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Urban Cowboy (1980) Poster

(1980)

Trivia

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Patrick Swayze taught John Travolta how to do the two-step for the movie.
According to Debra Winger's book, she only got the part after Sissy Spacek, who originally was cast, had a falling out with Travolta.
The script was originally written for Dennis Quaid for the central role of Bud. The lead part in the end went to John Travolta.
After initial box-office returns were surprisingly low, a newspaper poll was taken in the summer of 1980 to figure out why teenagers were not flocking to see the film. One of the main complaints from kids was that they did not know what the word Urban meant.
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Debut film as a choreographer of Patsy Swayze mother of Patrick Swayze whose wife (Lisa Niemi) also choreographed the dance sequences.
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John Travolta had a mechanical bull installed in his home two months before production began. He became so good that he was allowed to dismiss the stunt double and do the takes himself.
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At the time the film was shot, Gilley's, used as the film's main nightclub location was the largest nightclub in the world in terms of available space for the patrons, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
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In the early scenes of the movie, John Travolta as Bud sports a beard. According to director James Bridges, Travolta wanted to keep the beard throughout the film but, after a lunch-date with the actor in a very popular restaurant failed to attract even one autograph-seeker, Travolta was convinced to shave it off.
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John Travolta said of this movie in the film's publicity: "Today, half the country would like to be a cowboy, while the other half would like to look like one". Of the movie, Travolta added that it was (to date at the time) " . . . my most physical movie. That thing was brutal and hard on the body. I was trained by super stuntman Chris Howell and he taught me how to hang on and hang in there. To master it, finally, was a great feeling".
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Michelle Pfeiffer auditioned for the role of Sissy and was producer Robert Evans' preferred choice.
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The 1967 Ford Mustang that Sissy drove in this movie now resides in Evans City, PA (near Pittsburgh). It is owned by two brothers and is often seen in local car shows.
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Debut film of actor Barry Corbin and actress Madolyn Smith Osborne and the debut produced screenplay of writer Aaron Latham.
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The scene where Wes chews up and swallows the worm after drinking the bottle of tequila was not scripted, but a joke done for the dailies.
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Studio executives were against casting Debra Winger in the lead role at first. Director James Bridges threatened to quit the film unless she was cast. They eventually approved the casting.
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The prison rodeo scene is authentic and was shot at the Huntsville Texas state prison. The prison held a rodeo from 1931 to 1986.
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P.J. Soles auditioned for the part of Sissy.
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First big lead starring role of actress Debra Winger.
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John Travolta's only ever western or cowboy picture [to date March 2014].
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Robert Evans sent Debra Winger back from location because he did not think she was attractive enough for the lead; it was only at the insistence of director James Bridges that she did the role.
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The soundtrack album was a major hit. It sold several million copies and featured the hit tunes "Looking for Love", "Can I Have This Dance?" and "All Night Long".
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Rene Russo screentested for the female lead.
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Film debut of sisters Jerry Hall and Cyndy Hall, the "Sexy Sisters".
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According to the TCMDb, "In the last two weeks, the shoot moved to Los Angeles where an East L.A. trailer park subbed for Bud's Houston digs. One day, gunfire suddenly peppered the set. According to a security guard, six men with sawed-off rifles came over an embankment on the set's perimeter, firing away. It was believed, though never proved, that the assailants were members of a local street gang. No one was injured, but Travolta was badly shaken, and the remainder of filming was done on a soundstage".
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The picture was adapted into a Broadway stage production of the same name in 2003 where it played for sixty performances at the Broadhurst Theatre opening on the 28th of February and closing on the 18th of May.
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Both of the film's leads were notable at the time from recently having just starred in two of the big 1970s disco movies, Debra Winger in Thank God It's Friday (1978), and John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977). Both of the disco pics featured a name of a day of the week in their title.
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In order to place cameras in key positions under the mechanical bull to capture certain angles of the rodeo riding, the landing fall mattresses were removed, thereby reducing the safety protection of the rider.
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Product placements and promotional tie-ins included Stetson Hats and Budweiser Beer though Coors Ale is also featured in the film.
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This picture was the movie that John Travolta did instead after turning down the lead role in Paul Schrader's American Gigolo (1980).
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The film's director James Bridges said of this movie for the picture's publicity: "The film is a real look at the lifestyle of a mechanized West and the need for fantasy by those in contemporary society who work daily in dangerous jobs. In the saloon they go to at night after work these men create another reality for themselves, almost a small town where they live the cowboy myth".
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Extras and background artists were paid around US $30 per day.
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In their film reviews a number of film critics referred to the picture as a country-and-western music version of John Travolta's disco movie Saturday Night Fever (1977).
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The interior of the "Gilley's Club" country-and-western venue was ravished by fire around 1989/1990 with the bar closing down after a dispute between its owners. In 2006, the exterior shell of the facility was demolished by its owners the Pasadena Independent School District. Reportedly, only the old sound-recording studio remains which is located on the Spencer Highway. A new "Gilley's Club" opened in Dallas, Texas in 2003 and is now known as "Gilley's Dallas".
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The name of the mechanical bull was "El Toro". The amount of money it cost to take a ride on it was $5.
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John Travolta would visit the nurses at nearby Bayshore Medical Center (Pasadena, TX) when he was done filming at night.
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One of a mini Hollywood cycle of studio pictures involving modern country and western/rodeo characters made around 1979/80. The others were Bronco Billy (1980) and The Electric Horseman (1979).
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To prepare for his lead role, star John Travolta frequented clubs and bars in Houston, Texas, particularly Gilley's, the picture's main real-life central locale honky-tonk.
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The production shoot of this picture featured a closed set with many security precautions implemented to protect star John Travolta from the media. Travolta had mandated no publicity during filming and was at the time known to have become reclusive. The picture though garnered much negative publicity during principal photography anyway with producer Robert Evans once exclaiming "the press relations on this film stink and there's nothing I can do about it".
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The picture is attributed to contributing to the early 1980s popular interest of mechanical bull riding.
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The name of the honky-tonk venue was "Gilley's Bar".
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During the production shoot of this movie, disco outfit The Bee Gees, who had provided much of the soundtrack for John Travolta's earlier hit disco movie Saturday Night Fever (1977), played in Houston, Texas, whereupon Travolta accompanied them on stage.
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The type of dancing featuring in the movie in the dance contest is known as "Kicker Dancing" in Texas where the film is set and was shot. Outside of this American state it is also known as "Country Dancing", "Country/Western Dancing" and "Country and Western Dancing".
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The make and model of the car that Sissy (Debra Winger) drove was a beat-up black-top ochre-brown-bodied black-interior 1967 Ford Mustang.
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The film's "Urban Cowboy" title is a real-life expression used in popular speech. The Allwords Dictionary define the term as a "person living in the city that dresses in Western-style clothes". They state that the phrase's etymology has it derived from its use in this movie.
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Sissy Spacek and Michelle Pfeiffer were amongst the main actresses considered for the lead female role of "Sissy" (and having the same first name as Spacek), with the part in the end being cast with Debra Winger.
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According to the TCMDb, "in the last two weeks, the shoot moved to Los Angeles where an East L.A. trailer park subbed for Bud's Houston digs. One day, gunfire suddenly peppered the set. According to a security guard, six men with sawed-off rifles came over an embankment on the set's perimeter, firing away. It was believed, though never proved, that the assailants were members of a local street gang. No one was injured, but Travolta was badly shaken, and the remainder of filming was done on a soundstage".
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The name of the Esquire magazine article by journalist Aaron Latham that inspired the film was "The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy".
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Actress Jane Fonda visited the set whilst touring on a thirty city anti-nuclear tour.
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Cameo 

Johnny Lee:  As himself.
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Bonnie Raitt:  As herself.
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Charlie Daniels:  As himself.
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Mickey Gilley:  As himself.
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