8 Million Ways to Die (1986)

R | 115 mins | Drama | 25 April 1986

Director:

Hal Ashby

Producer:

Steve Roth

Cinematographer:

Stephen H. Burum

Production Designer:

Michael Haller

Production Company:

PSO Presentations
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HISTORY

A 16-22 May 1986 LA Weekly article reported that development of 8 Million Ways to Die began in the early 1980s when screenwriter Oliver Stone adapted Lawrence Block’s famed 1982 crime novel, Eight Million Ways to Die, which told the story of a cocaine-addicted prostitute and an alcoholic ex-police officer in New York City. At that time, Walter Hill was slated to direct, with Nick Nolte in the starring role. However, the project fell through and was later reworked in a joint deal between Steve Roth and Producers Sales Organization (PSO), starring Jeff Bridges and Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis was eventually replaced by Rosanna Arquette, although a 17 Apr 1985 DV noted that singer-actress Cher was in consideration for the role.
       According to a 22 Jul 1985 DV article, shooting on location in New York City would have pushed the budget to $16.5 million, and filmmakers considered moving the action to Miami, FL, and Chicago, IL, before deciding on the Los Angeles, CA, area, which lowered costs by $1.5 million. Stone’s modified script was ultimately thrown out, as he was already committed to directing Salvador (1986, see entry), and was unavailable for future rewrites. As a result, producers hired Robert Towne to provide uncredited revisions, including a proposed title change to Easy Does It, borrowing from a popular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) slogan. Although usually reluctant to work with Hollywood, the organization approved Towne’s depiction of drug and alcohol addiction and allowed the filmmakers to use their name in the film. Despite production delays, Towne had completed less than half of the script by the time ... More Less

A 16-22 May 1986 LA Weekly article reported that development of 8 Million Ways to Die began in the early 1980s when screenwriter Oliver Stone adapted Lawrence Block’s famed 1982 crime novel, Eight Million Ways to Die, which told the story of a cocaine-addicted prostitute and an alcoholic ex-police officer in New York City. At that time, Walter Hill was slated to direct, with Nick Nolte in the starring role. However, the project fell through and was later reworked in a joint deal between Steve Roth and Producers Sales Organization (PSO), starring Jeff Bridges and Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis was eventually replaced by Rosanna Arquette, although a 17 Apr 1985 DV noted that singer-actress Cher was in consideration for the role.
       According to a 22 Jul 1985 DV article, shooting on location in New York City would have pushed the budget to $16.5 million, and filmmakers considered moving the action to Miami, FL, and Chicago, IL, before deciding on the Los Angeles, CA, area, which lowered costs by $1.5 million. Stone’s modified script was ultimately thrown out, as he was already committed to directing Salvador (1986, see entry), and was unavailable for future rewrites. As a result, producers hired Robert Towne to provide uncredited revisions, including a proposed title change to Easy Does It, borrowing from a popular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) slogan. Although usually reluctant to work with Hollywood, the organization approved Towne’s depiction of drug and alcohol addiction and allowed the filmmakers to use their name in the film. Despite production delays, Towne had completed less than half of the script by the time principal photography was set to begin in late Jul 1985, leaving Ashby, Arquette, and Bridges to frantically work out the rest of the story on set each day. This improvisational process irritated PSO executives, who demanded to see completed script pages, and Towne eventually completed his work in mid-Aug 1985. The 22 Jul 1985 DV and 4 Oct 1985 LA Weekly indicated that filming began 27 or 29 Jul 1985 in El Segundo, CA, and an 8 Aug 1985 DV item noted the full cooperation of the Los Angeles County Police Department.
       Two weeks after shooting was completed, Ashby was fired. Ashby handed the negatives to his frequent collaborator, Robert Lawrence, who moved them to another editing facility. However, PSO decided to hire Stuart Pappé, and Lawrence refused to participate. Pappé assumed the task without consulting Ashby, who believed he would be allowed to determine the final cut once post-production was completed. Although Ashby pushed for arbitration with the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the motion was rejected, and he received monetary compensation for his involvement.
       Several significant changes were dictated by Pappé’s control in the editing room, such as the addition of 200 lines of dialogue written for actor Jeff Bridges to record in looping sessions. Rosanna Arquette told the 16-22 May 1986 LA Weekly that important scenes explaining “Sarah’s” backstory were omitted or altered to change the character’s demeanor, while composer James Newton Howard was instructed to rewrite his score to resemble the soundtrack of the popular television series, Miami Vice (NBC, 16 Sep 1984—28 Jun 1989). Producer Steve Roth blamed himself for the outcome and regretted going into business with PSO. Meanwhile, PSO founder Mark Damon claimed the actors were involved in the editing process, and Pappé made changes based on their comments. He characterized the way PSO handled post-production as “a business decision,” and was satisfied with the end product. The final film was neither a critical nor commercial success. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Apr 1985.
---
Daily Variety
3 May 1985.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jul 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 1986
p. 3, 9.
LA Weekly
4 Oct 1985.
---
LA Weekly
16-22 May 1986
pp. 31-33.
Los Angeles Times
25 Apr 1986
p. 6.
New York Times
25 Apr 1986
p. 17.
Variety
26 Jun 1985.
---
Variety
23 Apr 1986
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Producers Sales Organization Presents
A Steve Roth Presentation
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Chief lighting tech
Best boy/Elec
Key grip
Key grip
Best boy/Grip
Dolly grip
Video tech
Asst video tech
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Post prod supv
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set dresser
Const foreman
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Asst costumer
MUSIC
Orig mus score comp and performed by
Mus ed
Mus rec at Bertus Productions
Mus rec at Bertus Productions
Mus mixed at Bill Schnee Studios
Mus mixed at Bill Schnee Studios
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Supv Foley ed
Sd ed asst
Sd ed asst
Post prod dial
ADR ed
ADR asst
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod sd by
Prod sd by
Prod sd by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Title des
Title background des
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup for Jeff Bridges
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Prod secy
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Asst to Mr. Ashby
Asst to Mr. Roth
Asst to Mr. Roth
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft services
First aid
First aid
Atmosphere casting
Post prod services
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Prints and col by
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novels A Stab in the Dark (New York, 1981) and Eight Million Ways to Die (New York, 1982) by Lawrence Block.
SONGS
"Cachubambe," written and performed by Miguel Cruz, published by Omelenco Music
"If You Have To Know," performed by Lonnie Mack, courtesy of Alligator Records, words and music by Will Jennings, Lonnie Mack and Tim Drummond, published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Blue Sky Rider Songs, Mack's Flying V Music, & Barn Yard Music
"Last Mistake," performed by New Toys, written by Barry Coffing, published by Tyrell-Mann Music Corp. (BMI), performed by Barry Coffing for Tyrell-Mann Productions, Ltd.
+
SONGS
"Cachubambe," written and performed by Miguel Cruz, published by Omelenco Music
"If You Have To Know," performed by Lonnie Mack, courtesy of Alligator Records, words and music by Will Jennings, Lonnie Mack and Tim Drummond, published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Blue Sky Rider Songs, Mack's Flying V Music, & Barn Yard Music
"Last Mistake," performed by New Toys, written by Barry Coffing, published by Tyrell-Mann Music Corp. (BMI), performed by Barry Coffing for Tyrell-Mann Productions, Ltd.
"On The Edge Of Love," performed by Tollak, written by Cynthia Weil & Scott Cutler, published by Dyad Music, Ltd. & Tyrell-Mann Productions, Ltd. (BMI)
produced by Steve Tyrell & Barry Mann for Tyrell-Mann Productions, Ltd., engineered by David Kitay
"Thanks But No Thanks," performed by Koko Taylor, courtesy of Alligator Records, written by Emery Williams, Jr., published by Eyeball Music.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Easy Does It
Release Date:
25 April 1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 25 April 1986
Production Date:
began late July 1985
Copyright Claimant:
PSO Presentations
Copyright Date:
9 June 1986
Copyright Number:
PA293302
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Camera by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28102
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, when sheriff’s detective, Matthew J. “Matt” Scudder, and his fellow officers unsuccessfully raid the home of drug dealer Hector Lopez. Later, men from internal affairs grill Matt about shooting a suspect, who defended himself with a baseball bat. After work, Matt and his friend fellow officer, Joey Durkin, get drunk. In the morning, Matt’s wife, Linda, finds her husband in an alcoholic haze resting on a cinderblock wall next to the house, and Matt requests a medical leave to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. After six months of sobriety, he talks to the other AA members about how alcohol cost him his job, his home, and his health, but he is grateful to be alive. After the session, a female AA member hands him a party invitation. Later, Matt arrives at a mansion, where the party is in full swing. When a woman named Sunny greets him warmly with a kiss, he apologizes for not recognizing her. She introduces him to her friends, Chance and Sarah. Matt recognizes Chance, an after-hours club owner, as a former criminal known as “Willie Walker.” Chance tells Sarah that Matt busted him long ago, but he is now a legitimate businessman. Next, Sunny introduces Matt to dope dealer, Angel Maldonado. Chance admits that Angel is his customer, and approaches Angel to discuss placing bets on the fights. Sarah eyes Matt, noticing his beat up shoes, and wonders if he can afford their high-priced sexual services. Matt tells Sarah she reminds him of his ex-wife, who has similar opinions. Later, Sunny meets Matt at the local bar. She orders a couple of banana daiquiris, and they go to his ... +


In Los Angeles, California, when sheriff’s detective, Matthew J. “Matt” Scudder, and his fellow officers unsuccessfully raid the home of drug dealer Hector Lopez. Later, men from internal affairs grill Matt about shooting a suspect, who defended himself with a baseball bat. After work, Matt and his friend fellow officer, Joey Durkin, get drunk. In the morning, Matt’s wife, Linda, finds her husband in an alcoholic haze resting on a cinderblock wall next to the house, and Matt requests a medical leave to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. After six months of sobriety, he talks to the other AA members about how alcohol cost him his job, his home, and his health, but he is grateful to be alive. After the session, a female AA member hands him a party invitation. Later, Matt arrives at a mansion, where the party is in full swing. When a woman named Sunny greets him warmly with a kiss, he apologizes for not recognizing her. She introduces him to her friends, Chance and Sarah. Matt recognizes Chance, an after-hours club owner, as a former criminal known as “Willie Walker.” Chance tells Sarah that Matt busted him long ago, but he is now a legitimate businessman. Next, Sunny introduces Matt to dope dealer, Angel Maldonado. Chance admits that Angel is his customer, and approaches Angel to discuss placing bets on the fights. Sarah eyes Matt, noticing his beat up shoes, and wonders if he can afford their high-priced sexual services. Matt tells Sarah she reminds him of his ex-wife, who has similar opinions. Later, Sunny meets Matt at the local bar. She orders a couple of banana daiquiris, and they go to his apartment. Sunny confesses that she is willing to pay Matt $5,000 for access to the influential people he knows. As Sunny snorts cocaine in the bathroom, Matt’s daughter, Laurie, calls to remind him that they are going horseback riding in the morning. Sunny strips and tries to seduce Matt, but she makes him nervous. He covers her with a robe, and demands that she explain herself. She wants to leave her life as a prostitute, but is afraid of Chance, who is her pimp. She asks Matt to talk to Chance on her behalf, while she hides out in his apartment. However, Chance insists he is not a pimp. He pays Sunny a base salary, provides food and transportation to circulate in his after-hours club. He does not take money from his hostesses, and he refuses to take the $2,500 that Matt offers him for Sunny’s freedom. Sarah escorts Matt off the premises and imparts that she does not like police. Back at his apartment, Sunny cradles Matt’s gun, but he grabs it away from her. He relays Chance’s message that she is free to go. However, Sunny believes her life is in danger, and Matt agrees to escort her to the airport. On the way, she stops to do an errand. Matt goes to the Western clothing store next door, and buys his daughter a pair of riding boots for her birthday. When he returns to his car, he realizes that Sunny has been kidnapped. He chases after a maroon van to rescue her, blowing out one of his tires along the way. When he stops at a bridge, he sees Sunny covered in blood on the ground below. Matt wakes up in a drug rehabilitation hospital ward and has no idea how he got there. The last day he remembers is his daughter’s birthday. He discovers from a nurse that he has been unconscious for five days, and was admitted two days ago. Although he looks as if he is going through withdrawal, he checks out of the facility. After cleaning up, Matt visits his former station. His friend, Joey Durkin, assumes he has come to collect his car. Joey complains that Matt’s involvement with Sunny has aroused suspicion. Homicide has gotten involved with the case, and Joey insists that Matt get lost. Upon returning to his apartment, Matt calls his daughter, but she refuses to speak to him. In frustration, he breaks down. Afterward, he dumps the contents of Sunny’s duffle bag, and discovers her telephone book, which has a zippered pouch containing a sapphire necklace with one of its cat charms missing, and another compartment containing an ounce of cocaine wrapped in notepaper inscribed with a name “Jaime, manager of PoBoy Market,” and a telephone number. Matt calls the number, but hangs up when Jaime answers. He opens a brown paper-wrapped package of Sunny’s, and out spills a stack of hundred dollar bills. Matt drives to PoBoy Market, and observes Jaime and his coworkers in the storeroom unloading a drug shipment. Matt finds Chance sitting in his car, and joins him. Chance claims that he is the owner of the market, and blames Matt because homicide is breathing down his neck. Matt reveals that Sunny was murdered, he got drunk, and blacked out. He has no idea what he told homicide. Chance claims that Sunny had no reason to be scared of him, and now he is a suspect. However, Matt announces that he is a suspect, too. Matt wants to know who knew Sunny the best, and Chance arranges for Matt to speak with Sarah. While questioning Sarah, Matt asks if Angel Maldonado and Sunny were together. Sarah believes that Angel is interested in her, but he may have had his eye on Sunny in the past. Back at Chance’s club, Angel Maldonado strokes Sarah’s hair, and Matt notices that he is wearing a ring with a missing sapphire cat charm. Later, Matt decides to kidnap Sarah and forces her to tell Angel she is taking the rest of the night off. While driving, Matt pumps Sarah for information. She suspects that Angel wants to strike a deal with Chance to sell drugs at the club. Matt asks Sarah if she recognizes a list of names from Sunny’s address book, but she ignores his question. At the local bar, she guzzles a bottle of vodka, while Matt drinks cola. They continue their conversation in Matt’s apartment. Sarah tries to seduce Matt, but vomits from the alcohol. He cleans her in the shower, and she passes out in his bed. In the morning, he gives her aspirin and a glass of water. When she asks what happened, he describes the events of the previous night. She is impressed that he stayed sober, and believes that maybe she has misjudged him. Soon, Matt arranges to meet Angel Maldonado at the L.A. Coliseum. Sarah tells Matt about moving to Los Angeles to be a dancer, but she could not support herself and fell in with Chance’s crowd, and now the money is easy. When they meet up with Angel and his entourage at the coliseum, one of Angel’s hoods serves everyone snow cones. Matt accuses Angel of killing Sunny, but Angel changes the subject. Matt switches gears, says he has $250,000, and wants to make a business deal. At first, Angel thinks Matt might be talking about blackmail. When he cools down, he tells Matt if he can find $500,000, Angel would make him partners in a “snow cone” franchise. Angel and his hoods leave, and take Sarah with them. Matt tracks down Chance, and obtains a loan so he can rescue Sarah. Matt shows up at Angel’s mansion, and presses him to make a drug deal. Angel refuses and believes that Matt wants to bust him. When Angel tells Matt he is rude, Matt responds that Angel was “rude all over the street with Sunny.” Angel retorts that in business if you have to kill somebody, it pays to advertise. Angel knows they both love Sarah, but cautions Matt to watch his back. Afterward, Chance gives Matt a ride, and Matt explains how Sunny was working for Angel. She helped Angel move his drug shipments through Chance’s supermarket warehouse and wanted out. They drive to the warehouse and Matt shows Chance two packages filled with cocaine among a mountain of packages. Chance locks up his warehouse crew, and transfers the drugs to his car. Soon, Matt calls Angel Maldonado to tell him he has 150 packages of his cocaine. He demands that Angel meet him on Pier 20 in San Pedro, California, to exchange the drugs for Sarah’s return. At the pier, Matt sets up a sting operation with the help of Joey Durkin and a team of undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. Angel shows up at the pier with an entourage, and has blindfolded and tied Sarah to a leash held by one of his associates. Matt insists that Angel hand off Sarah to Chance but he stalls. Matt tells Angel he will torch the drugs with lighter fluid and Molotov cocktails if Angel does not let Sarah go. After a lot of yelling, Angel backs down. Sarah runs toward Chance. Angel and Chance fire their guns. Chance is killed, but Angel escapes. Matt sets fire to Angel’s pile of cocaine, and DEA agents rappel from the rafters. Other agents ambush Angel’s men on the dock. When Matt takes Sarah back to Chance’s mansion, Angel is waiting for them. Matt and Angel get into a gun battle while Sarah hides in the foliage. Matt shoots Angel dead. Later, Matt speaks at an AA meeting to announce that he is working hard at his sobriety. He is in love with Sarah, and no longer believes that he is smarter than the program. +

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

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