Firestarter (1984)

R | 115 mins | Horror, Science fiction | 11 May 1984

Director:

Mark L. Lester

Writer:

Stanley Mann

Producer:

Frank Capra, Jr.

Cinematographer:

Guiseppe Ruzzolini

Editor:

David Rawlins

Production Designer:

Giorgio Postiglione

Production Company:

Dino De Laurentiis Corporation
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HISTORY

As announced in a 10 Jun 1980 HR brief, film rights to Stephen King’s 1980 novel, Firestarter, were originally bought by Egyptian producer Dodi Fayed for $1 million prior to publication, when the book was still in galley proofs. Fayed was the chief executive of Allied Stars, a film production company launched in 1979 and backed by his family’s interest in the United Star Shipping conglomerate, as reported in a 8--15 Sep 1979 Screen International article.
       Universal Pictures later acquired the project and hired John Carpenter to direct and Larry Franco to produce. Location scouting had already begun in TN under the supervision of production manager, Fred Brost, when Universal “postponed” the $17.5 million production for being too costly, according to a 20 Aug 1982 DV article. The following year, the project shifted to the production company of Dino De Laurentiis, and Universal remained as distributor, as indicated in a 31 Aug 1983 Var brief. Mark L. Lester was enlisted as director and Frank Capra, Jr., as producer. A 20 Nov 1983 LAT article revealed that the budget had been trimmed to approximately $15 million.
       In production notes from AMPAS library files, Drew Barrymore recalled that her mother, Jaid Barrymore, bought the novel at a store after noticing a resemblance between the young girl on the book cover and six-year-old Drew. The child actress was cast as “Charlie McGee” following her breakthrough role in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, see entry). The part of “Vicky McGee” marked the feature film debut for television star Heather Locklear. ... More Less

As announced in a 10 Jun 1980 HR brief, film rights to Stephen King’s 1980 novel, Firestarter, were originally bought by Egyptian producer Dodi Fayed for $1 million prior to publication, when the book was still in galley proofs. Fayed was the chief executive of Allied Stars, a film production company launched in 1979 and backed by his family’s interest in the United Star Shipping conglomerate, as reported in a 8--15 Sep 1979 Screen International article.
       Universal Pictures later acquired the project and hired John Carpenter to direct and Larry Franco to produce. Location scouting had already begun in TN under the supervision of production manager, Fred Brost, when Universal “postponed” the $17.5 million production for being too costly, according to a 20 Aug 1982 DV article. The following year, the project shifted to the production company of Dino De Laurentiis, and Universal remained as distributor, as indicated in a 31 Aug 1983 Var brief. Mark L. Lester was enlisted as director and Frank Capra, Jr., as producer. A 20 Nov 1983 LAT article revealed that the budget had been trimmed to approximately $15 million.
       In production notes from AMPAS library files, Drew Barrymore recalled that her mother, Jaid Barrymore, bought the novel at a store after noticing a resemblance between the young girl on the book cover and six-year-old Drew. The child actress was cast as “Charlie McGee” following her breakthrough role in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, see entry). The part of “Vicky McGee” marked the feature film debut for television star Heather Locklear. As mentioned in a 3 Nov 1983 DV item, Burt Lancaster was replaced by Martin Sheen in the role of “Captain Hollister.”
       According to the 31 Aug 1983 Var, principal photography was scheduled to begin 12 Sep 1983. In addition to TN, the production considered locations in Mexico, LA, and TX, before settling on NC, as recalled by producer Capra in a 8 Mar 1984 LAT article. The selling point was Orton Plantation, near Wilmington, NC, an ideal location for “The Shop’s headquarters.” The 12,000-acre estate was a former rice plantation that included an antebellum mansion and stables. On the property, the production constructed a replica of the buildings, which they burned down for the story’s climactic scenes. As mentioned in production notes, De Laurentiis transformed a nearby warehouse into a soundstage and base of operations for the production. Most of the filming took place in the vicinity of Wilmington, but the shooting schedule began in the Blue Ridge Mountain areas of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, NC, to capture the mountain cabin sequences.
       Head of special effects, Mike Wood, who received an Academy Award nomination for visual effects on Poltergeist (1982, see entry), collaborated with Jeff Jarvis on the pyrotechnics. As described in production notes and a 17 May 1984 LAHExam article, Wood and Jarvis consulted with the company, Filler Safety Products, to create a slimmer version of the typical bulky burn suit with a more compact breathing regulator, which enabled a stunt person to endure approximately a minute and thirty-eight seconds of “full burn.” The fireballs thrown by Charlie were round pieces of Styrofoam containing small model rocket engines that could be controlled remotely. For scenes in which the fire appears to be chasing men, Wood and his team dug trenches in the ground for gas pipes, which were attached to a propane tank, and were able to adjust the flow through a series of valves. Gas pipes were also rigged inside the barn, enabling the special effects team to control the burn and set fire to the building approximately ninety times for the climactic sequence, which took approximately three weeks to shoot.
       As reported in a 22 Nov 1983 DV brief, filming was scheduled to be completed on 26 Nov 1983, and cost $3 million less than projected.
       A 15 Jan 2004 Entertainment Today article described how Firestarter launched an important production base in eastern NC. On 23 Nov 1983, three days before principal photography was completed, De Laurentiis announced he would establish a $1.5 million film studio in the area. In a competition that made newspaper headlines, Wilmington beat out Charleston, SC, for the contract, and construction of the facility began on 16 Dec 1983. As stated in production notes, the studio would be the headquarters of the North Carolina Film Corporation, a subsidiary of the De Laurentiis Corporation, and would represent the company’s “only permanent U.S. production facility.”
       On 25 Apr 1984, Var announced Stephen King’s hometown, Bangor, ME, would host the world premiere on 9 May 1984. The event would mark the first of its kind for the town, and would benefit a local advocacy group called Northeast Combat.
       The Jul 1984 Box review noted that film had a surprisingly “weak” first weekend, bringing in $4.7 million on 1,356 screens. The picture eventually earned $17 million at the box-office, according to a 14 Dec 2010 DV article.
       A sequel, Firestarter: Rekindled, a four-hour television miniseries, aired on the Sci-Fi cable channel in 2002. A reboot of the original feature film was announced in the 14 Dec 2010 DV article. Universal Pictures and the De Laurentiis Corporation planned to collaborate on the project, from a script by Mark L. Smith “loosely based” on the book, and create a franchise from the material. Dino De Laurentiis was involved in the development before his death on 10 Nov 2010. His wife, and chairman of his company, Martha De Laurentiis, and president of production, Lorenzo De Maio, would oversee the reboot. As of Jun 2016, the status of the project could not be confirmed. On 14 May 2014, Entertainment Weekly announced that the cable channel, Turner Network Television (TNT), was developing a series called The Shop, which would be a sequel to Stephen King’s original novel and set twenty years later.
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “The producers wish to express their sincere thanks to: The North Carolina State Film Commission; Laura Ashley; The Walter Kidde Co.; Dorothy's Ruffled Originals; RCA; The Dixie Furniture Company; Digital Equipment Corporation; Impact Effects; the residents of the city of Wilmington, North Carolina; The Orton Plantation and The Kenneth Sprunt family.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Jul 1984
Section R, p. 82.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1982.
---
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1983.
---
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1983.
---
Daily Variety
14 Dec 2010
p. 1, 19.
Entertainment Today
15 Jan 2004.
---
Entertainment Weekly
14 May 2014.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1984
p. 4
LAHExam
17 May 1984
Section B, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
20 Nov 1983
Calendar, p. 39.
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1984
Section AA, p. 4B.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1984
Calendar, p. 5
New York Times
11 May 1984
p. 8
Screen International
8--15 Sep 1979
p. 1.
Variety
31 Aug 1983.
---
Variety
25 Apr 1984.
---
Variety
9 May 1984
p. 10, 526.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Dino De Laurentiis Presents
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Still photog
Key grip
Best boy
Gaffer
Gaffer
Best boy
Cams by
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Co-ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Asst const coord
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp and performed by
Supv mus ed
Supv mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
ADR ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des
Title des
MAKEUP
Make-up/George C. Scott
Hair stylist
Asst make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Translator
Weapons adv
Transportation coord
Catering
Catering
Craft service
Prod secy
Scr supv
Asst auditor
Post prod auditor
Asst to the prod
Loc mgr
Loc casting
Security coord
Unit pub
Welfare worker
Teacher
Prod intern
Loc equip by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Firestarter by Stephen King (New York, 1980).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 May 1984
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Bangor, ME: 9 May 1984
Los Angeles and New York openings: 11 May 1984
Production Date:
12 September--26 November 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 July 1984
Copyright Number:
PA223162
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
115
Length(in feet):
10,280
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Andrew McGee and his nine-year-old daughter, Charlie, are on the run from the Department of Scientific Intelligence (DSI), a clandestine government agency known by the nickname, “The Shop.” During brief breaks in their journey, Andrew recalls the events that changed their lives. To earn extra money during college, Andrew participated in experiments involving a hallucinogenic drug called “Lot Six,” which was secretly sponsored by the Shop. There, he met fellow student and volunteer, Vicky Tomlinson, and the two later married. As a consequence of the experiment, Andrew and Vicky are left with certain psychic abilities: she can read minds and Andrew is able to force others to perform his will through mind control. However, their daughter Charlie is born with a greater destructive potential, the ability to start fires telepathically. She also possesses foresight into the immediate future. As Charlie grows up, her father coaches her on controlling the power, and at breakfast one day, instructs her to toast the bread, and not set it on fire. However, Charlie has difficulty restraining her pyrokinesis, if overwhelmed by anger or frustration. Meanwhile, the McGees receive anonymous telephone calls and suspect the Shop is monitoring them. One day, Andrew arrives home to find that two Shop agents have murdered Vicky, but he is able to prevent them from abducting Charlie by using mind control. Father and daughter escape and become fugitives over the next year. At a plantation in Longmont, Virginia, which serves as Shop headquarters, Dr. Joseph Wanless, the doctor in charge of the “Lot Six” experiment, alerts the head of the organization, Captain Hollister, that Charlie’s ability ... +


Andrew McGee and his nine-year-old daughter, Charlie, are on the run from the Department of Scientific Intelligence (DSI), a clandestine government agency known by the nickname, “The Shop.” During brief breaks in their journey, Andrew recalls the events that changed their lives. To earn extra money during college, Andrew participated in experiments involving a hallucinogenic drug called “Lot Six,” which was secretly sponsored by the Shop. There, he met fellow student and volunteer, Vicky Tomlinson, and the two later married. As a consequence of the experiment, Andrew and Vicky are left with certain psychic abilities: she can read minds and Andrew is able to force others to perform his will through mind control. However, their daughter Charlie is born with a greater destructive potential, the ability to start fires telepathically. She also possesses foresight into the immediate future. As Charlie grows up, her father coaches her on controlling the power, and at breakfast one day, instructs her to toast the bread, and not set it on fire. However, Charlie has difficulty restraining her pyrokinesis, if overwhelmed by anger or frustration. Meanwhile, the McGees receive anonymous telephone calls and suspect the Shop is monitoring them. One day, Andrew arrives home to find that two Shop agents have murdered Vicky, but he is able to prevent them from abducting Charlie by using mind control. Father and daughter escape and become fugitives over the next year. At a plantation in Longmont, Virginia, which serves as Shop headquarters, Dr. Joseph Wanless, the doctor in charge of the “Lot Six” experiment, alerts the head of the organization, Captain Hollister, that Charlie’s ability could increase in adolescence as her pituitary gland develops. Wanless compares the possibilities to a nuclear explosion. Hollister looks at John Rainbird, the organization’s deranged assassin, and ponders the option of using the girl as a military weapon, but Wanless is adamantly against the suggestion. On their way to Tennessee, Andrew and Charlie hitch a ride with Irv Manders, who invites them to his farm for lunch. Irv is immediately charmed by the adorable Charlie and mentions he and his wife Norma always wanted a girl. Andrew senses he can trust the older man and confides about their abilities, the Shop, and the fact that the agency wants to use Charlie to reactivate the Lot Six project. After Charlie suddenly foresees agents converging on the farm, Irv agrees to protect the two fugitives and grabs his rifle. When Shop agents seize her father, Charlie sets the men on fire and causes their cars to explode. Irv gives his friends an old Jeep, and father and daughter drive to a mountain cabin where Andrew’s father once lived. Hoping to force the Shop to back down, Andrew writes letters about their situation to major newspapers, such as the New York Times, and mails them from a local post office. Meanwhile, back at Shop headquarters, Rainbird assassinates Dr. Wanless, and Hollister receives information on the McGees’s location from two undercover agents in the mountain area. Hollister sends Rainbird to apprehend the father and daughter, but the assassin also wants to dispose of the girl once the Shop has completed their tests. He believes she possesses “the power of the Gods” and must be eliminated. After confiscating the mail delivery containing Andrew’s letters, Rainbird hides in a tree and captures the McGees using a tranquilizer gun. At Shop headquarters, father and daughter are separated in the plantation’s mansion, and Andrew is given medication to weaken his mind control powers. Charlie is combative and demands to see her father as Hollister attempts to seek her cooperation. The captain tries to cajole Charlie with toys, but she remains defiant and refuses to demonstrate her pyrokinesis, especially after the destruction she caused at the farm. Posing as an orderly named “John,” Rainbird cleans Charlie’s room every day and works on befriending the young girl. He eventually succeeds in convincing her to cooperate with the Shop’s tests, under the pretense that she will be allowed to see her father. In the control room, Hollister becomes ecstatic when Charlie sets fire to wood chips and makes a bathtub of water boil. Rainbird continues to foster a relationship with the girl and takes her horseback riding one day. Charlie tells the “orderly” that her power feels stronger and she is able to control it more. In the next experiment, she sets fire to a cinder-block wall, but threatens greater destruction when Hollister and his team will not let her see her father. Meanwhile, Andrew has been undergoing tests, but has learned to fake swallowing the pills and gives the impression that his mind-control abilities have weakened, so the Shop will lower its guard. When Hollister reveals the Shop is sending him to Hawaii for some rest and relaxation, Andrew knows the trip is a ruse and uses his mind control to make Hollister relay a note to Charlie. Andrew instructs his daughter that they will be leaving that night and to meet him at the stables at 8:00 p.m. Excited, Charlie shares the plan with her new friend “John.” On the way to the stables, Andrew learns from Hollister, who is still under his mind control, about Rainbird’s role in the scheme. Meanwhile, Rainbird goes to the stables and stakes out a spot in the barn loft. He persuades Charlie to climb the ladder and join him there, but she stops as soon as she sees her father and runs to embrace him. When Andrew informs his daughter that “John” is not a friend, she is furious about the deception and prepares to set fire to the barn. However, she pulls back her powers so as not to hurt the horses. In an effort to seize Charlie, Rainbird kills Hollister with a bullet to the head and wounds Andrew with one in the neck. He tries to shoots Charlie, but she sets the bullet on fire and turns it back on Rainbird, making him burst into flames. Dying, Andrew tells his daughter to flee, kill anyone that tries to stop her, and burn down the Shop. After her father passes away, Charlie lets the horses escape before destroying the plantation and targeting Shop agents with fireballs. Later, she returns to the Manders farm and is embraced by Irv and Norma. Accompanied by Irv, Charlie follows through with her father’s wishes and goes to the New York Times to tell her story. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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