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HISTORY

       According to a 27 Sep 1993 LAT article, screenwriter Tim Metcalfe completed the script in 1987 and described the project, then titled California, as a “black comedy.” In a “Counterpunch” column published in the 25 Oct 1993 LAT, Dominic Sena said that he came across the property in Nov 1990, after more than eighteen months of searching for a project to direct as his debut feature. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that the film also marked the first feature collaboration between Sena and producer Aristides McGarry, who previously worked together on several television commercials and music videos. As they continued with other assignments over next sixteen months, Sena, McGarry, and co-producer Mitch Sacharoff composed a total of eleven drafts of the screenplay. A 25 Oct 1993 LAT story suggested that the filmmakers oversaw the extensive rewrites themselves, since there was not enough money to hire another writer after Propaganda Films made clear they were dissatisfied with Metcalfe’s two “disappointing” and “reluctant” attempts to address script revisions in early 1991. In the 27 Sep 1993 LAT, Metcalfe defended his version of the screenplay and criticized Sena for adding a new scene and a “simplistic, clichéd” voice-over narration by David Duchovny’s character, “Brian Kessler.” As Propaganda regained faith in the project, the budget was increased from $4 million to $8.5 million. A 1 Feb 1991 DV article reported the involvement of executive producing partners Jim Kouf and Lynn Bigelow, with casting expected to be completed in time for a summer 1991 start date. A few months later, the 6 Aug 1991 DV claimed production ... More Less

       According to a 27 Sep 1993 LAT article, screenwriter Tim Metcalfe completed the script in 1987 and described the project, then titled California, as a “black comedy.” In a “Counterpunch” column published in the 25 Oct 1993 LAT, Dominic Sena said that he came across the property in Nov 1990, after more than eighteen months of searching for a project to direct as his debut feature. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that the film also marked the first feature collaboration between Sena and producer Aristides McGarry, who previously worked together on several television commercials and music videos. As they continued with other assignments over next sixteen months, Sena, McGarry, and co-producer Mitch Sacharoff composed a total of eleven drafts of the screenplay. A 25 Oct 1993 LAT story suggested that the filmmakers oversaw the extensive rewrites themselves, since there was not enough money to hire another writer after Propaganda Films made clear they were dissatisfied with Metcalfe’s two “disappointing” and “reluctant” attempts to address script revisions in early 1991. In the 27 Sep 1993 LAT, Metcalfe defended his version of the screenplay and criticized Sena for adding a new scene and a “simplistic, clichéd” voice-over narration by David Duchovny’s character, “Brian Kessler.” As Propaganda regained faith in the project, the budget was increased from $4 million to $8.5 million. A 1 Feb 1991 DV article reported the involvement of executive producing partners Jim Kouf and Lynn Bigelow, with casting expected to be completed in time for a summer 1991 start date. A few months later, the 6 Aug 1991 DV claimed production had been postponed until sometime in 1992.
       A 12 May 1992 HR production chart announced that California had begun filming 11 May 1992 in Los Angeles, CA. However, production notes stated that the first five weeks of filming took place in Atlanta, GA, before moving to the California desert for an additional four weeks. During one night in Barstow, CA, the crew was forced to halt production when a 7.4-magnitude earthquake occurred forty miles away from set.
       Following principal photography, the 26 Oct 1992 HR stated that PolyGram Filmed Entertainment had entered into a co-production financing deal with Viacom Pictures, which allowed Gramercy Pictures to release the film in spring 1993.
       Despite rumors that California state officials objected to the use of the state name due to the film’s violent content, the 24 Aug 1993 DV listed an alternate explanation for the title’s spelling: Because the original title matched that of Paramount’s 1947 western, California (see entry), filmmakers used the phonetic spelling, Kalifornia, to avoid the hassle of filing a claim to reuse the registered title with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
       The 13 Sep 1993 issue of People magazine reported that real-life couple Juliette Lewis and Brad Pitt ended their three-year relationship shortly after filming concluded, causing complications for the film’s publicity department and destroying the picture’s “best marketing ploy.” According to a 6 Apr 1992 People item, Lewis and Pitt had negotiated identical salaries of $700,000 after holding out on the producers’ initial offers of $500,000 each.
       The MPAA Classification and Ratings Administration originally issued the film an NC-17 rating for violent and sexual content, and a 27 May 1993 LAT news item reported that producer Steve Golin lost his appeal to have the rating changed. As a result, Gramercy delayed the 27 Aug 1993 release until 3 Sep 1993 while filmmakers decided whether to edit the picture or follow through with possibly limited distribution. Sometime later, the 1 Jul 1993 HR announced that Gramercy President Russell Schwartz reluctantly decided to re-cut some of the more explicit scenes, which earned the film an R rating. The 2010 DVD release contains both the theatrical and “unrated” versions. The unrated version includes about one minute of extra footage.
       A review in the 25 Aug 1993 DV noted that Kalifornia premiered to positive reviews when it played in competition at Canada’s Montreal World Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI international critics award and the award for Best Artistic Contribution. A 6 Aug 1993 LAT item indicated the Los Angeles premiere was scheduled to take place 23 Aug 1993 at the Directors Guild of America, with proceeds benefitting the American Cinematheque’s Programming Fund.
      End credits state: “Special thanks to Rand Hoffman, Ted MacKinney, Miles Mogulescu, Cheryl Nelson, Malcolm Ritchie, Jim Tauber, Kurt Woolner, Mark Wolfe, Peter Graves, Deana Elwell, David Daugherty,” and, “Maps used by permission of Rand McNally, R.L. 92-S-78.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1991
p. 1, 9.
Daily Variety
6 Aug 1991
p. 1, 26.
Daily Variety
24 Aug 1993.
---
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1993
p. 2, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1992
p. 3, 23.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1993
p. 1, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1993
p. 5, 8.
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Aug 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Sep 1993
Section F, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
27 Sep 1993
Section F, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1993.
---
New York Times
3 Sep 1993
Section C, p. 11.
People
6 Apr 1992.
---
People
13 Sep 1993.
---
Variety
6 Sep 1993
p. 27.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment presents
in association with Viacom Pictures
a Propaganda Films production
a film by Dominic Sena
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir, Atlanta crew
2d 2d asst dir, Atlanta crew
Prod mgr, Addl photog
2d asst dir, Addl photog
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Line prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst B cam
Film loader
Cam dept prod asst
Video playback
Video playback
24 frame video
Chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Key grip
Best boy
Grip
Grip (Intern)
Still photog
1st asst B cam, Atlanta crew
Loader, Atlanta crew
Video playback, Atlanta crew
Video playback, Atlanta crew
Best boy elec, Atlanta crew
Generator op/Elec, Atlanta crew
Elec, Atlanta crew
Elec, Atlanta crew
Elec, Atlanta crew
Grip, Atlanta crew
Grip, Atlanta crew
Grip, Atlanta crew
Grip, Atlanta crew
Grip, Atlanta crew
Grip, Atlanta crew
Dir of photog, Addl photog
1st asst cam, Addl photog
2d asst cam, Addl photog
Gaffer, Addl photog
Best boy elec, Addl photog
Elec, Addl photog
Elec, Addl photog
Key grip, Addl photog
Best boy grip, Addl photog
Grip, Addl photog
Grip, Addl photog
Cranes and dollies by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Carrie's photographic work
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Lightworks asst
Addl asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Leadman
On-set dresser
On-set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Set const
Set dresser/Buyer, Atlanta crew
Swing gang, Atlanta crew
Lead scenic artist, Atlanta crew
Carpenter, Atlanta crew
Art dept buyer, Atlanta crew
Art dept buyer, Atlanta crew
Set const, Atlanta crew
Set const, Atlanta crew
Props, Addl photog
Art dept swing, Addl photog
Art dept swing, Addl photog
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
On-set costumer
Asst stylist
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward shopper, Atlanta crew
Ward courtesy of
Ward courtesy of
Ward courtesy of
Ward courtesy of
Ward courtesy of
Ward courtesy of
MUSIC
Mus coord & ed
Mus consultant for Polygram Filmed Entertainment
Mus coord
Mus coord
Mus coord
Asst to the comp
Scoring eng
Guitar
Keyboards
Percussion
Percussion
A&R for Polydor Records Soundtrack
A&R for Polydor Records Soundtrack
SOUND
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley mixer
ADR ed
ADR mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec rec
Re-rec rec
Re-rec eng
Foley rec
Boom, Atlanta crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles & opticals by
Spec eff driver, Atlanta crew
Spec eff P.A., Atlanta crew
MAKEUP
Key makeup
Key hairstylist
Spec eff makeup
Asst hair/Makeup
Asst hair/Makeup
Spec eff makeup, Atlanta crew
Spec eff makeup asst, Atlanta crew
Makeup asst, Atlanta crew
Hairdresser, Atlanta crew
Wig stylist, Atlanta crew
Hair, Addl photog
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
Exec in charge of prod
Scr supv
Scr supv
Scr revision
Post prod supv
Post prod supv
Post prod supv, Propaganda Films
Post prod asst
Post prod accounting
Prod supv
Prod coord
Loc scout
Asst coord
Asst coord
Asst coord
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Prod assoc
Promotions coord
Unit pub
Unit pub
Casting dir (New York)
Casting assoc
Asst to Mssrs. McGarry and Sena
Asst to Messrs. McGarry and Sena
Asst to Mr. Sena
Asst to Mr. Sena
Asst to Mssrs. Golin and Sighvatsson
Asst to Mssrs. Golin and Sighvatsson
Asst to Mssrs. Golin and Sighvatsson
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Honeywagon driver
Honeywagon driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Catering
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Loc mgr, Atlanta crew
Asst loc mgr, Atlanta crew
Loc asst, Atlanta crew
Asst prod coord, Atlanta crew
Asst prod coord, Atlanta crew
Prod secy, Atlanta crew
Prod secy, Atlanta crew
Casting dir, Atlanta crew
Extras casting, Atlanta crew
Animal handlers, Atlanta crew
Key prod asst, Atlanta crew
Prod asst, Atlanta crew
Prod asst, Atlanta crew
Prod asst, Atlanta crew
Prod asst, Atlanta crew
Prod asst, Atlanta crew
Intern, Atlanta crew
Intern, Atlanta crew
Intern, Atlanta crew
Intern, Atlanta crew
Transportation capt, Atlanta crew
Honeywagon driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Driver, Atlanta crew
Police coord, Atlanta crew
Medic, Atlanta crew
Caterer, Atlanta crew
Caterer, Atlanta crew
Caterer, Atlanta crew
Craft service, Atlanta crew
Prod coord, Addl photog
Grip driver, Addl photog
Loc scout, Addl photog
Craft service, Addl photog
Prod asst, Addl photog
Prod asst, Addl photog
Prod asst, Addl photog
Big cheese
Completion bond
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stunt car tech, Atlanta crew
Stunt car tech, Atlanta crew
Stand-in, Atlanta crew
Stand-in, Atlanta crew
Stand-in, Atlanta crew
Stand-in, Atlanta crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Look Up To The Sky," written by Angelique Bianca, performed by The Indians, courtesy of Polydor Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"Deep," written by Anthony Michael Mortimer, performed by East 17, courtesy of London Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"No One Said It Would Be Easy," written by Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrell, Kevin Gilbert, Dan Schwartz, performed by Sheryl Crow, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Look Up To The Sky," written by Angelique Bianca, performed by The Indians, courtesy of Polydor Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"Deep," written by Anthony Michael Mortimer, performed by East 17, courtesy of London Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"No One Said It Would Be Easy," written by Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrell, Kevin Gilbert, Dan Schwartz, performed by Sheryl Crow, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.
"Born For Love," written and performed by David Baerwald, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.
"Unfulfilled," written and performed by Quicksand, courtesy of Polydor Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"Do You Need Some?," written by Matt Mercado, performed by Mind Bomb, courtesy of Mercury Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"When You Come Back," written by Kevin Kinney, Tim Nielson, Jeff Sullivan, Buren Fowler, performed by Drivin' 'N' Cryin', courtesy of Island Records, Inc.
"89 Lines," written by Tina Harris and Daniel O'Brien, performed by Daniel O'Brien
"Seven Days," written and performed by Hugh Harris, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license from CEMA Special Markets
"Playin' In The Dirt," written by Doug Amy and Robert Cray, performed by Heather Myles, courtesy of Hightone Records
"Lettuce And Vodka," written by Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Duke McVinnie, performed by X, courtesy of Big Life/Mercury Records
"I Love The World," written by Angelique Bianca, performed by The Indians, courtesy of Polydor Records, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
"Are You Strong Enough," written by Sheryl Crow, David Ricketts, Kevin Gilbert, Bill Bottrell, David Baerwald, Brian MacLeod, performed by Sheryl Crow, courtesy of A&M Records
"Come Home," written by David Thomas, Jim Jones, Tony Maimone, Scott Krauss, performed by Pere Ubu, courtesy of The Imago Recording Company
"Dive Bomber," written by Sean Dickson, performed by Soup Dragons, courtesy of Big Life/Mercury Records
"(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66," written by Bob Troup, performed by Asleep at the Wheel, courtesy of Liberty Records, under license from CEMA Special Markets
"Symphony No. 8 In F Major Op. 93," written by Ludwig Van Beethoven, courtesy of Promusic, Inc.
"Accelerator," written by Andrew Cairns, Fyfe Ewing, Michael McKeegan, performed by Therapy?, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.
"Freebird," written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
California
Release Date:
3 September 1993
Premiere Information:
Montreal World Film Festival premiere: late August 1993
Los Angeles opening: 3 September 1993
New York opening: week of 3 September 1993
Production Date:
began 11 May 1992
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Cameras and Lenses by Arriflex ARRI®
Duration(in mins):
117
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31952
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After writing a magazine article about serial killers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduate student Brian Kessler receives an advance for a book deal. Once the money runs out, Brian realizes he is short on ideas and agrees to move to California with his photographer girl friend, Carrie Laughlin. Also in Pittsburgh, factory worker Early Grayce lives with his waitress girl friend, Adele Corners, in a run-down trailer park. When Early loses his job, his parole officer instructs him to accept work as a college janitor, reminding him he cannot leave the state and will be sent back to prison if he fails to find employment. As Brian and Carrie prepare to move, Brian suggests they collaborate on his book and drive to visit the sites of several famous murders on the way to California. To save money on gasoline, he posts a listing for someone to share the ride across the country, and Early responds. After speaking to Early on the telephone, Brian picks him and Adele up at the bus station and they begin their journey. Back at the trailer park, police find the charred remnants of Early’s home with the body of his landlord recently buried in the backyard. In Tennessee, the travelers stop at an estate where a family was once slaughtered. As Brian speaks to the homeowner, Early steals a purse by reaching through an open window. When they are denied access to the house, they stop for dinner. Carrie is disgusted by Early’s lack of manners and suspects he will be unable to pay for the remainder of the trip. The next morning, Adele emerges from her motel room with short hair, explaining that Early cut ... +


After writing a magazine article about serial killers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduate student Brian Kessler receives an advance for a book deal. Once the money runs out, Brian realizes he is short on ideas and agrees to move to California with his photographer girl friend, Carrie Laughlin. Also in Pittsburgh, factory worker Early Grayce lives with his waitress girl friend, Adele Corners, in a run-down trailer park. When Early loses his job, his parole officer instructs him to accept work as a college janitor, reminding him he cannot leave the state and will be sent back to prison if he fails to find employment. As Brian and Carrie prepare to move, Brian suggests they collaborate on his book and drive to visit the sites of several famous murders on the way to California. To save money on gasoline, he posts a listing for someone to share the ride across the country, and Early responds. After speaking to Early on the telephone, Brian picks him and Adele up at the bus station and they begin their journey. Back at the trailer park, police find the charred remnants of Early’s home with the body of his landlord recently buried in the backyard. In Tennessee, the travelers stop at an estate where a family was once slaughtered. As Brian speaks to the homeowner, Early steals a purse by reaching through an open window. When they are denied access to the house, they stop for dinner. Carrie is disgusted by Early’s lack of manners and suspects he will be unable to pay for the remainder of the trip. The next morning, Adele emerges from her motel room with short hair, explaining that Early cut it for her. When they stop for gas, Early stabs a man in the bathroom while Adele tells Carrie that he occasionally beats her for using crude language, drinking, and behaving in ways he finds inappropriate. That evening, Brian and Early drop their girl friends at the hotel before going to a local bar to play billiards. Adele suggests they all move into a house together once they reach California. Carrie is uncomfortable with the idea, but feels bad for Adele and offers to fix her scraggly haircut. When she confronts Adele about Early’s violent behavior, the younger woman explains she was raped as a girl and thinks of Early as her protector, despite the fact that he has served jail time for carrying a gun and resisting arrest. At the bar, an unruly patron starts a fight with Early, who retaliates by violently kicking him. Upon their return to the motel, Carrie’s uneasiness increases when she learns Early told Brian he was arrested for stealing a car, and believes he may be lying about something worse. The next day, Carrie notices a gun tucked inside Early’s bag. They pull over so Early can show Brian how to fire and insists he keep the weapon. In Mt. Juliet, Texas, Early and Adele stay in the car as Brian and Carrie inspect a slaughterhouse. Still fixated on Early’s delinquency, Carrie berates Brian for becoming friendly with him and admits she only agreed to take photographs for his book so they would leave for California. As she storms away, she notices Carrie and Early having sex in the backseat of the car and stops to secretly take a picture. When Early notices her, she runs back to Brian and proclaims she will leave unless he agrees to abandon their companions. At the next gas station, Carrie goes inside the shop and sees a television news report naming Early as a murder suspect. Early rushes inside and holds Carrie and the attendant hostage while he robs the cash register. After killing the attendant with a shotgun, Early drags the screaming Carrie back to the car and instructs Adele to continue driving toward California. The next day, Early insists they stop at a murder site in Nevada, where he and Brian tour an abandoned mine. As Brian attempts to psychoanalyze Early’s motives, passing police officers identify their vehicle and instruct Carrie and Adele to step away from the car with their arms raised. Early appears, fatally shooting one officer and injuring the other. He attempts to convince Brian to kill the man, but Brian refuses. Later, Early holds Carrie and Brian hostage inside the home of an elderly couple named Musgrave. After he murders the husband, Adele secretly allows the bereft Mrs. Musgrave to leave the house and begs her boyfriend to stop hurting people. Carrie unties herself and screams for Adele, who lies dead on the patio. Sparing Brian’s life, Early knocks him unconscious and forces Carrie back into the car. Meanwhile, Mrs. Musgrave returns to find Brian still alive and lets him borrow her truck. He chases Carrie and Early to the Dreamland Nuclear Test Range on the California—Nevada border. In his haste, Brian swerves off the dusty road and crashes the truck, falling unconscious again. Inside a house, Carrie stabs Early with a shard of glass and attempts to escape, but he handcuffs her to a bed and assaults her. At sunrise, Brian knocks Early unconscious with a shovel and finds Carrie in the bedroom, unable to speak. Early revives and stabs Brian with a knife, but Brian grabs Early’s fallen gun and shoots him in the head. Sometime later, Carrie and Brian move into a house on the California coast. When Carrie announces that a gallery is interested in her work, Brian takes her to lunch to celebrate. They leave together, abandoning a display of photographs from their trip and letting a tape recording of Adele play over the cassette player. +

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.