Grease {Egyptian Theater} 7/31/2011

Just got home after attending a screening of grease at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood. I was invited for free by the Cinematheque, who I volunteer for. My friend Sarah came with me, and we were both really glad to go because it was just great. Great film, and great introduction by Vikki and Q&A by Kleiser.

I hadn’t seen Grease in years, seriously…years!  I think maybe back in middle school when my sister would watch it ad nauseam, although she seems to deny this, perhaps it felt that way due to the fact that she owned the soundtrack and played it frequently. Anyway, who can deny the catchy songs, Olivia Newton John who is crazy hot, and John Travolta as a bad-ass.

The film was introduced by Vikki Lizzi (wife of Jeff Conaway/Kenickie). A really heartfelt opening that made me squirt a few. She informed us that Jeff had come up with the idea of how to handle the scene where Kenickie and Danny hug after discussing being a second for thunder road. He saw it as a love scene between two guys and thought about the hug with immediate reaction to come their hair and seem cool again. She also said that his favorite line was “Your chariot awaits” when inviting Rizzo into his car. After the film director Randal Kleiser did a Q&A. Very friendly (I chatted with him a bit afterward) and informative, Randal had some great stories to tell. He talked about how the ending scene was shot in 102 degree weather and everybody gave it their all. he also mentioned that the film was shot in roughly 56 days (?) and they only had about 5 weeks of prep.

He said that when he talked with director Robert Wise (Sound of Music/West Side Story) about how to shoot a musical wise asked how much prep time and when he told him 5 weeks wise told him to quit the job, informing him that a musical required a full year of prep time.

He also talked about how they were disturbing others while rehearsing on the paramount lots, including Jack Nicholson who was working on ‘Goin’ South’ and Warren Beatty who was involved in ‘Heaven Can Wait’.

Randal also made a jab about actors and how he misses working with really professional ones who have studied the craft. he said that a lot of actors now “just have pretty faces and think that’s all they need to get by”. He said it was great to be so new at the business but still have all these veteran actors treat him respectfully and completely professionally. He also said that he partly landed the job because of John Travolta’s high recommendation of him from previous work they had done together.

He also pointed out that Michael Bhien (Aliens/Terminator) plays an extra, notably the one who gets punched by Travolta on the basketball court.

He also mentioned how ironic it was that Olivia Newton John actually requested a screen test because she wanted to feel comfortable. Apparently she was hesitant to do another film after the failure of one she had done previously. he noted that this “was probably the only time in history where an actress actually requested to be screen tested” and laughed.

Randal also explained that the Thunder Road sequence had homages to ‘Ben-Hur’ with the blades on the tires section. He originally wanted to do more of a tribute by staging the scene on a football field with floats, but the studio said it would be too costly so they shot it at the LA river, which he said worked out better anyway. Another scene that didn’t make it was one in which he wanted to shoot Sandra D singing in the rain, using a song from the original musical, but it was pointed out that her makeup would run and her hair would get wet and she would “resemble a drowned rat” so the idea was scrapped. Also noted was a scene that “is probably in the Paramount Vaults somewhere” which was shot to indicate the fighting between Rizzo and kenickie, but in the end the scene just didn’t work so it was taken out. Other than that Randal said that everything you see was basically how the script was. Although things like the drive-in were somewhat improvised. he got 50’s trailer footage from Chicago and the day of the shoot they screened it all and decided on the cartoon with the hot dog, and he asked it they could sink it up with the ending of the song so that the hot dog bows at the end. He said it was a fast and hectic shoot but fun, and that most of the musical numbers only took a day to shoot.

Another great screening and informative Q&A from LA’s public film school =)

-Dan 7/31/2011

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