spielberg, Johnson, Fincher. Verhoeven might even be on there. Possibly even Zemeckis. Push a little more and you might also get the name John Badham out of them – if only because you’ve reminded him of the man’s vast CV. The working man’s filmmaker, the audience-pleaser, and a go-to guy for big, fun commercial pop in the ’80s like “Short Circuit”, “Blue Thunder”, “Stakeout”, “The Hard Way” and “WarGames”, he’s pictured alongside the word ‘satisfied’ in Wikipedia, where you’ll hear stories of cinemagoers walking out ecstatically happy having seen a Badham movie. This is the man who hosted ’77’s biggest disco, “Saturday Night Fever”, and produced some tight, fun thrillers with the likes of “Point of No Return”, and “Nick of Time”. To say he’s won us over over the years is an understatement. These days, Badham spends most of his time directing telly – quality shows like “Supernatural”, “Nikita” and “Psych” – and while he’s doing a fine job at it, you gotta hope there’s still a couple of solid big-screen ventures still left in him (pony up, investors!). To coincide with the release of “The Hard Way” on Blu-ray in Australia from Via Vision- it’s part of a new Michael J.Fox set that also includes “The Secret of My Success” and “For Love or Money” – we had the opportunity to speak to a filmmaker who not only shaped our cinematic diets as youngsters, but brought many a smile to dials.
The Hard Way, which hit in 1991, is very high up on that list of not only best John Badham movies but also, Michael J.Fox movies.
Oh, thank you. Thank you, yes.
It’s a fun film – for lack of a better word.
It is fun. It’s just kind of a fun Hollywood take-off, and I think both Michael and Jimmy Woods are terrific in it.
Tell me about those guys -chalk and cheese in real life, just as they are in the movie?
Mike is fun. He’s a more serious guy than you would think. Jimmy Woods is a funnier guy than you would think.
Ah, there you go.
[Woods] has kind of a wild and loud and bawdy personality, who is smarter than you and me and about 50 other people put together. And he’s a real tornado on the set. Acting opposite him you have to watch out, you’ll get your life stolen from you by Jimmy Woods. I mean, he could upstage King Kong. And it drove Michael crazy, because Michael was used to, from the Back to the Future films and his television series, to being, “Everybody get out of the way ’cause Michael’s the funny one.” And he had never reckoned with Jimmy Woods. [chuckle] So it was great. That means people have to up their game. It was good for both of them, a little informal competition on the set.
Just after the release of The Hard Way, you did another similar-themed action-comedy – the sequel to your big ‘80s hit Stakeout. The film, I think it’s fair to say, didn’t do the business The Hard Way did…
Well, they were doing a funny thing back in those days at Disney – they got the idea in their head that they didn’t have to start to promote a film until like a couple of weeks before they’d come out. And then they would just kind of pile on a lot of ads, rather than build up an anticipation for something. So, if you weren’t necessarily paying attention around those couple of weeks, the films could slip right past you. And they did, quite frequently and Another Stakeout was one of them. We knew from our previews how well the film would work, and how much audiences enjoyed it, so it was frustrating to see it kind of get thrown away by an odd approach to marketing.
Would you do another? Tell Emilio Estevez that it’s ‘time to grow the moustache again’?
[laughter] That moustache, my gosh! We got a lot of mileage out of that moustache.
He was trying to look older.
Yeah, well he would have been quite young then, wouldn’t he?
Oh yes, he was young – especially when we did Stakeout. But it was a whole cop thing. They all have these moustaches. And especially in Los Angeles police and Los Angeles sheriffs, it’s just like, if you don’t have a moustache, you must not be part of the police. So, it’s funny on somebody who looks as young as Emilio. They have this little thing plopped on his face.
Just wonderfully incongruous.
If there was a film in your catalogue that you could now go back to now and do a sequel to what might it be?
Well, I always wanted to do something with War Games, but we could never come up with the right kind of story that we felt was as modern as the original was at the time it was made. Back then that was a very original concept, an original idea, dealing with a phenomenon that people weren’t familiar with.
You’ve had great experiences on a lot of films, clearly, but is there a film that you just didn’t have a great time on?
I always have fun on films. Some work better than others but not for lack of trying and thank God I’ve not been on films where I’m kicking myself saying “why did I do this?” I’ve managed to find some fun and some entertainment along the way. It’s too hard, it takes too long, it’s too miserable to do stuff when you don’t enjoy it.
Michael J. Fox Film Collection – Secret of My Success / The Hard Way / For Love or Money – Blu-ray
Secret of My Success (1987)
Can a kid from Kansas come to New York to conquer the business world and maneuver his way from the mailroom to the boardroom in a matter of weeks? Michael J. Fox proves it can be done in this very funny lampoon of corporate business life. Fresh out of college, Brantley Foster (Fox) is determined to climb New York’s corporate ladder in record time by masquerading as an up-and-coming executive, even though he’s really the new mail boy. However, Brantley’s plans begin to go awry when the boss’s wife falls in love with him and he falls in love with a junior executive, who also happens to be the boss’s mistress.
The Hard Way (1991)
Michael J. Fox and James Woods team up for a hilarious action-adventure from director John Badham. Nick Lang (Fox) is a popular movie star who joins forces with a tough New York detective (Woods) in order to break out of his “nice guy” screen image. On the trail of a ruthless serial killer, the last thing Moss needs is a pampered Hollywood sidekick.
For Love or Money (1993)
Douglas Ireland is in one heck of a bind. While he caters to the whims of the super-rich, Ireland (Fox) dreams of building his own luxury hotel and hopes that a wealthy but unscrupulous investor will help. There’s one condition: Ireland must “babysit” the investor’s beautiful young mistress (Gabrielle Anwar). But soon, he must decide whether the love of his life is worth more than the dream of his life.
To win a copy of The Michael J.Fox Film Collection on Blu-ray, thanks to Via Vision, email us and tell us “The Laverne & Shirley star that co-starred opposite Michael J.Fox in The Hard Way”? (Entries Close April 30).