Birdy (1984)

R | 120 mins | Drama | 21 December 1984

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HISTORY

       A 12 Sep 1979 Publishers Weekly brief stated that Orion Pictures had optioned the William Wharton novel for $150,000. A 22 Oct 1982 HR news item noted that newly-formed A&M Films had purchased the rights. WSJ noted in a 3 Jan 1984 article that screenwriters Sandy Kroopf and Jack Behr updated the novel, which was set in the 1940s and World War II, to the 1960s and Vietnam.
       On 22 Oct 1982, ^HR announced A&M Films were pursuing Jonathan Demme to direct the film, however Demme does not appear in onscreen credits.
       According to 8 May 1984 HR production charts, principal photography was scheduled to begin 14 May 1984. A 30 May 1984 HR brief stated that the schedule called for four weeks in Philadelphia, PA, followed by seven weeks in Santa Clara, CA. A 26 Dec 1984 DV article reported an unusual arrangement that permitted British members of director Alan Parker’s crew to work alongside members of both the east and west coast union locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Members of the two camera locals were also allowed to work in each other’s territorial jurisdictions. A 4 May 1985 Screen International news item noted that the production’s Vietnam War scenes were filmed in Modesto, CA, and a train scene was shot in Stockton, CA. The budget was $12 million.
       An 8 Mar 1985 LAT news story stated that when the film failed to garner Academy Award nominations and media attention following its 21 Dec 1984 opening, distributor Tri-Star Pictures canceled plans for a late-Jan ... More Less

       A 12 Sep 1979 Publishers Weekly brief stated that Orion Pictures had optioned the William Wharton novel for $150,000. A 22 Oct 1982 HR news item noted that newly-formed A&M Films had purchased the rights. WSJ noted in a 3 Jan 1984 article that screenwriters Sandy Kroopf and Jack Behr updated the novel, which was set in the 1940s and World War II, to the 1960s and Vietnam.
       On 22 Oct 1982, ^HR announced A&M Films were pursuing Jonathan Demme to direct the film, however Demme does not appear in onscreen credits.
       According to 8 May 1984 HR production charts, principal photography was scheduled to begin 14 May 1984. A 30 May 1984 HR brief stated that the schedule called for four weeks in Philadelphia, PA, followed by seven weeks in Santa Clara, CA. A 26 Dec 1984 DV article reported an unusual arrangement that permitted British members of director Alan Parker’s crew to work alongside members of both the east and west coast union locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Members of the two camera locals were also allowed to work in each other’s territorial jurisdictions. A 4 May 1985 Screen International news item noted that the production’s Vietnam War scenes were filmed in Modesto, CA, and a train scene was shot in Stockton, CA. The budget was $12 million.
       An 8 Mar 1985 LAT news story stated that when the film failed to garner Academy Award nominations and media attention following its 21 Dec 1984 opening, distributor Tri-Star Pictures canceled plans for a late-Jan and Feb 1985 national release. Following further audience research and test marketing, the company tested two different advertising strategies in Dallas and Houston, TX, beginning 1 Feb 1985. The film was then generally released on 8 Mar 1985 with a campaign focusing on the friendship of the two lead characters.
       The 21 Dec 1984 LAT review said Birdy “attempts the almost impossible: to change an almost surreal novel’s interior monologues and descriptions into vibrant screen action. And, through an inventive adaptation and the passion and precision of Matthew Modine’s and Nicolas Cage’s beautifully sustained performances, it may well have succeeded.”
      End credits include the following statements: “This Motion Picture was made with the help of the City of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Motion Picture Development, the Staff and Clients of Agnew’s State Hospital, Santa Clara, and the San Jose Film Council,” and “Made on location in Philadelphia, PA, and Santa Clara, CA.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Dec 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 May 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1984
p. 3, 16.
LAHExam
21 Dec 1984
p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1984
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1985
Section J, p. 1.
New York Times
21 Dec 1984
p. 25.
Newsweek
17 Dec 1984
p. 84.
Publishers Weekly
12 Sep 1979.
---
Screen International
4 May 1985.
---
Time
7 Jan 1985.
---
Variety
12 Dec 1984
p. 16.
Village Voice
1 Jan 1985.
---
WSJ
3 Jan 1984.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
High school band:
Birds and animals:
Dogs:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Tri-Star Pictures presents
An Alan Parker Film
An A&M Films production
From Tri-Star-Delphi III Productions
A Tri-Star release
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d assst cam
2d asst cam
Cam, Local 659
Cam op, Local 659
Asst cam, Local 659
Cam, Local 644
Cam op, Local 644
Asst cam, Local 644
Asst cam, Local 644
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Steadicam asst
Steadicam asst
Steadicam asst
2d unit op
2d unit asst
Aerial cam
Still photog
Still photog
Asst prop
Chief elec
Best boy
Elec
Cam grip
Key grip
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Draughtsman
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop
Asst prop
Asst prop
Set artist
Const coord
Const foreman
Const best boy
Paint coord
Painter
Asst prop
Constr gang boss
Painter
Swing gang
Swing gang
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Asst cost des
Extras' cost
MUSIC
Mus co-prod
Spec mus contributions
Spec mus contributions
Spec mus contributions
Spec mus contributions
Spec mus contributions
Spec mus contributions
SOUND
Sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Asst mixer
Eff ed
Footsteps ed
Boom op
Cable op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Flying eff
Graphics
Titles
MAKEUP
Makeup
Spec makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Bird trainer
Financial controller
Scr supv
Asst casting
Extras casting
Loc mgr
Loc coord
Loc coord
Unit coord
Prod secy
Prod secy
Asst to Mr. Parker
Asst to Mr. Marshall
London office
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc auditor
Asst auditor
Asst animal trainer
Asst animal trainer
Asst animal trainer
First Aid
Police coord
Craft service
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Dispatcher
Unit pub
Ornithopter
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Perta's stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Birdy by William Wharton (New York, 1979).
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 December 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 December 1984
Production Date:
14 May--early-August 1984 in Philadelphia, PA, and Santa Clara, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Tri-Star Pictures
Copyright Date:
28 February 1985
Copyright Number:
PA241487
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27554
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the 1960s, while recovering from injuries he suffered in Vietnam, U.S. Army Sgt. Alfonso “Al” Columbato visits his childhood friend, “Birdy.” Al recalls how, years earlier, the two met in working-class Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A loner, Birdy is obsessed with pigeons, and Al helps him catch and train birds. Birdy makes pigeon costumes to put the birds at ease. One night, dressed in their costumes, the boys climb atop a refinery building. Birdy slips and falls several stories to the ground by somersaulting into a large pile of sand. Blood trickles from Birdy’s mouth, but Al is relieved that his friend was alive. Coming out of his reverie at a psychiatric hospital, Al meets Major Weiss, Birdy’s doctor, who informs him that Birdy’s injuries, also suffered in Vietnam, were relatively minor, but the young man has been mute since he was found. Weiss believes Al’s presence may be therapeutic for Birdy. Renaldi, an orderly, takes Al to see Birdy, who huddles in the corner of his room. Al speaks to his friend at length, but Birdy remains unresponsive. A young nurse named Hannah Rourke feeds Birdy as if the boy was a bird, and Al leaves, upset by his friend’s condition. Staring out the window, Birdy recalls being back in Philadelphia, hospitalized with a broken leg following his fall from the refinery roof: While he recuperates, his mother destroys his birdcages, poisons half the pigeons, and calls in the local butcher to remove the rest. Birdy refuses to believe it happened, claiming the birds are too smart and are staying away because they recognized the butcher. Al suggests a new partnership and he and Birdy purchase a 1953 Ford ... +


In the 1960s, while recovering from injuries he suffered in Vietnam, U.S. Army Sgt. Alfonso “Al” Columbato visits his childhood friend, “Birdy.” Al recalls how, years earlier, the two met in working-class Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A loner, Birdy is obsessed with pigeons, and Al helps him catch and train birds. Birdy makes pigeon costumes to put the birds at ease. One night, dressed in their costumes, the boys climb atop a refinery building. Birdy slips and falls several stories to the ground by somersaulting into a large pile of sand. Blood trickles from Birdy’s mouth, but Al is relieved that his friend was alive. Coming out of his reverie at a psychiatric hospital, Al meets Major Weiss, Birdy’s doctor, who informs him that Birdy’s injuries, also suffered in Vietnam, were relatively minor, but the young man has been mute since he was found. Weiss believes Al’s presence may be therapeutic for Birdy. Renaldi, an orderly, takes Al to see Birdy, who huddles in the corner of his room. Al speaks to his friend at length, but Birdy remains unresponsive. A young nurse named Hannah Rourke feeds Birdy as if the boy was a bird, and Al leaves, upset by his friend’s condition. Staring out the window, Birdy recalls being back in Philadelphia, hospitalized with a broken leg following his fall from the refinery roof: While he recuperates, his mother destroys his birdcages, poisons half the pigeons, and calls in the local butcher to remove the rest. Birdy refuses to believe it happened, claiming the birds are too smart and are staying away because they recognized the butcher. Al suggests a new partnership and he and Birdy purchase a 1953 Ford to restore. Al’s father, Mr. Columbato, a garbageman, disparages their efforts, but they get the car to run. When Birdy reveals that he has never been to the ocean, Al drives him to the New Jersey shore. Later, on the boardwalk, they meet two girls, Shirley and Claire. While Al makes love with Shirley beneath Hunt’s Pier, Birdy makes Claire uncomfortable by talking about birds, and she forces Shirley to leave with her. Al insists Birdy needs to be more sociable, but Birdy cannot fathom his friend’s interest in sex. The next day, the young men are arrested because Mr. Columbato, who registered the vehicle, reported it stolen. When Mr. Columbato bails the boys out of jail, he strikes Al. Mr. Columbato later sells the Ford, and Birdy confronts the man, refusing his half of the money on principle, claiming the car was not Columbato’s to sell. Later, Birdy buys a yellow canary named “Perta” and builds a small aviary beneath his bunk bed. At the psychiatric hospital, Doctor Weiss makes Al uncomfortable asking him about his past. When Al is forced to talk about the time he punched a superior officer in Saigon, Vietnam, he responds sarcastically. However, Doctor Weiss threatens him, explaining that Birdy will remain in the hospital the rest of his life unless Al lends his support. Al assures the doctor he can get through to Birdy, and asks for more time. Hannah asks Al to spoon feed Birdy while she tends to other patients, but Al grows frustrated by his friend’s lack of response. Birdy remembers his boyhood obsession with building a pair of mechanical wings: Birdy catches the eye of classmate, Doris Robinson, and Al encourages him to ask her out on a date, but Birdy is not interested. Afterward, Birdy visits his father in the school boiler room, where he works as a janitor, to ask permission to buy a male canary to mate with Perta. His father expresses concern that Birdy will not adjust to normal society, and recalls that he once made fine wicker furniture, but no one wanted it. Birdy acknowledges that it is hard to be good at something nobody wants, but reiterates the importance of his birds, and his father agrees to speak with Birdy’s mother. Birdy names the new canary “Alfonso,” after his friend, then works out with Al to strengthen his upper body. Wearing his mechanical wings and propelled by Al on a bicycle at a landfill, Birdy launches himself from a mountain of garbage and “flies” before crashing into a pond. Back in the psychiatric ward, Al grows increasingly frustrated, but is elated when Birdy smiles at a joke. Doctor Weiss dismisses the response as dissociative behavior. Not seeing any progress, the doctor plans to send Al back to Fort Dix, New Jersey. Al tells the doctor that Birdy lived next to the neighborhood baseball field, and his mother used to horde the baseballs that landed in their yard. Birdy was always apologizing for his mother, but they could never figure out where his mother hid the balls. Al speculates that if Birdy’s mother sends the baseballs to the hospital, it might trigger a reaction in Birdy. Doctor Weiss reluctantly extends Al’s leave, and as Al works out in the hospital gymnasium, he recalls a time when he and Birdy helped a man catch stray dogs: The man claims he is finding homes for the animals, but they later learn he sells them to a slaughterhouse. Meanwhile, Birdy worries he will never achieve his dream of flight, and Perta is attacked by a cat but narrowly survives. In the mental ward, Al loses hope and confronts Birdy, informing him that he almost told Doctor Weiss about Birdy’s flying fantasies. Birdy begins to respond, but Hannah interrupts. After realizing what happened, Hannah apologizes to Al and he touches her. She is receptive, but he pulls back, ashamed. Later, Birdy, perched on the end of his bed, gazes out the window and remembers Perta: In his adolescence, Birdy has a sexual fantasy about the canary and realizes his need to remain with the birds. When he refuses Doris Robinson’s invitation to the school prom, Birdy’s mother threatens to get rid of his birds. At the prom, Birdy dances unenthusiastically with Doris. Afterward, she drives Birdy to a secluded spot, thanks him for taking her to the dance, and offers to make love, but Birdy does not respond and Doris feels humiliated. Birdy returns home, strips naked, and lies down in the aviary beneath his bunk bed. He wishes to die and be reborn a bird, then fantasizes about flying through his neighborhood, observing the world from above. In the present, Al returns to feed Birdy and apologizes for his earlier outburst. Al remembers the moment he was wounded in Vietnam and rescued by helicopter. Renaldi brings a suitcase Birdy’s mother sent, and Al enthusiastically opens it, spewing the lost baseballs throughout the room, but Birdy does not react. Al remembers the morning after the prom and becomes despondent: He finds Birdy naked in the aviary and assumes he had sex with Doris. Instead, Birdy relates his experience of flight, and Al becomes angry. Doctor Weiss informs Al that his friend is deteriorating and Al must return to Fort Dix. Birdy remembers the day Al left for the Army: As Birdy watches out his bedroom window, Perta escapes and soars through the neighborhood, but when she returns, she crashes into the glass and is killed. In Vietnam, the helicopter carrying Birdy explodes, leaving him the lone survivor. As these painful memories fade, Al finds Birdy sobbing on the floor and assures his friend he will never leave again. Hannah discovers Al holding Birdy, and he informs her that he will not leave the hospital. When she goes for help, Al tells Birdy he understands he is feigning insanity and Birdy speaks. However, when Doctor Weiss arrives, Birdy remains silent. Al attacks the doctor, who then flees. Birdy explains he has nothing to say to Weiss. Two orderlies rush in, but Al fights them off. He takes Birdy to the roof of the building. To Al’s horror, Birdy leaps from the roof. Rushing to the ledge, Al sees that Birdy has landed safely on a lower rooftop. +

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

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