Sneakers (1992)

PG-13 | 126 mins | Drama | 9 September 1992

Cinematographer:

John Lindley

Editor:

Tom Rolf

Production Designer:

Patrizia Von Brandenstein

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

A 20 Oct 1992 HR brief claimed Raiders of the Lost Computer was a working title for the film.
       According to a 15 Sep 1992 LAT article, writer-producers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes came across the term “sneakers” while researching WarGames (1983, see entry). They first understood the term as a reference to young computer programmers, but they met a man at a Chicago, IL, convention who informed them that “sneakers” also referred to high-tech security people who were paid to break into businesses in order to identify weaknesses in security systems. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, these security experts were also called “black hatters” and “tiger teams.” Lasker and Parkes developed a concept based on “sneakers” and pitched it to Twentieth Century Fox as a “high tech ‘Dirty Dozen.’” As noted in a 10 Sep 1992 DV article, Fox executives teamed them with writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, and the three worked on the script for the next nine years. The project eventually went into turnaround at Fox and was picked up by Paramount Pictures in the mid-1980s. However, the project lapsed there as well, and reverted to Fox. In summer 1990, Robinson signed “an overall deal” with Universal Pictures, which acquired Sneakers from Fox. Robinson did not initially intend to direct the picture; however, he decided to do so when Universal was able to cast Robert Redford in the leading role, as stated in a 27 Jun 1991 DV item.
       Two real-life inspirations for the characters were hacker John Draper, also known as “Cap’n Crunch,” and John Strauchs, ... More Less

A 20 Oct 1992 HR brief claimed Raiders of the Lost Computer was a working title for the film.
       According to a 15 Sep 1992 LAT article, writer-producers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes came across the term “sneakers” while researching WarGames (1983, see entry). They first understood the term as a reference to young computer programmers, but they met a man at a Chicago, IL, convention who informed them that “sneakers” also referred to high-tech security people who were paid to break into businesses in order to identify weaknesses in security systems. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, these security experts were also called “black hatters” and “tiger teams.” Lasker and Parkes developed a concept based on “sneakers” and pitched it to Twentieth Century Fox as a “high tech ‘Dirty Dozen.’” As noted in a 10 Sep 1992 DV article, Fox executives teamed them with writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, and the three worked on the script for the next nine years. The project eventually went into turnaround at Fox and was picked up by Paramount Pictures in the mid-1980s. However, the project lapsed there as well, and reverted to Fox. In summer 1990, Robinson signed “an overall deal” with Universal Pictures, which acquired Sneakers from Fox. Robinson did not initially intend to direct the picture; however, he decided to do so when Universal was able to cast Robert Redford in the leading role, as stated in a 27 Jun 1991 DV item.
       Two real-life inspirations for the characters were hacker John Draper, also known as “Cap’n Crunch,” and John Strauchs, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent who founded Systech Group, a security consulting firm.
       The Sneakers shooting draft included the following humorous reference to the amount of time the writers spent on the screenplay: “Based on 27-man-years of drafts by Phil Alden Robinson, Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker.” Production notes stated that the storyline had changed frequently over the years, often due to shifting political climates.
       In summer 1991, the film received a green-light from Universal, as noted in the 1 Jul 1991 Var. The production budget was cited as roughly $23 million.
       Principal photography began 28 Oct 1991 in Oakland, CA, at the Oakland Theatre, a 1920s Art Deco structure. Filming continued in San Francisco, CA, where exteriors were shot on the waterfront and in the financial district. In Los Angeles, CA, “Martin Bishop’s” consulting firm office and apartment were built on Stage 29 at Universal City Studios, while young Marty’s college scenes were filmed on the Universal backlot set that doubled as “Hill Valley’s” town square in the Back to the Future films (1985, 1989, 1990, see entries). In Jan 1992, production moved to Simi Valley, CA, where Gibraltar Savings’ former headquarters stood in for the “Playtronics” building. Other locations included Occidental College, which doubled as the fictional “Leland University”; a Westwood, CA, bank, which was the setting for the “Coolidge Institute”; a high-rise office building in West Los Angeles; and, the Green Hotel in Pasadena, CA, which stood in for the Russian Consulate.
       Universal partnered with on-line service Compu-Serve to promote the film, as noted in a 28 Aug 1992 WSJ article. In the months leading up to the release, Phil Alden Robinson, a longtime Compu-Serve user himself, discussed the film with other users on a daily basis. An hour-long on-line “convention” was set to take place on 14 Sep 1992, with Robinson and other filmmakers answering questions in real time. A 25 Aug 1992 DV news brief described the cross-promotion as groundbreaking, stating it was the “first time a large PC information network and studio” had teamed for a “high-tech send-off to a movie.” As part of the promotion, Compu-Serve’s 1.3 million users were offered a chance to “crack a set of anagrams” to qualify for 600 potential prizes, including a trip to Hollywood, CA, and a jacket worn by Robert Redford in the film. As noted in sources including the 19 Aug 1992 DV, Universal also arranged a tie-in with CompUSA computer stores, sent out 4,000 computerized press kits on floppy disk, and scheduled special screenings for computer enthusiasts in twenty-five cities.
       Critical reception was positive. The 8 Sep 1992 HR review called Sneakers “a big movie with brains,” and the DV review of the same date deemed it “a breezy good time.” A 17 Sep 1992 HR “Hollywood Report” column stated the film was number one at the U.S. box-office in its opening weekend and grossed $11.81 million after two days of platform release and five days of wide release. In the coming week, Universal planned to add 315 play dates, expanding the release to roughly 2,046 screens.
       A 5 Nov 2012 LAT article noted the film’s enduring popularity despite some of its outdated technology and cited the film’s cumulative worldwide box-office gross as $105 million.
       Opening credits include the following anagrams: “A turnip cures Elvis” appears before “Universal Pictures presents”; “A few astral clerks repel Newark” appears before “A Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes production”; “Blond rhino spaniel” appears before “A Phil Alden Robinson film”; and “Fort red border” appears before “Robert Redford.”
       End credits include the following statements: “Thank you to the following artists and galleries: Jonathan Borofsky, Robbie Conal, Sonia Delaunay, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Mapplethorpe, Dan McCleary, Tatsuo Miyajima, Mark Stock, Donald Sultan, Cynthia Drennon Fine Arts Resources, Richard Gray Gallery/Paul Gray, Richard Green Gallery”; “‘Der Rosenkavalier’ by R. Linder, © 1978 Circle Gallery/Metropolitan Opera”; “Special thanks to: The Colburn School of Music, Peter Schwartz and The Global Business Network and WRGB-TV, Schenectady, New York”; “The Major League Baseball trademarks depicted in this program were licensed by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.”; “‘Einstein on a Bicycle’ poster courtesy of The Archives, California Institute of Technology”; and, “Goose herd furnished by Schiltz Goose Farms.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1991
p. 1, 24.
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1992.
---
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1992.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1992
p. 4, 21.
Daily Variety
10 Sep 1992
p. 3, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1992
p. 10, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
15 Sep 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
5 Nov 2012
Calendar, p. 3.
New York Times
9 Sep 1992
Section C, p. 18.
Variety
1 Jul 1991.
---
Variety
14 Sep 1992
p. 46.
WSJ
28 Aug 1992
Section B, p. 1.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures presents
A Lawrence Lasker Walter F. Parkes production
A Phil Alden Robinson film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
2d 2d cam asst
Steadicam op
Still photog
Video asst op
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Elec
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Rigging grip
Video playback
Cranes and dollys
Spec equip provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dept coord
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Leadman
2d leadman
Swing
Set dressing asst
Set dressing asst
Prop master
Asst prop master
2d asst props
Const coord
Const general foreman
Const foreman
Labor foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
Plaster supv
Const accountant
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Women's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Featuring
Supv mus ed
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
Assoc mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Mus contractor
Mus rec at
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Utility sd
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Addl sd eff
Supv ADR ed
Asst ADR ed
ADR mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley rec
ADR group coord
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Effectsman
Effectsman
Computer eff supv
Computer eff
Computer eff
Computer graphics artist
Computer graphics artist
Titles & opticals
Title des
Title des
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
2d makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
San Francisco loc liaison
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Co-capt
Transportation dispatcher
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Asst to Mr. Robinson
Asst to Mr. Robinson
Asst to Mr. Lasker/Mr. Parkes
Craft service
First aid
Casting assoc
Extras casting
Extras casting
Addl San Francisco casting
Security consultant
Mathematical consultant
Sleight of hand consultant
Graphics computer by
Electronic equip provided by
Electronic equip provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Really,” written by Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper, performed by Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper & Steven Stills, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Waltz In E Minor,” composed by Frederic Chopin, performed by Jun Asai
“Violin Concerto In E,” BWV 1042, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, courtesy of Laser Light Digital, by arrangement with Sounds of Film
+
SONGS
“Really,” written by Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper, performed by Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper & Steven Stills, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Waltz In E Minor,” composed by Frederic Chopin, performed by Jun Asai
“Violin Concerto In E,” BWV 1042, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, courtesy of Laser Light Digital, by arrangement with Sounds of Film
“Chain Of Fools,” written by Don Covay, performed by Aretha Franklin, courtesy of Atlantic Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35,” written and performed by Bob Dylan, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Flamenco Sketches,” written and performed by Miles Davis, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“String Quarter #1 In E Minor ‘From My Life’,” composed by Bedrich Smetana, performed by Jacqueline Brand, Julie Gigante, Victoria Miskolozy & David Speltz
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” written by Jim Croce, performed by George Kee Cheung, Chinese translation by George Kee Cheung
“The Girl From Ipanema,” written by Antonio Carlos Jobim & Vinicius DeMorales, performed by Charlie Byrd, courtesy of Concord Picante
“Corcovado,” written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, performed by Charlie Byrd, courtesy of Concord Picante
Branford Marsalis appears courtesy of Columbia Records.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Raiders of the Lost Computer
Release Date:
9 September 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 September 1992
Production Date:
began 28 October 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 February 1993
Copyright Number:
PA602878
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras & lenses
Duration(in mins):
126
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31961
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1969, college student Martin “Marty” Brice and his friend, Cosmo, use university computers to hack into the bank accounts of the Republican Party, President Richard M. Nixon, and the phone company, and re-direct their funds to liberal interests. When Marty goes out for pizza, he sees police swarm the building and arrest Cosmo. Years later, under the alias “Martin Bishop,” Marty makes a meager living running a security consulting firm in San Francisco, California. One day, he is approached by Dick Gordon and Buddy Wallace from the National Security Agency (NSA), who identify him as Marty Brice and offer to clear his name in exchange for help. Gordon explains that they are seeking a “black box” device created by Dr. Gunter Janek, a mathematician who specializes in cryptography and is suspected of working for the Russian government. Gordon and Wallace promise to pay $175,000 for the black box, and threaten to arrest Marty if he does not comply. That evening, Marty presents the NSA’s proposal to his team: Donald Crease, who was fired by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after twenty-two years of service; Darren “Mother” Roskow, a convicted robber; Carl Arbogast, a young prodigy Marty caught hacking into the Oakland City School District computer system to change his grades; and Irwin “Whistler” Emery, a blind telecommunications expert. Although Crease rejects the idea, the rest of the team is motivated by the large payout, and Marty is swayed to accept the job. He visits Liz, an ex-girl friend, who agrees to help him when she learns that Marty is in danger of going to jail. They set up surveillance on Dr. Gunter Janek’s office and determine that the ... +


In 1969, college student Martin “Marty” Brice and his friend, Cosmo, use university computers to hack into the bank accounts of the Republican Party, President Richard M. Nixon, and the phone company, and re-direct their funds to liberal interests. When Marty goes out for pizza, he sees police swarm the building and arrest Cosmo. Years later, under the alias “Martin Bishop,” Marty makes a meager living running a security consulting firm in San Francisco, California. One day, he is approached by Dick Gordon and Buddy Wallace from the National Security Agency (NSA), who identify him as Marty Brice and offer to clear his name in exchange for help. Gordon explains that they are seeking a “black box” device created by Dr. Gunter Janek, a mathematician who specializes in cryptography and is suspected of working for the Russian government. Gordon and Wallace promise to pay $175,000 for the black box, and threaten to arrest Marty if he does not comply. That evening, Marty presents the NSA’s proposal to his team: Donald Crease, who was fired by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after twenty-two years of service; Darren “Mother” Roskow, a convicted robber; Carl Arbogast, a young prodigy Marty caught hacking into the Oakland City School District computer system to change his grades; and Irwin “Whistler” Emery, a blind telecommunications expert. Although Crease rejects the idea, the rest of the team is motivated by the large payout, and Marty is swayed to accept the job. He visits Liz, an ex-girl friend, who agrees to help him when she learns that Marty is in danger of going to jail. They set up surveillance on Dr. Gunter Janek’s office and determine that the black box is hidden inside an answering machine on Janek’s desk. Marty breaks in and steals the answering machine. That night, Whistler examines the black box and discovers it contains a program that can break encryption codes of highly secure databases, such as those used by the Federal Reserve and the National Power Grid. In the morning, Marty and Crease drive to an outdoor café where Dick Gordon and Buddy Wallace of the NSA await. Just as Marty hands over the answering machine containing the black box, Crease notices a newspaper headline announcing that Gunter Janek was killed. Suspecting that Gordon and Wallace might be responsible, Crease calls Marty back to the car and they speed away. They drive to the “NSA” office space where Marty had an earlier meeting with Gordon and Wallace, and find the building has been demolished. Crease reprimands Marty for failing to look into Gordon and Wallace’s story. Marty seeks out Gregor Ivanovich, a Russian cultural attaché he suspects might be involved in the plot to steal the black box. Gregor assures Marty he is not involved but knows who did it. He ushers Marty into the back of a car and shows him a book filled with photographs of American spies. Marty recognizes a picture of Buddy Wallace, and Gregor explains that he left the NSA four years ago. Gregor warns Marty he is in danger and suggests he disappear again. Gregor’s car is pulled over by men claiming to be Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. Gregor discourages Marty from going with them, but Marty gets out of the car. Gregor and his driver are shot. Buddy Wallace appears and clubs Marty over the head. Marty regains consciousness in the trunk of a moving car. Wallace knocks him out again, and he finally wakes up in the high-tech office of Cosmo, his college friend who was arrested for the crimes they both committed. Cosmo explains how he used his technological expertise to help out mobsters in prison. After they arranged for his early release, he began working for the mafia as a financial and technical advisor. He claims he needs the black box to make sure the mafia’s database remains protected. Marty does not believe this is Cosmo’s real reason for stealing it, prompting Cosmo to confess he wants to destroy worldwide financial systems so that money no longer exists and humans are finally equal. Although Cosmo tries to persuade him to join his plot, Marty refuses. Cosmo hacks into the FBI’s criminal records database and links Marty’s current alias with his real name, as insurance against Marty informing the authorities of Cosmo’s plan. Marty is blindfolded and driven back to town. Although Marty has no idea where Cosmo’s office is located, Whistler asks about the noises he heard while trapped in the car trunk on the way there, and they determine that Marty was driven over San Mateo or Dumbarton Bridge. They narrow down the possibilities based on other noises and determine that Cosmo’s office is located in the Playtronics Toy Company building. The team sets up surveillance there and discovers that magnetic swipe cards and voice recognition pass-codes are required for entry. The man whose office is next door to Cosmo’s is Dr. Werner Brandes, a microchip designer with a seemingly boring life. Carl Arbogast obtains a blueprint of the building, while Mother Roskow steals Werner Brandes’s trash to find out more about him. Marty roots through the trash and discovers that Brandes uses a computer dating service. Liz agrees to go on a date with Brandes in order to steal his entry card and record him saying specific words for the voice recognition pass-code. Meanwhile, the group detects heat and motion sensors in Cosmo’s office. Mother Roskow suggests they turn the building’s thermostat up to 98.6 degrees when Marty breaks in so his body heat will not be detected. Also, Marty will be unable to move faster than two inches per second, or the motion sensors will trip an alarm. That night, Carl sneaks into the Playtronics building and raises the thermostat. Using Brandes’s entry card and a recording of his voice edited together by Whistler, Marty gains access to Brandes’s office. He removes a panel from the ceiling and sneaks into the crawl space that connects to Cosmo’s office. Moving very slowly, he retrieves the black box from Cosmo’s desk. Elsewhere, Brandes becomes suspicious of Liz on their second date and drives her to the Playtronics building, where he alerts the guards that someone might have broken into his office. Cosmo, Dick Gordon, and Buddy Wallace hurry to Cosmo’s office and find the black box missing. Alarms are sounded and security guards swarm the building. Marty surrenders, but just as Wallace is about to shoot him, Carl drops from the ceiling and clobbers him. Carl, Liz, and Cosmo escape to the roof. Nearby, Crease, Mother Roskow, and Whistler wait in the surveillance van. Marty calls for the van to pick them up by a fire escape, but Crease and Mother Roskow are stopped by guards. Whistler is forced to take the driver’s seat and blindly drive toward the building while Marty talks him through it. Liz and Carl make it to the van, but Marty is stopped by Cosmo, who laments that Marty does not want to work with him. Marty relinquishes the answering machine containing the black box and suggests Cosmo destroy it. Joining the others in the van, Marty reveals a second answering machine with the real black box inside. They return to their offices, where Bernard Abbott from the NSA awaits. Marty tells him the black box is broken but gives it up in exchange for his record being cleared. Mother Roskow also requests a Winnebago, and Crease negotiates for a trip to Europe with his wife. After Abbott leaves, Marty once again reveals that he kept the actual black box, a small chip contained within the larger device. Sometime later, a television news reporter announces that the Republican National Committee has mysteriously gone bankrupt, while Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the United Negro College Fund have reported record earnings for the week. +

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

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