Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993)

PG-13 | 123 mins | Comedy-drama | 17 December 1993

Director:

Randa Haines

Writer:

Steve Conrad

Producers:

Todd Black, Joe Wizan

Cinematographer:

Lajos Koltai

Editor:

Paul Hirsch

Production Designer:

Waldemar Kalinowski

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures
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HISTORY

End credits include the following acknowledgments: “'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' courtesy of NBC Productions,” and, “The filmmakers wish to thank Lisa Fruchtman.”
       On 16 Jan 1992, DV announced that Joe Wizan/Todd Black productions was initiating development on first-time feature film screenwriter Steve Conrad’s Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, which was one of two Conrad scripts acquired by Warner Bros. Pictures on 12 Jan 1992 for an undisclosed fee. According to the 6-12 Mar 2008 edition of the Chicago Reader, Conrad was an undergraduate English major at Northwestern University in 1990 when he adapted Wrestling Ernest Hemingway from an original short story he wrote during his senior year. He sent the script to Hollywood agents in 1991 and found literary representation and a producer, Todd Black, in less than a year. Conrad was in his early twenties at the time.
       DV noted that Black originally optioned Wrestling Ernest Hemingway with his own money, and presented it to several studios before landing a deal at Warner Bros. Contractual negotiations were confirmed within twenty-four hours. While the 2008 Chicago Reader article stated that Warner Bros. did not option the script until after Randa Haines was hired to direct, the 16 Jan 1992 DV stated that producers were looking for a director and actors at that time. The screenplay was still in its “polishing stage,” and the undisclosed budget was estimated between a “medium” range to $20 million.
       Director Randa Haines’s involvement with the project was not confirmed until early Jun 1992, as announced in a 9 ... More Less

End credits include the following acknowledgments: “'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' courtesy of NBC Productions,” and, “The filmmakers wish to thank Lisa Fruchtman.”
       On 16 Jan 1992, DV announced that Joe Wizan/Todd Black productions was initiating development on first-time feature film screenwriter Steve Conrad’s Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, which was one of two Conrad scripts acquired by Warner Bros. Pictures on 12 Jan 1992 for an undisclosed fee. According to the 6-12 Mar 2008 edition of the Chicago Reader, Conrad was an undergraduate English major at Northwestern University in 1990 when he adapted Wrestling Ernest Hemingway from an original short story he wrote during his senior year. He sent the script to Hollywood agents in 1991 and found literary representation and a producer, Todd Black, in less than a year. Conrad was in his early twenties at the time.
       DV noted that Black originally optioned Wrestling Ernest Hemingway with his own money, and presented it to several studios before landing a deal at Warner Bros. Contractual negotiations were confirmed within twenty-four hours. While the 2008 Chicago Reader article stated that Warner Bros. did not option the script until after Randa Haines was hired to direct, the 16 Jan 1992 DV stated that producers were looking for a director and actors at that time. The screenplay was still in its “polishing stage,” and the undisclosed budget was estimated between a “medium” range to $20 million.
       Director Randa Haines’s involvement with the project was not confirmed until early Jun 1992, as announced in a 9 Jun 1992 HR article. She was best known at the time for directing the Academy-Award winning Children of a Lesser God (1986, see entry). In a 16-22 Dec 1993 Drama-Logue article, Haines noted that her early reading of the script was relevant to her personal life, as she was attempting to reconnect with her emotionally withdrawn, sickly father. Six months before filming began in FL, her father’s health rapidly deteriorated, and she did not have the opportunity to reconcile with him before his death.
       From the start, Haines was intent on casting Robert Duvall as “Walt,” partially because he was a trained Tango dancer, but she remained undecided about who should play the co-starring role of “Frank.” On 17 Jul 1992, Screen International listed Sean Connery as the front-runner for the part, and announced that Gena Rowlands was also under consideration for a female lead. Two months later, an 11 Sep 1992 DV news item stated that Richard Harris, Kirk Douglas, and Robert Duvall were negotiating with Warner Bros., and one week later, an 18 Sep 1992 Screen International brief reported that Duvall and Jack Palance were competing for the role of “Walt.” Four days earlier, however, a 14 Sep 1992 HR article announced Duvall and Harris were confirmed as the leading men, while Shirley MacLaine and Winona Ryder were still arranging contracts. Connery, Rowlands, Douglas, Palance, and Ryder did not remain with the project.
       The 16-22 Dec 1993 edition of Drama-Logue also included articles describing Duvall and Harris’s take on the project. Duvall concurred with Haines’s account, noting that she attempted to recruit him shortly after she was hired as director. Following a persuasive telephone call, Duvall agreed to read the script and responded favorably to performing the role of “Walt.” However, the actor was incapacitated by a horseback riding accident and unwilling to consider work. When Haines continued to pursue him during his recovery, he agreed to go to Miami to research the character. There, he was entertained by one of Haines’s Cuban-born companions, spent time in “Little Havana,” and attended a dance concert hosted by actor Andy Garcia. Haines then paid for Duvall to fly to Los Angeles, CA, and he finally agreed to take the job. He told Drama-Logue that he prepared for the role by spending as much time as possible with Cubans, three of whom provided vocal training.
       Conversely, Richard Harris stated that he was “not intended” to have access to the script and learned about the project by accident. When he was informed that many other high profile actors had been offered the role of “Frank,” he assumed he did not have a chance and decided against reading the screenplay. Harris told Drama-Logue that he rediscovered the script when he was flying to the New York City junket for his most recent release, Unforgiven (1992, see entry). He reportedly took “the wrong bag” on the airplane and was stuck without a book on the seven-hour flight. However, “the wrong bag” happened to contain Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. Before landing in New York City, he was determined to play “Frank.” Randa Haines happened to be in Manhattan at the time, and Harris “demanded an interview.” He agreed to take a screen test, despite his long and illustrious career. A 7 Sep 1992 Var news item confirmed that Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris both tested for the role, while Duvall was cast without testing. Even though the test was a success, Harris told Drama-Logue that executives were still considering Sean Connery and Paul Newman. However, Haines insisted on casting Harris and he was officially hired in early summer, 1992.
       Harris described two scenes cut from the film. In the first, Frank and Walt are on a treacherous boating excursion and Frank warns Walt not to stand up, since he could fall overboard. In the scene, Frank reveals that he once had a wife who fell off a boat, and says: “I guess somebody found her by now.” Harris fought for the sequence to stay in the picture because he felt it illustrated the enigmatic nature of Frank’s character, and showed how he “created his own persona.” Haines also cut a scene in which Frank is jogging around town while drinking a bottle of Scotch. Harris was convinced this visual cue proved Frank was unsure “whether he wanted to live or die,” but Haines was satisfied that the message was “already there.”
       Before filming began, Harris was intent on deciding whether or not Frank actually wrestled Ernest Hemingway. He told Drama-Logue that he checked himself into a German “health clinic” in preparation for the shoot so he could give the script his undivided attention. Early one morning, he telephoned Haines and declared that Frank did indeed meet Hemingway, then hung up the receiver. After seeing the final cut of the film, however, Harris was again undecided about Frank’s story.
       As noted in the 16 Jan 1992 DV, principal photography was initially scheduled to begin summer 1992 in St. Petersburg, FL, but was pushed back to a 1 Dec 1992 start date, according to a 15 Dec 1992 HR production chart. Florida locations also included Miami and Hollywood, FL, where filming ended 8 Mar 1993. A 31 Mar 1993 HR news item stated that shooting took place over sixty-three days in Dade and Broward Counties. Ninety percent of the crew was hired locally, infusing nearly $10 million into the counties’ economies. In addition, the filmmakers rebuilt sections of two notable parks near Miami that were ravaged in Aug 1992 during Hurricane Andrew.
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Reader
6 - 12 Mar 2008.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1992
p. 1, 59.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1992.
---
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1993.
---
Drama-Logue
16-22 Dec 1993
pp. 4-5.
Drama-Logue
16-22 Dec 1993
p. 4, 21.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1992
p. 1, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1992
p. 1, 17.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1993
p. 8, 26.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1993
p. 16.
New York Times
17 Dec 1993
p. 12.
Screen International
17 Jul 1992.
---
Screen International
18 Sep 1992.
---
Variety
7 Sep 1992.
---
Variety
20 Dec 1993
pp. 31-32.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
A Joe Wizan/Todd Black production
A Randa Haines Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Property master
Asst property master
Set des
Const coord
Const foreman
Standby painter
Greensman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key costumer
Set costumer
MUSIC
Mus ed
Orchestrations by
Conductor
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
A.D.R. supv
A.D.R. ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
A.D.R. mixer
Foley mixer
Foley mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
Titles and opticals
Digital film services by
Title des by
DANCE
Choreog
Robert Duvall's dance partner
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Addl make-up artist
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Asst to Ms. Haines
Asst to Ms. Haines
Asst to Mr. Black
Asst to Mr. Black
Asst to Mr. Duvall
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Casting assoc
Principal & extra Florida casting
Addl Florida casting
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Craft service
Catering
First aid
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Lagrimas Negras,” written by Miguel Matamoros, performed by Barbarito Diez, courtesy of Discos Top Hits C.A
“Lagrimas Negras,” performed by Trio Matamoros, courtesy of Orfeón Videovox, S.A
“Lagrimas Negras,” performed by Jerry Brock, Ray Gregory, Bob Pancoast, Norman Yablon and Edward Carhart
+
SONGS
“Lagrimas Negras,” written by Miguel Matamoros, performed by Barbarito Diez, courtesy of Discos Top Hits C.A
“Lagrimas Negras,” performed by Trio Matamoros, courtesy of Orfeón Videovox, S.A
“Lagrimas Negras,” performed by Jerry Brock, Ray Gregory, Bob Pancoast, Norman Yablon and Edward Carhart
“Top Hat, White Tie And Tails,” written by Irving Berlin, performed by Fred Astaire, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Lisbon Antigua,” written by Raul Portela, Jose Galhardo and Amado Do Vale, performed by Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license from Cema Special Markets
“La Mujer De Antonio,” written by Miguel Matamoros, preformed by Trio Matamoros/Guaracheros De Oriente, courtesy of Orfeón Videovox, S.A
“Saoco,” written by Rosendo Ruiz Quevedo, performed by Caridad Hierrezuelo Y Conjunto Caney, courtesy of Artex and Luaka Bop
“As Long As We’re Together,” written by Bob Khozouri, Rick Wheeler and Barry Goldstein, produced by Bob Khozouri and Rick Wheeler, performed by Lee Ann Napolitano and Orlando Pagan
“Nena,” written by Patricio Ballagas, performed by Maria Teresa Vera, courtesy of Kubaney Records
“Veinte Años,” written and performed by Maria Teresa Vera, courtesy of Kubaney Records
“I Love Paris,” written by Cole Porter, performed by Bob Edwards, Vince Marlo Balsamello, George DuVal, Herb Nach and Eleonora Vescera
“Some Enchanted Evening,” written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II
“A Summer Place,” written by Max Steiner
“Chess Anyone?" from "The Thomas Crown Affair," written by Michel Legrand.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 December 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 December 1993
Production Date:
1 December 1992--8 March 1993 in FL
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, LP
Copyright Date:
10 March 1994
Copyright Number:
PA688291
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras & lenses
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32713
SYNOPSIS

In Sweetwater, Florida, a fitness-obsessed, disheveled retiree named Francis “Frank” Joyce answers a knock on the door of his beachside apartment, naked and sweaty from lack of air conditioning. His landlady, Helen Cooney, gives Frank a package, and warns him to be more respectable even though her “Lone Palm” apartment complex is a slum. Declaring the box is a birthday present from his son, Frank is delighted to find a cap inside, with a brim at each end. He then spends the day at a bookstore, reading an Ernest Hemingway novel. When Frank is asked to leave, he astounds a young employee, Ned Ryan, by announcing that he wrestled Ernest Hemingway in 1938 Puerto Rico. Leaving the bookstore, Frank watches a classic film at a run-down movie theater, where only he and a sophisticated lady, Georgia, are in the audience. He appeals to her to sneak into another show, but she mentions it is not gentlemanly to wear a cap indoors and walks away. Back at the Lone Palm, Helen tells Frank that his son will not be visiting for his birthday, as planned. Heading to the park with his Hemingway novel and a bottle of whiskey, Frank meets an aged Cuban barber named Walt by complimenting his cap. When Frank mentions his birthday, Walt busies himself with a crossword puzzle and discourages further conversation. That night, Frank bangs on Helen’s door, ordering her to fix his air conditioner, and she complains about his alcoholism. The next day at the park, Walt tells Frank that a young waitress, Elaine, makes him bacon sandwiches every day, even though they ... +


In Sweetwater, Florida, a fitness-obsessed, disheveled retiree named Francis “Frank” Joyce answers a knock on the door of his beachside apartment, naked and sweaty from lack of air conditioning. His landlady, Helen Cooney, gives Frank a package, and warns him to be more respectable even though her “Lone Palm” apartment complex is a slum. Declaring the box is a birthday present from his son, Frank is delighted to find a cap inside, with a brim at each end. He then spends the day at a bookstore, reading an Ernest Hemingway novel. When Frank is asked to leave, he astounds a young employee, Ned Ryan, by announcing that he wrestled Ernest Hemingway in 1938 Puerto Rico. Leaving the bookstore, Frank watches a classic film at a run-down movie theater, where only he and a sophisticated lady, Georgia, are in the audience. He appeals to her to sneak into another show, but she mentions it is not gentlemanly to wear a cap indoors and walks away. Back at the Lone Palm, Helen tells Frank that his son will not be visiting for his birthday, as planned. Heading to the park with his Hemingway novel and a bottle of whiskey, Frank meets an aged Cuban barber named Walt by complimenting his cap. When Frank mentions his birthday, Walt busies himself with a crossword puzzle and discourages further conversation. That night, Frank bangs on Helen’s door, ordering her to fix his air conditioner, and she complains about his alcoholism. The next day at the park, Walt tells Frank that a young waitress, Elaine, makes him bacon sandwiches every day, even though they are not on the menu. Frank drunkenly declares he is going to buy himself the same lunch, and Walt comes along, listening to Frank’s wrestling match with Ernest Hemingway. At the Sweetwater Snack Shop and Café, Walt reveals his infatuation with Elaine, and is offended when his new companion admires her backside. Returning to the movie theater, Frank sits behind Georgia and she agrees to a date that Saturday. Back at his Lone Palm apartment, Frank finds Helen sitting beside a new air conditioner. The next day, the Fourth of July, Frank returns to the café and finds Walt sitting outside. He explains the restaurant is closed for the holiday, and Elaine is in another town to watch fireworks. Hungry, Frank invites Walt to ride his tandem bicycle to the fireworks show, where they will find food, but the elderly gentlemen get lost in a wooded area. There, they fall asleep and are awakened to the sound of the explosions. They watch the fireworks from afar, urinate into the ocean, and share Frank’s whiskey. On Saturday, Walt takes Frank to a Little League baseball game. Although he does not know the children, he regularly attends the competitions to root for young Henry, who always strikes out and loses the game. In preparation for his date, Frank accepts Walt’s offer of a haircut and shave. Later, the friends go fishing and Frank convinces Walt to swim naked. At the movie theater that night, Walt is delighted to learn that his friend was hired as a tuxedo-suited ticket-taker. Despite his new, dapper appearance, Frank fails to seduce Georgia and is humiliated by her rejection. Sometime later at the Sweetwater Café, Walt is devastated to learn that Elaine is planning to marry a Marine, and will soon be moving to Pensacola, Florida. That evening, Frank walks past Walt’s apartment building and watches from afar as his friend dances the Tango with an invisible partner. The next day, Walt arrives at Frank’s apartment to find him in a drunken stupor. He asks to borrow Frank’s bicycle, so he can buy a parting gift for Elaine on her last day of work, but Frank insists on presenting her with bottle of vodka. Outraged by his friend’s impudence, Walt takes Frank outside the café and accuses him of being a chronic liar and a misogynist. When Walt insults Frank’s double-brimmed cap, Frank reveals it was a birthday gift from his estranged son. Walt replies that Frank’s son must be as insensitive as his father because he gave him such a thoughtless present. Frank concedes his son is a dreadful person, but points out that Walt has no family or loved ones. The two men part ways in anger. Sometime later, Frank attends a Little League game, hoping to see his friend. Walt is not there, but his favorite underdog, Henry, finally hits a home run. That night, Frank arrives at Helen’s door with a bottle of whiskey and tells her about the boy’s first victory. He tries to impress her with his Hemingway story and forces himself upon her, begging for intimacy. When he admits to his loneliness, she cries and gives him a warm embrace. The next day, Frank returns to the park where Walt works on his daily crossword puzzle. There, he teaches a young girl to dance and declares that Walt is avoiding him, because he did not go to the Little League game. However, Frank refrains from telling Walt that he missed Henry’s home run. When another girl in the park asks Walt to dance, he is pleased to join Frank and his young partner, and the men reconcile. Walt regrets he was unable to bid Elaine farewell and Frank insists they can ride to her home on his tandem bicycle before she leaves for Pensacola. Along the way, Frank grows tired and convinces Walt to continue alone. When he arrives at Elaine’s residence, she encourages him to go to Sweetwater’s Stardust Dance competition without her, but he declines. However, Walt changes his mind and invites Frank to the dance. That evening, Walt knocks on Frank’s apartment door, but there is no response. Using Helen’s key, the two find Frank dead. He is half-dressed in his movie theater tuxedo with an Ernest Hemingway novel on his lap and a bottle of whiskey nearby. While Helen leaves to telephone Frank’s son, Walt eases his deceased friend into his tuxedo pants and sits at his side. In honor of Frank’s vivacity, Walt goes to the Stardust Dance after all and is delighted to lead an elegant female partner in the Tango. +

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

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