Firefox (1982)

PG | 136 mins | Adventure | 18 July 1982

Director:

Clint Eastwood

Producer:

Clint Eastwood

Cinematographer:

Bruce Surtees

Production Designers:

John Graysmark, Elayne Ceder

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures
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HISTORY

       On 25 Apr 1977, Publishers Weekly announced that Talent Associates purchased the film rights to Craig Thomas’ 1977 book, Fire Fox, from Holt, Rinehart and Winston. However, a 6 Jun 1979 HR news item claimed that Warner Bros. Pictures had previously acquired the property, and the 11 Sep 1980 DV reported producer-director-star Clint Eastwood’s involvement in the project. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Eastwood initially expressed reservations about adapting the story to film, concerned that the audience would be limited to pilots and people familiar with piloting jargon, but changed his mind after reading the book.
       Nearly a year later, a 29 Jun 1981 Var brief stated that Eastwood had begun filming special effects scenes that day, under the working title Fire Fox. The 28 Aug 1981 HR production chart confirmed that principal photography began 26 Aug 1981, with locations in San Diego, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and Vienna, Austria. A 28 Aug 1981 DV news item stated that the film was one of three studio projects to begin shooting in the aftermath of the recent writers’ strike and threatened directors’ walkout. As stated in the 1 Sep 1981 HR, the crew was expected to move to Vienna on 21 Sep 1981.
       An Aug 1982 issue of Moviegoer magazine reported that in 1981, Eastwood approached John Dykstra, who had worked on Star Wars (1977, see entry), to develop special effects for the Firefox airplane. Dykstra’s company, Apogee, Inc., built four small-scale models, four large-scale models, and one full-sized plane. The full-sized ... More Less

       On 25 Apr 1977, Publishers Weekly announced that Talent Associates purchased the film rights to Craig Thomas’ 1977 book, Fire Fox, from Holt, Rinehart and Winston. However, a 6 Jun 1979 HR news item claimed that Warner Bros. Pictures had previously acquired the property, and the 11 Sep 1980 DV reported producer-director-star Clint Eastwood’s involvement in the project. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Eastwood initially expressed reservations about adapting the story to film, concerned that the audience would be limited to pilots and people familiar with piloting jargon, but changed his mind after reading the book.
       Nearly a year later, a 29 Jun 1981 Var brief stated that Eastwood had begun filming special effects scenes that day, under the working title Fire Fox. The 28 Aug 1981 HR production chart confirmed that principal photography began 26 Aug 1981, with locations in San Diego, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and Vienna, Austria. A 28 Aug 1981 DV news item stated that the film was one of three studio projects to begin shooting in the aftermath of the recent writers’ strike and threatened directors’ walkout. As stated in the 1 Sep 1981 HR, the crew was expected to move to Vienna on 21 Sep 1981.
       An Aug 1982 issue of Moviegoer magazine reported that in 1981, Eastwood approached John Dykstra, who had worked on Star Wars (1977, see entry), to develop special effects for the Firefox airplane. Dykstra’s company, Apogee, Inc., built four small-scale models, four large-scale models, and one full-sized plane. The full-sized Firefox was constructed from a radio station antenna skeleton, fiberglass, and plywood. Moviegoer stated that special flight consultant Clay Lacy flew a Learjet aircraft, costing $1,200 an hour, across the western U.S. and to the Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, with $150,000 worth of computer and camera equipment on board. The technology recorded footage that could be stored and played back as backdrops when composited with shots of the model planes filmed against a blue screen. According to production files, the impression of speed was achieved by exposing the film at two frames per second before playing it back at twenty-four frames per second. In addition, Moviegoer reported the use of an Apple II-equipped “Dykstraflex” camera, which allowed Apogee technicians to film programmed movements along a sixty-foot foam rubber strip located at the Van Nuys, CA, airport, meant to simulate an Arctic “ice trench.” In total, the team spent fifteen months and “several million dollars” on 250 optical effects shots. A 23 Apr 1982 DV news item indicated that the U.S.S. Standley doubled as a Russian vessel.
       On 23 Dec 1981, Var announced that Warner Bros. attached a 70mm preview for Firefox to screenings of Sharky’s Machine (1981, see entry) at the RKO Century Cinema in NY, advertising the film’s summer 1982 release. The 24 Feb 1982 Var reported that clips from Firefox were first shown at a ShoWest luncheon honoring Eastwood in Las Vegas, NV. As stated in the 29 Apr 1982 DV, Firefox would screen at a 14 Jun 1982 gala at the Cinema I theater in New York City, to raise $6 million for the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Preservation Fund. A 4 May 1982 HR news brief stated that the world premiere would take place a day before the gala, 13 Jun 1982, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., with proceeds benefitting the United Service Organizations (U.S.O.). In addition, the 2 Jun 1982 HR reported that the film was shown at a Bantam Books convention, and the following month, a Jul 1982 HR item announced that Dykstra would introduce a 27 Jul 1982 screening held at the San Diego Starlight Bowl, benefitting the San Diego Aerospace Museum.
       The 4 Aug 1982 Var named the picture as one of the eight films included in a $50 million distribution package created between Warner Bros. and Hollywood Associates Limited Partnership. The story cited a $21.5 million final cost, despite a 20 May 1982 HR article that claimed the budget had been set at $18 million. HR reported an expected limited release in Jun 1982, before expanding to wide release Jul 1982.
       The film was reviewed in the 18-24 Jun 1982 LA Weekly under the title Foxfire. Although the film received largely lackluster reviews, a Warner Bros. press release reported that the picture earned $8,152,948 during its opening weekend on 881 screens, making it the most successful opening of a Clint Eastwood picture to that time.
      End credits include special thanks to the Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, the Bendix Corporation, and Tom Friedkin.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1980.
---
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1981.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1982.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1979
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1982
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1982
p. 3, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
Jul 1982.
---
LA Weekly
18-24 Jun 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1982
p. 1.
Moviegoer
Aug 1982.
---
New York Times
18 Jun 1982
p. 16.
Publishers Weekly
25 Apr 1977.
---
Variety
29 Jun 1981.
---
Variety
23 Dec 1981.
---
Variety
24 Feb 1982.
---
Variety
16 Jun 1982
p. 14.
Variety
4 Aug 1982.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir, European crew
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
2d grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Still photog
Cam asst, European crew
2d cam, European crew
Key grip, European crew
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir, European crew
FILM EDITORS
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
Draughtsman, European crew
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
Orig mus comp and cond by
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
Prod of the spec visual eff
Supv spec visual eff
Supv spec opt eff
Spec eff unit
Chief modelmaker, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
1st cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Process photog, Apogee, Inc.
Chief of electronical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff coord, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Asst cam op, Apogee, Inc.
Still photog, Apogee, Inc.
Anim cam, Apogee, Inc.
Anim cam, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff ed, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff ed, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff ed, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff ed, Apogee, Inc.
Spec tech development, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical spec eff, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Scenic artist, Apogee, Inc.
Illustrator, Apogee, Inc.
Illustrator, Apogee, Inc.
Electronics, Apogee, Inc.
Spec flight consultant, Apogee, Inc.
Spec flight consultant, Apogee, Inc.
Spec flight consultant, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff, European crew
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Unit pub
Asst to Maurice Jarre
Prod secy
Auditor
Asst to prods
Scientific adv
Scientific adv
Arctic loc adv
Unit accountant, Apogee, Inc.
Craft service, Apogee, Inc.
Unit secy, Apogee, Inc.
Prod mgr, European crew
Prod secy, European crew
Casting, Austria, European crew
Prod accountant, European crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Firefox by Craig Thomas (New York, 1977).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Fire Fox
Foxfire
Release Date:
18 July 1982
Premiere Information:
Washington, D.C. world premiere: 13 June 1982
New York City gala screening: 14 June 1982
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 June 1982
Production Date:
began 26 August 1981 in San Diego and Los Angeles, CA, and Vienna, Austria
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 August 1982
Copyright Number:
PA147819
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo™
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
136
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Languages:
Russian, English
PCA No:
26725
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Vietnam veteran Major Mitchell Gant jogs along a forested path toward his cabin as a military helicopter looms overhead. When the aircraft lands, Gant grabs his shotgun, remembering his capture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Meanwhile, at a military briefing, a weapons strategist announces that the Soviet Union has developed an advanced, MIG-31 military aircraft called the Firefox, which is untraceable to radar technology. He explains that with the help of imprisoned Jewish physicist, Pyotr Baranovich, the Soviets created an airplane control system that can respond to the thoughts of its pilot. Back at Gant’s cabin, one of the men from the helicopter, Captain Buckholz, asks Gant to sneak into Russia to steal the Firefox, citing the need for Gant’s superior flying skills. Gant undergoes flight training and watches footage of the man whose identity he must assume: “Leon Sprague,” a drug smuggler posing as a car parts salesman. A high-ranking officer warns Buckholz that the military is prepared to abort the mission if anything goes wrong, potentially leaving Gant stranded. Once satisfied with Gant’s training, the military sends him to London, England, where he is fitted for a false moustache and glasses, and is briefed on his first mission: to meet three men on a bridge while being followed by the KGB. He receives a transistor radio, which will serve as his tracking system and only navigational tool getting out of Russia. In addition, he learns of a voice-activated black box in the cockpit of the ... +


Vietnam veteran Major Mitchell Gant jogs along a forested path toward his cabin as a military helicopter looms overhead. When the aircraft lands, Gant grabs his shotgun, remembering his capture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Meanwhile, at a military briefing, a weapons strategist announces that the Soviet Union has developed an advanced, MIG-31 military aircraft called the Firefox, which is untraceable to radar technology. He explains that with the help of imprisoned Jewish physicist, Pyotr Baranovich, the Soviets created an airplane control system that can respond to the thoughts of its pilot. Back at Gant’s cabin, one of the men from the helicopter, Captain Buckholz, asks Gant to sneak into Russia to steal the Firefox, citing the need for Gant’s superior flying skills. Gant undergoes flight training and watches footage of the man whose identity he must assume: “Leon Sprague,” a drug smuggler posing as a car parts salesman. A high-ranking officer warns Buckholz that the military is prepared to abort the mission if anything goes wrong, potentially leaving Gant stranded. Once satisfied with Gant’s training, the military sends him to London, England, where he is fitted for a false moustache and glasses, and is briefed on his first mission: to meet three men on a bridge while being followed by the KGB. He receives a transistor radio, which will serve as his tracking system and only navigational tool getting out of Russia. In addition, he learns of a voice-activated black box in the cockpit of the Firefox, which he is instructed to use in the event of emergency. In Moscow, a Russian customs official questions Gant’s transistor radio, and reports his suspicions to the KGB. Russian Colonel Kontarsky meets two officials to discuss the preparation of the Firefox for flight under the supervision of Baranovich and a weapons professional, Semelovsky. That night, while being followed by KGB, Gant meets with the real Leo Sprague, accompanied by two escorts. One of the escorts, Pavel Upenskoy, beats Sprague to death, and throws him in the river along with Gant’s forged documents. As Gant’s pursuers discover Sprague’s body, the escorts bring Gant to the train station and tell him that his new identity is “Michael Lewis,” a tourist. The sounds of the rushing trains remind Gant of wartime helicopters, and trigger his post-traumatic stress. When he arrives at his stop, Gant kills a suspicious KGB officer in the restroom. Upon discovering the murder, Upenskoy becomes angry and hides the body in a stall. In a warehouse, Upenskoy gives Gant another new identity, a married man named “Boris Glazunov,” and the two men drive out of the city in a delivery truck. Meanwhile, after KGB arrests the real Boris Glazunov and inspects Leo Sprague’s body, Colonel Kontarsky attempts to determine Gant’s true identity. Explaining to Gant why he is helping the mission, Upenskoy says that he has a Jewish wife who has been in prison for twelve years. After meeting Semelovsky at nightfall, Gant hides in the trunk of Semelovsky’s car as the scientist drives home. Meanwhile, a pursuing driver shoots Upenskoy in the arm; Upenskoy drives off the road and escapes on foot. At his house, Semelovsky instructs Gant how to enter the military base, remove the Firefox’s pilot, and board the aircraft. He reveals that the hangar also contains a second prototype plane, which needs to be destroyed by fire before Gant steals the aircraft, lest the Soviets pursue him. In addition, Gant must think in Russian in order for the telepathic plane controls to work. Colonel Kontarsky determines that Gant is a foreign agent, suspecting that he must work for NASA or the U.S. Air Force. In Soviet military uniform, Gant enters the hangar and knocks the pilot, Lt. Colonel Voskov, unconscious, stuffing his body in a locker. While Gant showers, KGB officers arrive to inform hangar security that Gant is a spy and they must search the premises. Just as Colonel Kontarsky learns of Gant’s true identity, one of the scientists working alongside Baranovich sets a fire in the hangar. KGB officers kill Baranovich, and Gant boards the Firefox, clearing the runway. Still lying in a field nursing his injury, Upenskoy sees the plane take off, and raises a gun to his head to commit suicide. While recording a message in the plane’s black box, Gant receives a transmission from the Soviet First Secretary, telling him to return the aircraft if he wants to remain alive. Gant refuses, and flies south. The First Secretary determines that Gant can only fly 3,000 miles before he runs out of fuel, and orders that KGB obliterate the aircraft as soon as it is spotted. However, General Vladimirov believes that Gant is flying a route meant to deceive them. Although the prototype aircraft, undamaged in the fire, will not be armed and ready for another hour, the officers determine that they can use their missiles’ infrared technology to follow the heat of the Firefox’s fuel emission along Gant’s projected path. Gant quickly realizes their strategy and fires a reverse missile to destroy the weapons, before blowing up multiple helicopters near a Soviet naval base. Sometime later, original Firefox pilot Voskov boards the prototype plane and flies after Gant. In the ocean, an American submarine rises to the surface to receive Gant; he lands on the ice and refuels. The Soviets pick up the submarine’s radar signals and instruct Voskov to find the Firefox. When Gant takes to the air, Voskov follows close behind, chasing him through the mountains. Gant spins out of control, pummelling downward as he squeezes his eyes shut at the memory of his near-crash in Vietnam. Gant lowers the wheels and fires a rear missile, which demolishes Voskov in the second plane. Free of his pursuer, he enters the coordinates of his destination and flies into the clouds. +

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

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