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Eddie (RIVER PHOENIX) and Rose (LILI TAYLOR) are two outsiders drawn to each other in Warner Bros.' "DOGFIGHT."
About the Production...
Screenwriter and ex-Marine BOB COMFORT wrote "Dogfight" with some of his own experiences in mind. "Although I was never in Vietnam, some of my friends went and didn't come back; this was sort of a good-bye to them.
"I wanted to talk to teenagers who are lonely and have pimples and don't know what to do with themselves. Their parents don't understand them, they're not doing well in school, the chicks don't like them, and their car isn't very fast. Those are the kinds of people that end up dying for us--the poor and the black and the ignorant and the insecure.
"This is also about human relationships. It's the simplest story on Earth--it's about loneliness and love."
Comfort took his script to independent producer PETER NEWMAN, whom he had met years before at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. Newman, producer of such thought-provoking films as Spalding Gray's "Swimming to Cambodia" and Robert Altman's "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," was struck by the unconventional honesty of the story, and began the search for a director who could do it justice on the screen.
"I added Nancy Savoca's name to the list, although her film 'True Love' had not yet been released. Even at that time, the word was out that she was something special," says Newman.
Savoca's "True Love" would go on to be named one of the 10 best films of 1989 by both Vincent Canby and Janet Maslin of the New York Times.
She and her husband, RICH GUAY, who co-produced "True Love" and served as production auditor on such films as John Sayles' "Brother From Another Planet" and "Eight Men Out," met with Newman to discuss their ideas for the picture.
"Nancy was the most unpretentious, unaffected person I'd ever met. It was the most natural conversation I've ever had with anyone in the film business," Newman recalls.
"I was certain that Nancy would not sugarcoat Eddie Birdlace--a volatile and basically unsympathetic person--and that she'd resist the temptation to make him conform to movie conventions, which usually demand that characters must exhibit growth and dramatic change by the end of the film." Shortly afterward, both Savoca and Guay joined the project, as director and producer, respectively.
Says Savoca, "I don't understand why I got interested in this. In a way, it's something I've always avoided knowing about because I felt it was a very male world and I didn't get it. When I read the script and really liked it, I said, 'How could I? I'm going to be spending a year working on this project where the main character's a Marine?'
"There are movies afraid to show the dark side of someone--or ones that show only the dark side. What's interesting here is that both sides get combined, and then you start looking at the truth, somewhere in between. I've always been drawn to the contradictions in people."
Screenwriter Comfort agrees that the subject has its dark aspects, explaining, "The point I wanted to make with the dogfight is that it isn't funny. It's a very personal thing to find people you can make fun of and take advantage of them. Of course, in a larger sense, that's what society does to the Four B's too. The Marines themselves were looked at that way, as ugly people doing an ugly job. We were considered rejects by civilians; as Marines we were not allowed to deal with people on a human level."
River Phoenix adds, "The dogfight is terrible for everyone, the instigators and the victims. It's really not funny, it's sadistic."
Lili Taylor adds, "Rose goes out with Birdlace after the dogfight because she senses something special in him underneath the tough exterior. The film is about two young human beings trying, struggling to get over their rejections, their baggage. It's not about an outcome or a result; it's about a struggle."