This Boy's Life (1993)

R | 115 mins | Biography, Drama | 9 April 1993

Writer:

Robert Getchell

Producer:

Art Linson

Cinematographer:

David Watkin

Editor:

Jim Clark

Production Designer:

Stephen J. Lineweaver

Production Company:

Northwest Productions
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HISTORY

The movie ends with an epilogue about each of the main characters:
       “Dwight stayed in Concrete and died in 1992.”
       “Skipper, Norma and Pearl settled in Seattle and raised families of their own.”
       “Arthur moved to Italy and became a successful businessman.”
       “Caroline remarried happily and lives in Florida.”
       “Tobias Wolff was expelled from Hill School, entered the army and did a tour of duty in Vietnam. An award-winning author of novels and short stories, he lives with his family in upstate New York, where he is a professor of literature at Syracuse University. THIS BOY’S LIFE is his story.”
       This Boy’s Life is a coming-of-age story based on Tobias Wolff’s memoir of the same name about life with his abusive stepfather in a small 1950s town. Shortly after the book’s publication in 1989, Peter Guber, then head of Guber-Peters Productions based at Warner Bros. Pictures, bought the screen rights, the 4 Apr 1993 LAT reported. After Guber left to head up Sony Pictures Entertainment, Art Linson took over as producer, but Guber is listed in end credits as executive producer, along with his producing partner, Jon Peters.
       Warner Bros. was not especially eager to produce the film, considering it not commercially viable due to its child-abuse storyline and overall downbeat nature. However, director Michael Caton-Jones insisted it was the film he wanted to do, and the studio agreed due to Caton-Jones’s impressive directorial track record.
       Shortly after Guber purchased the rights, screenwriter Robert Getchell contacted him wanting to write the script. Getchell had previously written a screen adaptation of Tobias Wolff’s older brother Geoffrey Wolff’s 1979 memoir The Duke of Deception, ... More Less

The movie ends with an epilogue about each of the main characters:
       “Dwight stayed in Concrete and died in 1992.”
       “Skipper, Norma and Pearl settled in Seattle and raised families of their own.”
       “Arthur moved to Italy and became a successful businessman.”
       “Caroline remarried happily and lives in Florida.”
       “Tobias Wolff was expelled from Hill School, entered the army and did a tour of duty in Vietnam. An award-winning author of novels and short stories, he lives with his family in upstate New York, where he is a professor of literature at Syracuse University. THIS BOY’S LIFE is his story.”
       This Boy’s Life is a coming-of-age story based on Tobias Wolff’s memoir of the same name about life with his abusive stepfather in a small 1950s town. Shortly after the book’s publication in 1989, Peter Guber, then head of Guber-Peters Productions based at Warner Bros. Pictures, bought the screen rights, the 4 Apr 1993 LAT reported. After Guber left to head up Sony Pictures Entertainment, Art Linson took over as producer, but Guber is listed in end credits as executive producer, along with his producing partner, Jon Peters.
       Warner Bros. was not especially eager to produce the film, considering it not commercially viable due to its child-abuse storyline and overall downbeat nature. However, director Michael Caton-Jones insisted it was the film he wanted to do, and the studio agreed due to Caton-Jones’s impressive directorial track record.
       Shortly after Guber purchased the rights, screenwriter Robert Getchell contacted him wanting to write the script. Getchell had previously written a screen adaptation of Tobias Wolff’s older brother Geoffrey Wolff’s 1979 memoir The Duke of Deception, about their con man father Arthur “Duke” Wolff. Although the film based on The Duke of Deception was never produced, Getchell found the brothers’ stories fascinating and was eager to adapt the younger brother’s memoir. Geoffrey Wolff’s name was changed to “Gregory” in the film adaptation of This Boy’s Life.
       Tobias Wolff also insisted that his mother’s name, Rosemary, be changed to “Caroline” in the film after Getchell created scenes that were not in his book to show marital discord between his mother and stepfather. Tobias Wolff told the 4 Apr 1993 NYT that adding those scenes transformed the true story into a work of fiction. However, upon seeing the finished film, Wolff was pleased and conceded that his mother would likely be upset that he had changed her name in the film.
       This Boy’s Life marked the feature film debut for actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who played “Toby” and was seventeen years old at the time of filming. Actress Debra Winger was originally slated to star as “Caroline,” but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, the 25 Nov 1991 People magazine reported. Winger was replaced by actress Ellen Barkin.
       Actor Robert De Niro, who played the abusive stepfather “Dwight,” consulted extensively with Tobias Wolff in preparation for the role. However, De Niro opted not to contact the real-life Dwight, who died just a few weeks before filming began.
       Principal photography got underway on 23 Feb 1992 in Vancouver, Canada, according to the 16 Mar 1992 Var production chart. Dwight’s rundown house was built in the woods outside Vancouver and served as the film’s primary set. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate the film also shot for ten days in Concrete, WA, where film crews returned the tiny town’s main street to the way it looked in the 1950s. Additional scenes were shot in Moab and Salt Lake City, UT.
       This Boy’s Life opened in limited release on 9 Apr 1993, and expanded to more theaters in late Apr. Two months into its release, the film had taken in $4.1 million, according to the 8 Jun 1993 DV box office report.



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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1993
p. 2, 14.
Daily Variety
8 Jun 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1993
p. 6, 17.
Los Angeles Times
4 Apr 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1993
p. 1.
New York Times
4 Apr 1993.
---
New York Times
9 Apr 1993
p. 10.
People
25 Nov 1991.
---
Variety
16 Mar 1992.
---
Variety
22 Mar 1993
p. 50.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. Presents
An Art Linson Production
A Michael Caton-Jones Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
Key 2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir -- Washington
2d 2d asst dir
3d asst dir
DGC trainee
Unit prod mgr, Utah unit
2d asst dir, Utah unit
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
B cam op
Chief lighting tech
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Cond/Orch
Mus supv
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd eff
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Ass sd ed
Asst sd ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Eff ed
Prod mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Foley ed
Foley mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
Title des
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hair and makeup for Mr. De Niro
Hairstylist for Ms. Barkin
Makeup for Ms. Barkin
Hairstylist for Mr. DiCaprio
Wig consultant
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Canadian casting
Asst to Michael Caton-Jones
Prod coord
Prod coord
Prod secy
Asst to Mr. De Niro
Asst to Ms. Barkin
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Loc mgr
Loc mgr -- Washington
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Casting asst
Canadian casting asst
Craft service/First aid
Scr supv, Utah unit
Loc mgr, Utah unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book This Boy's Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff (New York, 1989).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Let’s Get Away From It All,” written by Tom Adair and Matt Dennis, performed by Frank Sinatra, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Blue Monday,” written by Dave Bartholomew and Antoine Domino, performed by Fats Domino, courtesy of EMI Records Group/EMI Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“I’m Not A Juvenile Delinquent,” written by Morris Levy, performed by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, courtesy of Rhino Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
+
SONGS
“Let’s Get Away From It All,” written by Tom Adair and Matt Dennis, performed by Frank Sinatra, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Blue Monday,” written by Dave Bartholomew and Antoine Domino, performed by Fats Domino, courtesy of EMI Records Group/EMI Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“I’m Not A Juvenile Delinquent,” written by Morris Levy, performed by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, courtesy of Rhino Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Smile,” written by Charles Chaplin, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, performed by Nat King Cole, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Summertime Blues,” written by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart, performed by Eddie Cochran, courtesy of EMI Records Group/EMI Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Twitchy,” written by Willie Joe Duncan, performed by Rene Hall Orchestra featuring Willie Joe, courtesy of Fantasy Records
“Real Wild Child,” written by Johnny O’Keefe, Johnny Greenan and Dave Owens, performed by Ivan, courtesy of MCA Records
“Bye Bye Love,” written by Boudleaux Bryant and Felice Bryant, performed by The Everly Brothers, courtesy of Barnaby Records Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc./Original Sound Entertainment
“Perfidia,” written by Alberto Dominguez, performed by The Ventures, courtesy of EMI Records Group/EMI Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Mi Casa Su Casa,” written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, performed by Perry Como, courtesy of RCA Records, label of BMG Music
“Bongo Rock,” written by Preston Epps and Arthur Egnoian, performed by Preston Epps, courtesy of Original Sound Entertainment Record Co. Inc., by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment/Celebrity Licensing Inc.
“The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise,” written by Eugene Lockhart and Ernest Seitz, performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Rawhide,” written by Milton Grant and Fred L. Wray, performed by Link Wray and The Wraymen, courtesy of Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“You Belong To Me,” written by Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart and Chilton Price, performed by Gene Vincent, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“I’m Sorry,” written by Ronnie Self and Dub Allbritten, performed by Brenda Lee, courtesy of MCA Records
“Teach Me Tonight,” written by Sammy Cahn and Gene de Paul, performed by The De Castro Sisters, courtesy of MCA Records
“C’mon Everybody,” written by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart, performed by Eddie Cochran, courtesy of EMI Records Group/EMI Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Magic Moments," written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, performed by Perry Como, courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Music
“Moonlight Bay,” written by Percy Wenrich and Edward Madden
“Because,” written by Edward Teschemacher and Guy d’Hardelot
I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
“Laughing Polka,” written by Myron Floren and Curt Ramsey.
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DETAILS
Release Date:
9 April 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 April 1993
Production Date:
began 23 February 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, LP
Copyright Date:
31 August 1993
Copyright Number:
PA625502
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® cam by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32126
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In October 1957, thirteen-year-old Toby Wolff and his mother, Caroline Wolff, drive from Florida to Utah, fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Roy. Caroline’s exuberance at their freedom is infectious and the two dream of getting rich. After they arrive in Salt Lake City, Caroline’s old Nash Rambler automobile breaks down and she opts to abandon it and move on – Caroline’s preferred method for dealing with all her problems. Five years ago, Toby’s father, “Duke” Wolff, and Caroline divorced. Duke married a rich woman and took his oldest son, Gregory, with him, but left Toby behind with Caroline. Toby has not heard from his father or brother in years, but still has fantasies of his father coming to rescue him. Toby has been a problem child, but promises to do well in school and not get into any trouble. However, a mere two weeks after enrolling in his new school, Toby is twice sent to the principal’s office. With no idea how to deal with the situation, Caroline goes to bed, leaving Toby to prepare his own dinner. Caroline’s boyfriend, Roy, tracks them down in Salt Lake City, bringing Toby a Winchester .22 rifle as a present. Roy has been in town watching them for a week before making contact, but plans to get a job as a mechanic so they can be a family again. The next day, Roy sits in his car outside the department store where Caroline works, watching her. Panicking at the idea of again living with Roy, Caroline and Toby pack their bags and take a bus to Seattle, Washington, choosing that city over Phoenix, Arizona, because the Seattle bus is leaving immediately. Once settled ... +


In October 1957, thirteen-year-old Toby Wolff and his mother, Caroline Wolff, drive from Florida to Utah, fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Roy. Caroline’s exuberance at their freedom is infectious and the two dream of getting rich. After they arrive in Salt Lake City, Caroline’s old Nash Rambler automobile breaks down and she opts to abandon it and move on – Caroline’s preferred method for dealing with all her problems. Five years ago, Toby’s father, “Duke” Wolff, and Caroline divorced. Duke married a rich woman and took his oldest son, Gregory, with him, but left Toby behind with Caroline. Toby has not heard from his father or brother in years, but still has fantasies of his father coming to rescue him. Toby has been a problem child, but promises to do well in school and not get into any trouble. However, a mere two weeks after enrolling in his new school, Toby is twice sent to the principal’s office. With no idea how to deal with the situation, Caroline goes to bed, leaving Toby to prepare his own dinner. Caroline’s boyfriend, Roy, tracks them down in Salt Lake City, bringing Toby a Winchester .22 rifle as a present. Roy has been in town watching them for a week before making contact, but plans to get a job as a mechanic so they can be a family again. The next day, Roy sits in his car outside the department store where Caroline works, watching her. Panicking at the idea of again living with Roy, Caroline and Toby pack their bags and take a bus to Seattle, Washington, choosing that city over Phoenix, Arizona, because the Seattle bus is leaving immediately. Once settled in Seattle, Caroline begins dating a mechanic named Dwight Hansen, who seems to be a perfect gentleman: he brings her flowers before each date, lights her cigarette and tells jokes that amuse her friends. When Toby says he prefers to be called “Jack,” after his favorite author, Jack London, Dwight obliges, even though no one else does. Over Thanksgiving, Caroline and Toby visit Dwight’s home in the small town of Concrete, Washington, about an hour northeast of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains. The visit goes well as they meet Dwight’s three children, teenagers Norma and Skipper, and ten-year-old Pearl. Dwight takes Caroline to a turkey shoot where she scores much higher than he does, something that irritates him greatly, but he tries to hide it. Toby begins shoplifting and hanging out with pranksters at school. When he is suspended for two weeks after carving a vulgar word on the bathroom wall, Caroline sends Toby to live with Dwight in Concrete, hoping he can serve as an adult male role model in her son’s life. However, Dwight becomes a strict disciplinarian, saying that it is his job to turn Toby’s life around and he will not stand for Toby’s “hot shot” routine. Dwight takes Toby to the barber, replacing his stylish “duck tail” haircut with a crew cut. To help teach him discipline, Dwight enrolls Toby in the Boy Scouts, gets him a $55-a-week job delivering newspapers every afternoon, and buys him two barrels of horse chestnuts to hull every night. Soon after, Dwight and Caroline are married, but once she moves into the house, Dwight’s façade of being a gentleman disappears. He drinks heavily, becomes angry and belligerent easily, no longer lights Caroline’s cigarettes and is unconcerned about whether their sex life is satisfactory to her. In school, Toby does poorly in gym class because he does not have the right shoes. When he asks for money from his paper route earnings to buy new gym shoes, Dwight refuses, saying he is saving that money for when Toby needs something important. Toby begs Caroline to intervene, but she refuses, explaining that she does not have the energy to run away again. She intends to make the best of the marriage and focus on the good things, advising Toby to do the same. One day after school, Toby and his friends see effeminate classmate, Arthur Gayle, someone they assume to be homosexual. Arthur greets them with insulting remarks, but when Toby calls him a “homo,” Arthur lunges at him and they tumble down the hill. Arthur hits Toby repeatedly, demanding he take the comment back, which Toby eventually does. Afterward, Dwight is proud that Toby fought Arthur and teaches him some fighting maneuvers and special punches. Sometime later, after a Boy Scout meeting, Toby and Arthur strike up a conversation and soon become friends. Arthur says neither he nor Toby belong in a boring, isolated town like Concrete and that his primary goal is to get out of town as soon as possible. He predicts that if Toby does not escape from Concrete as well, he will end up working at the cement factory or in the grocery store, an idea that frightens Toby. One day as the two happily play piano and sing songs together, Arthur looks lovingly at Toby and kisses him on the cheek. Toby does not respond and the two pretend it never happened. Dwight criticizes Toby continually, finding fault in everything he does, no matter how minor. Dwight’s anger turns to physical violence when he learns Toby took his car on a joyride and ran it into a ditch. Toby fantasizes about killing Dwight, but does not act on the notion. Dwight buys Toby a pure breed English bulldog. Unfortunately, the teenager wanted a collie and is enraged to learn Dwight sold Toby’s Winchester .22 rifle without his knowledge to pay for the bulldog. Two years later in 1960, Toby is in high school and hanging out with classmates who drink alcohol after school and routinely cause trouble. When Caroline announces she is going to volunteer for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign, Dwight orders her not to, but she does so, anyway. Toby takes home a report card on which his highest grade is a “C.” However he alters the grades before showing it to his parents. When Toby asks to copy Arthur’s math homework, Arthur refuses, but offers to show him how to do the problem. Toby responds with nasty, biting remarks, causing Arthur to comment how much Toby is beginning to sound like Dwight. Toby gets in contact with his brother Gregory, now a student at Princeton University. Gregory recommends he take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) as a first step toward getting into a preparatory school and eventually Princeton. Although Dwight belittles the idea, Toby goes to Seattle to take the SAT and does well. However, when Toby’s applications to prep schools arrive in the mail, Dwight throws them in the trash. When Toby finds them, Dwight makes excuses about saving his time since he has no chance of getting in. Angry, Caroline stands up to her husband, saying Dwight is so mean to others because he is scared someone else will get something he does not have. When the applications require two letters of recommendation from teachers, Toby decides to forge them. However, he panics learning he must send his official school transcript as part of the application. He begs Arthur, who works in the school office, to get him a blank transcript sheet, so he can forge an “A” for all his classes. Arthur initially refuses, asking why Toby should be the one who gets to leave Concrete, but eventually gives him the blank documents. When Toby is rejected by all of the prep schools, he accepts his fate and gets a job stocking shelves at the A&P grocery store, while still keeping his paper route. Soon after, a representative from the prestigious Hill School preparatory school near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, contacts Toby to set up an admissions interview. Toby does well in the interview, but lies throughout, giving the interviewer the impression that he has lead a sheltered life. After the interview, Dwight passes by on the sidewalk, making a few nasty remarks about Toby for the interviewer to hear. Toby pretends not to know Dwight. Sometime later, the Hill School telephones that Toby has been accepted with a $2,300 a year scholarship. Dwight makes disparaging remarks and picks a fight with Toby, slapping him repeatedly. Toby hits him back. Dwight kicks Toby and bites his fingers. The two tumble though the living room until Dwight pins Toby to the floor and chokes him. Caroline comes downstairs and hits Dwight with a baseball bat, telling him to get away from her son or she will kill him. Dwight releases Toby who demands his paper route money. Dwight tells him it was spent long ago on things the family needed. Dwight calls Caroline a “whore” and Toby urges her to leave with him. Caroline agrees and as they walk out, Dwight repeatedly cries, “What about me?” They run to the road and Toby puts his mother on a bus to safety.
+

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

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