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31 Things We Learned from Tony Scott’s Revenge Commentary

By  · Published on February 16th, 2015

REVENGE commentary

Kevin Costner has a new film opening this week, and I’ve already forgotten about it. That’s probably a bit too harsh as I’ll watch anything starring Costner, and he’s also someone who’s starred in more movies I find it impossible to turn off once started than anyone else ‐ No Way Out, The Untouchables, Tin Cup, Silverado, Field of Dreams, Open Range, The Bodyguard (yeah I said it) ‐ but the man’s made some unfortunate choices in recent years. (Although I will fight you over the underseen The New Daughter and its kick-ass ending.)

Back in 1990, near the height of his career, Costner joined forces with Tony Scott ‐ a director at the equivalent peak of his own career ‐ to deliver a dark thriller about lust and consequences in rural Mexico. Revenge tanked at the box-office, but Costner and Scott quickly got back into Hollywood’s good graces with Dances with Wolves and Days of Thunder, respectively.

Nearly two decades later Scott released his preferred director’s cut to DVD complete with commentary track. He discusses his intention with this new version, why it’s so much shorter than the theatrical cut and shares a strong affection for all things sexy.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Tony Scott’s Revenge.

Revenge (1990)

Commentator: Tony Scott (director)

1. John Huston apparently worked for ten years attempting to bring this adaptation to the screen, and when that was no longer a possibility Scott, who had kept a close eye on the project, came aboard. Huston’s big roadblock was his producer, Ray Stark, who felt squeamish as to the story’s harsher elements. Scott says the theatrical cut of this film is Stark’s while this director’s cut is his preferred version. “He should never have made Revenge,” says Scott, “because it was something that was very contrary to his taste.”

2. Scott’s director’s cut is a rarity in that it actually runs shorter ‐ by thirty minutes ‐ than the studio cut. He says his battle with Stark was always that the producer wanted viewers “to anticipate it, talk about and then see it.” Scott feels that human instinct regarding its tale of love and betrayal is enough to give the film its momentum.

3. He remains a fan of his debut film, The Hunger, but he acknowledges that its “artsy” nature barred him from finding work in Hollywood until Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson decided to take a chance on him three years later with Top Gun.

4. The lead actor was already attached to the project when Scott signed on, and the director was relieved to discover it was Costner as he feels it was “a brilliant piece of casting.”

5. Madeleine Stowe is actually part Castilian which, when combined with her being “beautiful, sexy and everything that I needed” was enough to get her the role. He recalls a casting session with the actress where she wasn’t quite reaching the level of emotion they were after, “and I had to bring on ‘the persuader,’ I had to give her a good slap to find her moment in time in terms of performance.”

6. Anthony Quinn is often perceived as Greek, but he’s actually Mexican. “We managed to pull lots of favors,” says Scott, “and all his friends were Mexican government or Mexican hierarchy or Mexican mafia.”

7. Tibey’s (Quinn) house in the film actually belonged to one of Quinn’s government friends. The town it’s in is called Cuernavaca which has since become a “kidnap capital” in the country.

8. Scott first met the 70+ year old Quinn for lunch at the Bellagio Hotel, and he recalls two young women sitting nearby who by the end of the meeting were sitting at Quinn’s table. “When I left I left him with them.”

9. Scott lives in a house that once belonged to John Barrymore, and Quinn shared stories with him of when he stayed in the home’s guest house and threw massive parties. “He said they’d invite all these Busby Berkeley girls up to swim in the pool, and they’d blindfold the mariachi band and do nasty things to the girls in the pool.”

10. This was Scott’s first time in Mexico, and he fell in love with the country. “We got away from what you normally see in movies shot in Mexico, and we found fresh and different locations and they’re spectacular.”

11. In addition to Stark wanting viewers to “anticipate it, talk about it, analyze it and then let it happen” the studio also insisted Scott “cut down the intensity of the sex scenes, the intensity of the violence, and so in this particular cut you’ll see it’s much sexier, it’s more violent… and that momentum is driven by Kevin and Madeleine’s quest to get it on.”

12. He acknowledges the film might look a little dated due to his taste in a specific atmosphere. “That was one of my trademarks, smoke and a strong light through billowing curtains,” he says. “It became something that both Adrian Lyne and myself sort of honed and perfected, and a lot of people copied us.”

13. The beach scene ‐ that Scott refers to as “the lemon scene” due to Cochran’s (Costner) attempts to make lemonade ‐ was originally shot in Puerta Vallarta, but excess analysis by the studio and producers led to them re-shooting it in Malibu. “It didn’t have that same danger or sexuality or edge to it,” he says. They kept the original footage.

14. “It was the hottest sex scene I’ve ever shot,” he says during Costner and Stowe’s first sex scene, “and it wasn’t gratuitous because it was driven by story.” Apparently Costner watched it a few weeks before this commentary was recorded and told Scott “God, we really got into it didn’t we.”

15. Scott offered Hans Zimmer the composing job on the film, but Stark nixed it based on Zimmer’s lack of experience at the time. The director’s more than happy with Jack Nitzsche’s work although he recalls that the last time he saw the composer it was on an episode of Cops. “I was channel surfing at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I see this guy face down on the hood of a car in cuffs, and he turns to the camera and says ‘Don’t you realize I’m an Academy Award-winning composer?’ It was Jack Nitzsche. But that was Jack, Jack was out there, and he was my hero.” He marvels that Nitzsche actually signed the show’s waiver permitting them to air the footage.

16. Scott’s temp music while awaiting Nitzsche’s tracks was music by Peter Gabriel.

NY Daily News

17. He’s very clear that this is not a love story. “It was a fuck story,” he suggests instead. “It was this unforbidden, sexual desire to have each other.”

18. The jeep scene was filmed with the jeep on a flatbed truck going 50 mph, and he views it as the sexiest scene he’s ever made. “I never got turned on actually doing a sex scene, but I was getting slightly embarrassed. We got 20 guys and 3 cameras, all photographing Kevin and Maddy getting it on.” This was my first watch of the director’s cut in a long time, but Scott’s not wrong. Seriously, have you seen this? So much finger licking!

19. Rocky the dog’s death scene strikes me as something that probably wouldn’t fly these days. They attached “an explosive pack” aka a squib to the dog’s chest and a snatch wire to his back, and when the dog barked Scott instructed the effects guys to trigger the exploding pack and yank the cable so the dog would fly into the wall. Scott tried to get a second take, but Rocky refused to bark again. “But he’s still around, he’s sixteen,” he promises. He also notes that test audiences gave them grief for what they did to the dog without mentioning that Costner gets beat to near death and Stowe has her face slashed in the same scene.

20. The first day of shooting included Cochran’s near-death desert crawl.

21. The whorehouse where Miryea (Stowe) is deposited actually operated as a whorehouse in Durango for over a century.

22. The one-eyed woman who heals Cochran was a local Scott hired there in town, and her scenes were filmed in her own house. Scott wanted her to smoke and had his team concoct a spliff using local tobacco, but after smoking four of them she threw up on Costner’s legs. This memory makes Scott laugh.

23. Scott acknowledges the awkward nature of shooting sex scenes and nudity and recalls his own nervousness on The Hunger while trying to convince Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve to “get it on.” He showed them photographs and clips from other films to help convince them that he wasn’t aiming for anything gratuitous.

24. James Gammon was cast at Costner’s recommendation. “It was almost like a mandate,” says Scott, but he agrees that Gammon very much feels like an authentic cowboy.

25. The singer at the bar where Costner and Gammon play pool and chat attempted suicide later that night. She slashed her wrists but was back to work the following day.

26. The scene where Cochran kills the man in the bar bathroom originally featured far more dialogue between the two, but it’s yet another example of a scene where Scott preferred to eliminate the filler and get right to the intensity with his director’s cut.

27. Quinn told Scott that he needed a specific ten days off during September because a group of his friends were coming in to town. Per Scott, the actor said they were “ten days where we play bridge, eat, get drunk and fuck.” Scott said the entourage never left the hotel, everything was imported in, and “it was some major players within the movie industry which I shall not quote who they were.”

28. Sally Kirkland’s role almost went to Faye Dunaway, but “there’s some bad blood between Ray Stark and Dunaway.” Scott is a big fan of Kirkland’s breasts.

29. Scott refers to John Leguizamo as “Johnny Legs” which is just one more reminder that he was cooler than we’ll ever be. He says the actor has the same obsession over controlling his onscreen entrance as Mickey Rourke.

30. The final face-off between Cochran and Tibey was shot in Mexico, but Stark and the studio requested Scott shoot additional footage with more dialogue to help explain both men’s motivations. Scott hated it and cut all of the new footage from the film.

31. Stark had promised Scott that he’d be allowed to cut his preferred version of the film after it sank at the box office, but he then reneged on the promise. He died in 2004, and Scott released his director’s cut three years later. He hopes we find it as “sexually exciting and dangerous” as he did making it.

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Final Thoughts

Scott is very emphatic about this film’s sexual intensity, and he really wants us to know that Madeleine Stowe is sex incarnate. You’ll think I’m exaggerating, but fully half of his commentary is on the topic of the film’s sexiness, the story’s focus on sex and Stowe’s inherent sex appeal. Okay, fine, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating, but he repeats the idea a lot. It’s an entertaining commentary thanks to his openness and observations, and it makes me miss his cinematic contributions all the more.

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.