Roger Spottiswoode directed everything from Terror Train, Under Fire and Shoot to Kill to Turner & Hooch, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, The Sixth Day and Tomorrow Never Dies. This movie originally had John Frankenheimer* as the director, but he was replaced by Buzz Kulik, the director of Bad Ronald. The script was written by an uncredited W.D. Richter (Jeffrey Alan Fiskin has the credit) and was based on the book Free Fall: A Novel by J.D. Reed.
After getting the finished film, the producers felt like it needed a stunt and some editing, so editor-director Roger Spottiswoode came in. However, Spottiswoode claimed that without new sequences, the movie would fail. He brought in Ron Shelton, a former baseball player who would later write and direct Bull Durham. Together, they’d reshoot 70% of the movie, according to “Ghostwriters” in the March/April 1983 issue of Film Comment.
It seems like two movies got made: Kulik’s is a post-Vietnam movie in which Cooper is angered that he gains more fame as a thief than he did as a soldier, while the Spottiswoode movie is a chase film.
What do you do when you have a troubled production? You William Castle things. Universal offered a million dollars for any information that would lead to the capture and arrest of the real D.B. Cooper, totally missing the message that Cooper was the hero of their film and no one who saw him that way in the movie would want to see him in jail. No one ever claimed the prize.
So who is Cooper, the man who anonymously hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft between Portland and Seattle, got a ransom of $200,000, then jumped out and disappeared, with his crime being the only unsolved air piracy in commercial aviation history? Treat Williams, who plays an army man named Jim Meade trying to impress his wife, played by Kathryn Harrold.
He won’t get away easy, as Sgt. Bill Gruen (Robert Duvall), his old military boss, is now an insurance investigator. Another man from the war past, Remson (Paul Gleason), is also after him, as he recalls discussing highjacking with Meade.
The new Kino Lorber blu ray of The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper has a commentary track with writer Jeffrey Alan Fiskin and film historian Daniel Kremer, 3 TV commercials and a trailer. I remember the commercials for this playing on TV all the time, so I’m excited that I finally own a copy.
*Frankenheimer was fired after one scene was shot, telling the Los Angeles Times that this movie was “…probably my worst-ever experience. A key member in the chain of command had been lying to both management and myself with the result that we all thought we were making a different movie”