The Sure Thing (1985)

PG-13 | 95 mins | Comedy | 1985

Director:

Rob Reiner

Producer:

Roger Birnbaum

Cinematographer:

Robert Elswit

Editor:

Robert Leighton

Production Designer:

Lilly Kilvert

Production Company:

Monument Pictures
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by Thor Dodson, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

On 24 Aug 1983, a Var news item stated that Rob Reiner was set to direct. According to a 24 Feb 1985 NYT article, Reiner was sent the script for The Sure Thing while his first theatrical film as a director, This Is Spinal Tap (1984, see entry), was still in production. Although Reiner was interested, he told NYT that he reworked the script with writers Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts to “make the film less hi-jinxy" and to “give the characters more depth.” Reiner noted that he distinguished the picture from other coming-of-age films by portraying sex as “sweet” and emphasizing the development of the lead characters’ relationship. NYT reported that Reiner inserted his fingerprint in the film by placing a poster for This Is Spinal Tap on a dorm room wall, and making two uncredited performances: dubbing his own voice for a cowboy singing “The Christmas Song” in a bar and speaking a line in the movie that “Walter ‘Gib’ Gibson” watches at a bus terminal.
       A 19 Aug 1983 HR news item announced that Monument Pictures, the feature film division of actor Henry Winkler’s company, Fair Dinkum, contracted with Embassy Pictures to produce The Sure Thing . Reiner had recently completed This Is Spinal Tap for Embassy and although HR reported ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by Thor Dodson, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

On 24 Aug 1983, a Var news item stated that Rob Reiner was set to direct. According to a 24 Feb 1985 NYT article, Reiner was sent the script for The Sure Thing while his first theatrical film as a director, This Is Spinal Tap (1984, see entry), was still in production. Although Reiner was interested, he told NYT that he reworked the script with writers Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts to “make the film less hi-jinxy" and to “give the characters more depth.” Reiner noted that he distinguished the picture from other coming-of-age films by portraying sex as “sweet” and emphasizing the development of the lead characters’ relationship. NYT reported that Reiner inserted his fingerprint in the film by placing a poster for This Is Spinal Tap on a dorm room wall, and making two uncredited performances: dubbing his own voice for a cowboy singing “The Christmas Song” in a bar and speaking a line in the movie that “Walter ‘Gib’ Gibson” watches at a bus terminal.
       A 19 Aug 1983 HR news item announced that Monument Pictures, the feature film division of actor Henry Winkler’s company, Fair Dinkum, contracted with Embassy Pictures to produce The Sure Thing . Reiner had recently completed This Is Spinal Tap for Embassy and although HR reported that both companies would produce The Sure Thing , Embassy is only credited as the film’s distributor. A 22 Feb 1985 NYT news brief reported that producer Roger Birnbaum, president of Monument, pursued Reiner because he was impressed by the demonstration reel Reiner created to pitch This Is Spinal Tap . (For more information about the reel, see the AFI Catalog entry for This Is Spinal Tap .) Birnbaum told NYT that the reel’s similarity to the completed picture demonstrated Reiner’s directorial talents.
       Birnbaum also noted that casting seventeen-year-old John Cusack in the lead role of Gib presented great challenges to the production. As a minor, Cusack was legally prohibited from working more than eight hours a day, which included four hours of tutorial. In order to avoid these restrictions, Cusack transferred to a different high school, enrolled in an accelerated class and graduated only a few days before production began.
       As noted in HR and Var , the film marked Bloom and Roberts’s debut as theatrically released, feature film writers. Roberts had recently published a NYT bestseller, The Official Preppy Handbook (1980). The 1 Mar 1985 LAT review stated that the film’s story was based on Bloom’s personal experience.
       According to 27 Mar 1984 HR production charts, principal photography began 5 Mar 1984, and locations included Stockton, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and New York. Studio production notes from AMPAS library files stated that 1984 had an unusually warm winter and it was difficult for the production to capture the snow-covered landscape required to distinguish the film’s Eastern college from its West Coast counterpart. However, several days before filming was set to begin in Stockton, a blizzard hit upstate New York and a second unit was sent to Ithaca to shoot the snowfall. At the University of the Pacific in Stockton, the local fire department sprayed a 500-yard radius of campus with fire-retardant foam to evoke snow. Agricultural areas surrounding the university were used as locations for the cross-country road trip because of their diverse terrains. Other locations included a fraternity at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a multi-million dollar beach house in Trancas Beach near Malibu, CA. A 1920s private residence in Los Angeles provided the location of a “country inn.” Due to the remote access of both properties, the filmmakers were required to rent adjacent lots to store their equipment.
       As reported in a 23 Oct 1984 DV news item, producer Robert Guralnick brought a $1 million lawsuit against Monument and Embassy for denying him a role as co-producer. Guralnick argued that after developing the script with Roberts and Bloom in 1982, he made an oral agreement to collaborate with Birnbaum in the film’s production, but Birnbaum violated their contract by making Winkler executive producer.
       The film was scheduled to screen at the opening reception of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) on 31 Oct 1984, according to a 29 Oct 1984 DV news item.
       The Sure Thing was released to generally positive reviews. Although many critics compared the film to Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934, see entry), Reiner told NYT on 24 Feb 1985 that he had never seen the picture and the similarities were unintentional.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1984.
---
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 1985
p. 3, 45.
Los Angeles Times
1 Mar 1985
P. 1, 14.
New York Times
22 Feb 1985.
---
New York Times
24 Feb 1985.
---
New York Times
1 Mar 1985
p. 12.
Variety
24 Aug 1983.
---
Variety
27 Feb 1985
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Rob Reiner Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Lamp op, Stockton
Key grip
Grip best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Asst to the art dept
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Scenic artist
Lead man
Set dresser
Asst painter
Asst prop
Const coord
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus supv
Asst mus ed
Mus coord
Mus rec eng
Mus rec at
Los Angeles
SOUND
Sd mixer
Post prod sd
Post prod sd, J's Fine Art
Post prod sd, J's Fine Art
Post prod sd, J's Fine Art
Post prod sd, J's Fine Art
Post prod sd, J's Fine Art
Post prod sd, J's Fine Art
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Custom looping coord by
Sd transfer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff asst
Main title des
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Extra casting
Continuity
Post prod coord/Asst to Rob Reiner & prods
Loc mgr, Los Angeles
Loc mgr, Stockton
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Prod coord
Unit pub
Prod secy, Los Angeles
Prod secy, Stockton
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Secy to Mr. Birnbaum
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Craft service, Los Angeles
Craft service, Stockton
Catering
Catering
Studio teacher
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timing
SOURCES
SONGS
"'Infatuation' (Main Title Song)," written by Rod Stewart, Duane S. Hitchings and Roland Robinson, performed by Rod Stewart, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by Rod Stewart/Hitchings Music/Rowland Robinson Music
"The Heart of Rock & Roll," written by Johnny Colla and Huey Lewis, performed by Huey Lewis and The News, courtesy of Chrysalis Records, published by Hulex Music and Red Admiral Music, Inc.
"Two Sides of Love," written and performed by Sammy Hagar, courtesy of Geffen Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by WB Music Corp. and the Nine Music Co.
+
SONGS
"'Infatuation' (Main Title Song)," written by Rod Stewart, Duane S. Hitchings and Roland Robinson, performed by Rod Stewart, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by Rod Stewart/Hitchings Music/Rowland Robinson Music
"The Heart of Rock & Roll," written by Johnny Colla and Huey Lewis, performed by Huey Lewis and The News, courtesy of Chrysalis Records, published by Hulex Music and Red Admiral Music, Inc.
"Two Sides of Love," written and performed by Sammy Hagar, courtesy of Geffen Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by WB Music Corp. and the Nine Music Co.
"Party All Night," written by Kevin DuBrow, performed by Quiet Riot, courtesy of Pasha/CBS Records, published by The Grand Pasha Publisher
"Tears," written by Vincent Cusano and Adam Mitchell, performed by John Waite, courtesy of EMI America Records, published by Ten Speed Music, Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Streetbeat Music
"Concealed Weapons," written by Seth and Paul Justman, performed by The J. Geils Band, courtesy of EMI America Records, published by Center City Music and Last Licks Music
"The Age of Aquarius," written by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Arthur Terence Galt MacDermot, used by permission of CBS U Catalog, Inc., All rights reserved
"Button Up Your Overcoat," written by Ray Henderson, Lew Brown and B.G. DeSylva, used by permission of Chappell Music/Carlin/Redwood
"Feelings," written by Morris Albert, used by permission of Fermata International Melodies, Inc.
"Heartache Tonight," written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bob Seger and J. D. Souther, performed by The Eagles, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by Cass County Music, Gear Publishing Col, Ice Age Music and Red Cloud Music
"The Fast One," written and performed by J. D. Souther, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by WB Music Corp. and Golden Spread Music
"'The Christmas Song' (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells, used by permission of Edwin H. Morris & Co., a division of MPL Communications, Inc.
"You Might Think," written by Ric Ocasek, performed by The Cars, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by Ric Ocasek, world wide administration rights controlled by Lido Music, Inc.
"Dance Hall Days," written by Jack Hues, performed by Wang Chung, courtesy of Geffen Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by Chang Music Ltd., controlled by Warner-Tamerlane Music Publishing Corp.
"Penny Lover," written by Lionel Richie and Brenda-Harvey Richie, performed by Lionel Richie, courtesy of Motown Records, published by Brockman Music
"Lights Out," written by Peter Wolf and Don Covay, performed by Peter Wolf, courtesy of EMI America Records, published by Pal-Park Music and Ze'ev Music
"Just Because," written by Marco Tobaly, Robert Fitoussi and Michael Wendroff, performed by Ray Charles, courtesy of Crossover Record Co., published by Seldok Music Corp., Doksel Music Corp., Victozzo Music and Talisman Music.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1985
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 1 Mar 1985
Production Date:
began 5 Mar 1984
Copyright Claimant:
Embassy Films Associates
Copyright Date:
15 April 1985
Copyright Number:
PA255320
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by DeLuxe Laboratories®
Lenses/Prints
Cameras and lenses supplied by Otto Nemenz International; Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27534
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a party, recent high school graduate Walter “Gib” Gibson unsuccessfully propositions several girls and complains to his friend, Lance, that he has lost his touch. Lance, who is heading to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), consoles Gib that college girls are more willing to have sex, but warns that the intellectual girls at Gib’s East Coast, Ivy League school are uptight. Sometime later, Gib writes to Lance and reports that he has been ineffective at finding a mate. In an English class, Gib sits next to Alison Bradbury, who takes copious notes as Professor Taub returns a writing assignment. After chiding Gib about his whimsical yet sloppy essay about pizza consumption, Professor Taub tells Alison that her paper lacks personality and suggests that she lighten up. The eccentric professor declares that in order to write well, one must experience life to its fullest. Later, as Gib plays football, Alison walks by with a friend who comments that Gib is cute, but when Gib eyes Alison, his teammate says she will only go out with him out of pity because he is failing English. Inspired, Gib follows Alison to an indoor pool and asks her to be his tutor. Although Alison ignores him, Gib describes the destitute future that awaits him if he fails school, and falls into the water. Soaking wet, Gib waits for Alison and, after checking her appointment book, she agrees to tutor him that evening. As Gib gets ready, his roommate writes a vulgar love letter and advises Gib to proposition Alison with a sentimental declaration of love, but Gib thinks it ... +


At a party, recent high school graduate Walter “Gib” Gibson unsuccessfully propositions several girls and complains to his friend, Lance, that he has lost his touch. Lance, who is heading to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), consoles Gib that college girls are more willing to have sex, but warns that the intellectual girls at Gib’s East Coast, Ivy League school are uptight. Sometime later, Gib writes to Lance and reports that he has been ineffective at finding a mate. In an English class, Gib sits next to Alison Bradbury, who takes copious notes as Professor Taub returns a writing assignment. After chiding Gib about his whimsical yet sloppy essay about pizza consumption, Professor Taub tells Alison that her paper lacks personality and suggests that she lighten up. The eccentric professor declares that in order to write well, one must experience life to its fullest. Later, as Gib plays football, Alison walks by with a friend who comments that Gib is cute, but when Gib eyes Alison, his teammate says she will only go out with him out of pity because he is failing English. Inspired, Gib follows Alison to an indoor pool and asks her to be his tutor. Although Alison ignores him, Gib describes the destitute future that awaits him if he fails school, and falls into the water. Soaking wet, Gib waits for Alison and, after checking her appointment book, she agrees to tutor him that evening. As Gib gets ready, his roommate writes a vulgar love letter and advises Gib to proposition Alison with a sentimental declaration of love, but Gib thinks it clichéd. As students party on campus, Gib arrives at Alison’s quiet dorm room, where she is ending a phone call with her boyfriend, Jason, a law student at UCLA. Promising to visit Jason over winter vacation, Alison tells her boyfriend that she loves him. At the library, Alison reads Gib’s paper aloud with disdain and, despite her reluctance, she follows Gib through a prohibited entry to the roof. Gib impresses Alison with his knowledge of astronomy and she warms to him, but when Gib recites his roommate’s speech, she knocks him over in anger and runs away. On Monday morning, Gib apologizes and Alison forgives him. However, Gib accidentally hands his roommate’s raunchy love note to Professor Taub and when she reads it out loud, Alison is disgusted. Sometime later, Gib receives a call from Lance, who invites his friend to California for winter vacation. When Gib hesitates, Lance promises to set him up with a beautiful blonde, The Sure Thing, and explains that she never refuses sex. Racing to the campus “Ride Board,” Gib finds a lift to Los Angeles, but when he gets in the car, he discovers Alison has responded to the same post so she can visit Jason. On the road, driver Gary Cooper and his girlfriend, Mary Ann Webster, sing show tunes while Gib and Alison sit silently in the backseat and Gib fantasizes about The Sure Thing. Later, a passenger in a passing truck flashes his naked bottom at the car and although Gib thinks it hilarious, Alison is offended. When Gib says Alison is repressed and berates her for lacking spontaneity, she takes off her shirt and leans out the window, exposing herself to another passing vehicle. After Gary is pulled over by a police officer and cited for multiple offenses, he throws the students’ luggage on the road and speeds away. Refusing to hitchhike, Alison storms off and forbids Gib to follow. Sometime later, Alison crosses paths with Gib and hesitantly agrees to his offer of beer and fried pork rinds, but they argue and she accepts a ride with a pickup truck driver. When the man tries to take advantage of her, Gib appears from the bed of the truck and scares the driver away by pretending to be a psychopath. At a bus station, Gib discovers he doesn’t have enough money for a ticket to Los Angeles, but he gives a vagrant some cash. Although Alison loans Gib some money, it is not enough for a ticket, and after she heads for the bus alone, she surprises him by returning to the station. Checking into a motel, Gib instructs Alison about drinking beer. Alison breaks away from an intimate moment to call Jason and report she will be arriving in Los Angeles late as Gib storms away in jealousy. At a bar, Gib again fantasizes about The Sure Thing and spends his remaining cash on drinks for locals, who join him in the incantation of Christmas songs. The next morning, Gib rushes Alison to get on the road. After stuffing Alison’s shirt with scarves so she appears pregnant, they are offered a ride, but when they arrive at a restaurant, Alison realizes she left her appointment book and cash at the motel. That night, they are caught in a rainstorm, but Alison discovers her father’s credit card and they find lodging at a fancy hotel. As they eat dinner, Gib tells Alison about his fascination with outer space and, later, Alison invites him to share the bed. When Gib inquires about Jason, she tells him their plans for the future. That night, Gib dreams about Alison instead of The Sure Thing. In the morning, Alison is pleased to find herself in Gib’s arms, but Gib pulls away. Later, Gib and Alison hitchhike with a truck driver heading to Los Angeles. Thinking that Alison is asleep, Gib tells the driver about The Sure Thing, but Alison wakes up and overhears the conversation. When they arrive at UCLA, Alison storms away in anger, telling Gib to enjoy The Sure Thing. As Alison settles into Jason’s dorm room and surprises her boyfriend by requesting beer instead of tea, Gib reunites with Lance at a fraternity house party. Alison hears the party and wants to go, but Jason is averse to parties. Meanwhile, Lance dresses Gib in festive Hawaiian garb and when Gib complains, Lance reflects that his friend has become more conservative. Seeing The Sure Thing arrive at the party, Gib confesses to Lance that he cannot go through with his plans to have sex with her, but when he notices Alison and Jason in the crowd, he decides to pursue The Sure Thing after all. On the dance floor, Alison and Gib eye one another dispassionately and at the punchbowl, they argue about each other’s sleeping habits. As Alison stomps out of the party, Gib takes The Sure Thing to Lance’s room. Later, in bed, Alison swears she did not make love to Gib, but when Jason asks Alison if she loves Gib, she is silent. Back on the East Coast, Professor Taub reads Gib’s story, “The Sure Thing,” to the class and Alison learns that he did not sleep with the girl because he had learned the true meaning of love. Alison tells Gib that she broke up with Jason and, later that night, they kiss for the first time on the library roof, underneath the stars. +

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

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