Striking Distance (1993)

R | 101 mins | Drama, Mystery | 17 September 1993

Director:

Rowdy Herrington

Cinematographer:

Mac Ahlberg

Production Designer:

Gregg Fonseca

Production Companies:

Columbia Pictures, Regency International
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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-director Rowdy Herrington wanted to write a motion picture set in and around the rivers of his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. On 4 May 1990, DV reported that Regency International purchased Herrington’s screenplay, then titled Three Rivers, through Triad Artists in a $900,000 deal that included “directing and other services plus unlimited rewrites.” Filming on the $20—$25 million production was expected to begin in late Aug or early fall 1990. With the casting of Bruce Willis, the 27 Aug 1990 HR projected a much higher budget of roughly $40 million.
       As reported in the 17 Feb 1992 Var, Willis joined the project in a “non-pay-or-play” contract for $13 million, but the critical and commercial failure of The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and Hudson Hawk (1991, see entries) prompted Columbia Pictures to reconsider whether Willis was still a viable star. When Willis refused accept a pay cut, Three Rivers was put on hold while he went on to film Mortal Thoughts and Billy Bathgate (1991, see entries). Following the relatively positive reception of Willis’s The Last Boy Scout and the pre-release anticipation of Herrington’s Gladiator (1991, see entries), Columbia decided to resume development on Three Rivers. After several weeks of deliberation, Willis’ contract was renegotiated to allow him a salary of $9—$10 million.
       Although the 28 Jan 1992 HR reported that principal photography was originally expected to begin in Apr 1992, the 11 Jun 1992 and 21 Jul 1992 HR indicated ... More Less

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-director Rowdy Herrington wanted to write a motion picture set in and around the rivers of his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. On 4 May 1990, DV reported that Regency International purchased Herrington’s screenplay, then titled Three Rivers, through Triad Artists in a $900,000 deal that included “directing and other services plus unlimited rewrites.” Filming on the $20—$25 million production was expected to begin in late Aug or early fall 1990. With the casting of Bruce Willis, the 27 Aug 1990 HR projected a much higher budget of roughly $40 million.
       As reported in the 17 Feb 1992 Var, Willis joined the project in a “non-pay-or-play” contract for $13 million, but the critical and commercial failure of The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and Hudson Hawk (1991, see entries) prompted Columbia Pictures to reconsider whether Willis was still a viable star. When Willis refused accept a pay cut, Three Rivers was put on hold while he went on to film Mortal Thoughts and Billy Bathgate (1991, see entries). Following the relatively positive reception of Willis’s The Last Boy Scout and the pre-release anticipation of Herrington’s Gladiator (1991, see entries), Columbia decided to resume development on Three Rivers. After several weeks of deliberation, Willis’ contract was renegotiated to allow him a salary of $9—$10 million.
       Although the 28 Jan 1992 HR reported that principal photography was originally expected to begin in Apr 1992, the 11 Jun 1992 and 21 Jul 1992 HR indicated that production would not get underway until early Jun 1992. Production notes state that the seventy-day filming schedule lasted twelve weeks, eight of which were comprised of night shoots. A 125-person second unit crew worked for five consecutive weeks, while thirty days and nights were spent filming on the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela rivers. Cast, crew, and equipment were transported from a riverside base camp to a flotilla used for the water locations. Boats featured in the film included a twenty-seven-foot Boston Whaler, a twenty-one-foot 1956 Chris Craft speedboat, and a commercial tugboat. The Tarentum dam stunt sequence was filmed by three cameras simultaneously, and completed using reinforced models of the Chris Craft and an eighteen-foot Boston Whaler. Reportedly for the first time, action sequences were pre-visualized using electronic storyboards created on a Sony computer program. The picture also marked the first use of the Belgian Flying Cam system in an American motion picture, enabling the filmmakers to capture high-speed chase sequences with a 35mm camera mounted on a small, remote controlled helicopter.
       Pittsburgh River Rescue Captain Bob McCaughan advised Herrington on the duties of his division, which doubled as the employer of Willis’ and Sarah Jessica Parker’s characters in the film. In preparation for their roles, the actors learned how to dive, pilot boats, and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
       Pittsburgh locations included the Allegheny County Courthouse building; Point Park, where 300 background actors gathered for the Policeman’s Ball scene; the 6th Street, 9th Street, 16th Street, and Smithfield Street bridges; and the Armstrong Tunnel, which was only utilized on weekends to avoid regular traffic. Sets for Hardy’s houseboat; the “Detillo’s Roost” cabin; and the River Rescue Station, built on a floating barge on the Allegheny River, were constructed specially for the film. An article in the Mar 1993 Allegheny Business News reported that gravestones made by the local Donatelli Granite Co. were installed at the city’s Homewood Cemetery, and later shipped to Los Angeles, CA, where additional cemetery scenes were shot. End credits note that the picture was “Filmed at Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, California.”
       Despite plans for a summer 1993 release, the Jun 1993 issue of Spy stated that Columbia had required an additional week of filming in Feb 1993 to fix “major plot holes,” followed by two more weeks of re-shoots. With the delays, Columbia rescheduled the national release for later that fall under the new title, Striking Distance.
       Despite somewhat negative reviews, the 21 Sep 1993 DV announced that Striking Distance had earned a first-place opening weekend gross of $8,705,808.
      End credits include: “Special Thanks to: Pittsburgh Film Commission and the City and people of Pittsburgh; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Pittsburgh Penguins merchandise courtesy of the National Hockey League and the Pittsburgh Penguins; Boats and marine equipment provided by Boston Whaler; OMC Fishing Boat Group; Cadorette Marine; Cobalt Boats; Bombardier Corporation-Sea-Doo Division; Talon Marine Company; OMC Sunbird; JMB Performance Marine; Discovery Marine, Inc.; Point State Park: Department of Environmental Resources; Bureau of State Parks; Zambelli Internationale Fireworks MFG. Co.; The First Family of Fireworks, New Castle Pennsylvania; Marrow Productions.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Allegheny Business News
Mar 1993
Section I, p. 1.
Daily Variety
4 May 1990
p. 1, 25.
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1990
p. 1, 21.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1993
p. 10, 50.
Los Angeles Times
17 Sep 1993
Calendar, p. 3.
New York Times
17 Sep 1993
Section C, p. 17.
Spy
Jun 1993.
---
Variety
17 Feb 1992.
---
Variety
27 Sep 1993
p. 36.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
An Arnon Milchan Production
A Film by Rowdy Herrington
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
2d unit 1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Steadicam op
Chief lighting tech
Key grip
Dolly grip
Video playback/Asst
Still photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d cam asst, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Chief lighting tech, 2d unit
Best boy, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
Best boy grip, 2d unit
Aerial photog, 2d unit
Underwater dir of photog, 2d unit
Flying cam seq by, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Storyboard artist
Art dir, 2d unit
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
2d unit ed, 2d unit
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Set des
Set des
Scenic charge
Prop master, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Men`s ward
Women's ward
Mr. Willis' costumer
MUSIC
Scoring mixer
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Sd mixer, 2d unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec key Jeff asst
MAKEUP
Mr. Willis' makeup
Hairstylist
Mr. Willis' hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst to Mr. Herrington
Loc mgr
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Picture car coord
Craft service
Tech advisor
Unit pub
Casting assoc
Extras casting
Boat coord
Boat wrangler
Boat wrangler
Police consultant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Peter Stark intern
Prod supv, 2d unit
2d unit scr supv, 2d unit
Helicopter pilot, 2d unit
STAND INS
Stunt double "Hardy"
Stunt double "Jimmy"
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
SOURCES
SONGS
“Lil’ Red Riding Hood,” written by Ronald Blackwell, performed by Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs, courtesy of PolyGram Special Markets
“Walk Right Now,” written by Andy Shaw, Nick Kenny, Simon Kenny, Paul Disley and Charlie Francis, performed by 2 Die 4, courtesy of Morgan Creek Music Group
“Feel Like A Number,” written by Bob Seger, performed by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license form CEMA Special Markets
+
SONGS
“Lil’ Red Riding Hood,” written by Ronald Blackwell, performed by Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs, courtesy of PolyGram Special Markets
“Walk Right Now,” written by Andy Shaw, Nick Kenny, Simon Kenny, Paul Disley and Charlie Francis, performed by 2 Die 4, courtesy of Morgan Creek Music Group
“Feel Like A Number,” written by Bob Seger, performed by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license form CEMA Special Markets
“Spiders Blues (Might Need It Sometime)," written by Paul Barrere, Fred Tackett and Bill Payne, performed by Little Feat, courtesy of Morgan Creek Music Group
"Things Happen," written by Paul Barrere, Fred Tackett and Bill Payne, performed by Little Feat, courtesy of Morgan Creek Music Group.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Three Rivers
Release Date:
17 September 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 September 1993
Production Date:
early June--September 1992
re-shoots in February 1993
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 October 1993
Copyright Number:
PA672410
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® Cameras & Lenses
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
101
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1991 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, fifth-generation homicide detective Tom Hardy gets ready for work while watching a television news report about a serial killer known as the “Polish Hill Strangler,” who dumps the bodies of his victims into the Ohio River. Accompanying his father, Captain Vince Hardy, on the drive to work, Tom worries that he has gained a reputation as a “rat” after testifying against his cousin and former partner, Detective Jimmy Detillo, in a police brutality case. Suddenly, dispatch alerts them that the suspected strangler is speeding through the city in a stolen vehicle. After the killer evades the pursuit of several squad cars, Tom and Vince follow him outside town. The cars collide, and Tom careens off the road, tumbling down a hill. Vince dies in the accident, and the killer escapes. Tom suspects the fugitive is actually a policeman, but a random man named Douglas Kesser is arrested and charged with the crime. After Jimmy Detillo does not show up for his sentencing, Jimmy’s father, Captain Nick Detillo, finds him standing on the side of a bridge. Tom tries to talk him down, but Jimmy jumps to his death in the river below. Two years later, Tom lives on a houseboat and has become an alcoholic. Working on the city’s River Rescue Patrol, he responds to a distress call and discovers the body of his former girl friend floating in the water. Despite the victim's bullet wounds, Tom suspects the Polish Hill Strangler is responsible. One day, Jimmy’s brother, Danny Detillo, returns from California and visits Tom at his houseboat. Although both men are still shaken by Jimmy’s death, Danny resents his family’s deep connection to ... +


In 1991 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, fifth-generation homicide detective Tom Hardy gets ready for work while watching a television news report about a serial killer known as the “Polish Hill Strangler,” who dumps the bodies of his victims into the Ohio River. Accompanying his father, Captain Vince Hardy, on the drive to work, Tom worries that he has gained a reputation as a “rat” after testifying against his cousin and former partner, Detective Jimmy Detillo, in a police brutality case. Suddenly, dispatch alerts them that the suspected strangler is speeding through the city in a stolen vehicle. After the killer evades the pursuit of several squad cars, Tom and Vince follow him outside town. The cars collide, and Tom careens off the road, tumbling down a hill. Vince dies in the accident, and the killer escapes. Tom suspects the fugitive is actually a policeman, but a random man named Douglas Kesser is arrested and charged with the crime. After Jimmy Detillo does not show up for his sentencing, Jimmy’s father, Captain Nick Detillo, finds him standing on the side of a bridge. Tom tries to talk him down, but Jimmy jumps to his death in the river below. Two years later, Tom lives on a houseboat and has become an alcoholic. Working on the city’s River Rescue Patrol, he responds to a distress call and discovers the body of his former girl friend floating in the water. Despite the victim's bullet wounds, Tom suspects the Polish Hill Strangler is responsible. One day, Jimmy’s brother, Danny Detillo, returns from California and visits Tom at his houseboat. Although both men are still shaken by Jimmy’s death, Danny resents his family’s deep connection to the police force and commends Tom for telling the truth in court. At the River Rescue station, Tom is paired with a new diver and paramedic named Jo Christman. While initially reluctant to work with a woman, Tom compliments Jo after she helps him bust a drug deal taking place on a tugboat. That night, the murderer abducts a nurse in a hospital parking lot and telephones Tom, forcing him to listen as he tortures and shoots her. Now convinced that Kesser was wrongfully charged, Tom sneaks into the police station and steals deposition files. His Uncle Nick catches him and threatens to confiscate his badge for illegally investigating a closed case. The next day, Tom takes his patrol boat upriver in search of “Chick” Chicanis, the witness who falsely convicted Kesser. He corners Chicanis with a gun, but Jo stops him and allows Chicanis to get away. Furious, Tom tells her that partners are supposed to support each other, but Jo is quick to point out the irony of his statement. When the nurse’s body is found in the river, she is identified as another one of Tom’s former girl friends. Although Tom believes the Polish Hill Strangler is still at large and is now targeting him, Nick vehemently denies the killings are related. Meanwhile, Jo researches information on Kesser’s arrest and learns the extent of Tom’s fixation with the case. Later, Tom attends a police force gala, arousing ire from his former colleagues. Danny causes a drunken scene, and when Tom intervenes, a fight breaks out. Jo pulls Tom away and takes him home, where she empties his whiskey bottle to prevent him from drinking. Claiming she respects Tom for showing up at the party, Jo kisses him. They make love, unaware that they are being watched from outside. While working their next shift on night patrol, Tom and Jo see a man drop a body into the river and chase the suspect as he drives away. Tom shoots the car with a flare gun, causing it to burst into flame. The driver escapes on foot and disappears into the woods. When police divers realize the “body” was actually a rolled-up rug, Tom and Jo are ridiculed for their mistake. As their relationship becomes serious, Jo confesses she was once married and has a four-year-old daughter. In the morning, Tom learns that his high school girl friend was the killer’s latest victim, which police find suspicious. During a courtroom hearing, Tom watches in disbelief as Jo is called to the witness stand and reveals her identity as Pennsylvania State Police Detective Emily Harper, assigned to evaluate Tom’s work performance and monitor his obsessive interest in the Polish Hill murders. Although the district attorney attempts to vilify Tom, Emily’s romantic feelings for him prompt her to testify in his favor. That evening, she is tasered and abducted while packing her bags to return home. Tom receives a telephone call from the killer, and finds the body of the River Rescue radio dispatcher floating outside his houseboat. Studying a map of where the bodies were discovered, Tom traces the killer to the Detillos’ riverside cabin where Danny has been staying. Inside, Tom is knocked unconscious and awakens to find Emily and Danny tied up beside him. Standing over them is Jimmy Detillo, who reveals himself as the murderer. Just as he is about to shoot Emily, Nick walks in and begs his son put down his gun. Instead, Jimmy holds his father accountable for Vince Hardy’s murder by explaining what really happened after the car crash: As the first person to arrive at the scene and discover Jimmy’s guilt, Nick instructed him to flee. Moments later, Vince emerged from the wreckage and attempted to stop Jimmy, and Nick fatally shot Vince in the stomach, allowing his son to get away. Once Jimmy finishes his story, he kills his father and proudly declares that he is “the best cop” in the room. Amid the commotion, Tom breaks free from his restraints, and Jimmy escapes in Tom’s speedboat. Tom follows in another patrol boat until Jimmy runs out of gas. The two fight on the edge of a bridge, eventually plunging into the water. Tom strangles Jimmy with his handcuffs, but Jimmy resurfaces wielding a taser gun. Tom grabs the weapon and sticks it in Jimmy’s mouth until he dies of electroshock. Sometime later, Tom visits his father’s grave as Emily and her young daughter wait by the car. +

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

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