Tribute to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, set for remake

As sure as Neal Page did not welcome Del Griffith, I can not say that I welcome a remake of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Consider this my tribute to the memory of the original.

This film is particularly dear to my heart because I traveled across the country shooting the original with Steve Martin and John Candy, and writer/director John Hughes.

Then known as Holzer Roche Casting, my business partner Cathie Holzer and I were the young pups who had the wild experience of traveling with the film and casting the extras and minor speaking roles.

Bear with me as I reminisce, and this was the routine in every location, we’d follow closely behind John Hughes through a smoke filled room, packed for an open call for extras and featured minor roles. No one knew who that guy was wandering through the room with us, puffing on a cigarette (Hughes never wanted to be introduced.) When he saw someone of interest he’d give us a subtle nod, a gesture, or a whisper, “The guy in the plaid shirt. The woman with the missing tooth.”

John’s executive producer, Michael Chinich, hovered over every casting call in every city, looking for assurance that the look was right.

Hughes thrived on big scenes with lots of extras but also had an amazing talent for vignettes. He’d often write a scene on set or just let his characters run away with a scene. Martin and Candy in a run down motel, drinking tiny bottles of Del’s airplane liquor collection from around the world. Genius. Del selling shower curtain rings as designer earrings. Just turn Candy loose and get out of his way.

There were hordes of holiday airport travelers. Martin and Candy dragging Del’s trunk through a frozen cow pasture along with the 200 train passengers. And, although buses are not in the title, the busload of travelers singing “Meet the Flinstones” which was a cover set, took weeks to film.

My favorite, and who can forget — the traveling family on the highway frantically screaming, “You’re going the wrong way.” All second unit night shots and the family never got to see Steve and John.

We sometimes started a day not knowing what scene we were shooting. It was an experience I cherish.

The film’s first cut was 4 ½ hours long.

As the film’s editor Paul Hirsch told me, “It’s easy to edit a bad film. The difficulty is editing a good film, where every scene is priceless. It’s like cutting off an arm.”

ALSO READ: Oscar winner Paul Hirsch at Music Box

The comedy-classic film is a near-perfect character study full of both comedy and drama, and the perfect example of screenwriter Hughes’ comic but sometimes dark side. This fast paced comedy delivers a stream of belly laughs until it screeches to a halt with a scene of shocking cruelty when Steve’s character, Neal delivers a verbal assault on annoying but lovable Del.

The ending? Completely different than what was scripted. And it was perfection. But that’s why we loved going to the premiere of a Hughes film. You never knew what scenes would make the cut or how it would end. And after months of grueling production, we couldn’t wait to see it.

Trivia… the car rental scene when Steve explodes in frustration, was the reason the film went from GP to R rated when Steve utters the word f**k or f**king 18 times in a little more than 40 seconds.

Big shoes to fill.

The remake will take Will Smith and Kevin Hart on the road as the mismatched weary business travelers, forced by circumstance into being travel companions in an odyssey of misadventures trying to get home to their loved ones.

Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Productions and Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios are developing the remake. Aeysha Carr (“Brooklyn 99”) is set to create the screenplay. Hart and Smith will produce the film.

I’m sure I speak for the rest of the original crew when I say, “safe travels.”

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