'Airplane!' Cast and Crew Dish on Hilarious Movie to A.V. Club
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In an alternate universe, “Airplane!” may have just starred Bruce Jenner and Sigourney Weaver.
That is just a modicum of the insanely entertaining tidbits gleaned from the A.V. Club’s oral history of the 1980 movie, corralled by the publication’s Will Harris.
It seems “Airplane!” turns 35 years young this summer, so it’s fortuitous that A.V. Club decided to bring the band back together to examine some truly historic hilarity.
When you head on over you will get a play-by-play of the movie from its inception to its filming thanks to various cast and crew who decided to speak to A.V. Club.
Below are just a couple of our favorite sections. In total, Harris spoke with writers/directors Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker.
You will also get some nice anecdotes from crew, including the likes of Robert Hays, Frank Ashmore, and Maureen McGovern.
In all, the discussion will have you once again quoting unforgettable lines:
When discussing the budding cast, the filmmakers dropped a couple of bombs we never knew about the film.
David Zucker proclaimed, “You know who came in to read for Ted Striker? Bruce Jenner came in to read.”
That’s followed by a lengthy story on David Letterman coming in to read for the same featured part — although it’s noted that Letterman never seemed interested in landing it.
As for the genteel and gracious Elaine Dickinson, a very A-list modern celebrity tested, via Jerry Zucker: “When we were casting for the role of Elaine, we were doing auditions at Paramount in New York, and a number of people came in, one of which was Sigourney Weaver, actually.”
As it turns out, the actress who won fame with “Alien” didn’t want to utter a, well, naughty line during the audition.
What makes this movie work so well is, aside from the brilliant Stephen Stucker, there isn’t a whole lot of silly acting. The comedy comes through some over-the-top deadpan delivery.
And that’s true for everybody, especially Leslie Nielsen who absolutely shines with the most sober of portrayals.
What we learned is that Nielsen was fond of delivering lines with a peculiar humor machine. Hays tells the story of trying to read lines through the legendary actor’s "fart machine" pranks:
Hays stated: “But the one that got me most of all was when I go into the cockpit and say, ‘Both pilots?’ and Leslie says, ‘Mr. Striker, can you land this plane?’ It cuts to a close-up of me, and my line is, ‘I flew single-engine fighters in the war, but this plane has four engines. It’s an entirely different kind of flying altogether!’ And it cuts to them, and — all together — they say, ‘It’s an entirely different kind of flying.’ And then it cuts back to me for a reaction that’s, like, ‘What was that?’ Like, ‘Something strange just happened. Why did they do that?’ Because I was always reacting to these weird things going on around me. But all the time the close-up was on me, Leslie was saying, ‘Mr. Striker.’ [Fart sound.] ‘Can you…’ [Fart sound.] ‘…fly this plane?’ [Fart sound.] And I had to keep a straight face through all of that!’”
Again, this is all just a small iota of the treasures you can find in the entire A.V. Club oral history article.
A movie that ages rather well puts another candle on the proverbial cake. It’s the perfect time to reflect on some tremendous casting, hilarious acting, and a film that still makes the sides hurt.
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