LA Times: “Hal Ashby’s long-lost caper movie”

From the LA Times:

Routinely termed a neglected figure of the 1970s New Hollywood, Hal Ashby has been undergoing a modest posthumous renaissance of late: a smattering of retrospective screenings, an overdue biography, a vocal celebrity fan club whose ranks include Wes Anderson, Judd Apatow and Cameron Crowe.

Only his most partisan admirers would deny that the director suffered a drop-off in inspiration after his last major film, 1979’s “Being There.” Still, as part of the ongoing Ashby revival, some of his later works, until now dismissed as footnotes at best and outright follies at worst, are being given a closer look. One, the odd-couple caper “Lookin’ to Get Out,” surfaces this week on DVD in a director’s cut about 15 minutes longer than the version released to hostile reviews and minimal box office in 1982…

The troubled circumstances of the movie’s production and release are well recounted in Nick Dawson’s meticulous new biography “Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel.” The director was juggling the postproduction of another doomed comedy, “Second-Hand Hearts” (1981), and the development of “Tootsie” (a gig he eventually lost to Sydney Pollack because “Lookin’ to Get Out” fell far behind schedule).

Unhappy with the version of the film he turned in, Paramount executives demanded a reedit, and Ashby, fed up and beaten down, left it to his editor, Bob Jones, who worked with Voight to produce a shorter cut.

It was in the course of researching his book that Dawson realized that Ashby’s preferred edit, a further fine-tuning of the cut he submitted to the studio, still existed. The director’s cut of “Lookin’ to Get Out” is no lost masterpiece, but you can easily see how a truncated version would have stifled its loose-limbed energy.

(read more)

Wes and Jason talk about their favorite Hal Ashby films

(sorry for the lack of updates as of late… more soon!)

GOOD Magazine has a great set of mini-essays/interviews on one of my favorite directors, Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude).

Jason on Harold and Maude:

He was the first actor that I ever felt close to. And I also think that I had never seen a film that was happy and sad and funny all at once. I was used to clear-cut genres. This is a Comedy. This is Drama. Harold and Maude, to my 17-year-old mind, was a whole new place. Anything could happen. I guess my life just kind of made sense to me in a single moment. I felt not so bad. And I watched it over and over while making Rushmore (thank you, Mom).

Wes on The Last Detail:

Whenever I am getting ready to make a movie I look at other movies I love in order to answer the same recurring question: How is this done, again? I can never seem to remember, and I don’t mean that to be glib. I also hope people don’t throw it back in my face. Making a movie is very complicated, and it seems like kind of a miracle when it actually works out. Hal Ashby made five or six great movies in a row, and that seems to be practically unheard of.

Thanks to reader j. for this link.