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18 Things We Learned from Cameron Crowe’s ‘Say Anything’ Commentary

By  · Published on April 17th, 2014

20th Century Fox

This week is the 25th anniversary of Cameron Crowe’s first feature, Say Anything, and while he went on to direct three more fantastic films (plus one good one and two stinkers) this one holds a special place in many of our hearts. It’s a rare honest look at teenagers in and out of love, is eminently quotable and features a high number of memorable and possibly iconic scenes.

A quarter of a century later and the film is more beloved than ever. The anniversary has led to a handful of editorials on the movie ‐ our own Kate Erbland even had the nerve to question whether Lloyd and Diane were still together 25 years later! The responses were varied and highly pessimistic, but the truth is clear in Lloyd’s persistence and optimism and in Diane’s joy and satisfaction. You only have to watch the movie to know that the two are still living it up in London.

The commentary on the 20th Anniversary Blu-ray of Say Anything features something I’ve never seen (or heard) before, and that’s a twenty minute introduction set against a slide show of b&w set photos. Crowe, John Cusack and Ione Skye start things off strong with their recollections on what brought each of them to the film.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Say Anything.

Say Anything (1989)

Commentators: Cameron Crowe (director), John Cusack (actor), Ione Skye (actor)

1. The pre-movie introduction features Crowe discussing the origin of the film including the integral input from James L. Brooks that helped shape the movie. He talks about how the script had its “Diane” from the very beginning, but the guy who steals her heart just wouldn’t come together. That final piece of the puzzle came to be after Crowe was visited in real life by a young man new to the neighborhood named Lowell who told Crowe about kickboxing, the sport of the future. Skye shares how it was Moon Zappa her turned her onto Crowe and the audition for the film, and Cusack chimes in with his initial hesitations to play the role.

2. The opening scene featuring Lloyd, Corey (Lili Taylor) and D.C. (Amy Brooks) was Crowe’s attempt to drop viewers right into the middle of things story-wise. Skye recalls being intimidated by Taylor who was “so cool” and already friends with Cusack.

3. Charles Walker, who plays the principal introducing Diane at graduation, was also cast as a principal in Crowe’s Almost Famous.

4. Cusack refused to wear the graduation cap during the graduation scene. He added to Lloyd’s wardrobe in other ways though including the coat and small scar in his right eyebrow.

5. The scene introducing Lloyd’s sister Constance (Joan Cusack) was originally meant to be more comical, but Crowe recalls Cusack suggesting it be played a little differently. It was the first time Crowe clearly saw that Lloyd had anger in him in addition to the optimism.

6. Skye shares an anecdote regarding a location shoot at a home for people with Down Syndrome. The administrators asked her, Crowe and John Mahoney to say a few words to the residents, and the two men shared some kind comments she took the stage and froze. One young man with Downs stood and booed her. She cried soon after.

7. Eric Stoltz had a second gig on the film as a “celebrity PA.” Cusack recalls Stoltz asking him if he needed anything even on days where he wasn’t shooting, and Crowe says he simply wanted to have experience in all aspects of film-making. He’s even listed in the credits as a “Production Assistant.”

8. The guy at the party who requires a ride home from Lloyd and Diane is played by Barbara Streisand’s son, Jason Gould.

9. Julia Roberts was up twice for the role that eventually went to Amy Brooks.

10. Crowe points out several cameos by music-related performers including Chynna Phillips, Stone Gossard, and David Lee Roth’s little sister.

11. Lloyd’s speech at the dinner party came in part from Cusack’s own background work on the character including a “manifesto” he had written about Lloyd’s world view. It included the “bought/sold/processed” bit which was later incorporated into the scene.

12. Brooks was “protective and inspiring” throughout the shoot, and Crowe recalls him stepping in to deflect studio reps wondering why the dad had to be guilty. “If he’s not guilty everybody’s having fun!”

13. Skye is very open regarding her “annoying” boyfriend at the time of filming and the fact that she could have easily fallen for Cusack if neither of them had been in relationships at the time. The scene where Lloyd is teaching her to drive prompts her to say that she was “really turned on in this scene by you [Cusack] as I was crossing your lap. If we didn’t have boyfriends and girlfriends this is the day we would have gone home together. Or maybe sooner.” Cusack’s reply? “Awesome.” Crowe’s response? “Cool, cool.”

14. The love scene originally featured a shot that apparently highlighted the amount of sweat on Lloyd’s face to the point that a test screening audience member questioned the character’s health. They thought Lloyd was dying.

15. Cusack was actually talking to his sister during the post-breakup scene where Lloyd talks to his sister from a phone booth in the rain.

16. The music in the pivotal boombox scene had a bumpy road to Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” In the script it was a Billy Idol song, on the day of shooting it was a Fishbone tune playing from the radio and they even had songwriters try to write a new song for the scene. Everything clicked when Crowe came across Gabriel’s song on a wedding tape he had made for his wife.

17. Brooks told Crowe the factoid regarding the most dangerous part of a flight being before the “ding” so he incorporated it into the film.

18. The three of them have a good laugh at the expense of people questioning whether Lloyd and Diane are still together these many years later.

Best in Commentary

Final Thoughts

As is often the case with commentaries recorded well after the production the cast/crew gathered show a real affection for the film, the experience and each other. The three here are clearly fans of each other’s work, and they do a fine job talking and remembering together. The downside is that they occasionally interrupt each other’s story to mention something onscreen leading to those stories never being completed. It remains a great film.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.