Wednesday, December 2, 1987
The Michigan Daily
By John Shea
Special to the Daily
LOS ANGELES-There they
sat, from left to right. John Candy.
Steve Martin. John Hughes. Three
men who have become staples of
American Comedy in the '80s,
gathered together in the back lot of
Paramount Studios to hold a press
conference for their new film,
Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
How unlikely. Candy. Martin.
Hughes. As different as morning,
noon and night, yet sitting here re-
flecting on a project they had col-
laborated on together. Just consider
Hughes. The whiz-kid director,
the one-trick pony whose films
about teen-agers (Sixteen Candles,
The Breakfast Club) have grossed
hundreds of millions of dollars.
Martin. An icon of the '70s, he
is a man who has made his mark in
the world through an arrow sticking
in his head and parading around
concert halls with his animal bal-
loons. Now well into his 40s, he's
undergone an unexpected metamor-
phosis - from The Jerk to Cyrano
de Bergerac - that is a shade darker
and strikingly more mature.
And Candy? Well. Okay. Maybe
he's more of a thumb tack than a
staple. But within the body of his
work, aside from the failed efforts to
establish himself as a lead actor
(read: Summer Rental, Armed and
Dangerous ), lies a series of memo-
rable supporting roles, including the
role of Tom Hanks' brother in
Automobiles, released nationally
this Wednesday, follows Murphy's
Law of Transportation. It is a light-
hearted comedy about two ill-fated
travellers who experience the horrors
of travelling during the holiday sea-
son. Martin is Neal Page, an up-
tight advertising executive. Candy is
Del Griffen, the loveable but loud-
mouthed shower ring curtain sales-
man who is eager to offer his
travelling expertise to Neal. Hughes
stays behind the camera.
The magnet that brought them
together was Hughes' script.
"Any actor is interested in good
scripts," Martin said, when asked
what drew him to work with
Hughes. "If you have to write it
yourself (as he did with this sum-
mer's Roxanne ), it doesn't neces-
sarily mean it's going to be good.
"I had the luxury of time with
Roxanne. It took me two and a half
years to write it. I don't want to
have to sit down everytime and
write for two and a half years."
Candy was offered the script
while working on last summer's
Spaceballs. "I read the script and
was knocked out by it. I was just
going in to film another movie and
all I could think about was this
Hughes, who wrote, directed, and
produced the film, came up with the
idea from his days of travel as an
advertising executive. "I left
Chicago for New York and ended up
in Wichita, Kansas," he said. "Three
days later I ended up home."
The three men went on to share
"We lived this movie," Martin
echoed. "We encountered the same
problems (the characters encounter)
in filming this thing."
He thought about something and
"I was once flying into Bocatella,
Idaho," Martin recalled. "It was
foggy and everything. We were
landing and there was these blue
lights at the end of the runway -
but we were on the wrong side of
them. We were off the runway. As
we were getting out, we asked the
pilot, 'Were you scared?' And he
There was a smattering of laugh-
ter. And when the room fell quiet,
"Some?" threw back Hughes.
Such criticism should not come
as a great surprise. Hughes penned
Automobiles in five days and
cranked out The Breakfast Club in
three. This contrasts rather sharply
with the two and half years Martin
spent on Roxanne. But Hughes
waves off any criticism he might
get from the critics for being
"I try and write the script as fast
as I can to see if I like the idea,"
Hughes said in a manner-of-fact
fashion. "Then I go through maybe
25 or 30 rewrites. I'm not going to
let something go if I'm not sure of
it. I can't write dialogue (for an en-
tire movie) over a 12-month period.
I just write dialogue as fast as I can
Say this for Hughes: he knows
how to reach the teen-age crowd. He
captures what we have all gone
through 'in growing up: the pain of
being rejected by others, identities
that somehow got lost, dreams that
never came to be. And always
emerging from these darker themes
is a glimmer of hope for better
things to come; positive things are
to be found. But as a director he has
no delicate touch, no sense of gen-
tility. He uses a sledgehammer to
get his point across, and the critics
turn and use the same instrument to
crush his work.
Automobiles is the first film
Hughes has directed where the lead
characters are older than he his. Per
hays working with such veterans as-
Martin and Candy will serve as
tourniquet for the rush of negative
press he has gotten. But it probably
won't. Hughes, with a cold de-
meanor and air of indifference, in
Whatever. The bottom line is,
the film is very entertaining. And
Hughes - the writer, director and
producer of the film - deserves a
tip of the critics' cap.
In their immediate futures, Mar-
tin is going to New York to begin
rehearsal on Waiting for Godot,
with Robin Williams; Candy is
working on a couple of films right
now, including Big Country ; and
Hughes is starting his own record
label, while putting the finishing
touches on his next film, She's
Having a Baby (due out early next
"Will you guys ever work to-
gether again?," someone asked the
three of them.
Martin looked at Candy, Candy,
at Hughes and Hughes at Martin.
The three of them shrugged their
shoulders in unison. "We have no
idea," said Martin.
'And with that, the press confer-
ence came to an end. Afterwards,
there was a brief photo session and
then they politely dismissed them-
selves. Candy. Hughes. Martin.
Three men whose paths merged to
do this one film left for the airport;
going on three different planes
heading in decidedly different direc-
Writer/producer/director John Hughes (right) discusses a scene with Steve Martin (center) and John
Candy on location for 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles.'
Martin waited for either Candy or
Hughes to assert himself and take
the stage; neither did. Martin flashed
disgusted looks at the both of them.
"I'm out here trying to be funny
and I'm not getting any help. You
guys are worthless," he com-
Worthless? Hardly. But if jokes
were money, Candy and Hughes
would have to pitch in for a piece of
Bazooka bubble gum. Candy, who
was ironically late for the press
conference because his plane from
San Diego was delayed, looked tired.
Hughes, who slumped deep down
into his chair and responded to
questions in a droll, monotone
voice, looked like he wished he were
somewhere else. No clever stories
were to come from either.
It was Martin's stage alone.
He neither relished the situation
nor shunned it, and as a hundred re-
porters focused their eyes on the
comedian, he sat back in his chair
and said this:
"Didn't you all think this was
John Candy's greatest performance
ever?, I felt so lucky to be there. I
felt as if I had the best seat in the
Martin. Always gracious, always
quick to compliment and always
ready with the right line. He's al-
ways on, bubbling with such en-
ergy and enthusiasm that he had
enough for the three of them to-
But the banjo and arrow in the
head are long gone. And with recent
efforts such as All of Me and
Roxanne, and with playing the
straight man to Candy in this film,
some might say he is mellowing;
pursuing more serious roles in the
hope of being remembered for
something more than his "happy
. He denied this. "I'm not looking
for dramas," Martin said. "Part of
the difference of this character than
anything I've ever done is the seri-
ousness of the character sets up the
"Pennies from Heaven couldn't
have come at a worse time," he said,
shaking his head. It came right after
The Jerk. "Hey, here's a surprise
for the audience," he said, laughing
Ask any veteran performer what
is the most important thing to him
or her and they will most likely say,
"creative control." Not so with
Martin, who says, "You only need
'creative control' with people you
don't trust.". All he wants is a good
John Candy wouldn't mind a
good script or two, either. A Second
City and SCTV alumnus, Candy
has enjoyed only moderate success
in supporting roles and no success
whatsoever as a lead. He's just "that
funny fat man," as it were.
A reporter from Japan preluded a
question to Candy by saying, "We
are a country of small size and we
admire... big size."'
"Yeah?," said Candy.
"I was just wondering. Do you
ever think of dieting? I hope you
Candy had fielded more than his
share of stupid questions all day,
from his weight to Canada-U.S.
trade relations. The opportunity to
put-down the reporter or throw a
witty line back at here was there.
But, for some reason, he held back.
"My problem, which many
Americans have," Candy said with
dignity, "is a lack of exercise."
Candy quietly refused to play the
funny fat man. Sitting on the edge
of his chair, he looked quite content
watching Martin spin anecdotes.
And even though he was exhausted
from his travels, Candy fielded the
handful of questions he got with
thought; he is not a buffoon.
Martin is among his admirers. "I
was knocked out not only by his
comedy, which we all know is
good, but his drama."
Candy? Drama? Stop laughing.
He can do it. This film is the best
vehicle Candy has had to date, giv-
ing him the opportunity not only
expand upon his comedic talents,
but uncover a more dramatic side as
well. He's not just a funny fat man
Hughes. How sweet this all must
be for him. Once a "geek" at his
high school in Illinois and having a
less-than-loving relationship with
his parents ("I think I liked them
more than they liked me," he said),
Hughes proved his doubters wrong.
He is somebody.
Now, he has new doubters to
prove wrong. Critics say his films
are virtually identical and that they
have an assembly-line quality about
them. And he stay slumped in his
chair, because he knew it was com-
"Some of your critics have said
that your films have a rather
'rushed' quality to them," one re-
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