Coen Heads: How Phoenix Played a Starring Role in Raising Arizona

You’ll need to forgive TJ Kuhn if his recollections of his big-screen debut in a significant movement image are a bit of fuzzy. After all, he was solely lower than a yr outdated on the time.

In 1987, the Valley native performed toddler Nathan Junior within the screwball comedy crime caper Raising Arizona, sharing the display with actors Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, who starred within the movie as a childless couple who kidnapped his character to lift as their very own.

The movie — launched in theaters 35 years in the past this week — was written and directed by the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen and was filmed virtually totally within the metro Phoenix space. He landed the position after his mother and father, residents of the Moon Valley space, responded to an area casting name.

You’d assume that showing alongside a pair of Oscar-winning actors in a now-beloved movie directed by two of Hollywood’s most esteemed auteurs can be one thing that stands out in your thoughts.

Not so, says Kuhn, who works as an area actual property agent. His father is one other story.

“My earliest memories are, everywhere we went, my dad would be the one to tell everybody that I’m the baby from that one movie,” Kuhn says. “So I always knew about it, but I didn’t realize how significant it was until my teens.”

By then, Raising Arizona had firmly grow to be entrenched as an all-time traditional. Although met with middling evaluations and field workplace returns following its launch in March 1987, the movie grew to become a cult favourite because of its signature Coen quirkiness and oft-quotable strains and located its true viewers by house video and cable.

It’s additionally earned an appreciation amongst Arizonans, regardless of the cinematic roasting our state and its residents obtain within the movie. The sun-scorched romp paints with broad comical brushstrokes, lampooning us as idiosyncratic hayseeds whereas additionally celebrating our desert house in a way. The movie is full of glimpses of native landmarks like Piestewa Peak and the Superstition Mountains.

Chief among the many memorable characters is protagonist H.I. “Hi” McDunnough, a goofball recidivist offender with a coronary heart of gold and a yen for armchair philosophy who’s performed with doe-eyed perfection by Cage, lengthy earlier than the actor grew to become a strolling web meme. In the movie, he marries Edwina (Hunter), the cop he woos along with his charms. Unable to conceive on their very own, the 2 hatch a harebrained scheme to kidnap one of many 5 “Arizona quints” born to Phoenix unpainted furnishings tycoon Nathan Arizona. Their plot unravels because the couple has to take care of Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe), two scheming former jail buddies of Hi’s who’ve escaped the pen, in addition to the terrifying bounty hunter Leonard Smalls, who’s employed to get better Nathan Junior.

Raising Arizona was markedly totally different from the Coens’ first movie, the 1984 Southern-fried crime noir Blood Simple. According to interviews with the brothers, it was intentional, as they have been searching for lighter, extra offbeat fare.

When the Coens got here to the Valley in 1986, they introduced a gaggle of character and theater actors from New York and L.A. (together with Goodman, Forsythe, Hunter, and Frances McDormand) and a largely East Coast crew, but in addition drew on expertise regionally.

click on to enlarge The cast and crew of Raising Arizona. - MELINDA SUE GORDON

The solid and crew of Raising Arizona.

Melinda Sue Gordon

It included native actors like Lynne Kitei, an area doctor with a background in musical comedy, in addition to manufacturing professionals with Valley ties, resembling native lighting and electrical tech Bob Field, who was employed together with Danny McCallum and George Ball.

“It was an interesting scenario because there were the New York guys of the film, and we’re local Arizona guys who were also working in L.A.,” Field says. “It was also a mix of union and non-union crews because Arizona’s a right-to-work state.”

Raising Arizona‘s manufacturing additionally gave alternatives to Valley residents who have been attempting to interrupt into the movie trade. Linette Shorr was a current Arizona State University graduate who was finally employed as a set dresser.

“I was a huge fan of Blood Simple, and there was something in the Arizona Republic about how [the Coens] were coming to film. So I got as relentless as you are when you really want something, and kept interviewing in every department until the production supervisor, Alma [Kuttruff], kept saying, ‘Yeah, we need you.'”

Connie Hoy, then a movie pupil at Scottsdale Community College, was equally persistent and was employed as a manufacturing assistant.

“I kept showing up and asking to work until they took me on. You’re just a young kid who was getting into the biz and you didn’t want to ask too many questions. I was just a scared little film school student that just wanted to do my job,” she says. “As a PA, you’re doing whatever you can do to help out the crew. When there’s a guy shooting a gun at Nic as he’s running by, after they yell cut, you start sweeping up as they reload.”

click on to enlarge Raising Arizona's crew filming a scene at the now-demolished Reata Pass Steakhouse in Scottsdale. - COURTESY OF JULIE ASCH KAREUS

Raising Arizona’s crew filming a scene on the now-demolished Reata Pass Steakhouse in Scottsdale.

Courtesy of Julie Asch Kareus

Debra Knoblauch, who labored on the Phoenix Film Commission for 30 years, remembers taking the brothers location scouting for the movie.

“We went around looking and found things that they liked. And then they brought out their art department and location manager and scout again, and kept working together to pin it down,” she says.

Filming on Raising Arizona ran roughly 12 weeks in areas throughout the Valley, from north Phoenix to Apache Junction, in desert landscapes and old-timey eating places just like the now-demolished Reata Pass Steakhouse in Scottsdale.

Phoenix New Times is taking a tour of many of those similar areas used within the movie in honor of Raising Arizona‘s thirty fifth anniversary this week. It’s additionally a visit down reminiscence lane, as we have spoken with quite a few individuals concerned on each side of the digital camera for his or her recollections from these days.

As H.I. says within the flick, it ain’t Ozzie and Harriet.

click on to enlarge The parole board scene from Raising Arizona. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

The parole board scene from Raising Arizona.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Parole Board, Gynecologist’s Office & Elsewhere

Old Phoenix City Hall, 125 West Washington Street

“We got a name for people like you, Hi. That name is called recidivism.”

When Debra Knoblauch started studying Raising Arizona‘s script and noticed it known as for areas like boardrooms and physician’s places of work, she had a suggestion: downtown Phoenix’s historic City Hall.

Built in 1928, the previous courthouse and onetime municipal hub was closed on the time and awaiting renovation, and had quite a few official-looking rooms appropriate for the Coens’ movie. (It’d already been featured in a couple of motion pictures, together with 1981’s Used Cars.)

“So we showed them that as a possibility, and they ended up using that as a cover set for a ton of locations if the weather was bad,” Knoblauch says. “They did the police station, the adoption agency, and a lot of other stuff there.”

Linette Shorr remembers serving to prep and adorn taking pictures areas at historic City Hall for filming.

“It’s a very beautiful sort of Art Deco building and the room where he goes in front of the [parole] board was a beautiful [wooden-walled] room, a very rare find in Phoenix,” she says. “My first day at work was to clean those walls. And I was like, ‘Is this what movie people do? I went to college, I had a degree.’ And when the Coen brothers came walking in, I was thinking, ‘Notice me, put me in a different position.'”

She additionally remembers how the movie’s artwork director Harold Thrasher gave the parole board room a uniquely Arizona contact.

“I remember he was so pleased because he found this great old portrait of Barry Goldwater to use for those scenes and I helped hang them on the wall,” Shorr says.

click on to enlarge The scene where convicts Gale (John Goodman) and Evell (William Forsythe) return to prison was filmed in north-central Phoenix. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

The scene the place convicts Gale (John Goodman) and Evell (William Forsythe) return to jail was filmed in north-central Phoenix.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Maricopa County Maximum Security Correctional Facility for Men

twenty fourth Street Water Treatment Plant, 6202 North twenty fourth Street

“Prison ain’t the easiest place to think …”

For most of its 69-year lifespan, Phoenix’s twenty fourth Street Water Treatment Plant has been an unusual piece of municipal infrastructure. For a couple of nights in early 1986, although, it grew to become the outside of Raising Arizona‘s fictional “Maricopa County Maximum Security Correctional Facility for Men.”

“The Coens were looking for a place to be a prison for a [jail break] scene,” Knoblauch says. “That location looked very stark and turned out to work really well for them.”

It additionally had a big grime lot, which was become an enormous mud pit the place convicts Gale (John Goodman) and Evell (William Forsythe) escape by tunneling their method out throughout a storm. Field says crews dug a gap for an enormous inflatable bladder, which supported Goodman and pushed him from the opening.

“He literally stepped out on top of the ground and then pulled [Forsythe] through from his feet,” Field says. “It was just thick and pretty muddy out there to work in, too. It was a clear night, so we had a rain machine going.”

It went higher than the manufacturing’s experiences at an precise native jail. McCallum says the manufacturing had permission to movie on the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, however provided that they’d agree to not convey any prop weapons or propane tanks into the power due to security considerations.

“So the prop truck breaks down in the middle of the gate on the way into the prison. And they end up looking through the truck and they’re finding guns and propane, which weren’t allowed anywhere near the property,” he says. “And my father [former Arizona Film Commission head William McCallum] got an upset phone call from the warden.”

click on to enlarge In the film, it's Tempe. In real life, it's north Scottsdale. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

In the movie, it is Tempe. In actual life, it is north Scottsdale.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Hi and Ed’s Camper

North 136th Street and East Del Timbre Drive, Scottsdale

“Ed’s pa staked us to a starter home in suburban Tempe …”

Despite Hi’s narration, the couple’s desert homestead and camper weren’t remotely near Tempe, at the least in our universe. Instead, it is perched on the sting of land owned by the Salt-River Pima Indian Community close to the upscale Carino Canyon Homes improvement. At the time of filming, although, it was basically the center of nowhere.

Shorr says they introduced in all the things to create a cluster of trailers for the film. “We brought each trailer in and they built the roads. I remember all of us collectively [in the art department] trying to find things and goodies to put in the front yards of each trailer.”

She additionally wrangled a few of the automobiles parked across the space, together with utilizing her personal journey.

“I did all the vehicles that were there. My own VW is in front of one of the trailers,” Shorr says. “We were going to leave it up for longer, but there was a time constraint with the deal [the production] had. It’s kind of wild to think about, because that area is now getting built out.”

As for the inside of Hi and Ed’s trailer, that was at one other location altogether.

click on to enlarge The legendary Jokake Inn at the Phoenician Resort. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

The legendary Jokake Inn on the Phoenician Resort.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Arizona Residence

Jokake Inn at The Phoenician, 6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale

“You go right back up there and get me a toddler! I need a baby, Hi.”

If you are an unpainted furnishings tycoon like Nathan Arizona, residing in quaint Southwestern digs just like the Jokake Inn along with your spouse and kids appears fairly becoming. The historic Pueblo Revival-style adobe dwelling on the grounds of The Phoenician resort match the film’s kitschy aesthetic like a turquoise-studded tasseled glove.

Shorr says manufacturing needed to do in depth landscaping on the property earlier than filming a number of scenes there, together with Hi and Ed kidnapping Nathan Junior from the second-floor window.

“It had been sitting for 20 years or more and nobody had been using it,” she says. “I brought in cactuses and added cactuses to what was already there. And it was just the most beautiful building. It was heaven, like the sort of good bones an [art department] can work with. Jane had this vision of how everything should look.”

The Jokake Inn was solely used for exterior scenes of the property; the interiors have been filmed at Carefree Studios in north Scottsdale. One sequence that was a mixture of each was the low-angle dolly shot the place the digital camera zips alongside the driveway, up a ladder, by an open window, and into an excessive closeup of Florence Arizona screaming after discovering certainly one of her quints is lacking. Field says solely the primary portion was shot repeatedly.

“That was a series of many cuts, but in particular, I remember the [sequence] zooming in on Mrs. Arizona’s mouth was shot backward and then played in reverse,” he says.

Lynne Kitei, the actress who performed Florence Arizona, says her portion was filmed a number of occasions and virtually went a bit additional.

“Once the camera gets into the room, it looks like I turn from the crib and put my hands to my face and then my mouth opens and screams. So I had to act in reverse many times,” she says. “They had the camera zooming all the way into my uvula, like I was Olive Oyl. But that ended up on the cutting room floor, which I’m happy about.”

She says that is her actual three-octave singing voice is heard screaming, although. “That’s all my voice. I must have done that scream 50 times with Barry Sonnenfeld in a big hall.”

click on to enlarge TJ Kuhn as Nathan Arizona. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

TJ Kuhn as Nathan Arizona.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Interior Shots

Carefree Studios, 32331 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

When many film tasks got here to the Valley within the ’70s and ’80s, they steadily filmed scenes on the now-demolished Carefree Studios. Raising Arizona isn’t any exception, as scenes inside Hi and Ed’s trailer and different inside areas have been shot on the film ranch on Scottsdale Road north of what is now Loop 101.

Kitei says two-story units have been created for the Arizonas’ home, and remembers working with Cage on the scene the place he kidnaps Nathan Junior.

“I had to walk up all these steps as Nic was grabbing the baby. So we were together a couple of the shoot days,” Kitei says. “He was fantastic to work with.”

Shorr helped with adorning the units for Hi and Ed’s trailer and the Arizonas’ home and took her cues from artwork director Harold Thrasher and manufacturing designer Jane Musky when it got here to the design.

“I remember them talking to me a lot, Jane about her ideas of her idea of things people brought from other places being used on the film because it’s such a transient place, Arizona,” Shorr says. “There’s many generations that have lived here, lasted for a few years, and then leave their objects behind. So it’s sort of like a thrift store aesthetic [for the trailer set].

She was given a blank slate in a sense to decorate both the trailer and the Arizonas’ house.

“With the trailer, they actually mentioned, ‘This is what the carpet can be,’ after which all the things else I went and hunted round for. It appeared to be procuring, having me store and hunt for stuff.”

Scenes involving the Arizona’s nursery were also filmed at the studios. Julie Asch Kareus, an obstetric nurse who was the “child wrangler” on Raising Arizona, worked with Kuhn and other infants for the film.

“He was the very best child in each side,” she says. “He was generic-looking, that is what Joel [Coen] preferred about him. I preferred the actual fact he labored properly with me, and was completely satisfied.”

Anytime Kuhn appears in the film, Kareus says she’d be just offscreen coaching him, including the memorable scene where Kuhn hides his face with his hooded sweatshirt.

“To get him to do this, I’d pull my hood down, identical to we have been enjoying peek-a-boo,” she says.

click on to enlarge Sam McMurray as Glen (left) and Nicolas Cage as H.I. (right) with the Superstition Mountains in the background. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

Sam McMurray as Glen (left) and Nicolas Cage as H.I. (proper) with the Superstition Mountains within the background.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Lost Dutchman State Park

6109 North Apache Trail, Apache Junction

“We finally go out with some decent people and you break his nose! That ain’t too funny, Hi”

The picturesque crags and excessive desert terrain of the Superstition Mountains by no means seemed higher than when Raising Arizona cinematographer (and future director) Barry Sonnenfeld shot it for the movie. The iconic mountain vary was the outstanding backdrop for scenes filmed at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, together with a scene the place H.I. decks his lecherous boss Glen whereas their two households share a picnic.

Field remembers it being lovely, if not downright chilly, when taking pictures on the park.

“We were out at the base of the Superstitions one of the first few days of shooting and I remember that afternoon being extremely cold,” he says. “I think they even had to fight to keep from seeing the breath and yet are in T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts.”

If actor Sam McMurray, who performed Glen, had any complaints about working in such circumstances, he does not point out them when talking with Phoenix New Times.

“I would say overall that it was the best experience I’ve ever had on a movie shoot,” McMurray says. “The production was spectacularly attuned to actors.”

Short Stop Convenience Store

2311 West Deer Valley Road

“I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got.”

One of Raising Arizona‘s most unforgettable (and totally hilarious) moments comes after H.I. welches on his promise to surrender a lifetime of crime. Needing diapers, he sticks up a comfort retailer whereas masked with a pair of ladies’s pantyhose, as his spouse and Nathan Junior wait outdoors within the automobile. Then, all hell breaks unfastened.

After witnessing his crime, Ed ditches him in disgust and burns rubber out of the parking zone. Then, the police arrive. And the shop’s trigger-happy clerk begins opening fireplace with a .44 magnum. Cage’s character shortly hotfoots it away with the cops in shut pursuit.

What follows is a bonkers chase sequence over the subsequent 20 minutes accentuated by composer Carter Burwell’s devilishly madcap rating of banjo music and yodeling. The scenes have been filmed throughout three totally different Valley cities, McCallum says, together with at a now-defunct Short Stop comfort retailer on Deer Valley Road east of Interstate 17. (The retailer has since grow to be a Circle Okay.)

“Shooting the Huggies chase was like three weeks of nights, and we were moving all over town for it,” says. “I remember we had 120-foot-tall [lighting rigs] flying and there was a lot going on.”

Hoy says residents close to the Short Stop thought an precise crime was in progress. “Someone heard the gunshots as we were shooting that scene and they thought it was a real robbery. And the cops we had there were like, ‘No. Move along,'” she says. “There was an accident out front, too, because was a bunch of lookie-loos were rubbernecking.”

Scottsdale Neighborhood

8620 East Malcomb Drive

“Son, you’ve got a panty on your head.”
There wasn’t as a lot of a ruckus when the Coens moved filming to a quiet Scottsdale neighborhood close to McDonald Drive and Granite Reef Road. Despite some chaotic motion — together with Cage dodging cop automobiles, working by houses whereas being chased by canines, and leaping into passing automobiles — McCallum says the locals have been into it, although.

“We had really big pieces of equipment making a lot of noise and we’re moving them several times a night,” he says. “There’s tires squealing, cars spinning, gunshots going off, and dogs barking, and it’s kind of mayhem, but nobody got upset at us. It was all very cool.”

Field says the residents have been additionally having a ball, gathering “four and five deep in their yards” with garden chairs and cocktails to look at the filming.

“They just had the best time, which for us is an odd thing because in Los Angeles and New York, sometimes you don’t get a warm welcome when you’re shooting in somebody’s neighborhood all night,” he says, “But these people just loved us.”

click on to enlarge The exterior of the Double Coupons market was filmed in Mesa. - CIRCLE FILMS/20TH CENTURY FOX

The exterior of the Double Coupons market was filmed in Mesa.

Circle Films/twentieth Century Fox

Double Coupons Supermarket

827 East Main Street, Mesa

So did the administration of a now-defunct grocery retailer at Horne and Main streets in Mesa the place extra chase footage was shot. Production shot on the grocery store over a number of nights and upgraded its lighting for filming, Field says.

“It was more daylight-balanced, which looked better on film,” he says. “When we went to change it back [store management] told us to they preferred it and wanted it to be kept in place. It was the least we could do after having people shooting guns and having dogs run around in the market.”

Hoy remembers spending lengthy hours working as PA on the retailer, together with chastising Cage for some unseemly habits.

“There was a huge barrel of bulk sunflower seeds at the market and between takes, Nic would eat the seeds and throw the shells back in,” she says. “And I’m like, ‘That’s kind of gross, man.’ He just went, ‘They’re worth more now.'”

click on to enlarge Nicolas Cage holding TJ Kuhn behind the scenes at Reata Pass Steakhouse in Scottsdale. - COURTESY OF JULIE ASCH KAREUS

Nicolas Cage holding TJ Kuhn behind the scenes at Reata Pass Steakhouse in Scottsdale.

Courtesy of Julie Asch Kareus

Reata Pass Steakhouse

27500 North Alma School Parkway

“Gimme that baby, you warthog from hell!”

The now-demolished Reata Pass Steakhouse in north Scottsdale was the epicenter of the Raising Arizona manufacturing. Hoy says base camp was situated there, it was throughout the neighborhood of some different taking pictures areas, and driving scenes have been shot alongside the close by Jomax and Dynamite roads.

“They’d pull out the camera car [and] process trailer onto Jomax and then shoot up and down all day long filming,” she says.

click on to enlarge Linette Shorr with Randall "Tex" Cobb. - LINETTE SHORR

Linette Shorr with Randall “Tex” Cobb.

Linette Shorr

Reata Pass, which was demolished in 2015 after closing three years prior, can be the place Hi and Ed squared off with biker/bounty hunter Leonard Smalls within the film’s climax.

“We spent lots of days out there,” Field says. “The whole fight of Tex Cobb and H.I. McDunnough, the climax of the movie, that was all out at Reata Pass.”

Shorr has loads of recollections of her experiences serving to arrange these scenes. “That was a huge thing because that involved cars. So all those cars that [Cage] crawls under, one is my VW bug, another is one of my friend’s cars,” Shorr says. “I was ecstatic because I got my best friend’s cars in the movie. So they made like $100.”

She additionally has a prized photograph of her with actor Randall “Tex” Cobb, who was coated in black gook for the movie’s closing scenes.

“It’s from that day because he was totally into me and kept bugging me all the time,” she says.

Cobb’s look, in addition to his varied tattoos and nasty enamel, have been performed on the movie by make-up artist Katherine James, who received her begin on Raising Arizona.

“It was my first, but probably the most fun I’ve ever had making a movie,” says James, who has since gone on to a full-time profession in Hollywood and labored as Holly Hunter’s make-up artist for years.

She additionally helped created Cage’s varied wounds from his battle with Smalls and likewise “dirtied everyone up.”

“The funny thing about making people dirty is that it’s hard to keep them dirty. You would think if you made somebody dirty, they would stay dirty all day,” she says. “That’s the kind of makeup you chase all the time because it keeps wiping off. It doesn’t matter what you use. You’re outside. It’s 90 degrees. People sweat. It keeps coming off, so trying to keep him dirty was quite the task.”

click on to enlarge The only thing that remains of the Reata Pass in Scottsdale. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

The solely factor that is still of the Reata Pass in Scottsdale.

Benjamin Leatherman

There’s not a lot of Reata Pass left as of late, save for its big water tower alongside Alma School Road, which is steadily photographed by followers of the film reenacting Cage’s leap away from the explosion that (spoiler alert) kills Smalls. Field, who lives and works in L.A. says he visits there when he is within the Valley.

“It’s such a great location,” he says. “There will always be these memories of that whole area years ago on the film.”

click on to enlarge Nicolas Cage relaxing behind the scenes of Raising Arizona. - COURTESY OF JULIE ASCH KAREUS

Nicolas Cage stress-free behind the scenes of Raising Arizona.

Courtesy of Julie Asch Kareus


“I dreamt I was as light as the ether, a floating spirit visiting things to come …”

James says engaged on Raising Arizona helped propel her in Hollywood.

“In some way, I can almost connect a lot of stuff I did,” she says. “Because I did Raising Arizona, the next movie the costume designer [Richard Hornung] brought me to New York to work on a little movie there. Then I did Miller’s Crossing.”

Shorr received the same profession enhance from working with the Coen brothers.

“It changed my whole life,” she says. “Everyone on that job was like, ‘You should come to New York.” And I received a job by someone on [Raising Arizona] recommending me. And I flew to New York and I knew no person or nothing. And I then labored on The Equalizer as an artwork division coordinator. And then I went to Saturday Night Live.

“I mean, my whole career started from that movie,” Shorr says. “I learned every a lot from them and I still get jobs because of that job.”

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