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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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Delmo Walters Jr.
Delmo Walters Jr.
01 aug. 2023

I honestly thought this was going to be about the original tv series starring David Janssen. I saw the movie in the theater and enjoyed it but the tv series is better, and I'm surprised they didn't do a new version of the theme for the movie.

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excession30
excession30
31 jul. 2023

There were some plot holes big enough to drive a train through. Though the film was successful commercially, those actors just didn't have the writing chops to be making up the film as they went along. I remember the pharmaceutical plot point being especially bad and after it was over, I felt the film to be a ripoff and a waste of time. Kind of like STTMP.

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excession30
excession30
31 jul. 2023
Reageren op

More power to ya! 😀

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Popa Razzie71
Popa Razzie71
30 jul. 2023

I liked the movie, but I didn't like like James Newton Howard's score at first, again being a young Goldsmith snob, but later grew up liking JNH. The Sewer jump was far more exciting than the bus escape IMHO

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Popa Razzie71
Popa Razzie71
30 jul. 2023
Reageren op

Was it a sewer?

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Danny Flatball
Danny Flatball
30 jul. 2023

Perhaps my favorite movie of the '90s. On a trip to visit family in Jeff Bond's hometown of Defiance, Ohio, my parents went to see the movie one night -- and liked the film so much that my mom went again with me the very next day.


Incidentally: The inspiration for the original TV series was the story out of the Cleveland area of Dr. Sam Sheppard (convicted of murdering his wife -- whom he swore had been killed by a bushy-haired home invader); Sheppard was a high-school classmate of both my great-aunt and grandmother, also from the Cleveland vicinity.

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Danny Flatball
Danny Flatball
30 jul. 2023
Reageren op

P.S. Howard's favorite scorer/composer is Goldsmith (as he should be), so the parallels are not all that surprising. (JNH has faded away from the scoring's forefront over the last decade, but in the wake of Goldsmith's passing, I thought that Howard was Hollywood's top scorer for a number of years.)

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