Breathless (1983)

R | 100 mins | Drama, Romance | 13 May 1983

Full page view
HISTORY

End credits include the following statements: “Principal theme based on ‘Openings’ by Phillip Glass from the CBS Masterworks album ‘Glassworks’”; and “’Silver Surfer’ character is a trademark of the Marvel Comics Group. All rights reserved. All artwork is courtesy of the Marvel Comics Group.”
       On 14 Sep 1978, HR announced that screenwriter-director Jim McBride and writer L. M. Kit Carson were collaborating on the screenplay for an updated version of the classic French film, Breathless, (1961, see entry) to be photographed in Los Angeles, CA, beginning spring 1979, on a budget of less than $5 million. At that time, McBride was listed as director, Amy Ephron as producer, and Martin Erlichman as executive producer. McBride received permission to adapt the film from director Jean-Luc Godard and writer François Truffaut, who collaborated on the original. A news item in the 28 Nov 1978 Var stated that actor Gary Busey was “interested” in the lead role, but two days later, the 30 Nov 1978 HR reported that Robert DeNiro was being considered by Godard to star in the remake. On 18 Dec 1978, HR correctly credited Erlichman as producer and Universal Pictures Corp. as distributor.
       McBride explained in the 19 Nov 1982 DV that the screenplay was rewritten to suit Busey, who was to play protagonist “Jesse” as “a sort of redneck character.” When McBride was unable to reach an agreement with the actor, Universal recommended DeNiro for the role, who was working on the film Raging Bull (1980, see entry) at the time, and waited six months before ... More Less

End credits include the following statements: “Principal theme based on ‘Openings’ by Phillip Glass from the CBS Masterworks album ‘Glassworks’”; and “’Silver Surfer’ character is a trademark of the Marvel Comics Group. All rights reserved. All artwork is courtesy of the Marvel Comics Group.”
       On 14 Sep 1978, HR announced that screenwriter-director Jim McBride and writer L. M. Kit Carson were collaborating on the screenplay for an updated version of the classic French film, Breathless, (1961, see entry) to be photographed in Los Angeles, CA, beginning spring 1979, on a budget of less than $5 million. At that time, McBride was listed as director, Amy Ephron as producer, and Martin Erlichman as executive producer. McBride received permission to adapt the film from director Jean-Luc Godard and writer François Truffaut, who collaborated on the original. A news item in the 28 Nov 1978 Var stated that actor Gary Busey was “interested” in the lead role, but two days later, the 30 Nov 1978 HR reported that Robert DeNiro was being considered by Godard to star in the remake. On 18 Dec 1978, HR correctly credited Erlichman as producer and Universal Pictures Corp. as distributor.
       McBride explained in the 19 Nov 1982 DV that the screenplay was rewritten to suit Busey, who was to play protagonist “Jesse” as “a sort of redneck character.” When McBride was unable to reach an agreement with the actor, Universal recommended DeNiro for the role, who was working on the film Raging Bull (1980, see entry) at the time, and waited six months before refusing the part, after which Universal rejected the project. Orion Pictures Company was willing to supply financing, and there was interest in the lead role from actors John Travolta and Al Pacino, but all took issue with McBride, who had only directed low-budget, independent films to date. McBride’s agent, executive producer Keith Addis, advised his client to defer to new distributor Paramount Pictures Corporation, and relinquish the role of director to Franc Roddam. Paramount also chose Richard Gere as the film’s star, but the studio soon abandoned the project, as did Roddam, who was committed to another picture. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, McBride flew to New York City to obtain Gere’s commitment to the project; they were later joined by Erlichman for a meeting with Orion executives, who agreed to finance the film. Gere collaborated on the final draft of the screenplay, and accompanied McBride and Erlichman to Paris, France, where they auditioned actresses for the role of “Monica.” DV reported that Valerie Kaprisky was selected from 150 candidates, though she was one of only fifteen who personally auditioned for the McBride, Erlichman, and Gere. In the production notes, she described her audition as “awful,” as she did not have time to memorize her lines, though she won the role after being allowed a second chance the following day.
       Production began 2 Aug 1982 and ended eight weeks later. Locations included the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Venice Beach, Hollywood, Downtown, and Westwood, which included the campus of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The cities of Santa Monica, CA; Beverly Hills, CA; Palmdale, CA; and Las Vegas, NV; supplied additional locations. Some interior filming was performed at Zoetrope Studios in Los Angeles. McBride was quoted in DV describing the role of Los Angeles in the film as “a secondary character.” Another location, mentioned in a 21 Nov 1982 NYT article, was “The Pines,” an abandoned hillside estate in Hollywood where the final scenes were photographed. The property was later acquired by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, and opened to the public as Runyon Canyon Park. As photography drew to a close, McBride admitted that he was “terrified of the critical reaction,” but was happy to be working again. The article listed actress Karen Black among the cast members, but she is not credited onscreen.
       The 4 Feb 1983 HR announced that the release of Breathless would be postponed until Friday, 13 May 1983, because “a few minor detail scenes were reshot,” and postproduction was incomplete. Release was originally scheduled for 4 Mar 1983. The film opened in 1,100 theaters nationwide to mixed reviews, several of which compared it unfavorably to its source material. However, the picture grossed $4.4 million during its opening weekend, according to the Jul 1983 Box.
       A news item in the 20 May 1983 LA Weekly revealed that the nightclub set in Breathless was modeled on a Los Angeles nightspot called “The Garage,” which was studied by members of the production team prior to filming. Club owner Steven Tosh was reportedly angered over receiving no credit for his contribution.
       Composer Phillip Glass and his publishing company, Dunvagen Music Publishing, Inc., filed a suit against Orion Pictures, Erlichman, and several other entities in early Jul 1983 for their “unauthorized use of his music” in the film, as reported in the 19 Jul 1983 NYT. The composer sought actual damages in excess of $1 million and punitive damages in excess of $2 million, charging the defendants with “copyright infringement, unfair competition and fraud.” According to Glass, The Clearing House, Ltd., and Ronald H. Gertz solicited permission to use one of his compositions from the album Glassworks as “incidental music” for the film in 1982. Permission was granted on the condition that the musical sequence be only two minutes in length, would retain its original arrangement, and “be heard in the background as if coming from a radio.” However, Kurt Munkacsi, who co-produced the album, stated that the producers chose a seven-minute sequence from the solo piano piece “Openings” and made it a recurring musical theme throughout the film. Glass was offended by the orchestration of his work, which he described as “mawkish” and “sentimental,” and felt that he received inadequate credit. An undisclosed monetary settlement was reached between the parties, reportedly in the “tens of thousands of dollars.” In addition, all future domestic and foreign prints were required to include a detailed credit for “Openings.” However, none of the defendants admitted any liability in the case, and claimed that they reached the settlement in order to avoid “potential interference” with the film’s distribution. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Jul 1983
p. 67.
Daily Variety
19 Nov 1982
p. 6, 37.
Daily Variety
15 Jul 1983
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1978
p. 3, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1983
p. 3, 10.
LA Weekly
20 May 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 May 1983
p. 1.
New York Times
21 Nov 1982
p. 13, 24.
New York Times
13 May 1983
p. 10.
New York Times
19 Jul 1983.
---
Rolling Stone
23 Jun 1983.
---
Variety
28 Nov 1978.
---
Variety
7 Jul 1982.
---
Variety
11 May 1983
p. 21.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion Pictures Release
A Martin Erlichman Production
A Miko Productions, Inc. Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Gaffer
Key grip
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
Best boy
Dolly grip
Extra grip
Extra grip
Addl seq photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Storyboard artist
Asst to prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
1st asst film ed
2d asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Painter
Painter
Prop maker
Prop maker
Model maker
Leadman
Swing man
COSTUMES
Styling consultant
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Orig mus by
Mus ed
Addl orig mus
Mus coord
Mus selection
Mus clearances by
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Prod sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Boom op
Utility sd tech
A.D.R. ed
A.D.R. ed
A.D.R. ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles by
Titles by
Opt by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Richard Gere's hair by
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Casting assoc
Extra casting
Extra casting coord
Asst to the prod
Asst to the exec prod
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Auditor
Asst auditor
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Nurse
A.F.I. intern
Prod asst
Crafts service
Dial coach
Dial coach
Animals supplied by
Company representative
STAND INS
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stuntperson
Stunt coord
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the French film A bout de souffle written by Jean-Luc Godard and based on the story by François Truffaut (Les Productions Georges de Beauregard, Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie [SNC] and Impéria, 1960).
SONGS
"Breathless," composed by Otis Blackwell, performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, Rightsong Music, Inc./Obie Music, Polygram Records, Inc.
"Bad Boy," performed by Mink DeVille, MCA Music (A Division of MCA, Inc.), Capitol Records, Inc.
"Wind On Water/Wind On The Wind," performed by Fripp & Eno, E.G. Music, Ltd., E.G. Records, Ltd.
+
SONGS
"Breathless," composed by Otis Blackwell, performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, Rightsong Music, Inc./Obie Music, Polygram Records, Inc.
"Bad Boy," performed by Mink DeVille, MCA Music (A Division of MCA, Inc.), Capitol Records, Inc.
"Wind On Water/Wind On The Wind," performed by Fripp & Eno, E.G. Music, Ltd., E.G. Records, Ltd.
"Final Sunset," performed by Fripp & Eno, E.G. Music, Ltd., E.G. Records, Ltd.
"(What A) Wonderful World," performed by Sam Cooke, ©1959, ABKCO Music, Inc., written by Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and Lou Adler, RCA Records, Inc.
"High School Confidential," performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, Jerry Lee Lewis Publishing, Polygram Records, Inc.
"Openings," performed by Phillip Glass, Dunvagen Music Publishing, Inc., CBS Masterworks
"No Me Hagas Sufrir," performed by Ismael Quintana/Eddie Palmieri, Gabriel I Music/VEV Publishing, Barbaro Records
"Suspicious Minds," Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc.
"Jack The Ripper," performed by Link Wray and the Wraymen, Vernon Wray Music/Andval Music
"365 Is My Number/The Message," performed by King Sunny Adé, Island Music, Inc., Island Records, Inc.
"Celtic Soul Brothers," performed by Dexy's Midnight Runners, EMI Music Publishing, Ltd./Happy Face Music Publishing Co., Polygram Records, Inc.
"Message Of Love," performed by the Pretenders, Al Gallico Music Corporation, Sire Records
"Caca De Vaca," performed by Joe "King" Carrasco, Pink Chance Music, Hannibal Records, Inc.
"Blowin' In The Wind," Warner Bros., Inc., Muzak, A Group W Company
"Breathless" end credits performed by "X," "X" courtesy of Elektra Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 May 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 May 1983
Production Date:
2 August--early October 1982
Copyright Claimant:
Breathless Associates, Inc., a Greenberg Brothers Partnership
Copyright Date:
5 January 1984
Copyright Number:
PA198869
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Photographic equipment by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26909
SYNOPSIS

Jesse Lujack drives a stolen car from Las Vegas, Nevada, toward Los Angeles, California, in search of Monica Poiccard, the beautiful French architecture student with whom he spent the previous two nights. He discovers a pistol in the glove compartment and places it on the passenger seat, then sings along with a Jerry Lee Lewis recording as he speeds through the desert. Jesse’s reckless driving attracts the attention of California Highway Patrolman H. R. Poindexter, and a chase ensues. After running his car off an embankment, Jesse finds himself cornered by the officer. When Jesse reaches for the pistol, it accidentally discharges and mortally wounds Poindexter. Jesse makes his way to Los Angeles and breaks into Monica’s apartment, where he finds her class schedule. He then disrupts a private conference between Monica and three of her professors, one of whom is Paul, her lover. Afterward, Monica scolds Jesse for the incident, but he is unfazed, declaring his love for her and his desire to take her with him to Mexico. Monica refuses, stating that she has no intention of jeopardizing her future. Jesse hitchhikes to a hobby shop to collect payment for a stolen car. Along the way, he hears a news broadcast stating that Poindexter’s assailant left his wallet and other evidence at the scene. When the client pays by check, Jesse has no choice but to seek out Berrutti, an elusive underworld figure who is able to cash the check. Moments after Jesse leaves the shop, police detectives Lt. Parmentel and Sgt. Enright enter, inquiring about Jesse’s whereabouts. Though one of the clerks feigns ... +


Jesse Lujack drives a stolen car from Las Vegas, Nevada, toward Los Angeles, California, in search of Monica Poiccard, the beautiful French architecture student with whom he spent the previous two nights. He discovers a pistol in the glove compartment and places it on the passenger seat, then sings along with a Jerry Lee Lewis recording as he speeds through the desert. Jesse’s reckless driving attracts the attention of California Highway Patrolman H. R. Poindexter, and a chase ensues. After running his car off an embankment, Jesse finds himself cornered by the officer. When Jesse reaches for the pistol, it accidentally discharges and mortally wounds Poindexter. Jesse makes his way to Los Angeles and breaks into Monica’s apartment, where he finds her class schedule. He then disrupts a private conference between Monica and three of her professors, one of whom is Paul, her lover. Afterward, Monica scolds Jesse for the incident, but he is unfazed, declaring his love for her and his desire to take her with him to Mexico. Monica refuses, stating that she has no intention of jeopardizing her future. Jesse hitchhikes to a hobby shop to collect payment for a stolen car. Along the way, he hears a news broadcast stating that Poindexter’s assailant left his wallet and other evidence at the scene. When the client pays by check, Jesse has no choice but to seek out Berrutti, an elusive underworld figure who is able to cash the check. Moments after Jesse leaves the shop, police detectives Lt. Parmentel and Sgt. Enright enter, inquiring about Jesse’s whereabouts. Though one of the clerks feigns ignorance, a saleswoman admits to seeing the suspect. Jesse steals a sports car and finds Monica at a bus stop, where he offers her a ride. She accepts, anxious to keep an appointment. Along the way, Jesse makes a detour to a seedy restaurant, searching in vain for Berrutti. Desperate for money, he steals a purse before driving Monica to a cocktail party in a downtown hotel where Paul is to introduce her to famed architect Dr. Boudreaux. At the mention of Paul, Jesse becomes jealous and declares that he never wants to see her again, but he waits outside and harasses the couple when they leave the party. Afterward, Jesse is at a newsstand arguing the merits of his favorite super hero, the Silver Surfer, with a teenaged boy. The boy brings Jesse to the realization that both he and his hero have placed themselves in dangerous situations from which they could easily escape if they so desired. Monica returns home the next morning to find Jesse in her bed, but expresses only mild outrage as she dons her bathing suit. Jesse joins her in the swimming pool, and as the two make love in the water, Monica admits that she is frightened by him, but finds him difficult to resist. Later, Jesse telephones a junk dealer named Birnbaum, hoping to sell a stolen car. Though Jesse tries to be discreet, Monica suspects him of criminal activity, and is skeptical when he discusses his livelihood. She quotes author William Faulkner, saying, “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.” Jesse counters, “All or nothing with me, baby.” As they make love on the bed, Paul leaves a message on her answering machine, informing her that they will be joining Dr. Boudreaux that afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony. Later, Jesse is overjoyed when Monica announces that she might be pregnant, and looks forward to starting a family with her in Mexico. Jesse leaves the apartment to retrieve his car, but finds it surrounded by police. He steals another car and picks up Monica at her front door. She accepts Jesse’s excuse about the new car, but maintains her reservations about going to Mexico. Jesse dismisses her concern, believing that only the present matters. After driving Monica to the ceremony, Jesse realizes that he is in serious danger when he sees his photograph on the front page of a newspaper. He takes the car to Birnbaum, who is aware of Jesse’s plight, and offers him $1200, but refuses to pay until the following week. When the junk dealer disables the car, Jesse overpowers and robs him, then runs from the junkyard with Birnbaum’s employees in pursuit. Meanwhile, Lt. Parmentel and Sgt. Enright interrupt the groundbreaking ceremony, threatening to arrest Monica if she does not reveal Jesse’s whereabouts. She lies, telling them that he is on his way to San Francisco, California. Monica and Paul leave the ceremony, with Sgt. Enright following them at a distance. Before parting company, Paul warns Monica that Jesse will ruin her life. Moments later, as Jesse approaches in another stolen car, Enright threatens Monica with deportation. Jesse knocks the detective to the ground and escapes with Monica. That evening, Jesse meets Berrutti at a dance club and gets an advance on his check, with the promise of receiving the balance in the morning. The police arrive, forcing Jesse and Monica to escape through an elevator shaft. After evading the police, they break into a movie theater and make love behind the screen, then steal another car and hide in an abandoned hillside estate. The next morning, Monica regrets her impetuous behavior, and when Jesse sends her to the store for food, she telephones the police. Upon returning to Jesse, she admits her betrayal, explaining that they are wrong for each other, and he needs to leave her behind if he wants to live, but Jesse refuses. Berrutti arrives with the money and a pistol, warning Jesse of the approaching police cars. Jesse dismisses the warning, saying, “It’s all or nothing.” Within moments, the couple is surrounded by policemen demanding that Jesse surrender. He turns to Monica and performs a dramatic rendition of the song, “Breathless”, then picks up the gun and aims at Lt. Parmentel. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.