Big Wednesday (1978)

PG | 118 mins | Drama | 26 May 1978

Director:

John Milius

Producer:

Buzz Feitshans

Cinematographer:

Bruce Surtees

Editor:

Robert L. Wolfe

Production Designer:

Charles Rosen

Production Companies:

Warner Bros. Pictures , A-Team Productions
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HISTORY

The written statement, “The South Swell, summer 1962”, appears before the film’s title in the opening credits.
       The film’s end credits include the following statements: “Pipeline Surfing Courtesy of Five Summer Stories by MacGillivray-Freeman Films” and “Production Services and Equipment Provided by The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California.”
       Big Wednesday was the first project of A Team Productions, a company formed by John Milius and Buzz Feitshans according to a 7 Aug 1977 LAT article. The budget was set at $6 million with a shooting schedule of sixty-five days.
       The screenplay, co-written by Milius, was based loosely on his personal experiences growing up as a surfer in California. Milius originally planned to play the role of “Bear” in the film but the part ultimately went to Sam Melville. Milius opted instead to play Melville’s body double in Bear's surfing sequences.
       The film began principal photography on 11 Jul 1977 in El Paso, TX according to a 22 Aug 1977 Box news item. The majority of the film was shot on location in Southern California and at The Burbank Studios, as stated in a 27 May 1977 DV ... More Less

The written statement, “The South Swell, summer 1962”, appears before the film’s title in the opening credits.
       The film’s end credits include the following statements: “Pipeline Surfing Courtesy of Five Summer Stories by MacGillivray-Freeman Films” and “Production Services and Equipment Provided by The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California.”
       Big Wednesday was the first project of A Team Productions, a company formed by John Milius and Buzz Feitshans according to a 7 Aug 1977 LAT article. The budget was set at $6 million with a shooting schedule of sixty-five days.
       The screenplay, co-written by Milius, was based loosely on his personal experiences growing up as a surfer in California. Milius originally planned to play the role of “Bear” in the film but the part ultimately went to Sam Melville. Milius opted instead to play Melville’s body double in Bear's surfing sequences.
       The film began principal photography on 11 Jul 1977 in El Paso, TX according to a 22 Aug 1977 Box news item. The majority of the film was shot on location in Southern California and at The Burbank Studios, as stated in a 27 May 1977 DV article.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Aug 1977.
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1977.
---
Daily Variety
4 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
27 May 1977.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1977.
---
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1977.
---
Daily Variety
5 Aug 1977.
---
Daily Variety
23 May 1978.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1996.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1978
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
7 Aug 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 May 1978
Pt. IV. p. 20.
New York Times
28 Jul 1978
p. 14.
Variety
12 Aug 1977.
---
Variety
24 May 1978
p. 40.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An A-Team Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir, Land
Unit prod mgr
2d asst dir
2nd asst dir trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Surfing seq prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Photog team, Spec water unit
Photog team, Spec water unit
Surfing photog consultant, Spec water unit
Surfing photog consultant, Spec water unit
Surfing photog consultant, Spec water unit
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
Gaffer
Still photog
1st asst cam
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Best boy elec
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Also ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Asst prop man
Leadman
Painter
COSTUMES
Women's ward supv
Men's ward supv
Cost supv
Cost
MUSIC
Orig mus
Mus ed
Mus score mixer
Slack key guitarist
Slack key guitarist
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Addl sd ed
Sd mixer
Dial ed
Mikeman
Cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Matte artist
Main title des by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Water unit liason, Spec water unit
Spec thanks and appreciation to, Spec water unit
Loc by
Loc by
Transportation coord
Scr supv
Prod secy
Asst to prod
Secy to dir
Office asst
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Loc mgr
Auditor
Pub coord
STAND INS
Surfing master, Spec water unit
Surfing master, Spec water unit
Surfing master, Spec water unit
Surfing master, Spec water unit
Surfing master, Spec water unit
Surfing master, Spec water unit
Wipeouts, Spec water unit
Stunt coord
SOURCES
SONGS
"Three Friends Theme," music by Basil Poledouris, lyrics and vocals by Keola & Kapono Beamer.
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 May 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 26 May 1978
Production Date:
11 July 1977--mid September 1977
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 February 1979
Copyright Number:
PA29560
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby® Stereo
Color
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®; Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
118
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25256
SYNOPSIS

In the summer of 1962, best friends Matt Johnson, Jack Barlow and Leroy “The Masochist” Smith arrive at a California beach at dawn. Matt is so hungover he can barely stand up straight, but Jack and Leroy think a round of surfing will be the best cure for him. After convincing a local boy to loan Matt his surfboard, Jack and Leroy drag their friend into the ocean. Matt complains until a wave comes; he climbs onto the board and surfs with great ease. Local surfing aficionado, Bear, runs a surf shop on the pier. As he works on a surfboard, he talks to a couple of young boys about a rare ocean swell that happens ever twenty years called the “Great Swell.” The last event was during the 1950s, and he swears the waves swelled as high as twenty feet. Meanwhile, Matt, Jack and Leroy go to a local diner, where they meet Sally, a waitress who has just moved to the area from Chicago, Illinois. As Jack flirts, Matt and Leroy start a food fight, and the owner throws the boys out. After the diner closes, Sally accepts Jack’s invitation to attend a party at his house. Later, at the house party, Jack’s mother, Mrs. Barlow, patiently tolerates the noise, but she stays upstairs as uninvited guests start a fight and destroy the house. Some days later, Matt; his girlfriend, Peggy Gordon; Jack; Leroy and Sally drive to Tijuana, Mexico. Once they arrive, Peggy announces that she is pregnant with Matt’s baby and intends to keep the child. Later that evening, the friends go ... +


In the summer of 1962, best friends Matt Johnson, Jack Barlow and Leroy “The Masochist” Smith arrive at a California beach at dawn. Matt is so hungover he can barely stand up straight, but Jack and Leroy think a round of surfing will be the best cure for him. After convincing a local boy to loan Matt his surfboard, Jack and Leroy drag their friend into the ocean. Matt complains until a wave comes; he climbs onto the board and surfs with great ease. Local surfing aficionado, Bear, runs a surf shop on the pier. As he works on a surfboard, he talks to a couple of young boys about a rare ocean swell that happens ever twenty years called the “Great Swell.” The last event was during the 1950s, and he swears the waves swelled as high as twenty feet. Meanwhile, Matt, Jack and Leroy go to a local diner, where they meet Sally, a waitress who has just moved to the area from Chicago, Illinois. As Jack flirts, Matt and Leroy start a food fight, and the owner throws the boys out. After the diner closes, Sally accepts Jack’s invitation to attend a party at his house. Later, at the house party, Jack’s mother, Mrs. Barlow, patiently tolerates the noise, but she stays upstairs as uninvited guests start a fight and destroy the house. Some days later, Matt; his girlfriend, Peggy Gordon; Jack; Leroy and Sally drive to Tijuana, Mexico. Once they arrive, Peggy announces that she is pregnant with Matt’s baby and intends to keep the child. Later that evening, the friends go to a strip club. When a man insults Peggy, Matt punches him and a fight ensues; but the friends escape before the police arrive. When they return to California, they find out that the beach pier has been condemned. Bear is devastated as he is forced to close his surf shop. Three years later, Jack is a lifeguard at the same beach and has recently received his military draft notice for service in the Vietnam War. The friends aren’t as close as they used to be. Jack throws Matt off the beach when Matt causes a car accident, stumbling drunk into the road. Meanwhile, Bear has opened another thriving surf shop business nearby and prepares for his upcoming wedding. Depressed, Matt enters Bear’s shop, which has sponsored Matt in local surfing contests. Now, however, Matt wants to quit the sport. He does not like being famous, and believes he is nothing more than a worthless drunk. Bear refuses to accept the young man’s resignation and convinces him to continue. At the wedding, Bear invites Jack to drink with the old group of friends, hoping to mend Jack and Matt’s strained relationship. Reluctant at first, Jack eventually joins and the friends enjoy the wedding. Weeks later, Matt, Jack, Leroy and their friend, Jim “Waxer” King, go to their military induction physicals. In an attempt to avoid military service, Matt fakes being crippled, Leroy pretends to be insane, and Waxer feigns homosexuality. Jack, however, does not resist induction. Matt and Leroy successfully avoid the draft and only Jack and Waxer become soldiers. Jack enjoys one last day of surfing and time with his friends before a tearful send off. Now in 1968, Matt attends Waxer’s funeral and is disappointed that no one else from the surfing community is there. Still with Peggy, Matt now owns a pool cleaning service. He takes Peggy and their daughter, Melissa, to the premiere of a surfing documentary that features old footage of him and he is embarrassed when no one in the audience recognizes him. The family later greets Jack as he returns home from Vietnam. As Matt and Jack surf together, Jack learns that Leroy has become a professional surfer in Hawaii and that Bear has fallen on hard times. Jack also finds out that his old girlfriend, Sally, has married another man. Later, Leroy returns home to join Jack and Matt at the local cemetery. Honoring Waxer, they reminisce about old times, then go their separate ways. In 1974, the Great Swell that Bear predicted finally arrives. Matt attempts to contact his friends to invite them to surf the Great Swell and finds that Bear is now a homeless drunk living underneath the pier. Nevertheless, Bear is full of excitement about the event and gives Matt the old surfboard he used to surf the last Great Swell. The next morning, a large crowd gathers at the beach, even though local authorities discourage surfing in the dangerous waters. Famous surfers, such as Gerry Lopez, are in the water, trying their luck at the huge waves. Matt arrives with Bear’s surfboard and is pleasantly surprised to see Jack and Leroy. The three friends decide to surf together one last time. As the crowd looks on with respect and admiration, Matt suddenly falls off his board and Jack and Leroy rush to save him. When they pull Matt to safety, a younger surfer returns Matt’s board, and compliments him on his talent. The trio then admires Lopez, the new king of surfing. +

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

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