The Hard Way (1991)

R | 111 mins | Comedy, Adventure | 8 March 1991

Director:

John Badham

Cinematographers:

Robert Primes, Don McAlpine

Production Designer:

Philip Harrison

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , The Badham/Cohen Group
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HISTORY

On 29 Jan 1988, DV announced that Ted Danson would star in Universal Pictures’ The Hard Way under the direction of Arthur Hiller. The news item made light of the fact that the television star would portray an actor in the film. A 27 Apr 1988 Var production chart anticipated that filming would begin in New York City in May 1988. However, a 9 Jun 1988 DV news brief revealed that Hiller had been replaced by director John Badham, and actor Jack Nicholson was being courted to play the role of surly detective “John Moss.” Four months later, a 7 Oct 1988 DV article reported that Badham had struck a multi-picture deal with Universal. At that time, The Hard Way had been given a budget of $20 million, and was to be the first picture produced for Universal under the Badham/Cohen Group banner, with production scheduled to begin in Chicago, IL, sometime in 1989. Various contemporary sources indicated that Kevin Kline and Gene Hackman had been tapped to co-star in the film, but due to scheduling conflicts, neither actor could commit to the project. Although Badham secured the interest of Michael J. Fox in the fall of 1988, the actor was obligated to first complete the Back to the Future sequels (1989 and 1990, see entries). With The Hard Way postponed, Badham inaugurated the Badham/Cohen Group with another film, Bird on a Wire (1990, see entry).
       In the interim, screenwriter Lem Dobbs joined with filmmakers to rework Daniel Pyne’s script, as noted by both the 9 Oct 1988 LAT ... More Less

On 29 Jan 1988, DV announced that Ted Danson would star in Universal Pictures’ The Hard Way under the direction of Arthur Hiller. The news item made light of the fact that the television star would portray an actor in the film. A 27 Apr 1988 Var production chart anticipated that filming would begin in New York City in May 1988. However, a 9 Jun 1988 DV news brief revealed that Hiller had been replaced by director John Badham, and actor Jack Nicholson was being courted to play the role of surly detective “John Moss.” Four months later, a 7 Oct 1988 DV article reported that Badham had struck a multi-picture deal with Universal. At that time, The Hard Way had been given a budget of $20 million, and was to be the first picture produced for Universal under the Badham/Cohen Group banner, with production scheduled to begin in Chicago, IL, sometime in 1989. Various contemporary sources indicated that Kevin Kline and Gene Hackman had been tapped to co-star in the film, but due to scheduling conflicts, neither actor could commit to the project. Although Badham secured the interest of Michael J. Fox in the fall of 1988, the actor was obligated to first complete the Back to the Future sequels (1989 and 1990, see entries). With The Hard Way postponed, Badham inaugurated the Badham/Cohen Group with another film, Bird on a Wire (1990, see entry).
       In the interim, screenwriter Lem Dobbs joined with filmmakers to rework Daniel Pyne’s script, as noted by both the 9 Oct 1988 LAT and a 31 Jan 1989 HR production chart. A 25 May 1990 DV news brief also credited writers Jeff Reno and Ron Osborne for “contributing” to the screenplay. Producer Rob Cohen attempted to clarify the matter in a 30 Sep 1990 letter to the LAT, stating: “The original script was written by Lem Dobbs and then rewritten by Daniel Pyne … but because of [Pyne’s] obligation to [another film], he was not available to do the final polish. Jeff Reno and Ron Osborne … ran the final leg of the race.” Cohen also acknowledged producer William Sackheim’s supervision of the writing process, before indicating that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) would determine final credit. Ultimately, Dobbs and television writer Michael Kozoll received “story” credit, with an onscreen listing that preceded the “screenplay” credit given to Pyne and Dobbs. Neither Reno nor Osborne received onscreen credit for their work.
       By the time principal photography began on 21 May 1990 in New York City, Fox’s co-star, James Woods, was well-prepared for his role as a homicide detective, having shadowed New York Police Department veteran, Lieutenant James Wood, on real-life investigative work. Lt. Wood also consulted on elements of authenticity in the movie. According to an 8 Aug 1990 NYT article, Lt. Wood objected to the lack of diversity in the casting of the film’s New York City police squad, and the roles were recast to include more people of color.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files indicate that filming was originally scheduled for sixteen weeks. However, the addition of a second unit helped reduce the time spent in New York to thirteen weeks. Various neighborhoods, including the Upper West Side, East Village, Harlem, City Hall Park, and Times Square, served as filming locations. A giant billboard advertisement for Smoking Gunn II, one of “Nick Lang’s” feature films, was constructed above Times Square, where it remained for ten days, confusing and amusing tourists and locals.
       A 20 Jul 1990 HR news brief noted that The Hard Way also filmed scenes in Brooklyn, NY, as well as at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, and at Newark Airport in NJ. A seaside estate in Deal, NJ, stood in for Nick Lang’s “Malibu” beach house. The climactic scene between John Moss and the “Party Crasher” took place inside New York’s Beacon Theatre, with hundreds of extras filling the seats as moviegoers. Although end credits state that The Hard Way was “shot entirely on location in New York City,” production notes acknowledge that the scenes from Nick Lang’s pictures were filmed in a studio, to better emulate the look of a Hollywood action movie. A 15 Aug 1990 Var news brief reported that on 13 Aug, the Radio City Music Hall marquee displayed the title, The Good, The Badge, and The Ugly, the name of the film Nick Lang made following his adventures with John Moss. The Beacon Theatre also served as the movie theater in which the characters in The Hard Way watch the film’s premiere.
       A 5 Jun 1990 HR production chart listed Frank Morriss and Ralph Winters as editors of the film. However, opening credits indicate that Morriss shared editing duties with Tony Lombardo.
       The picture received mixed reviews. In an 8–14 Mar 1991 Village View assessment, critic Sam McDowell ridiculed the film’s cliché-ridden script and predictable action sequences, and criticized the casting of Michael J. Fox in a role that was “way out of his league.” However, 4 Mar 1991 reviews in Var and HR commended the “first rate” technical credits and “superb” stunt work. The 8 Mar 1991 LAT dismissed the movie as “shallow” but “entertaining.” Two weeks after the film’s 8 Mar 1991 release, a 24 Mar 1991 LAT article indicated that the film had grossed a disappointing $12.2 million at the box-office.
       In the summer issue of Frisko magazine, film critic Michael Sragow claimed that The Hard Way was the movie that drove Pauline Kael to retirement. Kael, who reviewed films for the New Yorker from 1967 to 1991, had long lamented Hollywood’s “declining standards.”
       End credits include the following statement: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the help and support of the following: Apple Computers/Daniel Paul; Edwin Jeans; MITA Corporation; Reebok Shoes/Susan Sherman; Motion Picture Marketing/David Schafer; G.T.E. Mobilnet/Baldoni Entertainment, Inc.; Artkraft/Strauss; Van Wagner Outdoor Advertising/Ray Sipperly; The Riese Organization; Cartier; Kingsbridge Armory; Lehr McGovern/Ken Hiller; Thorton Thomas Etti/Anya Brasil; The New York City Mayor’s Office for Film, Television, Theater, and Broadcasting/Jaynee Keyes; New York State Govenor’s [sic] Office for Motion Picture and T.V. Development/Pepper O’Brien; Louis K. Meisel Gallery; Total Gym/Larry Westfall; New York City Special Operations Division – Movie/TV Unit.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Jan 1988.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jun 1988.
---
Daily Variety
7 Oct 1988
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 May 1990.
---
Frisko
Summer 1991
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1991
p. 8, 56.
Los Angeles Times
9 Oct 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Sep 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Sep 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1991
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1991.
---
New York Times
18 May 1990.
---
New York Times
8 Aug 1990.
---
New York Times
8 Mar 1991
Section C, p. 8.
Variety
27 Apr 1988.
---
Variety
15 Aug 1990.
---
Variety
4 Mar 1991
pp. 52-53.
Village View (Los Angeles)
8-14 Mar 1991
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures Presents
A Badham/Cohen Group - William Sackheim Production
A John Badham Movie
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
DGA trainee
Unit prod mgr, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
2d 2d asst dir, 2d unit
2d 2d asst dir, 2d unit
2d 2d asst dir, 2d unit
WRITERS
Scr
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Consulting cine
Steadicam op
Steadicam asst
Vistavision plate cam
Cam trainee
Gaffer
Elec best boy
Rigging gaffer
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Armory elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Grip
Video assist
Video playback
Still photog
Still photog
Photographic equip supplied by
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Addl 2d unit photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
Still photog, 2d unit
Gaffer, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept asst
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Assoc ed
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Const coord
Const coord
Const grip
Head carpenter
Scenic chargeman
Standby scenic
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Prop master, 2d unit
Prop master, 2d unit
Asst prop master, 2d unit
Asst props, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Men's ward supv
Women's ward supv
Cost supv, 2d unit
Costumer, 2d unit
MUSIC
Supv mus ed
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Orchestrations
Mus mixer
Drums, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Percussion, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Percussion, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Percussion, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Percussion, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Guitar, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Bass, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Keyboards, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Keyboards, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Keyboards, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
Sax, The Badham/Cohen Big Apple Juicers
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR mixer
ADR rec
Dial ed
Foley by
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley rec
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dubbing rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Smoking Gunn billboard sculpture, structure, anim,
Tech supv, Showtech, Inc.
Eng, Thune Assc. [for] Showtech, Inc.
Project mgr, Showtech Inc.
Sculpting supv, Showtech, Inc.
Anim and eff eng, Showtech, Inc.
Scenic artist, Showtech, Inc.
Scenic artist, Showtech, Inc.
Scenic artist, Showtech, Inc.
Scenic artist, Showtech, Inc.
Smoke eff, Theater Magic
Titles des and prod by
Process compositing by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist, Michael J. Fox
Hairstylist, Michael J. Fox
Hair/Makeup artist, James Woods
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist, 2d unit
Makeup artist, 2d unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst unit mgr prod
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Scr supv
Scr supv
Loc coord
Loc coord
Loc scout
Casting assoc
Asst to Ms. Timmermann
Extras casting
Extras casting asst
ADR voice casting
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst to Mr. Badham
Asst to Mr. Badham
Asst to Mr. Cohen
Asst to Mr. Sackheim
Asst to Mr. McIntosh
Asst to Mr. Fox
Asst to Mr. Fox
Asst to Mr. Woods
Security for Mr. Fox
Security for Mr. Woods
For the Badham/Cohen Group
For the Badham/Cohen Group
For the Badham/Cohen Group
Macintosh computer consultant
Unit pub
Tech police adv
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Studio mgr/Armory
Prod asst--office
Prod asst--office
Prod asst--office
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Prod asst--loc
Scr supv, 2d unit
Loc mgr, 2d unit
Loc asst, 2d unit
Loc asst, 2d unit
Asst prod accountant, 2d unit
Prod coord, 2d unit
Prod coord, 2d unit
Office asst, 2d unit
Transportation capt, 2d unit
Transportation capt, 2d unit
Prod asst, 2d unit
Prod asst, 2d unit
Prod asst, 2d unit
Prod asst, 2d unit
Prod asst, 2d unit
Prod asst, 2d unit
STAND INS
Stand-in for Michael J. Fox
Stand-in for James Woods
Stand-in for Stephen Lang
Stand-in for Anabella Sciorra
Stunt coord
Stunt double for Michael J. Fox
Stunt double for James Woods
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Momma Said Knock You Out," written by M. Williams and J. T. Smith, performed by L L Cool J, courtesy of Columbia/Def Jam Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"La Marea (Karnaval)," written by Tabou Combo, performed by Cuco Valoy, courtesy of Kubaney Records
"Theme From The Today Show aka Mission Theme," composed and conducted by John Williams, courtesy of National Broadcasting Co., Inc.
+
SONGS
"Momma Said Knock You Out," written by M. Williams and J. T. Smith, performed by L L Cool J, courtesy of Columbia/Def Jam Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"La Marea (Karnaval)," written by Tabou Combo, performed by Cuco Valoy, courtesy of Kubaney Records
"Theme From The Today Show aka Mission Theme," composed and conducted by John Williams, courtesy of National Broadcasting Co., Inc.
"Murdergram (Live At Rapmania)," written by M. Williams and J. T. Smith, performed by L L Cool J, courtesy of Columbia/Def Jam Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"This Neighborhood," written by Simon Stokes, Chris Pinnick, performed by Simon Stokes, courtesy of Kook Records
"El Milloncito," written by Cuco Valoy and Jose Pena Suazoi, performed by Cuco Valoy, courtesy of Kubaney Records
"Runaround Sue," written by Ernest Maresca and Dion DiMucci, performed by Dion, courtesy of Continental Communications Corp., licensed through Celebrity Licensing, Inc.
"Big Girls Don't Cry," written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, performed by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, courtesy of Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli, dba The Four Seasons Partnership
"Fightin' Boogie," written by Harry Garfield, performed by Pack and Plow, courtesy of Pseudo Bwana Special Products.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 March 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 8 March 1991
Production Date:
21 May--late August 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 May 1991
Copyright Number:
PA518821
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
111
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30976
SYNOPSIS

New York City bustles with nightlife as police Lieutenant John Moss drives recklessly through traffic. His partner remarks that the car is intended for police, not personal, business, but John dismisses the quip, intent on keeping a date with his new girl friend, Susan. Just then, the police detectives receive a radio transmission alerting them to the whereabouts of the “Party Crasher,” a man known for shooting individuals in crowded situations. John curses and proceeds to a nearby nightclub. Inside, he spies the Party Crasher, but is unable to stop the lunatic from killing someone. Using the throng of dancing people to protect himself, the Party Crasher slips away. Meanwhile, in Malibu, California, Hollywood movie star Nick Lang watches a trailer for his latest film, Smoking Gunn II. Frustrated at being typecast as “Joe Gunn,” an action-adventure hero, Nick complains to his agent, Angie. He shows her a news clip of the belligerent Lt. John Moss, and insists on going to New York to shadow the officer for two weeks. When Angie protests, Nick orders her to land him a role in a “realistic” movie. In New York City, John is outraged to be tasked with “babysitting” an actor. As he storms down the hallway, swearing, Susan calls out from across the room. She suggests they meet later for a date. A sheepish John agrees. Later, he attempts to convince his superior that he is not the man to train Nick Lang, but Captain Brix refuses to alter the assignment. The captain also relieves John of the Party Crasher case. Irked, John takes Nick along on a “routine” visit to a ... +


New York City bustles with nightlife as police Lieutenant John Moss drives recklessly through traffic. His partner remarks that the car is intended for police, not personal, business, but John dismisses the quip, intent on keeping a date with his new girl friend, Susan. Just then, the police detectives receive a radio transmission alerting them to the whereabouts of the “Party Crasher,” a man known for shooting individuals in crowded situations. John curses and proceeds to a nearby nightclub. Inside, he spies the Party Crasher, but is unable to stop the lunatic from killing someone. Using the throng of dancing people to protect himself, the Party Crasher slips away. Meanwhile, in Malibu, California, Hollywood movie star Nick Lang watches a trailer for his latest film, Smoking Gunn II. Frustrated at being typecast as “Joe Gunn,” an action-adventure hero, Nick complains to his agent, Angie. He shows her a news clip of the belligerent Lt. John Moss, and insists on going to New York to shadow the officer for two weeks. When Angie protests, Nick orders her to land him a role in a “realistic” movie. In New York City, John is outraged to be tasked with “babysitting” an actor. As he storms down the hallway, swearing, Susan calls out from across the room. She suggests they meet later for a date. A sheepish John agrees. Later, he attempts to convince his superior that he is not the man to train Nick Lang, but Captain Brix refuses to alter the assignment. The captain also relieves John of the Party Crasher case. Irked, John takes Nick along on a “routine” visit to a rundown neighborhood. Nick realizes that John intends to continue his investigation of the Party Crasher, regardless of Captain Brix’s orders. Eager to perform his new role, the actor straps a rubber gun to his ankle and agrees to keep watch on the street while John enters a tenement building. Inside, the detective asks members of a local gang if they know who might have supplied the Party Crasher with a custom-made gun. One of the hoodlums provides the name “Witherspoon.” Suddenly, gunfire blasts through the windows. John deduces that Nick unwittingly informed a rival gang about his informants’ hideout. He berates the foolish actor, but Nick is too awestruck to listen. That night, John meets Susan and her daughter, Bonnie, at a pizza parlor. Nick shows up and introduces himself as John’s partner. Susan and Bonnie fall for Nick’s charming personality and invite him to join them. Later, John wonders why Susan is not warming up to him, and Nick suggests that John’s temper is intimidating. The next morning, the actor awakens to find one of his wrists handcuffed to the guest bed in John’s apartment. While struggling to escape, he receives a call from Susan, who invites him to lunch. They meet, and she asks for advice on how to get closer to John. Meanwhile, John confronts Witherspoon about the weapon he sold to the Party Crasher. Witherspoon claims he had no idea the man was a killer, then confesses that the Party Crasher intends to purchase another gun the following day. Pleased with the tip, John heads to the New York subway to resolve a situation involving armed thieves. Susan, who was on the train, points to Nick hiding behind a newsstand. When she admires his patience, John smirks and forcefully apprehends the ruffians. Later, a displeased Captain Brix reminds John to stay away from the Party Crasher. Driving home that night, John and Nick overhear a discussion about the Party Crasher on the police radio. Unable to ignore the lead, John drives to a nearby location. He warns Nick to wait in the car, giving him a handgun for protection. John enters the building, but sees no sign of his nemesis. Startled by the policeman’s presence, a man runs outside. Nick panics and shoots him. John contends that news of an actor killing an unarmed man with a police-issued weapon will be ruinous for both of their careers. He claims responsibility for the death, and suggests Nick return to Los Angeles. Overcome by guilt and the need to tell the truth, Nick leaves the airport and heads to the police station. There, he is stunned to see the man he shot joking about the incident with the rest of the force. He realizes John orchestrated the ruse to get him out of town. Meanwhile, John’s stakeout of Witherspoon’s meeting with the Party Crasher goes awry. The Party Crasher kills Witherspoon and flees. John chases the criminal into a movie theater. At that moment, Nick passes by the theater and follows the two inside. A shootout ensues, and the injured Party Crasher is taken to an ambulance. However, he escapes while John and Nick argue about John’s unethical prank. Still fuming, Nick drives off in a police car. When the Party Crasher reveals himself in the back seat, Nick speeds through lower Manhattan, leaving chaos in his wake. He wrecks the car, and the Party Crasher flees before backup arrives. The next day, Susan learns about Nick’s true identity from a news broadcast, and confronts John. She expresses concern about his violent career, and informs him that she cannot be in a relationship with him. Shortly after the breakup, Susan is apprehended by the Party Crasher. He takes her to the roof of a building at Times Square, where an enormous moving replica of Nick’s head advertises the movie, Smoking Gunn II. After forcing Susan onto the brim of Nick’s hat, the Party Crasher tussles with Nick and John. Nick rescues Susan but takes a bullet in the shoulder. John hurls the Party Crasher off the billboard and rushes to comfort the actor. Months later, John, Susan, and Bonnie attend the premiere of Nick’s new movie, The Good, the Badge, and the Ugly. When John exclaims that Nick stole lines from him, other moviegoers tell him to be quiet so they can watch the end credits. +

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

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