Features and Columns · Movies

27 Things We Learned from Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out Commentary

No Way Out
By  · Published on April 6th, 2016

14. The breakfast scene between David Brice (Hackman) and Scott Pritchard (Patton) was made to look as if it was the rooftop dining patio of The Hay-Adams hotel, but the hotel doesn’t actually have such a place. Donaldson’s father-in-law managed the hotel, and after the film’s release people would visit the place in search of the rooftop garden restaurant. They would then give his father-in-law grief for hiding it from them.

15. Donaldson met Fred Dalton Thompson during production of Marie where he made his acting debut playing himself. They remained friends until Thompson’s death (on 11/1/15) which occurred just one week before Donaldson sat down to record this commentary.

16. The Manila-set scene was filmed in downtown Los Angeles.

17. Some of the Pentagon hallway scenes were filmed in actual Pentagon hallways. The rest of the rooms and such were shot on sets.

18. The embassy party is meant to take place at the New Zealand embassy. Donaldson chose it as New Zealand is where he began his film-making career.

19. His daughter Melissa cameos at the 36:05 mark as the woman in the pink/purple dress walking behind Tom. Later in the film a journalist uses the name “Melissa Donaldson” as well.

20. Costner ad-libbed the bit about eating bugs off the windshield during Tom and Susan’s drive to the coast. “I think it’s a very amusing sequence,” says Donaldson.

21. The shot of Susan falling to her death was filmed with her standing upright on a dolly being pushed towards a wall that had been made up like the floor complete with a glass table.

22. Donaldson “got into big trouble with the producers” for letting Costner do his own stunt during the foot chase where he gets hit by a car.

23. He believes one of the reasons the movie clicked with audiences is that it’s “so complicated in its plot and yet it’s so easy to understand what the plot is. Basically you’ve got a guy hunting for himself for a crime that he didn’t commit.” It is a fantastic hook.

24. Costner reminds Donaldson of Steve McQueen in his understated ability to play an every man. “Kevin does a lot with very little.”

25. The ending of the film was apparently “controversial” at the time as audiences are on the side of Costner’s character throughout only to be stung by the final revelation. He was happy that people kept the secret and wonders if that aided the word of mouth and the film’s success. Can you imagine this movie opening in today’s internet culture?

26. The screenplay was originally titled Finished with Engines. “Everybody said you gotta have a better title than that or it’ll never go anywhere.” I have no clue what that original title could even mean.

27. Herb Adelman, the First Assistant Director, told Donaldson that “‘if you want to get through your screenplay quickly make sure you hire actors from New York because they talk much faster than in Los Angeles and your movie will be much shorter.’ With those words of wisdom, that was No Way Out.”

Best in Context-Free Commentary

Final Thoughts

Even knowing how it all ends, No Way Out remains a great thriller. Donaldson’s commentary suffers from a few long gaps, but twenty eight years after making the film his memory of the production still seems pretty sharp. If you’ve never seen it, this new Blu-ray is a smart blind-buy, but even if you already own the DVD the upgraded HD picture and new commentary make it worth the double dip.

Pages: 1 2

Related Topics:

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.