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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, executive producer Floyd Mutrux’s attorney, Tom Pollock, originally sold the American Me screenplay in 1973 as a vehicle for actor Al Pacino. However, the project was shelved until 1977, when Sean Daniel, a production executive at Universal Pictures, revived the project and recruited actor Edward James Olmos. On 18 Feb 1977, a DV news brief reported that producer Lou Adler was planning on casting an unknown Hispanic-American in the role of “Montoya” and Warren Oates as “JD.”
       A 26 Apr 1978 DV news item announced that writer Floyd Mutrux would direct the film, replacing director Hal Ashby.
       The production notes state that prison scenes were shot at Folsom Prison, Represa, CA. The three-week shooting schedule utilized 800 inmates and guards as extras. For security, the riot scene was filmed without sound as not to incite real violence and the sound was dubbed in later.
       The scenes of the new prisoners being processed was filmed at the Chino Institute for Men in Chino, CA. It was deemed too risky to use inmates at this facility so local extras were brought in. Arturo Jiminez, who played a small role in the film, was later shot to death by a sheriff's deputy.
       The Zoot Suit Riot scenes were filmed on Universal’s back lot on “New York Street.” Over two hundred zoot suits were manufactured for the film. An antique street car was brought in to make the set look like 1943 Los Angeles.
       Los Angeles, CA, locations included an open air market called “the Mercado” in East Los Angeles, and ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, executive producer Floyd Mutrux’s attorney, Tom Pollock, originally sold the American Me screenplay in 1973 as a vehicle for actor Al Pacino. However, the project was shelved until 1977, when Sean Daniel, a production executive at Universal Pictures, revived the project and recruited actor Edward James Olmos. On 18 Feb 1977, a DV news brief reported that producer Lou Adler was planning on casting an unknown Hispanic-American in the role of “Montoya” and Warren Oates as “JD.”
       A 26 Apr 1978 DV news item announced that writer Floyd Mutrux would direct the film, replacing director Hal Ashby.
       The production notes state that prison scenes were shot at Folsom Prison, Represa, CA. The three-week shooting schedule utilized 800 inmates and guards as extras. For security, the riot scene was filmed without sound as not to incite real violence and the sound was dubbed in later.
       The scenes of the new prisoners being processed was filmed at the Chino Institute for Men in Chino, CA. It was deemed too risky to use inmates at this facility so local extras were brought in. Arturo Jiminez, who played a small role in the film, was later shot to death by a sheriff's deputy.
       The Zoot Suit Riot scenes were filmed on Universal’s back lot on “New York Street.” Over two hundred zoot suits were manufactured for the film. An antique street car was brought in to make the set look like 1943 Los Angeles.
       Los Angeles, CA, locations included an open air market called “the Mercado” in East Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall. In order for the cast and crew to cross “turf” claimed by different gangs, members from each were used as extras.
       A item in 21 Apr 1993 DV reported that Joseph Morgan, a founder of a prison gang, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Edward James Olmos and the producers of American Me, claiming they used his life story without his consent. Morgan was a white male who grew up in East Los Angeles, shaved his head, wore a prosthetic leg, and was fluent in Spanish like the character “JD.” He also was a founder of the “Mexican Mafia” prison gang. Morgan stated the film revealed facts about his past life that were unknown to his children. He also claimed the movie would adversely affect his chance of parole. He asked for $500,000 in damages. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
       The following statement appears before opening credits: “The film you are about to see is inspired by a true story. The events depicted are strong and brutal, but they occur every day.”
       The following statements appears in end credits: “In 1991, it is estimated there were more than 3,000 gang related deaths in the United States. Although this film was inspired by a true story, specific characters and certain events are fictional.” Also, “Filmed with a Louma Crane, LOUMA, L.A.; 24 frame playback by Video Image; Technocrane; Fuji; Hansard Projection; TM Motion Picture Equipment Rental; Albert G. Ruben & Co.; Audio Services Corporation; handheld photography by Aaton 35,” and “Special thanks to: California Department of Corrections; Folsom State Prison, Warden Robert G. Borg; California Institution for Men at Chino, Warden Michael Pickett; Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall, Raul Solis, Superintendent; Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Rev. Leslie N. Delgado, pastor; California Film Commission; :Los Angeles Film and Video Permit Office; Los Angeles Police Department, Hollenbeck Division; Hack Solomon; Sandy England, IATSE Int’l; Richard Soames and Film Finances, Inc.; and The People of East Los Angeles More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1977.
---
Daily Variety
26 Apr 1978.
---
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1992
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
13 Mar 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
13 Mar 1992
p. 6.
Variety
16 Mar 1992
p. 59.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
William Forsythe
Folsom and Chino prisons
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures presents
A Y. O. Y. Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Add'l 2d asst dir
Add'l 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Loader
Add'l 1st cam asst
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Helicopter cam op
Still photog
Chief lighting tech
Best boy elec
Elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Best boy grip
Rigging grip
Video asst
Musco Light tech
Musco Light tech
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Post prod supv
Negative cutter
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Lead person
Set des
Set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prop master
Asst prop
2d asst prop
Const coord
Lead carpenter
Paint foreman
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Asst cost des
Cost supv
Key costumer
Costumer
Costumer
Cost illustrator
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus consultant
Mus consultant
Mus contractor
Mus preparation
Mus orch
Mus cond
Mus rec eng
Mus legal clearances
Mus legal clearances
Mus legal clearances
Supv mus ed, Segue Music Inc.
Supv mus ed
Mus ed- 1st temp
Guitar, Featured instrumentalist
Saxophone. Featured instrumenalist
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom op
Cable op
Supv sd ed, Bald Eagle Sound, Inc.
Supv ADR ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley walker
Foley walker
Eff rec
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR group coord
ADR mixer
ADR rec
ADR projectionist
Foley mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Asst spec eff
Asst spec eff
Titles & opticals by
MAKEUP
Makeup consultant
Makeup dept head
Makeup
Asst makeup
Addl makeup
Hair stylist
Tattoo artist
Tattoo artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Tech advisor
Helicopter pilot
Skyman
Pub relations
Asst loc mgr
Prod counsel
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst coord
Post prod coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Picture car mechanic
Asst to Mr. Olmos
Asst to Mr. Olmos
Secy to Mr. Olmos
Asst to Mr. Young
Asst to Mr. Daniel
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod intern
Loc intern
Assoc casting
Asst casting
Extras casting
Extra casting coord
Security consultant
Security consultant
Security coord
Police coord
Police coord
Youth gang services coord
1st aid medic
Studio teacher
Caterer (the one and only!)
Craft services
Documentry crew
Documentary crew, Archipelago Films
Documentary crew, Archipelago Films
Documentary crew, Archipelago Films
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"El Gaban," arrangements by Alfredo Lopez, Abel Rocha, Fernando Nataren, performed by Quetzlcoatl
"I Want To Take You Higher," written by Sylvester Stewart, performed by Ike and Tina Turner, courtesy of EMI Records USA, a division of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Oye Como Va," written by Tito Puente, performed by Santana, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
+
SONGS
"El Gaban," arrangements by Alfredo Lopez, Abel Rocha, Fernando Nataren, performed by Quetzlcoatl
"I Want To Take You Higher," written by Sylvester Stewart, performed by Ike and Tina Turner, courtesy of EMI Records USA, a division of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Oye Como Va," written by Tito Puente, performed by Santana, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"For Your Precious Love," written by Arthur Brooks, Richard Brooks and Jerry Butler, performed by Garnett Mimms & The Enchanters, courtesy of EMI Records USA, a division of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Rockin' Robin," written by Jimmie Thomas, performed by Bobby Day, courtesy of Sid Talmadge by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc./Original Sound Entertainment
"Tierra Bravia,"written by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, peformed by Mariachi Sol De Mexico
"Ella," written by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, performed by Mariachi Sol De Mexico, "La Vena Dita," arrangement by Alfredo Lopez, Abel Roche and Fernando Nataren, performed by Quetzalcoatl
"Shotgun," written by Autry DeWalt, performed by Los Lobos, courtesy of Slash Records
"Let The Good Times Roll," written by Leonard Lee, performed by Shirley and Lee, courtesy of EMI Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Heaven and Paradise," written by Don Julian, performed by Don Julian & The Meadowlarks, courtesy of Dooto Records, by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment/Celebrity Licensing Inc.
"Don't Let Me Be Understood," written by Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus, Bennie Benjamin, performed by The Animals, by arrangement with EMI Records UK and Abkco Records
"Slippin' Into Darkness," written by Sylvester Allen, Harold Brown, Morris Dickerson, Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan, Charles Miller, Lee Oskar, Howard Scott, performed by War, produced by Jerry Goldstein
"Dedicated To You," written by Egnoian and Morgan, performed by Sonny Knight, courtesy of Starla Records, by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment/Celebrity Licensing Inc.
"No Sunshine," written by Arturo Molina Jr., and Bill Withers, performed by Kid Frost
courtesy of Virgin Records America, Inc.
"Corazon Corazon," written by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, performed by Mariachi Sol De Mexico."
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 March 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 13 March 1992
New York opening: week of 13 March 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 May 1992
Copyright Number:
PA565591
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras & lenses
Duration(in mins):
126
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31589
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Drug dealer Montoya Santana, sits in his prison cell and ponders a letter from Julie, a woman he met on the “outside.” She writes that Montoya is two persons: a child and a killer. Montoya agrees, and believes his problems started before he was born. In 1943, Montoya’s father, Pedro, was beaten and his mother, Esperanza, was raped by U.S. sailors during the Los Angeles, California, “Zoot Suit Riots.” In 1959, Montoya is abused by his father and joins a gang. One night, he and two gang members, JD and Mundo, sneak into a mausoleum and tattoo their hands with an ink pen to prove solidarity. On their way home, they travel through a rival gang’s territory and are chased to a closed diner. Breaking inside, JD is shot by the owner and loses his leg. Montoya and Mundo are sent to a reform school, where Montoya is raped by an older boy. When the assailant cuts Montoya’s lip, warning him to remain silent, Montoya wrestles the knife from his hand and plunges it into his neck, killing him. Montoya is sentenced to an extended stay in reform school, and when he turns eighteen he is transferred to prison. However, he revels in the respect the other boys give him for killing his attacker. A year later, JD is sentenced to the school. Although JD is not Mexican, Montoya claims he is his “brother.” A few years later, Montoya, JD and Mundo are all serving time in Folsom Prison, where they operate an empire that includes extortion, gambling, drugs, and prostitution. One day, an African American prisoner steals some drugs as they are being passed along the cells via ... +


Drug dealer Montoya Santana, sits in his prison cell and ponders a letter from Julie, a woman he met on the “outside.” She writes that Montoya is two persons: a child and a killer. Montoya agrees, and believes his problems started before he was born. In 1943, Montoya’s father, Pedro, was beaten and his mother, Esperanza, was raped by U.S. sailors during the Los Angeles, California, “Zoot Suit Riots.” In 1959, Montoya is abused by his father and joins a gang. One night, he and two gang members, JD and Mundo, sneak into a mausoleum and tattoo their hands with an ink pen to prove solidarity. On their way home, they travel through a rival gang’s territory and are chased to a closed diner. Breaking inside, JD is shot by the owner and loses his leg. Montoya and Mundo are sent to a reform school, where Montoya is raped by an older boy. When the assailant cuts Montoya’s lip, warning him to remain silent, Montoya wrestles the knife from his hand and plunges it into his neck, killing him. Montoya is sentenced to an extended stay in reform school, and when he turns eighteen he is transferred to prison. However, he revels in the respect the other boys give him for killing his attacker. A year later, JD is sentenced to the school. Although JD is not Mexican, Montoya claims he is his “brother.” A few years later, Montoya, JD and Mundo are all serving time in Folsom Prison, where they operate an empire that includes extortion, gambling, drugs, and prostitution. One day, an African American prisoner steals some drugs as they are being passed along the cells via a gym sock. When Montoya orders Mundo to kill him, the prisoner is burned alive, and a race riot ensues. Montoya is tossed into solitary confinement, and other members of his gang are sent to different prisons. Montoya contacts the gang’s lawyer, and orders him to subpoena the gang to discuss a crisis. At the meeting, Montoya explains that a new Mexican prison gang is threatening to overtake their operation, and orders one of his men, “Pie Face,” to kill the rival gang leader, “El Chucko.” When Pie Face balks because of his friendship with El Chucko, Montoya feigns sympathy, but arranges for Pie Face to be stabbed to death. Later, Montoya, Little Puppet, and other gang members kill El Chucko and a couple of his henchmen. Days later, JD is released from prison, hours before Montoya learns of his mother’s death. When Montoya is released and returns to East Los Angeles, he is disappointed to find that the Italian Mafia still controls the neighborhood. Montoya moves in with his father, Pedro, and brother Paulito. During a block party, Montoya meets Julie, their next-door neighbor, who asks him to dance. He accidently steps on her feet and apologizes, stating that since he was fifteen when he was incarcerated, he missed out on learning to dance. Julie’s young son, Mico, breaks them up, whining that he is tired. The next day, Montoya visits Mafia boss Don Antonio Scagnelli, and informs him that the Mexican mob is taking over East Los Angeles. Although Montoya threatens Scagnelli’s son, who is serving time in Folsom, Scagnelli refuses to be intimidated. That night, Montoya takes Julie out on the first date of his life. They go to the beach, and she teaches Montoya how to drive a car. They make love until Montoya, who has never been with a woman, tries to sodomize her, and she runs away. At the same time, Montoya’s gang members rape and murder Scagnelli’s son in Folsom Prison. Later, Julie finds her brother dead with a needle in his arm. Montoya learns that over forty overdoses occurred in the barrio in one night, all caused by Scagnelli, who sold uncut heroin in East Los Angeles to avenge his son’s death. Realizing Paulito is in danger, Montoya rushes home and chokes his father to make him say where his brother is. Paulito arrives and breaks them up. Montoya checks his brother’s arms for needle marks. Finding him “clean,” Montoya leaves without an explanation. The next day, Pedro finds Montoya at his mother’s grave and tells him about the rape during the Zoot Suit Riots. He says he tried to love his son, but always suspected that he was a child of one of the rapists. Later, Montoya’s drug house is attacked by an African American gang that kills the workers by making them inhale heroin. From his prison contacts, Montoya learns that Scagnelli has hired the “Black Guerillas,” a gang out of Compton. JD talks Montoya into hiring the “Aryan Brotherhood,” a group of neo-Nazis, to kill the Guerillas. The Brotherhood storms a crowded nightclub, screaming racial epithets, and shoots a man in the groin. A few days later, Little Puppet is released from jail and has a church wedding. Montoya sees Julie, but is too frightened to talk to her, and tells JD that the Compton attack made matters worse. JD accuses Montoya of showing weakness. Little Puppet gets drunk and Montoya and Julie walk him home. Julie tells Montoya that she loves the little boy inside him, but hates the criminal he shows to the world. A police car appears, and the cops find drugs in Little Puppet’s jacket. Thinking the jacket belongs to Montoya, they arrest him for drug posession and send him back to prison. There, members of the gang want Puppet to kill his younger brother, Little Puppet, as revenge, but Montoya assures him that the young man is safe. However, JD comes to visit and insists that Little Puppet must die for the gang to retain respect. Montoya reminds him that when they went to reform school they thought they had to keep their self respect by doing horrible things, but in fact, they gave away their self-respect. As JD leaves, he spots Mundo and nods. Mundo tells Puppet that since he brought Little Puppet into the gang, it is now his job to “take him out.” Mundo hints that if Puppet does not follow orders, his family will be killed. When Puppet is released, Little Puppet picks him up. On the way home, Puppet asks his brother to pull off the road and strangles him with a piece of rope. Meanwhile, Montoya writes to Julie explaining his newfound realization that his perception of “normal” is distorted. He is trying to change back to the person he was before his life of crime. Before sending the letter, he encloses a St. Dismas medal, the patron saint of the imprisoned, which his mother gave him for protection. Julie later gives it to Paulito, claiming Montoya sent it to him. The same day, Mundo and the gang stab Montoya to death as he leaves his cell. Unaware of his brother’s death, Paulito recruits several boys to join the gang, and they open fire on a family walking on the sidewalk. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.