Our first film in the series is the 1986 high school dramedy, Lucas, written and directed by David Seltzer. Lucas tells the story of an intelligent outcast (played by Corey Haim) who becomes friends with a pretty, slightly older girl, Maggie (Kerri Green, best known from The Goonies), whom has just moved to town. They spend most of the summer together becoming friends. When school starts up again, Lucas is picked on but he has a protector in Cappie (Charlie Sheen), the quarterback of the school football team and seems to be happier because of his new summer friend. Things start to change when Cappie breaks up with his girlfriend and starts to notice Maggie. Lucas is crushed by this and decides in order to impress Maggie, he is going to join the football team.
For those who perhaps haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending, and while all this might sound very “movie of the week”, what sets Lucas apart is its refreshingly realistic depiction of what it is like to be a teenager. The dialog feels authentic, and the characters actually talk like teens do. Performances in the film are especially strong from all leads and side characters (especially the late Haim and from Kerri Green). Their friendship seems genuine, and drives the movie all the way through until the climatic hospital scene. This film also has a distinction of introducing us to a then 13-year-old, Winona Ryder. Jeremy Piven and Courtney-Thorne Smith also have small roles.
Perhaps because of being realistic and not including sex or drugs, which many of the teen films of the time did, Lucas did not set the box office on fire. But thanks to video and cable TV (that’s how I first saw it), the film did obtain a cult following, though it sometimes seems to be overlooked in comparison to other teen films of the time (such as the John Hughes films). But I think as time has passed it has only been kind to the film, it still feels as authentic and real as when I saw it for the first time. So if you’re ever feeling nostalgic for your time in high school, thinking about a first crush, or just love the 80s, I highly suggest giving Lucas a watch.
A CHAT WITH DIRECTOR/WRITER DAVID SELTZER.
I were very fortunate to have writer/director David Seltzer speak with me over the phone recently to talk about the making of Lucas. (Please note my voice recorder took a nap before we began so some of this is slightly paraphrased)
MH: Before Lucas you were best known for writing the screenplay for The Omen and other genre features, what gave you the idea for Lucas?
David Seltzer: Well, I never really like to do the same thing twice. While there were Omen sequels, I was not involved in the making of those. But what inspired Lucas was my love of kids. I have several of my own, and I just loved they way they talk and think. I wanted to make an authentic film featuring teens in the story, and this one was different from the time because it featured no sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
MH: The character of Lucas is written with such heart behind him, did you know anyone like Lucas in real life?
DS: I was Lucas (laughs) – it was a very autobiographical story. I was definitely the outcast looking for bugs in the fields. I also went out for the football team, but instead of making the team like in the film I was laughed out of the tryouts. But I became the manager of the team, essentially the water boy. A lot of things that happened in the film happened in real life, and the most interesting thing was I went back and filmed it at the school I attended.
MH: Speaking of production, can you tell us a little bit about how the shoot went, budget, ect.
DS: Well, I think we did it for a couple hundred thousand dollars, to save on costs and labor we shot it in the Chicago area. It was about a 40 day shoot, we got a little over schedule initially, about a week behind, but other than that it was a very modest low key production, hard working cast and crew. A lot of the perks you get on most productions were not here, such as I had Corey Haim living with me at my house most of the time while filming.
MH: I thought the performances in this film were great even though most of the cast was young, what was it like to work with them?
DS: The kids were amazing and all had great talents. They were an intelligent bunch and were people who would listen. I liked to work with the actors knowing they would walk away from it doing the best work they could do. Kerri Green in particular had great talent but she bowed to her parents demands at the time and went to college, so she kind of fell out of that spotlight. But she is very much a soccer mom now living in upstate New York and we talk from time to time. Charlie Sheen, who was probably only in one television movie before this, was amazing and definitely had that Charlie Sheen thing going for him that got him noticed throughout the production. I remember Corey Haim and Winona Ryder having great chemistry together, and after production Haim bought her a giant ring and proposed marriage even though they were 14 and 13 at the time.
MH: Care to comment on the short life of Corey Haim?
DS: It was a terrible, terrible shame; he unfortunately had all the earmarks of someone who would wander off the path. He was extremely insecure and being a movie star was bad for him and unfortunately he got hooked on drugs at a very young age. Over the years I had many conversations with him and I felt sorry for him. But he was a great person and talent, its just a shame he’s not around today.
MH: When the movie was released it did not set the box office on fire but it had its supporters such as Roger Ebert and became a cult hit on video and cable. Why do you think the movie took a bit to connect with audiences?
DS: I recall that Rupert Murdoch had just taken over Fox at the time. I remember screening the film for the executives and him saying “Let’s not make another movie like this”. So the problem was, there was not much publicity or advertising from Fox, and they buried it. So it didn’t get a huge audience and by time all these great reviews for the film came out, it was already pulled from a lot of the theatres. But I am glad the movie did find an audience on video and tv, and another interesting thing was whenever I would be up for another job or spoke with an executive around town, they would have such wonderful things to say about the film, seems like a lot of the executives were once like Lucas themselves.
MH: How does it feel knowing your film is available now to audiences of all ages at the click of a button?
DS: It feels good, the worse thing imaginable is having your film not seen, so what’s great about sites like Netflix is it almost becomes a living archive of your work and it is very gratifying!
MH: Any future projects coming up?
DS: Well for a while I had limited opportunities, but we just wrapped production on an HBO film I wrote called, Cinema Verite, which should be on the air before the year is out. Working on that film has given me a lift. I have other things in the works such as another screenplay, a Bollywood film, and a pilot or two!
Our next film in the series will be Sandor Stern’ s overlooked Psych-Thriller Pin.