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Jimmy Reardon (RIVER PHOENIX, left) finds that he and his father (PAUL KOSLO, right) have more in common than they ever dreamed, in "A NIGHT IN THE LIFE OF JIMMY REARDON," a rambunctious comedy from Island Pictures, written and directed by William Richert.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS...
"Youth is much more serious than it is usually portrayed," observes WILLIAM RICHERT, who drew from his own early novel, written when he was 19 and published by David McKay in New York when he was 23, for "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon."
Born in Florida, Bill Richert attended twenty different grammar schools in almost as many states while growing up. The characters who inspired "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon" he knew during a rare two-year hiatus from moving in Evanston, Illinois, where he attended his senior year in high school.
After the publication of the novel, he became enamored with film-making. To begin, he got the idea of interviewing the daughters of U.S. Presidents, as an intimate view of history. He persuaded Margaret Truman, the Johnson girls, and even Julie and Tricia Nixon to speak candidly on film about their fathers. "60 Minutes" aired twelve minutes of the resulting footage, called "President's Daughters," in unusual circumstances in 1969. The rest was suppressed by the Nixon White House.
He then made a feature-length docudrama, "Derby" (1971), which received the Rosenthal Award from the New York Film Critics, and a year later, in 1972, created a ballet film, "First Position," with Natalia Makarova and Rudolf Nureyev and students of the American Ballet Theatre School.
But it was Milos Forman's "Loves of a Blonde," which he saw at the New York Film Festival, that really helped to catapult him into fiction filmmaking. "It wasn't like a Hollywood movie -- it was genuine," he says today. Then, he pursued the Czech director all the way to Paris, hoping to entice him into directing a script Richert had written. They never made that movie, but through Forman he met fellow Czech director Ivan Passer, with whom he formed a production company. Working under their own Leroy Street Productions banner, they collaborated in 1974 on "Law and Disorder," which Ricert produced -- a comedy about two middle-aged Brooklynites (Carroll O'Connor and Ernest Borgnine) who react to rising crime by becoming auxiliary policemen. The following year he contributed an uncredited rewrite to Passer's "Crime and Passion," a comedy thriller starring Omar Sharif and Karen Black.
In 1976 Richert wrote the screenplay of Richard Condon's bestseller, Winter Kills -- the beginning of a saga as incredible as the book's subject matter. Richert persuaded the producers to let him direct the film if he could put together an impressive cast. Without cash or contracts, he came to Hollywood and by sleight-of-hand signed Jeff Bridges and John Huston to play warring son and father, as well as Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Perkins and Toshiro Mifune, along with other unique performers. Additionally, he persuaded cinematographic whiz Vilmos Zsigmond and Robert Boyle, Hitchcock's brilliant production designer, to come aboard.
A few weeks before completion, shooting was halted due to non-payment of salaries and fees. By now it was obvious the producers had raised money from investors involved in just the sorts of illicit activity described in the novel -- but not enough. MGM impounded the negative, and two years would pass before Richert untangled the legal morass into which his beloved film had fallen. By the time he revved up again, one producer had been murdered and the other sentenced to forty years in prison for smuggling.
"Winter Kills" opened some months later to ecstatic reviews: "A rare talent" wrote the New York Times' Vincent Canby, and The New Yorker's Brendan Gill was equally laudatory: "It is like some intricately embroidered misadventure recounted by a superb, somewhat tipsy storyteller."
Despite critical hosannahs and excellent initial business, "Winter Kills" was not widely seen due to haphazard distribution. A similar fate befell "Success," the movie Richert made starring Jeff Bridges and Bianca Jagger, which was the hit of the Seattle Film Festival when shown there in 1983.
Disillusioned with mainstream marketing methods, in 1980 Richert together with former studio executive Claire Townsend created a releasing entity which they called The Invisible Studio. Under its aegis, both films were briefly revived in New York and Los Angeles.
In 1986 "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon" commenced shooting in a Chicago suburb. "Everything I've done is about the liberation of the inner being, about getting people out of the molds they seem to think they have to fit in order survive. The fact is, survival is threatened by those molds. As my friend Vincent Sheehan used to tell me, 'We're always in the process of becoming who we already are.'"
Richert is currently preparing his next film, "Will You Marry Me?"