John Carpenter's Starman (1984)

PG | 115 mins | Romance, Science fiction | 14 December 1984

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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Columbia Pictures and executive producer Michael Douglas were in development with Starman for four years, with various directors attached. The 24-30 Jan 1985 Hollywood Drama-Logue stated that Adrian Lyne, Mark Rydell, John Badham, and Tony Scott were all associated with the project, before John Carpenter was signed.
       As reported in articles from the 7 Feb 1984 LAHExam and the 14 Dec 1984 LAT, part of the reason for Starman’s delay was Columbia’s development in 1980 of another alien story, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, see entry), which the studio prioritized. After E.T. moved to Universal Pictures and became a success, Columbia wanted to reinforce Starman ’s unique aspects. According to Marilyn Beck’s 13 Sep 1982 LADN column, John Badham departed the project because he felt there were too many similarities with E.T. Screenwriter Dean Riesner , who worked on rewrites of the original screenplay by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, was instructed to strengthen the adult love story between the “Starman” and “Jenny Hayden,” while reducing supernatural elements. John Carpenter also minimized the alien component, stating in the Hollywood Drama-Logue, that he wanted to emphasis the “old-fashioned” road movie and romance over technology and special effects. In the 7 Dec 1984 NYT, he described the story as “It Happened One Night (1934, see entry) with a sci-fi premise.”
       A 25 Jan 1984 HR brief revealed that actor Kevin Bacon was set to play the lead role ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Columbia Pictures and executive producer Michael Douglas were in development with Starman for four years, with various directors attached. The 24-30 Jan 1985 Hollywood Drama-Logue stated that Adrian Lyne, Mark Rydell, John Badham, and Tony Scott were all associated with the project, before John Carpenter was signed.
       As reported in articles from the 7 Feb 1984 LAHExam and the 14 Dec 1984 LAT, part of the reason for Starman’s delay was Columbia’s development in 1980 of another alien story, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, see entry), which the studio prioritized. After E.T. moved to Universal Pictures and became a success, Columbia wanted to reinforce Starman ’s unique aspects. According to Marilyn Beck’s 13 Sep 1982 LADN column, John Badham departed the project because he felt there were too many similarities with E.T. Screenwriter Dean Riesner , who worked on rewrites of the original screenplay by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, was instructed to strengthen the adult love story between the “Starman” and “Jenny Hayden,” while reducing supernatural elements. John Carpenter also minimized the alien component, stating in the Hollywood Drama-Logue, that he wanted to emphasis the “old-fashioned” road movie and romance over technology and special effects. In the 7 Dec 1984 NYT, he described the story as “It Happened One Night (1934, see entry) with a sci-fi premise.”
       A 25 Jan 1984 HR brief revealed that actor Kevin Bacon was set to play the lead role before Jeff Bridges was cast.
       According to a 13 Mar 1984 HR production chart, principal photography began 21 Feb 1984. As mentioned in briefs from the 10 Feb 1984 DV and the 18 Feb 1984 Screen International, the production was scheduled to begin shooting in the Los Angeles, CA, area for two weeks before embarking on location, and a 5 Jul 1984 studio press release noted that the filmmakers used Burbank Studiosdios in Burbank, CA. To represent the lead characters’ cross-country journey from Wisconsin to Meteor Crater, AZ, and the ensuing search, filming took place at the following locations, according to production notes: Las Vegas, NV; Washington, D.C.; Tiftonia, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Manchester, TN; Winslow, Monument Valley, and Kayenta, AZ; and Barstow, CA. Some of the locations appeared as themselves, while others stood in for fictional settings as in the case of Nevada depicting “Nebraska” and Barstow representing “Arizona.” Filming was completed in early July 1984.
       During his two years working on rewrites, Riesner completed the last five script drafts, as mentioned in the 14 Dec 1984 LAT. However, in an arbitration ruling, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) granted final screenplay credit to Evans and Gideon, who originated the story and wrote the initial two drafts. The WGA determined that Riesner’s contributions amounted to less than fifty percent of the final script. Both director John Carpenter and Columbia were “surprised” by the decision, and Carpenter insisted on including a dedication, “For Dean Riesner ,” in onscreen credits. However, the WGA was in discussions about whether the “consolation credit” violated the arbitration ruling and would have to be removed. No further information was available about the WGA’s deliberations, but Riesner does not appear in onscreen credits in the print viewed for this record.
       A 14 Dec 1984 WSJ article noted that the $24 million-production was booked in approximately 1,311 theaters on opening weekend. Columbia had allocated $8 million for the marketing campaign, aimed at out-performing box-office competition from two other sci-fi films, 2010 and Dune (1984, see entries). The decision to release the film as John Carpenter’s Starman was determined after polling moviegoers, who indicated that the director’s name denoted “prestige.” As reported in the Feb 1985 Box review, the picture earned $2.8 million during the first weekend.
       Jeff Bridges received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor-Drama.
       On 1 Apr 2016, HR announced producer Michael Douglas was developing a remake, to be directed by Shawn Levy and written by Arash Amel.
       End credits include “Special Thanks to: University of North Carolina; Northrop Corporation; Tennessee Film, Tape & Music Commission; Arizona Governor’s Office; Nevada, Motion Picture Division; Iowa Film Commission; Colorado Motion Picture and Television Advisory Commission.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Feb 1985.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1982.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1984.
---
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1984.
---
Daily Variety
30 Mar 1984.
---
Hollywood Drama-Logue
24-30 Jan 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1984
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 2016.
---
LA Weekly
14-20 Dec 1984.
---
LA Weekly
4-10 Jan 1985.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
13 Sep 1982.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
7 Feb 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1984
Section M, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1984
Calendar, p. 1, 28.
Moviegoer
Sep 1984.
---
New York Times
7 Dec 1984.
---
New York Times
14 Dec 1984
p. 18.
Screen International
18 Feb 1984.
---
Variety
5 Dec 1984
p. 17.
WSJ
14 Dec 1984.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A Michael Douglas - Larry J. Franco Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir, 2d unit
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Panaglide op
Cam op, Tennessee
Cam op, Tennessee
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam asst, 2d unit
Gaffer
Best boy
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Lamp op
Lamp op
Still photog
Still photog, Tennessee
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Leadman
2d lead man
Prop master
Asst prop master
Props
Const coord
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
Painter
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
COSTUMES
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp
Supv mus ed
Mus programmed and performed on Synclavier Digital
Mus programmed and performed on Synclavier Digital
SOUND
Sd mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
ADR ed
Boom op
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Starman transformation
Starman transformation
Starman transformation
Spec laser eff by
Spec laser eff by
Computer graphics by
Dick Smith unit, Starman transformation crews
Dick Smith unit, Starman transformation crews
Dick Smith unit, Starman transformation crews
Stan Winston unit, Starman transformation crews
Stan Winston unit, Starman transformation crews
& crew
Rick Baker unit, Starman transformation crews
Rick Baker unit, Starman transformation crews
Rick Baker unit, Starman transformation crews
In co-prod with
A Division of Lucasfilm Ltd.
Supv of spec eff, ILM
Spec visual eff by
A Division of Lucasfilm Ltd.
Dir of visual eff photog, ILM
Supv model maker, ILM
Matte painting supv, ILM
Anim supv, ILM
Chief visual eff ed, ILM
Prod coord, ILM
Gen mgr, ILM
Visual eff cam, ILM
Visual eff cam, ILM
Asst cam, ILM
Asst cam, ILM
Asst cam, ILM
Asst cam, ILM
Opt cam op, ILM
Opt cam op, ILM
Opt line up, ILM
Opt line up, ILM
Opt line up, ILM
Matte artist, ILM
Matte artist, ILM
Matte artist, ILM
Matte cam supv, ILM
Asst matte cam, ILM
Model maker, ILM
Model maker, ILM
Model maker, ILM
Model maker, ILM
Head eff anim, ILM
Asst anim, ILM
Visual eff ed, ILM
Asst ed, ILM
Stage tech, ILM
Stage tech, ILM
Miniature pyrotechnics, ILM
Still photog, ILM
Equip engineering supv, ILM
Titles by
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Addl casting
Extra casting, Arizona & Tennessee
Extra casting, Los Angeles
Extra casting, Nevada
Aerial coord
Pilot
Pilot
Pilot
Pilot
Pilot
Pilot
Pilot
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
Pilot-Huey
L.A. Huey pilot
Mechanic-Huey
Mechanic-Huey
Pilot-Jetranger
Pilot-Jetranger
Pilot-Jetranger
Mechanic-Jetranger
Mechanic-Jetranger
Pilot-S-61
Mechanic-S-61
Pilot-Cameraship
Pilot-Ferry
Visual consultant
Scr supv
Ad-pub coord
Prod coord
Unit prod mgr asst
Loc mgr
Loc mgr, Tennessee
Loc mgr, 2d unit
Catering by
Catering by
Asst to Messrs. Carpenter & Franco
Asst to Messrs. Carpenter & Franco
Asst to Mr. Bernardi
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Driver, Spec eff
Driver, Props
Driver, Cam/Sd
Driver, Ward
Driver, Prod van
Driver, Grip
Driver, Honeywagon
Driver, Caterer
Driver, Const
Driver, Const
Driver, Carrier
Driver, Carrier
Driver, Carrier
Driver, Starwagon
Driver, C
Driver, Spec eff
Driver, Insert
Driver
Titan crane
D. G. A. trainee
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst auditor
Researcher
Loc asst
Loc projection
Helicopters by
Cohelicopter coord
First aid
Weapons
Safety
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," written by Michael Jagger and Keith Richards, published by Abkco Music Inc., performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of Abkco Records, Inc.
"Theme from New York, New York," written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, published by CBS Unart Catalogue, Inc., performed by Frank Sinatra, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"All I Have To Do Is Dream," written by Boudleaux Bryant, published by House of Bryant Publications and Acuff-Rose Publications, Inc.
+
SONGS
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," written by Michael Jagger and Keith Richards, published by Abkco Music Inc., performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of Abkco Records, Inc.
"Theme from New York, New York," written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, published by CBS Unart Catalogue, Inc., performed by Frank Sinatra, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"All I Have To Do Is Dream," written by Boudleaux Bryant, published by House of Bryant Publications and Acuff-Rose Publications, Inc.
"What Would Your Memories Do," written by Hank Cochran & Dean Dillon, published by Tree Publishing Co., performed by Vern Gosdin, produced by Blake Mevis, courtesy of Compleat Records
From Here to Eternity "Beach Number," written by George Duning, published by Mills Music, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Starman
Star Man
The Star Man
Release Date:
14 December 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 14 December 1984
Production Date:
21 February--early July 1984
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 January 1985
Copyright Number:
PA240310
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27562
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In space, an alien ship encounters Voyager 2, a probe launched from Earth that carries a gold disk containing information about Earth, greetings in several languages, and an invitation to extra-terrestrial life forms to visit the planet. Responding to the invitation, the aliens send a scout to explore, but as the scout ship flies over the United States at night, North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, presumes it is an enemy attacker and sends fighter jets to shoot it down. Despite the scout’s evasive maneuvers, the ship is hit and crashes near Chequamegan Bay in Northern Wisconsin. Unseen by its attackers, the alien, in the form of a blue orb, floats out of the burning debris toward the lights of a cabin. Inside the cabin is a grieving young widow, Jenny Hayden, who has fallen asleep watching a home movie of her deceased husband Scott. Throughout the cabin are photographs and other memorabilia from their marriage, which the blue orb examines after entering her home. When the alien finds strands of Scott’s hair preserved by Jenny in a photo album, it clones the DNA and alters its own appearance. Jenny awakens to find the Starman, now a naked baby lying on the floor, and watches as it rapidly develops into an adult replica of Scott. The Starman greets Jenny in several languages learned from the disk, causing her to faint, then continues examining objects in the room. By watching Scott’s image on the film, he learns to imitate human facial expressions and movements. He also takes note of film images of Scott shooting a gun at a target, and Jenny driving a car and comforting a ... +


In space, an alien ship encounters Voyager 2, a probe launched from Earth that carries a gold disk containing information about Earth, greetings in several languages, and an invitation to extra-terrestrial life forms to visit the planet. Responding to the invitation, the aliens send a scout to explore, but as the scout ship flies over the United States at night, North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, presumes it is an enemy attacker and sends fighter jets to shoot it down. Despite the scout’s evasive maneuvers, the ship is hit and crashes near Chequamegan Bay in Northern Wisconsin. Unseen by its attackers, the alien, in the form of a blue orb, floats out of the burning debris toward the lights of a cabin. Inside the cabin is a grieving young widow, Jenny Hayden, who has fallen asleep watching a home movie of her deceased husband Scott. Throughout the cabin are photographs and other memorabilia from their marriage, which the blue orb examines after entering her home. When the alien finds strands of Scott’s hair preserved by Jenny in a photo album, it clones the DNA and alters its own appearance. Jenny awakens to find the Starman, now a naked baby lying on the floor, and watches as it rapidly develops into an adult replica of Scott. The Starman greets Jenny in several languages learned from the disk, causing her to faint, then continues examining objects in the room. By watching Scott’s image on the film, he learns to imitate human facial expressions and movements. He also takes note of film images of Scott shooting a gun at a target, and Jenny driving a car and comforting a frightened animal. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., George Fox, director of NORAD, contacts Mark Shermin, a scientist and liaison for The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Project, or SETI. As helicopters are sent to search for the ship’s crash site, the Starman uses one of several small spheres in his possession to send a distress call to his mother ship and arrange to rendezvous in three days at a specified landing spot. When Jenny regains consciousness, she attempts to flee, but the Starman insists that she drive him to his destination in Arizona. Although he points Scott’s gun at her, he tells her that he made himself in her husband’s image so she would not fear him. Early the next day, Shermin arrives at the site of the space ship and finds that it is a hollow sphere. Although Fox has told the press it is a meteor, Shermin tells military crewmen that meteors don’t change course and asks the crew’s radioman to monitor for unusual transmissions. Meanwhile, Jenny tries to escape from the Starman by forcing another vehicle off the road then yelling to the driver for help. The driver gets out, wielding a tire iron, but the Starman uses one of his spheres to set the tool on fire, which frightens the man away. In a second attempt to escape, Jenny leaves a note in a gas station restroom that states she has been kidnapped, but the Starman removes the note, and later asks what “kidnapped” means. When she explains how frightened she is, he tells her that he means her no harm. After the space ship is taken to a Madison, Wisconsin lab to be examined, the Voyager disk is found inside it. The radioman tells Shermin about a police report, in which a man claimed someone in a 1977 Mustang melted his lug wrench. As the man also provided a license plate number, Shermin identifies Jenny as the car’s owner. Further investigation reveals that her neighbors saw her driving with someone who looked like Scott. Shermin and another scientist review their findings and theorize that Jenny’s companion is an alien who has learned rudimentary English from the Voyager disk and that his civilization, thousands of years ahead of Earth’s, was able to clone from Scott’s hair found in her cabin. Fox considers the alien’s presence a threat, but Shermin, excited by the possibility of communicating with another life form, suggests that it is unclear whether Earthlings or the aliens pose the greater danger to the other. Meanwhile, the Starman explains to Jenny that he will die if he is unable to meet his ship at the appointed time. At a truck stop, he enjoys Earth food, especially the pie, and the friendliness of the waitress, but is upset to see a dead deer tied to a hunter’s truck. Jenny no longer fears the Starman, but is secretly planning to leave on a bus heading for Chicago, Illinois. However, when she sees him bring the deer back to life, she remains and helps him escape from angry hunters who discover the deer is missing. Later, Jenny stops to rest at a motel, where the Starman watches a romantic encounter from a movie on television, until mischievous college students warn that police are searching for them. Assisted by the students, they evade the policemen and drive off, but the policemen pursue and shoot, hitting Jenny. To escape, the Starman forces the Mustang through a roadblock and into a gas tanker truck, then uses one of his spheres to exit the resulting explosion and carry Jenny out of the flames. As no bodies are found in the wreckage, Shermin believes the Starman is alive and heading west, and the army moves ahead to set up another roadblock. Taking refuge in a mobile home, the Starman uses one of his last two spheres to revive Jenny, but then leaves without her, intending that she remain safe. When she awakens, she learns at a truck stop that the Starman was given a ride by the night cook. She telephones the police to deny her previous claim of kidnapping and speaks briefly with Shermin, assuring him the Starman wants to return home and is not dangerous. She then hitches a ride with a young man toward the Starman’s destination. At the roadblock, the young man diverts the police while Jenny sneaks ahead on foot and locates the Starman. Reunited, they walk around the roadblock and take a ride from a Native American family in the back of a pickup truck. While holding the family’s baby, Jenny tells the Starman that she cannot conceive and is therefore incapable of having children. They later hop a car on a freight train, where they make love and, afterward, the Starman says he gave her a baby. At the train stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jenny realizes that her wallet is missing and they are off course by three hundred miles. The Starman solves their cash problem by using his powers to win at the slot machines, and with the money they purchase a car and continue toward Arizona. Shermin learns that Fox has set up an emergency autopsy room with restraining straps, and is troubled by the director’s order to capture the Starman for research. After police apprehend Jenny and the alien, Shermin meets them and is moved by his description of Earth’s people as combative, but “at their best when things are worst.” Although Shermin allows them to continue toward the gigantic crater that is the rendezvous point, Fox orders helicopters to attack. Dodging bullets, Jenny and the Starman arrive at the crater and run to the bottom as a star ship descends. Knowing they will never see each other again, they say goodbye and the Starman is taken into the ship, while Jenny remains to watch it rise into space. +

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

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