Bright Lights, Big City (1988)

R | 110 mins | Drama | 1 April 1988

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HISTORY

The film begins and ends with voice-over narration by Michael J. Fox as “Jamie Conway.” Each day within the story is introduced with the following title cards: “It’s Six A.M.: Do you know where you are?”; “Monday Morning: Whatever happened to Sunday?”; “Tuesday: You should have called in sick.”; “Wednesday: You should have checked your horoscope in The Post.”; and, “Thursday: Facing the Facts.”
       On 20 Feb 1984, the LAHExam reported that producer Jerry Weintraub had expressed interest in adapting Jay McInerney’s latest novel, Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and sent a copy to Joel Schumacher in hope that he would commit to direct after completing post-production on St. Elmo’s Fire (1985, see entry). A year later, a news item in the 22 Jan 1985 LAHExam stated that Weintraub had purchased film rights for Columbia Pictures. According to the 23 Mar 1988 HR, Tom Cruise was in consideration for the leading role pending his approval of the final screenplay, which was being written by McInerney. Conflicting information in the 24 Oct 1985 LAHExam claimed that Schumacher was actually writing the script, with McInerney contributing to several drafts. Although Schumacher intended to remain faithful to the novel, a 21 Jun 1985 HR article stated that he wanted to expand the role of Jamie’s estranged wife, “Amanda.”
       That same year, however, Weintraub left Columbia to become chairman of United Artists (UA), and brought the project with him. A 31 Mar 1988 LAHExam article claimed that script rewrites continued at UA until eventually McInerney’s novel was “sanitized beyond recognition.” During the interim, Schumacher moved on to ... More Less

The film begins and ends with voice-over narration by Michael J. Fox as “Jamie Conway.” Each day within the story is introduced with the following title cards: “It’s Six A.M.: Do you know where you are?”; “Monday Morning: Whatever happened to Sunday?”; “Tuesday: You should have called in sick.”; “Wednesday: You should have checked your horoscope in The Post.”; and, “Thursday: Facing the Facts.”
       On 20 Feb 1984, the LAHExam reported that producer Jerry Weintraub had expressed interest in adapting Jay McInerney’s latest novel, Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and sent a copy to Joel Schumacher in hope that he would commit to direct after completing post-production on St. Elmo’s Fire (1985, see entry). A year later, a news item in the 22 Jan 1985 LAHExam stated that Weintraub had purchased film rights for Columbia Pictures. According to the 23 Mar 1988 HR, Tom Cruise was in consideration for the leading role pending his approval of the final screenplay, which was being written by McInerney. Conflicting information in the 24 Oct 1985 LAHExam claimed that Schumacher was actually writing the script, with McInerney contributing to several drafts. Although Schumacher intended to remain faithful to the novel, a 21 Jun 1985 HR article stated that he wanted to expand the role of Jamie’s estranged wife, “Amanda.”
       That same year, however, Weintraub left Columbia to become chairman of United Artists (UA), and brought the project with him. A 31 Mar 1988 LAHExam article claimed that script rewrites continued at UA until eventually McInerney’s novel was “sanitized beyond recognition.” During the interim, Schumacher moved on to other projects, and Cruise was no longer available, due to his standing commitment to star in The Color of Money (1986, see entry). After a falling out with UA principal shareholder Kirk Kerkorian, Weintraub left the studio. Sydney Pollack and Mark Rosenberg of Mirage Enterprises stepped in as producers and hired documentarian Joyce Chopra to direct the picture, based on the critical reception of her first feature film, Smooth Talk (1985, see entry). Chopra’s husband, Tom Cole, was hired to revise the screenplay.
       On 2 Apr 1987, HR announced that Michael J. Fox was confirmed to star. The 31 Mar 1988 LAHExam claimed that his involvement ballooned the budget to $17 million, changing the formerly independent production to the status of a commercial film. Items in the 24 Apr 1987 and 6 May 1987 DV also reported the casting of Malcolm McDowell and Megan Mullally. McDowell does not appear in the final film, and Mullally was later replaced by Michael J. Fox’s Family Ties (NBC 22 Sep 1982—14 May 1989) co-star and soon-to-be wife, Tracy Pollan.
       According to a UA press release in AMPAS library files, filming took place 13 Apr—30 Jun 1987 in New York City. Three weeks into production, however, Chopra, Cole, and cinematographer James Glennon were dismissed by UA. While various sources hinted at rumors of difficulties on the set, HR and LAT articles published on 12 May 1987 claimed the studio was concerned that more experienced hands were needed to complete the film before a possible Directors Guild of America (DGA) strike on 30 Jun 1987. Although second unit work continued, production was shut down for several days while Chopra’s replacement, James Bridges, recast many of the supporting roles and rewrote the screenplay, which more closely resembled McInerney’s first draft and original novel. The 23 Mar 1988 HR stated that McInerney returned from a trip to Europe to assist Bridges with the modifications, but only McInerney receives onscreen credit. Bridges appealed the decision with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), but lost.
       Once the script was approved, Bridges had just thirty-six days to complete filming. Production notes in AMPAS library files indicate that all three nightclubs, a dinner club, and two discos were filmed in the Palladium concert hall. Additional locations included Ganesvoort Pier; Parsons School of Design; Keens Steakhouse, Guido’s Supreme Macaroni Co. and The Scarlet restaurants; subway stations at Times Square and Sheridan Square; and various streets in Midtown and Greenwich Village. Several interior sets were constructed inside Pier 40 at Hudson River Park, and the Tribeca Eagle Warehouse served as both the interior and exterior setting of the film’s bakery scene. According to the 5 Apr 1988 DV, Bridges hoped to tour the offices of New Yorker magazine, which was the inspiration for Jamie’s fictional employer, Gotham. However, the New Yorker editor was reportedly displeased with McInerney’s negative implications in the novel, and refused to allow anyone involved with the production inside the building. As a result, Gotham interiors were shot at the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Building on Centre Street, with the Fred F. French Building on Fifth Avenue doubling as the exterior. Scenes between Jamie and his dying mother were filmed at a house in Sparkill, NY.
       According to the 25 Apr 1988 issue of People magazine, Michael J. Fox used milk sugar as “prop” cocaine after consulting with Scarface (1983, see entry) actor Al Pacino about how to make the drug scenes look as real as possible.
       Although not credited onscreen, Jason Robards appears in a supporting role as “Alex Hardy.” Robards told the 28 Mar 1988 DV that he did not know the reason for the omission of his credit.
       The Jun 1988 Box reported that ticket sales plummeted forty percent in the second week of release, earning a cumulative gross of just $10 million. An article in the 13 Oct 1988 Chicago Tribune stated that the film’s poor domestic box-office returns signaled a financial loss for the Japanese conglomerate, CST Communications Co., which invested $15 million into three Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Unitd Artists features, including Bright Lights, Big City.
       End credits state: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the support of the following: The New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development; the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting; the Research Department of Esquire Magazine; Jack Alexander, Christina Campanaro and Rosangela Brea of Oscar de la Renta Ltd.”
       Bright Lights, Big City marked the theatrical feature film debut of David Hyde Pierce, who also appeared in Crossing Delancey and Rocket Gibraltar (see entries), released later that same year. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Jun 1988.
---
Chicago Tribune
13 Oct 1988.
---
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1987.
---
Daily Variety
6 May 1987.
---
Daily Variety
28 Mar 1988.
---
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1988
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1987.
---
LAHExam
20 Feb 1984.
---
LAHExam
22 Jan 1985.
---
LAHExam
24 Oct 1985.
---
LAHExam
31 Mar 1988
Section C, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1987
Section VI, p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times
1 Apr 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
1 Apr 1988
Section C, p. 22.
People
25 Apr 1988.
---
Variety
30 Mar 1988
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
United Artists Presents
A Mirage Production
A James Bridges Film
In Association With CST Communications Co.
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Best boy
Key grip
Still photog
Cam trainee
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Asst to prod des
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop
Set dec
Set dresser
Master scenic artist
Scenic artist
Standby scenic artist
Const coord
Const grip
Coma baby by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Clothing for the fashion show provided by
MUSIC
Exec mus prod
Addl mus by
Mus ed
Playback mus ed
Scoring eng
Scoring eng
Orig score orch by
Orig score orch by
Mus consultant for Warner Bros. Records
Mus consultant for Warner Bros. Records
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Sd supv
ADR ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Foley ed
Sd asst
Sd asst
Sd asst
Sd apprentice
Sd apprentice
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dolby consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des by
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Asst to prods
Auditor
Asst auditor
Asst unit prod mgr
Loc staff
Loc staff
Loc staff
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Scr supv
Asst casting
Addl casting
Addl casting, Todd Thaler Casting
Accounting asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Security
Security for Mr. Fox
Asst to Mr. Fox
Asst to Mr. Bridges
Asst to Mr. Bridges
Secy to the prods
Secy to the prods
STAND INS
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
Addl voice
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney (New York, 1984).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Love Attack,” performed by Konk, courtesy of Dog Brothers Records, produced by Shannon Dawson & G. “Love” Jay, words & music by Shannon Dawson & G. “Love” Jay
“Pump Up The Volume,” performed by M/A/R/R/S, courtesy of Island Records/AAD, produced by Martyn Young, words & music by Martyn Young & Steve Young
“Bill,” performed by Oscar Peterson, courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc., produced by Norman Granz, words & music by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, P. G. Wodehouse
+
SONGS
“Love Attack,” performed by Konk, courtesy of Dog Brothers Records, produced by Shannon Dawson & G. “Love” Jay, words & music by Shannon Dawson & G. “Love” Jay
“Pump Up The Volume,” performed by M/A/R/R/S, courtesy of Island Records/AAD, produced by Martyn Young, words & music by Martyn Young & Steve Young
“Bill,” performed by Oscar Peterson, courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc., produced by Norman Granz, words & music by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, P. G. Wodehouse
“Bright Lights, Big City,” performed by Jimmy Reed, courtesy of Vee Jay Records, words & music by Jimmy Reed
“True Faith,” performed by New Order, courtesy of Owest Records/Factory Records, produced by Stephen Hague & New Order, words & music by New Order & Stephen Hague
“BNT Blues,” performed by Bobby Forrester, produced by Donald Fagen, music by Bobby Forrester & Clarence “Tootsie” Bean
“Good Love,” performed by Prince, courtesy of Paisley Park Records, produced by Prince, words & music by Prince
“Kiss & Tell,” performed by Bryan Ferry, courtesy of Reprise Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products/Virgin Records Limited, produced by Patrick Leonard, Chester Kamen & Bryan Ferry, words & music by Bryan Ferry
“Vivaldi’s Concerto In C Major For Guitar & Strings,” performed by I Solisti Di Zagreb, Alirio Diaz, Guitar, Antonion Janigro, Conductor, courtesy of Vanguard Records (A division of The Welk Record Group)
“Lovely To Look At,” performed by Oscar Peterson, courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc., produced by Norman Granz, words & music by Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh
“Ice Cream Days,” performed by Jennifer Hall, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products, produced by Alan Tarney, words & music by Jennifer Hall & Alan Tarney
“Jamie & Vicky,” produced by Curt Sobel, music by Curt Sobel
“Nun Will Die Sonn’ So Hell Aufgehn” from Gustav Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder,” Dietrich Fischer-Dieskall, Baritone, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Karl Böhm, Deutsche Grammophon/Polydor Int’l GmbH, used courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“Let’s Have Another Cup Of Coffee,” performed by Michael Feinstein, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, words & music by Irving Berlin
“Pleasure, Little Treasure (Glitter Mix),” performed by Depeche Mode, courtesy of Sire Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products/Mute Records, produced by Depeche Mode & David Bascombe, additional production by Daniel Miller, words & music by M. L. Gore
“Obsessed,” performed by The Noise Club, produced by Oliver Leiber, words & music by Oliver Leiber
“Bright Lights, Big City,” performed by Donald Fagen, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, produced by Donald Fagen, words & music by Jimmy Reed
“Divine Emotions,” performed by Narada, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, produced by Narada Michael Walden
additional production by Shep Pettibone, words & music by Narada Michael Walden & Jeffrey Cohen
“Century’s End,” performed by Donald Fagen, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, produced by Donald Fagen & Gary Katz, words by Donald Fagen & Timothy Meher, music by Donald Fagen.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 April 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 1 April 1988
Production Date:
13 April--30 June 1987
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® Camera and Lenses by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
110
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After being abandoned by his wife, Amanda White, aspiring fiction writer Jamie Conway drowns his sorrow in cocaine and spends his weekends hopping between New York City clubs. One morning, Jamie oversleeps, making him late for work at Gotham magazine, where he struggles to maintain his job as a fact-checker in the non-fiction department. The incident provokes criticism from his boss, Clara Tillinghast, who warns that his job will be in jeopardy if he fails to deliver his next assignment before the end of the workday. Unable to focus, Jamie swallows a few painkillers before sneaking off to the bathroom to inhale a line of cocaine. He stays late to finish editing, but when his friend Tad Allagash invites him to a nightclub, he hastily skims over his work and returns home before going out. On his desk, he sees the piles of paper that represent his failed attempts to write a short story based on his relationship with Amanda. He considers typing a letter to his wife, but Tad arrives to pick him up. At the club, they meet two women who recognize Jamie as Amanda’s husband, and ask about the status of their relationship. Jamie confesses they split up when she decided to pursue her modeling career in Paris, France. The next morning, a concerned coworker named Megan calls to wake Jamie so he does not get into trouble again, but Clara calls in sick. As Jamie begins work on his next assignment, he strikes up a conversation with Alex Hardy, a drunken old fiction editor, who invites him out to lunch. Over several rounds of drinks, Alex encourages Jamie to pursue his ... +


After being abandoned by his wife, Amanda White, aspiring fiction writer Jamie Conway drowns his sorrow in cocaine and spends his weekends hopping between New York City clubs. One morning, Jamie oversleeps, making him late for work at Gotham magazine, where he struggles to maintain his job as a fact-checker in the non-fiction department. The incident provokes criticism from his boss, Clara Tillinghast, who warns that his job will be in jeopardy if he fails to deliver his next assignment before the end of the workday. Unable to focus, Jamie swallows a few painkillers before sneaking off to the bathroom to inhale a line of cocaine. He stays late to finish editing, but when his friend Tad Allagash invites him to a nightclub, he hastily skims over his work and returns home before going out. On his desk, he sees the piles of paper that represent his failed attempts to write a short story based on his relationship with Amanda. He considers typing a letter to his wife, but Tad arrives to pick him up. At the club, they meet two women who recognize Jamie as Amanda’s husband, and ask about the status of their relationship. Jamie confesses they split up when she decided to pursue her modeling career in Paris, France. The next morning, a concerned coworker named Megan calls to wake Jamie so he does not get into trouble again, but Clara calls in sick. As Jamie begins work on his next assignment, he strikes up a conversation with Alex Hardy, a drunken old fiction editor, who invites him out to lunch. Over several rounds of drinks, Alex encourages Jamie to pursue his writing and regales him with stories of his youth. Jamie eventually excuses himself, but on the way back to work, becomes fixated by a store mannequin modeled on Amanda’s features. Noticing the label’s designer, he deduces that Amanda must have returned from Paris and calls her modeling agency. After learning she will be working a fashion show in the city that Thursday, he begs Tad to use his connections to get him a ticket. Jamie agrees to entertain Tad’s visiting cousin, Vicky, so that Tad can go on a date with a Penthouse model. When Jamie meets Vicky at a bookstore, they discover a mutual attraction. Out of habit, Jamie excuses himself to use the bathroom during dinner, but realizes he is having a nice time and decides to spend the rest of the evening sober. He kisses Vicky goodnight, and she gives him her phone number. The next day, Clara reviews the errors in Jamie’s previous article and fires him. Megan is sympathetic, and suggests they have lunch together to talk things over. That evening at Jamie’s apartment, Tad answers a phone call from Jamie’s younger brother, Michael. Although Jamie has been doggedly avoiding Michael for several weeks, he refuses to discuss why. Later, Jamie attends the fashion show and sneaks toward the front of the runway. When Amanda emerges, he shouts her name and demands she explain why she left him. A security guard throws him out, and he returns to his apartment to find his brother, Michael, waiting on the front stoop. Unwilling to face him, Jamie runs in the other direction and jumps onto the next subway train, heading toward his former office. He hides until Clara leaves for the evening, and then apologizes to Megan for missing their scheduled lunch date. Instead, they have dinner at her apartment, where Megan asks about Amanda. Drunk, Jamie recounts meeting Amanda at a bar in Kansas City, Missouri, where he worked for the local newspaper. Attracted by his intellect and ambition, Amanda suggested they move to New York City where she could work toward being a fashion model. Within a few months, Amanda became worried that Jamie would gain fame and leave her, so she insisted they get married. However, she soon landed a modeling contract while Jamie struggled with his novel. Although Jamie believed they were still happy, Amanda abruptly ended their relationship over the telephone after taking a job in Paris. When he finishes his story, Jamie takes two Valium from Megan’s medicine cabinet and attempts to kiss her, but she rejects him. Embarrassed, he stumbles home and finds Michael sleeping in his bedroom. The boy reminds him that Friday marks the one-year anniversary of their mother’s death from cancer, and requests that Jamie return home to help their father spread her ashes. Jamie admits that Amanda left him, and Michael wonders if he only committed to the relationship because it was their mother’s dying wish to see her children married. Jamie remembers his final conversation with his mother on her deathbed, but his reverie is interrupted by a call from Tad, who announces that he is at a party with Amanda. Jamie rushes to meet them, but is offended by Amanda’s blasé attitude. He doubles over in a violent coughing fit and washes his face in the bathroom. Afterward, he telephones Tad’s cousin Vicky, and tells her about his mother. Finally acknowledging his feelings, he begins to cry, and promises to call her back later. Without another word to Amanda, Jamie leaves the party and walks home. Passing a bakery, he trades his designer sunglasses for a baguette, and contentedly watches the sun rise over the city. +

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

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