“Say Anything” was not particularly successful on its release. John Cusack was an established star of films like “The Sure Thing,” but co-star Ione Skye was basically unknown, and director Cameron Crowe was, despite his writing credit on “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” eight years earlier, not a known quantity. As such, despite rave reviews, it only took $20 million at the domestic box office, and a meagre $733,000 internationally — indeed, in many territories, like the U.K, it went straight to video.
But over time, partly thanks to the success of Crowe’s later work like “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous,” and partly because of the slow realization of its brilliance, the rom-com — which follows the fledgling relationship between ambition-free aspiring kickboxer Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye), whose father (John Mahoney) is in trouble with the law — has become one of the most beloved films of the 1980s teen boom. “Say Anything” was released twenty five years ago on April 14th, 1989, and to mark the anniversary this week, we’ve put together five things you may not be aware of about Crowe’s evergreen classic.
1. The film was originally going to be directed by Lawrence Kasdan
As personal as the film clearly is, “Say Anything” was actually a gig-for-hire for Cameron Crowe. James L. Brooks had met the young writer while interviewing him about his time at Rolling Stone during the research proceess for “Broadcast News,” and had been impressed by the voice displayed in his script for 1984’s “Wild Life,” his mostly forgotten follow-up to “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.” Brooks hired Crowe to write a screenplay around an idea he’d had involving a girl who discovers her father is a criminal. The script evolved slowly over a four-year period, with Crowe adding Lloyd Dobler, who would eventually become the main character. Lawrence Kasdan, writer of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” and director of “The Big Chill” and “Body Heat,” had been circling the project, but told Crowe, according to an interview at the time, “You are that main character. You should direct it.” And so he did.
2. Robert Downey Jr could have played Lloyd, Jennifer Connelly came close to being Diane.
John Cusack and Ione Skye make one of the great screen couples in the film, but as ever, it could have been very different. Crowe wrote the part for Cusack, but was concerned that the actor wouldn’t want to play a high school character again, so started to look elsewhere. Those who auditioned for the part included Loren Dean (who ended up playing the infamous Joe in the film), and future directors Todd Field (“Little Children“) and Peter Berg (“Battleship“), while Christian Slater and future homophobic religious nut Kirk Cameron came close. Robert Downey Jr was actually offered the part, but turned it down, leading Crowe to finally approach Cusack, who loved the part, and signed on. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Shue apparently nailed her audition to play Diane, but Ione Skye narrowly beat out Shue and future Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly to land the role. Lastly, while Julia Roberts, hot off “Mystic Pizza” was up to play the role of D.C, it was Amy Brooks who took the role.
3. The film features a diverse group of cameos, including rock stars and action heroes.
Throughout the film, a host of familiar faces crop up. For instance, Lloyd’s sparring partner in the kickboxing scenes (filmed on the same set as the dojo from “The Karate Kid,” and shot while Cusack had a raging hangover, after going out on the town with pal Jeremy Piven — who also pops up in the film) is sporting legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who would go on and star in Roger Corman‘s eight-strong series of “Bloodfist” actioners. Crowe also brought in friends from the music world he knew so well: Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam plays a cab driver, Chynna Phillips from Wilson-Phillips plays Joe’s girlfriend, and the director makes a walk-on cameo along with his then-wife, Heart member Nancy Wilson, in the shopping mall scene. Also worth keeping out for: producer Polly Platt and “Cheers” star Bebe Neuwirth, Paul Thomas Anderson favorite Philip Baker Hall, and Dan Castellaneta, who was about to become the legendary voice of Homer Simpson. Finally, Joan Cusack‘s performance as Lloyd’s sister (which gets disproportionate attention in the trailer) was uncredited: she’d just been nominated for an Oscar for “Working Girl,” but took the part as a favor to her li’l brother.
4. Eric Stoltz worked as a production assistant on the movie.
One other familiar face who can be glimpsed in the movie is Eric Stoltz, who plays Vahlere. The actor was already well known, having been originally cast as Marty McFly in “Back To The Future,” and starred in “Mask” and “Some Kind Of Wonderful.” The actor and Crowe were friends, Stoltz having appeared in both “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” and “The Wild Life,” and he was actually on set for the whole shoot: the actor wanted to get experience behind the camera, and volunteered his services to Crowe. As such, he spent several weeks fetching coffees for the cast and crew, and is credited as a production assistant on the movie. It must have paid off: Stoltz is now an experienced TV director, with credits including “Californication,” “Private Practice” and eight episodes of “Glee.” His friendship with Crowe would continue with cameos in both “Singles” (as a mime) and “Jerry Maguire,” and he was meant to play David Bowie in “Almost Famous” before scheduling conflicts got in the way.
5. Crowe went through several possibilities for the song for the iconic boombox scene before landing on Peter Gabriel.
The film’s most iconic scene, endlessly copied (usually unsuccessfully, we imagine) by lovestruck teenagers, is when Lloyd wins Diane back with the aid of his boombox and Peter Gabriel‘s “In Your Eyes” (a song penned for Rosanna Arquette, as it turns out). But the track was a relatively last-minute addition. Crowe had scripted it to be Billy Idol’s “To Be A Lover,” and commissioned a number of bands to write possible themes. The Smithereens were one, and they turned in the track that would become their big hit, “A Girl Like You,” but Crowe felt that it stayed too close to the plot. When the time came to film the scene, Cusack was actually playing “Bonin’ In The Boneyard” by one of his favourite bands, Fishbone, but only because they knew they’d be dubbing over it. Eventually, Crowe rediscovered “In Your Eyes” on a tape he’d made for Nancy Wilson for their wedding, and approached Gabriel. The musician sent a note back saying he liked the film, although disapproved of the lead character’s drug overdose: a puzzled Crowe swiftly discovered that Gabriel had accidentally been sent a copy of John Belushi biopic “Wired” instead. It was put right, and the rest was movie-music history.