At Close Range (1986)

R | 115 mins | Drama | 18 April 1986

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HISTORY

       Articles in the 21 Jul 1985 Chicago Tribune and the 11 Aug 1985 LAT stated that producer Elliott Lewitt first came across a newspaper story about a criminal father, Bruce Johnston, Sr., who recruited his son, stepson, and assorted friends to form a gang in Oxford, PA, then arranged to murder them in what could best be described as a case of “Oedipal role reversal.” Lewitt was attracted to the complicated relationships between the parent and his various offspring, and the descent of violence on the bucolic town. He partnered with screenwriter Nicholas Kazan, who wrote a script capturing the negative forces that tore apart the family. According to a Jul 1986 GQ article, American Film magazine listed Kazan’s work as one of the top ten best unproduced screenplays at the time. The Chicago Tribune reported that the men met with a lot of resistance when they tried to set up the project at film studios. GQ stated that director Bob Rafelson worked with Lewitt for three years with actor Jack Nicholson to star as “Brad Whitewood, Sr.,” but could not find financing for a $13 million-budget. John Daly, Hemdale Film Corporation president, was attracted to the script, and agreed to finance the movie for $6 million.
       Director James Foley knew about Kazan’s script, beginning in 1980, and told Lewitt of his desire to make the film, according to the Chicago Tribune. GQ reported that Foley was ready to step in if Rafelson withdrew. Sean Penn came in contact with the script when Lewitt sent it to musician ... More Less

       Articles in the 21 Jul 1985 Chicago Tribune and the 11 Aug 1985 LAT stated that producer Elliott Lewitt first came across a newspaper story about a criminal father, Bruce Johnston, Sr., who recruited his son, stepson, and assorted friends to form a gang in Oxford, PA, then arranged to murder them in what could best be described as a case of “Oedipal role reversal.” Lewitt was attracted to the complicated relationships between the parent and his various offspring, and the descent of violence on the bucolic town. He partnered with screenwriter Nicholas Kazan, who wrote a script capturing the negative forces that tore apart the family. According to a Jul 1986 GQ article, American Film magazine listed Kazan’s work as one of the top ten best unproduced screenplays at the time. The Chicago Tribune reported that the men met with a lot of resistance when they tried to set up the project at film studios. GQ stated that director Bob Rafelson worked with Lewitt for three years with actor Jack Nicholson to star as “Brad Whitewood, Sr.,” but could not find financing for a $13 million-budget. John Daly, Hemdale Film Corporation president, was attracted to the script, and agreed to finance the movie for $6 million.
       Director James Foley knew about Kazan’s script, beginning in 1980, and told Lewitt of his desire to make the film, according to the Chicago Tribune. GQ reported that Foley was ready to step in if Rafelson withdrew. Sean Penn came in contact with the script when Lewitt sent it to musician Bruce Springsteen to see if he had any interest in writing songs for the film. Reportedly, the script got passed around by Steve Van Zandt, a member of Springsteen’s E Street Band, to his actor brother, Billy, then to Penn. At the time, Penn was engaged to one of Springsteen’s sisters. Later, Foley and Penn gravitated toward each other, becoming friends and sharing a house. However, as Penn received more lucrative offers, Foley agreed to give Penn script approval so that he would not leave the project. Lewitt said that the wording in a draft of Penn’s contract gave the actor final script approval and the power to do rewrites only with Foley. Lewitt did not agree to the terms, but Foley and Penn later consolidated their power in other ways.
       A 3 May 1985 DV production chart and news items in the 8 May 1985 Var and 9 May 1985 HR stated that principal photography on the twelve-week shoot would begin in Franklin, TN, on 29 May 1985. GQ reported that Foley told Kazan he was not needed on set. Even though Kazan did maintain a presence during filming, the script no longer reflected the secondary conflicts he wove in and out of the original story. A multiple-character movie was reduced to a story between a boy and his father, and foreshadowing of the father’s dubious character was removed, eliminating the build up of tension. Kazan and Lewitt also felt that other editing decisions weakened the film. When Lewitt and Kazan insisted on permission from Orion Pictures executives to edit the film at their own expense, they were denied when Orion sided with its star.

      The following statement appears after opening credits: “Based on a true story. Spring, 1978.” The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “Special thanks to Anthea Sylbert and Julie Kirkham for their unflagging support of At Close Range over the years,” and “We wish to thank The Tennessee Film Commission for their invaluable assistance.” End credits state: “This story is based on actual events. However, all names have been changed and certain events and characters have been created for dramatic purpose.”
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Tribune
21 Jul 1985
Section 13, p. 8.
Daily Variety
3 May 1985.
---
GQ
Jul 1986
p. 55, 58-59.
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 1985.
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Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1986
p. 3, 12.
Los Angeles Times
11 Aug 1985
Calendar, p. 19, 22, 24.
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1986
p. 1, 8.
New York Times
30 May 1986
p. 10.
Variety
8 May 1985.
---
Variety
26 Feb 1986
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion Pictures Release
Hemdale Film Corporation Presents
An Elliott Lewitt Production
A Film By James Foley
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Best boy
Asst elec
Best boy
Dolly grip
Cam and lenses supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Graphics consultant
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Lead person
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Cost des consultant
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus ed
Mus rec at
SOUND
Supv sd ed
ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff asst
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
Asst makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Prod exec
Prod assoc
Prod coord
Prod accountant
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod secy
Asst accountant
Asst to Mr. Foley
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
L. A. prod asst
L. A. prod asst
Tennessee casting
L. A. casting asst
Craft service
Asst craft service
Caterer
Caterer
First aid
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Dispatcher
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver/Wrangler
Dog handler
Asst to Mr. Penn
Physical development trainer for Mr. Penn
Prod equip
Post prod coord
Legal services
Cooper, Epstein, & Hurewitz
Insurance provided by
Albert G. Ruben & Co., Inc.
Completion guarantee by
Travel arrangements by
TST International
Motion picture banking
Credit Lyonnais Bank, Nederland
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunt coord
Stand-in/Double for Mr. Penn
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Live To Tell,” written by Patrick Leonard & Madonna, performed by Madonna
“Miss You,” written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of Rolling Stones Records
“It Started With A Touch,” written by Leon Medica, performed by Leroux, provided by arrangement with The Inside Track
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SONGS
“Live To Tell,” written by Patrick Leonard & Madonna, performed by Madonna
“Miss You,” written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of Rolling Stones Records
“It Started With A Touch,” written by Leon Medica, performed by Leroux, provided by arrangement with The Inside Track
“High Time,” written by Leon Medica & Hoyt Garrick Jr. , performed by Leroux, provided by arrangement with The Inside Track
“Boogie Oogie Oogie,” written by Janis Johnson & Perry L. Kibble, performed by Taste of Honey, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
“October,” written by Tom Elliott
“In Between Rainbows,” written by John Townsend & Charles John Quarto, performed by John Townsend
“Technique,” written by Bill LaBounty & Craig Brickhardt, performed by Bill LaBounty.
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DETAILS
Release Date:
18 April 1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 April 1986
New York opening: week of 30 May 1986
Production Date:
began 29 May 1985 in Franklin, TN
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27933
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In spring 1978, Brad Whitewood, Jr. impresses his brother, Tommy, by hanging from the hood of a car to retrieve Tommy’s stolen money from the driver. Then, he dusts himself off, and makes conversation with a pretty blonde girl named Terry, and her girlfriend, Jill, in the town square. He offers white pills to the girls. As Terry swallows one, Brad, Jr. asks when and where he can see her again. She promises to return to the square in two days. The next day, Brad, Jr. and his friend, Lucas, are home when a stranger appears and asks to see Brad’s mother. When Brad, Jr. says she is not around, the stranger peels off three hundred-dollar bills and leaves them on the kitchen table. He addresses Brad, Jr. by his name, but mistakes Lucas for Tommy, then leaves. Later, Brad, Jr.'s mother pockets the money, but has no interest in seeing the stranger who is her ex-husband, Brad Whitewood, Sr. Meanwhile, Brad, Jr.’s grandma warns him to stay away from his father. At night, Brad, Jr. waits for Terry at the square, but she never appears. Later at home, Brad, Jr. and his mother’s boyfriend, Ernie, have a fistfight over the sound volume on the television. When Ernie tosses Brad, Jr. in the dirt outside, Brad, Jr. calls his father to come get him. As they drive in Brad, Sr.’s car, the father denies he is a thief. At the Whitewood residence, Brad, Jr. is introduced to Uncle Dickie, Patch, Boyd, Tony Pine, who is an epileptic, and Aunt Mary Sue. Brad is left to make small talk with Mary Sue, while his father and the ... +


In spring 1978, Brad Whitewood, Jr. impresses his brother, Tommy, by hanging from the hood of a car to retrieve Tommy’s stolen money from the driver. Then, he dusts himself off, and makes conversation with a pretty blonde girl named Terry, and her girlfriend, Jill, in the town square. He offers white pills to the girls. As Terry swallows one, Brad, Jr. asks when and where he can see her again. She promises to return to the square in two days. The next day, Brad, Jr. and his friend, Lucas, are home when a stranger appears and asks to see Brad’s mother. When Brad, Jr. says she is not around, the stranger peels off three hundred-dollar bills and leaves them on the kitchen table. He addresses Brad, Jr. by his name, but mistakes Lucas for Tommy, then leaves. Later, Brad, Jr.'s mother pockets the money, but has no interest in seeing the stranger who is her ex-husband, Brad Whitewood, Sr. Meanwhile, Brad, Jr.’s grandma warns him to stay away from his father. At night, Brad, Jr. waits for Terry at the square, but she never appears. Later at home, Brad, Jr. and his mother’s boyfriend, Ernie, have a fistfight over the sound volume on the television. When Ernie tosses Brad, Jr. in the dirt outside, Brad, Jr. calls his father to come get him. As they drive in Brad, Sr.’s car, the father denies he is a thief. At the Whitewood residence, Brad, Jr. is introduced to Uncle Dickie, Patch, Boyd, Tony Pine, who is an epileptic, and Aunt Mary Sue. Brad is left to make small talk with Mary Sue, while his father and the other men go to rob a safe. The next day, father and son go into town, and Brad, Jr. is impressed when he sees what makes his father a successful scammer. Later, Brad, Jr. sees Jill at school and asks her for Terry’s address. He hitchhikes to Terry’s farm. She tells him that her mother grounded her for two weeks when she tried to sneak out to meet him, and says she has heard rumors that his father is a criminal. He tells her not to believe the gossip. She gives him her telephone number, and he kisses her goodbye. Later, Whitewood gang member, Patch, suggests that he could teach Brad, Jr. a few things about crime, and they go off to brainstorm. Brad, Sr. buys his son a car, but discourages him from teaming up with Patch. When Brad, Jr. suggests that his father teach him how to be a successful criminal, Brad, Sr. refuses, and orders him to return to his mother. The next day, Brad, Sr. takes Brad, Jr. and Tommy for a ride and points out the area homes belonging to wealthy people. At a restaurant, he gives the boys a gun, and when Tommy is excited, he tells them they cannot have it until they prove themselves. Tommy is ready to put Brad, Sr.’s word to the test that night. Meanwhile, Lester, an old associate, interrupts them, and says he is looking for some action. However, Brad, Sr. accuses Lester of being a police informant and waves him away. Later, Brad, Jr. rounds up his friends to rob a farm. The owner discovers the gang on his property, and shoots Brad, Jr. in the face as the boys escape. Brad, Jr. calls his father, who refuses to help. He tells his son to ask his girlfriend for assistance. Terry cleans Brad, Jr.’s wound, and he spends the night with her. The next day, they sneak out, and spend the day on the lake with his friends. At night, Terry tells Brad, Jr. she has to return home or her mother will call the police. Brad, Jr. promises her that he will make enough money to buy a house that they can live in someday. One day, Brad, Jr. and Terry meet his father and his associates at a bar. When Brad, Jr. asks his father for work so that he can afford a house, the gang walks off. The father warns his son that in the future those kinds of conversations have to be held in private. He later agrees to show Brad, Jr. how he works to see if he likes the life. At a restaurant, Brad, Sr. and his gang see Lester talking with Detective Mosker. Outside in the parking lot, Brad, Sr. bullies Lester into joining them on a job to prove his loyalty. During the drive, Brad, Sr. gets Lester high on drugs and alcohol and interrogates him. Lester says that the FBI has been brought in to investigate the Whitewood gang’s activities. Brad, Jr. watches as they stop near a lake, and Patch drowns Lester. One day, as Tommy watches Brad, Jr. work on his car, Brad, Sr. arrives with a shiny new sports car, and asks his sons for help on a job. Brad, Jr. refuses and his father drives off angry. Instead, Brad, Jr. recruits his friends to commit a robbery, but they get caught by the police, and thrown in jail. Brad, Sr. offers $12,000 to Brad, Jr.’s grandma for his bail, but she refuses it. Later, Brad, Sr. drives Lucas and Terry to jail to visit Brad, Jr. On the way, Terry becomes drunk on Brad, Sr.’s liquor. They stop at a motel where Brad, Sr. tells Terry she knows too much and has to stop seeing his son. When she refuses, he rapes her. Later, Terry tells Brad, Jr. in jail about her ordeal. He retaliates by giving the FBI information on his father. When Lucas is subpoenaed by a Grand Jury, Brad, Sr. lures him out on a job, and kills him. He also kills Tommy and another friend the same way. Brad, Jr. is released from jail after giving up more information. He plans to leave town with Terry and relocate out west near her relatives. Next, Brad, Sr. plots to kill Terry. Grandma gives $400 to help Brad, Jr. and Terry’s escape. As the couple gets ready to drive off, shots ring out in the night. Terry is killed. Brad, Jr. stumbles out of the car and washes off the blood from his wounds. Later, he visits his father and pretends nothing has happened. In the bathroom, he retrieves a gun hidden on a shelf. Back in the kitchen, he confronts his father about Tommy and Terry. Brad, Sr. tries to calm him by saying he knows how the police can mess up a person’s thinking. Brad, Jr. asks him if the gun he holds killed everyone, and fires a few stray shots. As Brad, Sr. tells his son that he loves him, Brad, Jr. presses the gun against his father’s face, but says killing him would be too easy. He wants his father to suffer every day and die slowly. Soon, Brad, Jr. testifies against his father at a Grand Jury hearing.

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

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