Tuesday, 27 January 2015

80 From the 80s - The Lost Boys


The Lost Boys

Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire
Studio: Warner Bros. :::::::::: Release Date: 31st July 1987
Director: Joel Schumacher :::::::::: Starring: Jason Patric, Keifer Sutherland
Budget: $8.5M :::::::::: 2015 Equivalent: $17.9M
U.S Box Office: $32.2M :::::::::: 2015 Equivalent: $67.4M

When Michael and Sam move to Santa Carla with their mother, they’re all hoping for a new start. But when Michael falls in with a bad crowd who have a taste for blood, it’ll be left to Sam and the Frog Brothers to battle the creatures of the night and save Michael’s soul before its too late…


Back in the 1980s, vampires weren't cool. Horror films had taken a decidedly nasty turn, and while cannibals, zombies and werewolves were now the go-to villains, the vampire was relegated to bit player status, reserved for the art house (The Hunger) or for laughs (Love at First Bite). Films such as Lifeforce and Vamp put their own spin on the genre but they couldn't grab an audience. If blood suckers were going to survive the 80s, they needed a re-invention. In a vampire spin on Peter Pan and his lost boys, director Richard Donner was convinced he'd found it. 

By the mid-1980s, Richard Donner was a hugely successful director. He'd begun his career some thirty years earlier, initially as an actor before moving swiftly on to directing TV commercials. Like many veteran directors, he cut his teeth on episodic television, working on a number of major shows including The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Gilligan's Island and The Wild Wild West. His first feature credit was on the Charles Bronson-Mary Tyler Moore picture, X-51 (1961). It would be more than seven years before he'd direct another movie, this time the comedy caper Salt and Pepper, which was followed up by Lola, a romantic drama again featuring Charles Bronson and Susan George. However, it was a next picture, The Omen, which put him firmly on the map.

The terrifying story of a demonic child, The Omen was a financial and critical success, making over $60M off a budget of only $2.8M. Donner then moved onto Superman the Movie, arguably the first modern day take on the genre; setting up a template which almost every other superhero movie would follow. Despite having already shot a lot of footage, Donner was replaced by Richard Lester on Superman II (The story behind which would fill, and has filled, many column inches). Instead he would direct Inside Moves and the Richard Pryor comedy, The Toy, the former being largely forgotten and the latter being a hit in 1982. Three years later he was back with not one but two new movies, passion project Ladyhawke (which he had tried and failed to get off the ground a number of times) and 80s favourite, The Goonies. While Ladyhawke didn’t recoup its budget, The Goonies was a smash hit, becoming the ninth most successful movie of the year.

When he read the script for The Lost Boys, it seemed a natural progression - essentially being The Goonies as vampires, with the Frog Brothers as eight year old boy scouts. Psycho II director Richard Franklin had already passed on the project, but Donner could see the potential, and suggested making the characters older to open up further opportunities. Scriptwriter James Jeremias had been influenced initially by Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, in particular the tale of ageless child vampire, Claudia. Teaming up with friend Janis Fletcher, the duo were further taken by J M Barrie and envisaged the story as a reinterpretation of his classic, Peter Pan. They argued that Peter never aged, could fly, and only appeared to Wendy at night - it wasn't much of a stretch to believe he and his fellow lost boys were vampires. The first draft of the script even referred to them by names Barrie had used in his story - David was originally called Peter, and the names of John and Michael (Wendy's siblings) also appeared as fellow lost boys/vampires. Donner was interested in the project but another script had also caught his eye - Shane Black's Lethal Weapon. 

In the end, Donner would pass on The Lost Boys due to the slow pace at which progress was being made. He may also have been weary of working with kids again so soon after The Goonies (The director has stated a number of times that keeping the cast under control was harder than directing the picture itself). For whatever reason, The Lost Boys was now without someone at the helm - though Donner would stay on as producer while moving forward with Lethal Weapon. The studio was still keen on making the picture and hired newcomer Mary Lambert to take over the picture. Like many directors of the time, Lambert made her name on music videos, working with the likes of Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger and Madonna, for whom she shot Like a Virgin, La Isla Bonita and Material Girl (She would later create the controversial Like a Prayer video). It didn't take long for her to exit the project, citing creative differences. Richard Donner now looked to Joel Schumacher, a costume designer turned director he had met through his then-girlfriend Lauren Shuler, who'd produced his hit, St.Elmo's Fire.

Joel Schumacher was born in Long Island in 1939. Losing his father at a young age, and with a mother working more than she was at home, the young Schumacher led a very lonely life. Cinema was his primary escape, to such a degree that he would skip school to watch (or re-watch) whatever was showing at the theatre behind their apartment. He initially studied fashion but soon realised that film directing was what he wanted to do. Moving out to Los Angeles, he secured work as a costume designer on Play it as it Lays. This in turn led to him working with Woody Allen on Sleeper and Interiors, while also writing the scripts for Car Wash, The Wiz and Sparkle (which was remade in 2012). His directing career began with two TV movies - Virginia Hill and Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill, while his first theatrical feature would be the Lily Tomlin vehicle, The Incredible Shrinking Woman.

After helming the Mr.T comedy, D.C Cab, Schumacher turned his attention to writing (and later directing) St.Elmo's Fire, which launched or furthered the careers of a number of young actors, including Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Andrew McCarthy. Despite being something of a critical failure, the picture made good box office and the core group of actors became known as the Brat Pack, a phrase coined in a New York magazine article by David Blum. [The piece was seen by the group as being very negative, and the attention it brought led them to stop socializing with each other. Long term it would have a detrimental effect on their careers].

When Donner called Schumacher, he agreed to read the script. His first impression wasn't good and he almost turned it down, but he too could see the potential if the characters could be rewritten as young adults. Aiming for the same market that had made St Elmo's Fire a hit, Schumacher agreed to direct if he could get someone to re-write the script more in line with his vision. Schumacher hired Jeffery Boam, who had written The Dead Zone and Inner Space, as well as being an in-demand script doctor for Warner Bros. The duo upped the horror content and turned the character of Star into a girl (she was a young boy in the original version), thereby introducing a sexual element too. Boam was also responsible for creating the grandfather character, along with supplying the names of Edgar and Alan for the Frog Brothers (after fabled horror writer, Edgar Allan Poe). Together, Schumacher and Boam managed to take The Lost Boys from a family-friendly caper to an R-Rated tongue in cheek horror.  The studio weren't quite sold on the project, but with an $8.5M budget attached, felt it was a risk worth taking and greenlit the movie for production.

The director felt the budgetary restraints before shooting had even commenced, something reflected in the largely unknown cast. Bizarre as it may seem to a modern audience, Corey Feldman was actually the biggest name attached to the picture prior to its release. The child actor had made the successful jump to teenage star with turns in Gremlins, The Goonies and Stand by Me. He would sign on board to play Edgar Frog - but only after convincing Schumacher he was right for the role by turning up to his audition with long hair. In what proved to be fateful casting, the role of Sam Emerson went to Corey Haim, another young actor whose first screen role was in the TV show, The Edison Twins. He made his feature debut shortly after, opposite Robert Downey Jnr, Sarah Jessica Parker and Peter Weller in Firstborn (the disintegration of Haim's parent’s marriage led to him living with Downey and Parker at one point). He appeared in Stephen King adaptation Silver Bullet, along with other smaller parts, and went on to win a Young Artist Award for his work opposite Liza Minnelli in A Time to Live.

It would be his performance in the coming of age drama, Lucas, which really brought him the attention of Hollywood, and curiously, set his career on a very different path. Haim had read for a part in Stand by Me - and was offered the role on the same day that he was offered the part in Lucas. He chose the latter and River Phoenix ended up in Stand by Me instead. Haim would later state that had he had the time again, he would still have made the same decision. Newcomer Jamison Newlander would take the part of the other Frog brother, Alan.

That left three major parts to cast - Michael, Star and leader of the vampire gang, David. Schumacher cast Kiefer Sutherland after seeing his work in At Close Range - this was a few months prior to the release of Stand by Me, in which the Canadian actor played a menacing bully (it was also his first US film). Equally as much of a newcomer was Jason Patric, who would take on the role of Michael, Sam's older brother. The actor had done just one TV movie (Toughlove with Bruce Dern and Lee Remick) and one feature film (Solarbabies) before landing The Lost Boys gig. Schumacher stated that it took him six weeks to convince Patric to take on the role, and only then would he do it on the promise that he would not be required to wear vampire make-up (A promise the director always knew he would have to break).

For the final part of the triangle, the role of Star, Jami Gertz was cast, thanks in some part to Jason Patric's recommendation (the two had appeared in Solarbabies). The actress had been working in film since 1981, and already appeared in Endless Love, Sixteen Candles and the Ralph Macchio flick, Crossroads. She would be one of the few female cast members, but proved to be more than a match for the boys. Diane Wiest, who was coming off an Academy award win for her part in Hannah and Her Sisters, would play Sam and Michael's mother Lucy, while Edward Herrmann took on the part of Max, the mysterious new man in her life. One final role, that of grandpa, ended up involving three different actors. Keenan Wynn was initially cast, but passed away before shooting commenced. Next in line, John Carradine was too ill to work at the time, leaving Barnard Hughes to put his own memorable spin on the character. [It's worth noting that while Wynn was said to have passed away before shooting took place, he actually died in October 1986, after filming was all but complete. Given his death from pancreatic cancer, he may have been too ill to take on the role].

An interesting (yet largely ignored) addition to the back room team was the return of Director of Photography Michael Chapman. A legend in almost every sense of the word, Chapman had been cameraman on The Godfather and Jaws, before graduating to Director of Photography on The Last Detail. He worked with Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz and Raging Bull, along with Paul Schrader (Hardcore), Philip Kaufman (Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) and on the Carl Reiner comedies, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and The Man With Two Brains. He made the jump to directing with the Tom Cruise feature, All the Right Moves, before making the near dialogue-free flop The Clan of the Cave Bear with Daryl Hannah. He directed one more film, TV movie Annihilator, before returning (almost permanently) to cinematography on The Lost Boys.

The movie was set to shoot in Santa Cruz, but local authorities keen to uphold their family-friendly reputation of the area refused them permits to film on the boardwalk, unless the name of the town used in finished film was changed. This is the reason for The Lost Boys being set in the fictional town of Santa Carla. The shoot itself, which took place in the summer of 1986, was a fairly chaotic one thanks to its relatively young cast. Not long after work began, Sutherland broke his wrist while showing off on his motorbike. Knowing they would be unable to film around the injury, the actor got a surf shop to create a thin polyurethane cast that immobilized his wrist and allowed him to put on black leather gloves (the character is rarely seen out of them for this reason).

 He and his fellow vampires, who included future Bill and Ted star Alex Winter, supposedly went the method acting route, staying nocturnal for much of the shoot. Corey Feldman used cocaine for the first time during the production, and ended up so obviously out of it that Schumacher fired him, temporarily at least. The Lost Boys would also see the start of Cory Haim's descent into drugs, which would plague him for years to come. While it was a fairly wild shoot, there was also much camaraderie, and many of the cast spent time together when they weren't filming; Patric took Haim under his wing and the two became like brothers both on-set and off.

There were also issues with the special effects to contend with, which resulted in Greg Cannom joining the picture midway through shooting. That gave him precious little time to pull everything together. He, along with Schumacher and make up artist Ve Neill came up with the concept of the 'vamp out'. Instead of having David and Co. look like traditional vampires, they made them appear as normal people, with the ability to transform into something horrific at a glance. This idea would go on to influence other vampire features, along with Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV shows. When Warner Bros. saw the first dailies, they were concerned. The tone of the picture made little sense to them, and when they asked Schumacher if he was making a horror or a comedy, he simply replied 'Yes'. To their credit the director would later state, they did accept a lot without much fuss - the mainly unknown cast he'd chosen, the way the picture was shaping up and its level of violence.

As the elements began to come together and Schumacher commenced editing, his thoughts also turned to the soundtrack. The haunting 'Cry Little Sister' was written by Gerard McMann and Michael Mainieri (McMann, actually a pseudonym for Gerard McMahon, would also perform it).  Roger Daltrey and Echo and The Bunnymen covered Elton John and Doors tracks respectively. Lou Gramm of Foreigner recorded ‘Lost in the Shadows’ and Jimmy Barnes & INXS supplied two tracks – ‘Good times’ and ‘Laying down the Law’. The only issue was that the Lost Boy's budget didn't stretch to cover all this music. Rather than lose the tracks by INXS and Gramm, the director cut a deal with the artists - if they'd allow him to use their songs, he'd direct a music video for each of them in the following year. Both agreed, and while Gramm never took up the offer, INXS had Schumacher direct the video for Devil Inside.

The Lost Boys was something of a difficult sell for Warner Bros. The trailer had to play up both the horror and comedy elements, without alienating the respective fans of each genre. Music taken from the soundtrack helped get the film noticed via MTV, and a tie-in novelisation was also readied to coincide with picture's release. On the flip side, the R-rating meant that a large part of the potential audience would be barred from seeing the film - or would need to drag along their parents. There was also the fact that there were no major stars on which to hang the picture. But as Schumacher had told the studio when they voiced their concerns during the shoot - they were only in it for $8.5M. A couple of decent weekends would see that figure covered.

The Lost Boys was set to debut at the very end of July 1987. The summer had already seen the major releases Beverly Hills Cop 2, Predator, Robocop, Dragnet and The Untouchables, many of which were still in theatres. Furthermore, it would open up against The Living Daylights, the long awaited return of James Bond, played for the first time by Timothy Dalton. In the weeks ahead there'd be Stakeout, Masters of the Universe and Can't Buy Me Love all to contend with. Reviews for the vampire flick were quite positive, with Roger Ebert awarding it two and a half stars and praising the cast and cinematography. Others felt it was more style over substance, and the general consensus at Rotten Tomatoes (where it holds a 72% approval rating) is that the film is 'Flawed but eminently watchable'.

The Lost Boys opened at 1,027 locations on July 31st, making an OK $5.2M. It missed out on the top spot thanks to The Living Daylights, which to be fair, had the built-in appeal, safer rating and almost 700 extra screens. A week on, Bond was still at the top and The Lost Boys slipped down to fifth place thanks largely to the new releases. The good news was that it lost only 23% of its business from the previous weekend. That meant that within its first week, The Lost Boys had already recouped its production budget. In weekend three it fell down to ninth place but again, its weekend to weekend fall wasn't too bad (The Monster Squad, which was released that week, had little impact and didn't break the top ten). It managed to recover a place in the next frame as it crossed the $20M point, helped by a 247 screen expansion.

However, a week on and it had slipped out of the top ten, never to return. It managed one more weekend before beginning its exit from theatres. In North America it ended its theatrical run with $32.2M, a decent enough return for an R-rated horror with no major stars. Schumacher and Warner Bros. gamble had paid off and things were about to get even better. Debuting on video in January 1988, The Lost Boys went on to be one of the most popular rentals that the studio had ever seen - ultimately far out grossing its theatrical takings. It also became a popular movie on HBO and Showtime, where it played on rotation for many years. Talk of a sequel quickly began to circulate, and Schumacher pitched The Lost Girls to WB, that would see David return (the character being the only one who isn't shown exploding or dissolving, implying that he wasn't dead) to lead a group of female vampires. The studio opted not to move forward with the idea and while other scripts were pitched over the years (with and without Schumacher's support), none made it very far.

It would be almost twenty years before The Lost Boys got its sequel. The Tribe began life as a werewolf movie, but Warner Bros. executives rejected it due to it similarity to The Lost Boys. When they decided to move forward with a sequel (spurred on by the renewed interest in the vampire genre thanks to the Twilight series) they hired The Tribe scriptwriter Hans Rodionoff to re-tool the story as a Lost Boys Sequel. Many rumours circulated as to who would return for the film, and at one point both Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland were said to be considering roles, though nothing would come of it and it may have been more a way to stir up press interest than anything else. Angus Sutherland, Kiefer's brother, would step in to play a new vampire leader. Corey Feldman, who was initially reluctant to return, changed his mind when the studio further developed the script that would see his character, Edgar Frog, have a similar level of prominence to what he had in the original movie. Corey Haim, who wasn't initially involved, would return for a short end credit scene (he would also feature in the two alternate endings included as extras).

The film was released on the studio's straight to DVD label, Warner Premiere, which was set up to release cheap sequels to older movies in their catalogue (at one point Goonies and Gremlins sequels were said to be in development by the label). Despite the very poor reviews, the film was a big success on DVD, recouping its $5M budget in only three weeks. It became the label's best selling release of 2008, and by 2011 has sold in excess of 1.25 million copies. A second sequel, The Thirst, was soon put into production. Feldman would again return, to be joined this time by fellow Frog brother, Jamison Newlander. Haim ruled himself out but stated he hoped to return if a further sequel was produced. In a case of once bitten, twice shy, the public by and large passed on The Thirst, signaling a close to The Lost Boys franchise. In recent years, the vampire genre has seen a major resurgence across most forms of media thanks to Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and similar, with vampires now seen as tragic romantic figures rather than the subject of horror.

Post-Lost Boy, the two Coreys became teen-sensations and starred in a string of movies together including License to Drive, Dream a Little Dream and Blown Away. But substance abuse, arrests and money issues saw both their careers dwindle as quickly as they'd risen. Things came to a head in 1996, when Feldman was forced to fire Haim from Busted, a movie he was directing and co-starring in, due to Haim's refusal to curtail his drug use. While he continued to work, Haim struggled with his addictions, spending time getting clean only to relapse again and again. Feldman's public battle with drugs saw him clean himself up, and while his fame never rose to those earlier levels, he appeared content with the movie and voice over work he was doing, and branched out into music. In 2007 the two would reunite on the reality TV show The Two Coreys. It would see an unemployed Haim moving in with Feldman and his then wife, Susie Sprague. The show, initially partly scripted, took on a much darker edge when it was revealed Haim was back to using drugs. This led to a six month hiatus, and Feldman refused to promote the show because of Haim's relapse. The show ended up being cancelled midway through its second season.

The duo planned to team up again on Lost Boys: The Tribe, but Haim was devasted when he discovered there was no role for him. He would end up filming a cameo, but the influence of drugs was evident and he struggled to remember his few lines. In 2010 the actor moved back in with mother to help support her during her battle with breast cancer. He died on March 10th 2010 from complication with pneumonia. Despite using prescriptions drugs, the autopsy revealed there were no such substances in his blood at the time of his death. Feldman revealed later that the two had actually reconciled and had begun developing sequel, License to Fly. Feldman continues to work in all areas of media, including film, animation and reality TV. He released his memoir, Coreyography, in October 2013.

Jason Patric won acclaim for his work on Rush, opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh, and again for Sleepers, but his only foray into blockbuster territory with Speed 2: Cruise Control, proved a disaster. He went on to co-star and produce Your Friends and Neighbours and starred opposite Ray Liotta in the well received Narc. His recent work includes The Outsider, Cavemen and The Prince, opposite Bruce Willis. Jami Gertz followed up The Lost Boys with a role in the Brett Easton Ellis adaptation, Less Than Zero. She'd appear again with Sutherland in the 1989 action flick, Renegades, before moving onto the comedies Sibling Rivalry and Don't Tell Her It's Me. She returned to the big time after a four year hiatus working in Paris, with a role in Twister. Since that time, she has favoured TV work, with parts in ER, Ally McBeal and Still Standing. Her recent sitcom, The Neighbours, was cancelled in 2014 at the end of its second season.

Of all the cast, Kiefer Sutherland went on to have the biggest career. He followed up The Lost Boys with turns in Bright Light, Big City, Young Guns (and its sequel), The Three Musketeers and A Few Good Men. He also reteamed with Joel Schumacher for Flatliners, A Time to Kill and Phone Booth. In 2001 he appeared as CTU Agent Jack Bauer in the TV show 24, a role that made him a global star. It would run for eight seasons as well as a 12 episode event entitled 24: Live Another Day in 2014. He has continued to work in film, as well as lending his voice to Monsters Vs. Aliens, Marmaduke and The Wild. 

Despite the Lost Boy’s success, scriptwriters James Jeramias and Jan Fischer would never produce another screenplay. Jeffrey Boam, who re-wrote the picture, scripted Funny Farm for Chevy Chase, and Lethal Weapon two and three, as well as supplying the script for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He also co-created the TV shows The Witches of Eastwick and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. The Phantom, starring Billy Zane, was his last produced script prior to his death in 2000. Cinematographer Michael Chapman worked with Bill Murray on Ghostbusters 2, Scrooged and Quick Change in 1990. Throughout the next decade he would rarely be away from film, acting as DoP on Kindergarten Cop, The Fugitive, Rising Sun, Space Jam and Primal Fear. He retired in 2007 after shooing Bridge to Terabithia. Producer Richard Donner made four Lethal Weapon films, as well as Conspiracy Theory, Maverick and Timeline. His version of Superman II also saw the light of day in 2006. He remains married to producer Lauren Shuler.

Joel Schumacher went from strength to strength, following up The Lost Boys with Flatliners, Dying Young, The Client, A Time to Kill and Batman Forever. By 1997 he was one of the most successful directors working in Hollywood, but the critical failure and fallout of Batman and Robin saw his career falter. He continued to work consistently, turning out 8mm, Phone Booth and Phantom of the Opera, but his career never again saw the same heights it did in the early 1990s. His most recent work includes the barely seen Nic Cage-Nicole Kidman film, Trespass, and episodes of the Kevin Spacey show, House of Cards.

Looking back at The Lost Boys, it's easy to see why it was a success. Its mix of comedy and scares, along with the attractive cast proved to be a perfect box office combination. There are many neat touches, including Edgar Frog discussing how no two vampires die the same way, foreshadowing the order and method in which the vampires die later in the film. Its dialogue, violence and soundtrack also added to its success and helped guarantee repeat viewings. In a world where the vampire has again become something to mock, The Lost Boys still retains a decent amount of blood (and bite).

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