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The Fugitive Oral History

Rolling Stone is out with a terrific new oral history on the making of The Fugitive, which was released almost thirty years ago (on August 6, 1993).

I remember the first time I saw a snippet: Harrison Ford (I think) was on one of the late-night talk shows (Leno?) and they played a clip of the escape from the government building with the bullets hitting the bulletproof glass, with a really cool chase cue by James Newton Howard.

This was the clip, more or less:

It was like, hey, that’s good!

And upon seeing the movie—what a great thriller! It was gripping, exciting, suspenseful, but also full of humanity, humor and vivid characters.

There were awesome setpieces, but also unforgettable bits of dialogue. How could you forget:

“I didn’t kill my wife!”

“I don’t care!”

It was an unusual—and brilliant—structure to have a movie that essentially had two good guys: not only Harrison Ford (at the top of his game) as the title character, but Tommy Lee Jones (a breakout sensation) as the marshal out to get him.

And it turns out...they pretty much made the movie up as they went!

I dimly remember hearing that the movie was made with low expectations, but they essentially shot it with no script.

Now usually, folks, don’t do that! It is the most surefire way to make a confusing disaster.

But this is the one time out of a hundred where every creative choice ended up being as close to perfect as you could hope to get.

It’s a remarkable achievement and still, 30 years later, a great film.

Many thanks to La-La Land for the 2CD set of the soundtrack, long out of print, one of James Newton Howard’s best. I always thought, incidentally, that his action style seemed very influenced by Goldsmith’s Total Recall era. Whether that was a case of following a temp track, or just what Howard was inclined to do creatively, I don’t know.

“The Big Jump,” Total Recall:

“Helicopter Chase,” The Fugitive:

But it’s a great score and perfect for the film.

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