Bird on a Wire (1990)

PG-13 | 111 mins | Comedy, Romance | 18 May 1990

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HISTORY


       Producer Rob Cohen and Director John Badham were scheduled to produce The Hard Way (1991, see entry) with Michael J. Fox as star, but the project was postponed to January 1990 when Universal opted to shoot back-to-back sequels to Back to the Future (1985, see entry), according to Vancouver Sun reporter Moira Farrow in the 24 Sep 1989 issue of the NYT. So, Cohen and Badham turned their attention to Bird on a Wire, a project considered by Universal to be “a [screenplay] draft away” from being ready to go before the camera.
       An article in the 5 Apr 1989 issue of Var reported that principal photography was scheduled to begin 15 Apr 1989 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with a budget of $20 million. The film was scheduled to wrap in mid-July 1989 according to an item in the 31 May 1989 issue of Var.
       The zoo set used in the film was built on a stage at Bridge Studios in Vancouver and was described a being six stories tall and two hundred and fifty feet long, according to Jim Harwood in the 26 Jun 1989 issue of DV, although studio production notes in AMPAS library files quote production designer Philip Harrison as stating that the set was eighty-three feet wide, six stories high, and three hundred and fifty feet long.
       Martin A. Grove’s “Hollywood Report” column in the 30 Mar 1990 issue of HR noted that Bird on a Wire was scheduled to open in 1,200 to 1,400 theaters. Universal distribution president, Fred ... More Less


       Producer Rob Cohen and Director John Badham were scheduled to produce The Hard Way (1991, see entry) with Michael J. Fox as star, but the project was postponed to January 1990 when Universal opted to shoot back-to-back sequels to Back to the Future (1985, see entry), according to Vancouver Sun reporter Moira Farrow in the 24 Sep 1989 issue of the NYT. So, Cohen and Badham turned their attention to Bird on a Wire, a project considered by Universal to be “a [screenplay] draft away” from being ready to go before the camera.
       An article in the 5 Apr 1989 issue of Var reported that principal photography was scheduled to begin 15 Apr 1989 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with a budget of $20 million. The film was scheduled to wrap in mid-July 1989 according to an item in the 31 May 1989 issue of Var.
       The zoo set used in the film was built on a stage at Bridge Studios in Vancouver and was described a being six stories tall and two hundred and fifty feet long, according to Jim Harwood in the 26 Jun 1989 issue of DV, although studio production notes in AMPAS library files quote production designer Philip Harrison as stating that the set was eighty-three feet wide, six stories high, and three hundred and fifty feet long.
       Martin A. Grove’s “Hollywood Report” column in the 30 Mar 1990 issue of HR noted that Bird on a Wire was scheduled to open in 1,200 to 1,400 theaters. Universal distribution president, Fred Mound, told Grove that the film had been previewed twice, both times at AMC’s Main Place Theatre in Santa Ana, CA. The first preview was held in mid-February 1990 and resulted in additional editing to change the ending of the film. Mound reported that the second preview, held in mid-March 1990, received 80% favorable responses overall and over 90% among those under age 25.
       Trade reaction to the film was mixed, with Duane Byrge calling it “A breezy, fast-flapping action-comedy romance” in his 16 May 1990 HR review, while Lor. lamented the film as “an overproduced, tedious road film” in the DV review published the same day.
       In its opening weekend on approximately 2,200 screens in 1,944 location, Bird on a Wire was number one at the box-office, taking in $15.3 million, according to the 22 May 1990 LAT and a 23 May 1990 HR “Hollywood Report” column. An ad in the 12 Sep 1990 DV announced that the film had grossed $70,171,735.00 to date, although Studio System cites only a $68,831,790.00 ultimate box-office gross.
      End Credits contain the following statement: "Filmed on location in British Columbia, Canada."

              The following acknowledgments also appear: "The producers wish to thank the following for their help in the making of this film: The British Columbia Film Commission; The people and officials of Vancouver, B.C.; British Columbia Film Centre, The Bridge Stages, Burnaby, British Columbia; Motion Picture Studio Technicians, I.A.T.S.E. 891, Vancouver; BC Rail Ltd. - Mike Solecki; American Humane Association; Apple Computers, Inc.; Atlas Supply Company of Canada; Cambridge Shopping Centres Limited; O. W. Thomson Consultants Ltd. - Waterfall Mechanical Consultants; First Wisconsin Bank of Racine; Focus on Food Catering; Gastown Film Labs; I ♥ NY; Krown/Y&R." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1989
---
Daily Variety
16 May 1990
---
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 1990
---
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1990
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
22 May 1990
---
New York Times
24 Sep 1989
p. A-23.
New York Times
18 May 1990
p. 15.
Variety
16 May 1990
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Interscope Communications-Badham/Cohen Production
A John Badham Movie
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
3rd asst dir
DGC trainee
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
Aerial unit dir, Aerial unit
Unit prod mgr/Asst dir, Aerial unit
1st asst dir, Aerial unit
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Rigging gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Video assist op
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
OOP/Aerial op, Aerial unit
Cam op, Aerial unit
1st cam asst, Aerial unit
2d cam asst, Aerial unit
Lenses and camera provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Assoc ed
Asst ed, L.A.
Asst ed, Vancouver
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Asst set dec
Const coord
Const eng
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set dec buyer
Set dresser
Set dresser
On set dresser
Stand-by carpenter
Stand-by painter
Head greensman
Head plasterer
Lead plasterer
Specialist painter
Head painter
Lead painter
Metal fabricator
Model maker
Location const coord
Const foreman
Lead hand
Lead hand
Lead hand
Lead hand
Props, 2d unit
Props, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Cost des, Vancouver
Cost supv
Set cost
Cost supv, 2d unit
MUSIC
Mus cond and orch
Addl orch
Addl orch
Addl orch
Addl orch
Mus rec by
Assisted by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Addl sd eff/Musikworks
Supv re-rec mixer/Universal
Re-rec mixer/Universal
Re-rec mixer/Universal
Recordist/Universal
Re-rec mixer/Meridian
Re-rec mixer/Meridian
Re-rec mixer/Meridian
Re-rec mixer/Meridian
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff best boy
Spec eff best boy
Spec eff shop foreman
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Titles des and prod by
Animatronic facilities by, 2d unit
CWI animatronics eng, 2d unit
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Make-up artist, Ms. Hawn
Hairstylist
Hair stylist, Ms. Hawn
Hair stylist, 2d unit
Make-up artist, 2d unit
CWI spec eff makeup, 2d unit
CWI spec eff makeup, 2d unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Unit loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Victoria loc consultant
Prod assoc, For the Badham/Cohen Group
Asst to Mr. Badham, For the Badham/Cohen Group
Asst to Mr. Cohen, For the Badham/Cohen Group
L. A. staff, For the Badham/Cohen Group
L. A. staff, For the Badham/Cohen Group
L. A. staff, For the Badham/Cohen Group
L. A. staff, For the Badham/Cohen Group
L. A. staff, For the Badham/Cohen Group
Dial coach
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Picture vehicle coord
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service/First aid
Extras casting
ADR voice casting
Animals and animal stunts coord
Animals supplied by
Animal trainer/Asst coord
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Script supv, 2d unit
Loc mgr, 2d unit
Transportation coord, 2d unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord, Los Angeles
Stunt coord, Vancouver
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
ANIMATION
Computer visuals consultant
Computer animation and displays
COLOR PERSONNEL
Lab timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Bird On A Wire" written by Leonard Cohen, produced and arranged by David A. Stewart, performed by The Neville Brothers, courtesy of A&M Records
"Ramblin' Man" written by Forrest Richard Betts, performed by The Allman Brothers, courtesy of PolyGram Records
"Blowin' In The Wind" written and performed by Bob Dylan, courtesy of CBS Records Music Licensing Department
+
SONGS
"Bird On A Wire" written by Leonard Cohen, produced and arranged by David A. Stewart, performed by The Neville Brothers, courtesy of A&M Records
"Ramblin' Man" written by Forrest Richard Betts, performed by The Allman Brothers, courtesy of PolyGram Records
"Blowin' In The Wind" written and performed by Bob Dylan, courtesy of CBS Records Music Licensing Department
"Get Your Face Off My Gas" written and performed by Luis Jardim
"Fantan Fandango" written and performed by Luis Jardim.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 May 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 May 1990
New York opening: week of 18 May 1990
Production Date:
15 April--mid Julyy 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 July 1990
Copyright Number:
PA473603
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
111
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30269
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Eugene Sorenson is released from the United States penitentiary at Hudolin, Pennsylvania, and picked up by his associate, Albert Diggs. In New York City, attorney Marianne calls her boyfriend, architect Paul Bernard, to suggest he meet her in Detroit, Michigan, where she has to fill in at a board meeting. However, he declines due to work demands. Sorenson and Diggs attempt to set up a drug deal, but are told by their connection that they must eliminate Rick Jarmin before any deal can be struck. However, Rick is in the Federal witness protection program. Currently known as Billy Ray Bowers, Rick works at Marvin’s Motown Motors, where Marianne happens to stop for gas. Marianne believes she recognizes Rick/Billy Ray as her former fiancé, who was supposedly killed in a plane crash fifteen years earlier. Later, Rick/Billy Ray attempts to call Lou Baird, his witness protection case manager at the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], but is told that Baird has retired. He is put through to officer Joe Weyburn, who claims he helped Rick back in 1969, but Rick does not remember him. Using a computer, Weyburn discovers that Rick has had multiple identities through the years. When Rick asks about Sorenson, Weyburn says the convict is still behind bars, even though the computer reveals that Sorenson is out on parole. Rick/Billy Ray reluctantly reveals his current name and location, and Weyburn says that someone will arrive to get him in two days. After hanging up, Weyburn copies Rick’s computer file to a floppy disk, then erases the master file from the FBI’s computer. Two nights later at the garage, Marianne ... +


Eugene Sorenson is released from the United States penitentiary at Hudolin, Pennsylvania, and picked up by his associate, Albert Diggs. In New York City, attorney Marianne calls her boyfriend, architect Paul Bernard, to suggest he meet her in Detroit, Michigan, where she has to fill in at a board meeting. However, he declines due to work demands. Sorenson and Diggs attempt to set up a drug deal, but are told by their connection that they must eliminate Rick Jarmin before any deal can be struck. However, Rick is in the Federal witness protection program. Currently known as Billy Ray Bowers, Rick works at Marvin’s Motown Motors, where Marianne happens to stop for gas. Marianne believes she recognizes Rick/Billy Ray as her former fiancé, who was supposedly killed in a plane crash fifteen years earlier. Later, Rick/Billy Ray attempts to call Lou Baird, his witness protection case manager at the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], but is told that Baird has retired. He is put through to officer Joe Weyburn, who claims he helped Rick back in 1969, but Rick does not remember him. Using a computer, Weyburn discovers that Rick has had multiple identities through the years. When Rick asks about Sorenson, Weyburn says the convict is still behind bars, even though the computer reveals that Sorenson is out on parole. Rick/Billy Ray reluctantly reveals his current name and location, and Weyburn says that someone will arrive to get him in two days. After hanging up, Weyburn copies Rick’s computer file to a floppy disk, then erases the master file from the FBI’s computer. Two nights later at the garage, Marianne returns to check up on her suspicion that "Billy Ray Bowers" is in fact Rick Jarmin. As she watches from across the street, Sorenson and Diggs show up. When Sorenson threatens to shoot Rick/Billy Ray, Marianne distracts the criminal by honking her horn. In the ensuing melee, Marvin, the station owner, is killed and Rick is wounded in the butt, however he escapes with Marianne. At a hotel, Marianne demands to know why Rick jilted her. However, Rick is aware that, four months after he disappeared, she married their mutual friend Jeremy Harper. Although Marianne presses for an explanation, Rick agrees to account for his actions in the morning. Rick attempts to get through to the FBI while Marianne is asleep, but discovers he is no longer in the agency’s files. Marianne wakes to the sound of Rick’s voice, and presumes a knock on her hotel room door is her standing breakfast order. When Marianne answers the knock, Sorenson reaches through the safety-chained door and grabs her by the throat. Rick frees her, but Diggs cuts the safety chain with bolt cutters. In turn, Marianne sprays the intruders with Mace pepper spray, then she and Rick escape across the top of the hotel. After getting back into the hotel through the window of its upper-story restaurant, Rick asks Marianne to drop him in Racine, Wisconsin, where he hopes to regain his address book and get a lead on Lou Baird. Meanwhile, Detroit police discover Marianne’s rented car. Officers attempt to detain Rick and Marianne, but the pair escapes. Diggs, Sorenson and Weyburn communicate by phone and discuss their strategy to bring Federal agents into the pursuit by claiming that Rick has kidnapped Marianne. On a ferryboat to Racine, Rick explains what happened fifteen years earlier: He and his friend, Jamie, flew to Mexico to obtain a couple of kilos of marijuana. While there, they were confronted by agents Sorenson and Diggs, who threatened them with major drug charges and commandeered their airplane for a much larger drug deal. However, when the plane landed back in the U. S., FBI agents surrounded them. Sorenson killed one of the agents, but Diggs escaped. Rick and Jamie prevented Sorenson from killing another agent, but Jamie was killed in the struggle. Later, under an offer of immunity, Rick testified against Sorenson and Diggs. Sorenson has served his time, but Diggs was never arrested and is still under indictment. In Racine, Rick returns to his former workplace, Raun of Racine, where he posed as gay hairdresser Matty Carlson from 13 Dec 1987 through 15 Jun 1989. Rick/Matty left owing money to Raun, who now demands $2 thousand, an apology, and that Rick/Matty do his hair before returning the address book. Rick/Matty claims Marianne is his sister, but Raun refuses her check. Rick and Marianne go to a bank, but a computer alert comes up when Marianne attempts to use her American Express Gold Card. Police are called, but the couple gets away. Rick steals a motorcycle and offers Marianne a chance to stay behind or get aboard. She tells him good-bye, and he takes off. However, when Marianne returns to her rental car, Racine police surround the vehicle. She runs away and discovers Rick returning on the stolen motorcycle. She climbs aboard and Rick drives through Raun’s beauty salon, hands the hairdresser money, grabs the address book, and eludes the cops. In reviewing the surveillance tape of what went on in the Racine bank, a Federal agent and Marianne’s boyfriend, Paul, realize that she was not kidnapped and her whereabouts are no longer a Federal matter. The agent suggests to officer Weyburn that Rick may be instituting a pattern of returning to former places of employment, but with no record of his case in FBI files there is little that can be done. Weyburn then returns to his computer and discovers another of the fugitive’s former employers, Muncie Farms in Loyal, Wisconsin, where he worked under the name Jodie Turnbull from 18 Jun 1984 through 22 Feb 1986. On the road, Rick stops at a pay phone to call Lou Baird’s sister. Lou now lives with his sister, but is at the doctor’s and will not return before 6:00 PM. To kill time, Rick takes Marianne to Muncie Farms, where his former girl friend, veterinarian Rachel Varney, operates the Jasmine Hills Animal Hospital. There, Rachel and Marianne trade jealous barbs as Rachel removes the buckshot from Rick/Jodie’s butt. Marianne passes out at the sight of blood and goes outside for fresh air. Rachel tells Rick/Jodie that she is getting married on Sunday, but will rethink her arrangements if he has plans to return. Although Rick tells Rachel he is not a good bet, Marianne sees them kiss and goes off in a snit. Rick tries to explain, then asks why Marianne cares, since she is happily married. But Marianne informs Rick that she is now divorced. A helicopter with a machine gunner strafes the farm. As Rachel holds the attackers off with a shotgun, Rick and Marianne escape in a crop duster airplane. The helicopter gives chase, but Rick fouls the copter’s rotor with his plane’s landing gear, and it crashes and explodes. Rick then crash-lands the crop-duster, and treks through the woods carrying Marianne on his back. They spend the night in a rundown hotel, and as they climb into bed she tells Rick that she has a new boyfriend. He informs her that he hasn’t had a girl friend in five years and that “Mr. Wiggly” has been on bread and water for that duration. They then make love. In the morning, while Rick swaps Marianne’s watch for a broken down pickup truck, she calls her boyfriend, Paul, and asks him to arrange for the press and federal marshals to meet Rick and her at Lou Baird’s house. Paul phones officer Weyburn, who assures Paul that he has done “the right thing” by calling. When Rick and Marianne finally see Lou Baird, it turns out he suffers from early stage Alzheimer’s disease, and has no memory of Rick. Baird tells Rick he now works in the zoo where, although he now has no recollection, he once placed Rick in one of his identities. Weyburn arrives with Sorenson and Diggs, and Marianne realizes the mistake she made in calling for Federal agents. In a rational moment Baird, suggests Rick go to the zoo because there are guns there. Hoping the agents will follow, Rick leaves a note reading “ZOO” for his pursuers, then takes off with Marianne. They break into the zoo’s security office, turn on the lights and artificial waterfalls, and Rick grabs the only weapon available—a tranquilizer gun. He tells Marianne to lock herself in the control room and that if he signals her, she should flip a particular switch to turn on more lights. In a skirmish with the rogue agents, Rick is wounded, but manages to free the wild jungle cats and various monkeys from their cages. Diggs is mauled by a lion and killed. Marianne receives a signal from Rick, but she cannot remember which button to push. She indiscriminately flips switches, giving away her position. So, Sorenson machine-guns the office, sending her to the floor where she discovers a handgun under a desk. Marianne evades Weyburn when he comes to the security area, but ends up locked out of the office, finding herself in the public area, where the released monkeys swarm toward her. She drops her gun, falls into the zoo’s alligator pit, and a chimpanzee picks up the gun. Weyburn captures Rick, but calls Sorenson in for the kill. The chimp accidentally fires the handgun, distracting Weyburn and allowing Rick to kick the corrupt agent into a pool filled with piranhas, which eat him alive. Meantime, Marianne escapes from several tigers, only to be captured by Sorenson, who threatens to throw her to the animals if Rick does not surrender. Rick jumps Sorenson, and in their fight they end up on a rotting rope bridge over the tiger habitat. The bridge snaps and the combatants dangle over the pit. Rick swings the bridge into contact with an electrified fence below. Sorenson is shocked and falls into the pit. Although Rick is also shocked, he manages to hang on. Marianne attempts to get Rick to swing the bridge in a wide enough arc so that she can catch him. They clasp hands but she lacks the strength to pull Rick to safety—until he proposes marriage. As Rick is freed from the dangling bridge, he accidentally pulls Marianne from her perch and they tumble to the safety of a ledge. As a practical joke, Rick pretends to have amnesia when he comes to, but he cannot keep up the charade, and they have a lover’s spat. Later, at sea on their honeymoon, Rick unfurls a blue sail emblazoned with the insignia “Mister Wiggly.” +

GENRE
Genres:
Sub-genre:
Action


Subject

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

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