The idea to have Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) continually checking his watch--and the whole back-story related to his habit--was all De Niro's idea.
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The boxcar scene--where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends--was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin's famous line, "You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?": he was told by director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh.
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John Ashton said that Robert De Niro got into his part so much that he actually hit Ashton during the fight scene on the train.
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Charles Grodin has permanent scars resulting from the real handcuffs he had to wear for a great deal of the film. Even though they had rubber and plastic handcuffs that could be used in wide shots, Robert De Niro, ever the method actor, encouraged Grodin to wear the steel ones in most scenes.
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Paramount Pictures originally owned the rights to the film. To improve the film's chances at the box office, the studio wanted a big-name star to appear opposite Robert De Niro. It was suggested that the character of John "Duke" Mardukas be changed to a woman and be played by Cher, who had had recent box-office success with The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Suspect (1987), and Moonstruck (1987). It was felt that casting Cher opposite De Niro would lend some "sexual overtones" to the relationship between the two characters. Director Martin Brest, however, rejected the gender switch idea, so Paramount Pictures suggested giving the role to Robin Williams, who had recently had a big hit with Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). Williams read and liked the script and agreed to audition. In the meantime, however, Brest had auditioned the less famous Charles Grodin and had liked Grodin's interaction with De Niro. As such, Brest cast Grodin without auditioning Williams. Paramount Pictures decided to drop out of the project, selling the rights to Universal, who went ahead with the De Niro and Grodin casting.
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After doing "The Untouchables (1987)," Robert De Niro was looking for some lighter material to do next. Initially, he wanted to play the lead in Penny Marshall's "Big (1988)," but the studio wasn't interested in having De Niro play the role. He was then offered this movie, which he liked and agreed to make.
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The famous "litmus configuration" scene was mostly improvised.
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The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene--the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids--was shot in New Zealand because the water was too cold in Arizona.
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Robert De Niro spent time with bounty hunters as part of his preparation for this role.
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Charles Grodin said the script was the best he had ever read.
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Charles Grodin changed a line in the screenplay from "As an accountant" to "As your accountant" to show the growing bond between Walsh and Mardukas.
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Yaphet Kotto was suffering from a fever for almost his entire involvement in the movie.
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Bob Maroff, the taxi driver who snubs Jack in the last scene, played alongside Robert De Niro in "Taxi Driver (1976)."
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Actor Yaphet Kotto (Agent Alonzo Mosely) commented in a 2015 interview: "Midnight Run was practically the most difficult movie I ever made. Marty Brest doesn't do one take. He shoots a lot of footage, one take after another, all kinds of different ways, experimenting to see if something extraordinary happens. Then even if it does he'll try something else. [...] I didn't know whether it was a comedy or a drama. It could go either way. What I was surprised about is what I thought was going to be funny was funny, and what I thought was going to be dramatic was even funnier".
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The script originally had Marvin die in the scene where Serrano's thugs knock him out, but it was felt that the climax would have been less dramatic and suspenseful without him.
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Dennis Farina shot all of his scenes in Las Vegas because he was also shooting "Crime Story (1986)" there as well.
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In 2010, it was reported that Robert De Niro was planning to make a "remake or sequel" with his production company Tribeca Productions.
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In the diner scene concerning the counterfeit 20 dollar bills, it was Charles Grodin's idea to include one of the extras who was playing a barfly (Bill Fritz) in the scene. It worked so well that they kept adding lines, including a sequence that did not end up in the film in which Jonathan Mardukas asked the man if he had ever done any time in prison. The barfly would answer 'Yes'. When Mardukas asked him what for, he answered "Murder. But I didn't do it."
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Alonzo Mosely's sunglasses are gold-plated versions of the iconic 1978 Porsche Design "exclusive sun glasses" model. The Porsche design logotype can be seen in the close-ups of Mosely in the "Agent Foster Grant" scene at the bus station.
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The word "fuck" is used one hundred nineteen times in the movie.
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The film was shot on-location in Arizona, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Michigan, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Idaho, and New Zealand.
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According to Joe Pantoliano (Eddie Moscone) in his interview on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast, director Martin Brest gave him the opportunity to play one of the two goons that was always chasing De Niro's and Grodin's characters. But he wanted to play Grodin's part (which was flat out rejected) or the Moscone role, which he ultimately got after auditioning for it.
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In his 1989 autobiography "It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here...", Charles Grodin mentions that Robert De Niro had prepared for his role by going on actual drug busts with teams of detectives, had befriended a Los Angeles homicide detective who kept him regularly informed on the daily L.A. murder rate and had traveled to Chicago (his character's hometown) to work with the police there. Meanwhile Grodin's research was limited to a ten-minute phone call to his business manager, Ralph Goldman, to ask how the transfer of millions of embezzled dollars would technically be done.
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Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) is a former Chicago police officer. Dennis Farina, who played his nemesis Jimmy Serrano, was a Chicago policeman for eighteen years.
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The movie was a modest hit at the box office, earning $81.6 million worldwide on a budget of $35 million.
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The Blue Angel Motel in Las Vegas was demolished in 2012 to make way for 91,000 square feet of retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The motel had seen better days, but its iconic statue of a blonde woman wearing a blue dress was preserved. Adored by locals and visitors alike, the statue was designed by Betty Willis, who also designed the Stardust Casino sign and the world-famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign.
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Was ranked Number 6 on Gene Siskel 's list of the "Best Films of 1988."
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The theatrical trailer for the film shows several scenes which were not included in the final cut. For example, shortly after Jack (Robert De Niro) has captured Jonathan (Charles Grodin) for the first time, there is a scene where they are driving down a city street at night, and Mardukas tries to escape from the car, causing Jack to point his gun at Mardukas and tell him to make himself comfortable, to which Mardukas responds "I'm very comfortable". Another scene involves Jack, Jonathan, and Marvin (John Ashton) in the car trying to escape from the helicopter, and Jack turns around and yells "They're gaining on us", to which Mardukas responds "Of course, they're gaining on us, they're in a helicopter." A third scene occurs when Jack and Mardukas get the lift from the Native Americans, and as they are travelling along the road, a Native American asks them if they travel a lot, to which Jack and Mardukas look knowingly at one another.
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Bruce Willis was considered for the role of Jonathan Mardukas.
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Danny Elfman wrote lyrics for the end credits theme "Try to Believe". He sang the lead and recorded it with his band Oingo Boingo under the guise of "Mosley and the B-men". This version only appears on the soundtrack album. It was mixed by Brian Foraker.
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The character played by Jack Kehoe in the bail bonds office was named after a Hollywood attorney in the 1940s, Jerry Geisler. Geisler's clients included Errol Flynn and Marilyn Monroe.
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Albert Brooks turned down the part of Jonathan Mardukas.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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One of two movies from 1988 in which a road trip occurs because the main character won't fly. The other was Rain Man.
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When "Paramount Pictures" had obtained the script, they lined up Harrison Ford as Jack Walsh and Chevy Chase as Jonathan "the duke" Mardukas.
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In one of the scenes filmed in Las Vegas, you can see the sign for the Stardust Hotel and Casino. Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal once operated that casino. Rosenthal was the basis for Robert De Niro's character, Sam "Ace" Rothstein, in "Casino (1995)."
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Ron Perlman, Dennis Hopper, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Alec Baldwin were considered for the role of Jimmy Serrano.
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Although ultimately better than most and showcasing his talent, this is Robert De Niro's first mainstream action flick.
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Robert De Niro (Jack Walsh), Jack Kehoe (Jerry), and Robert Miranda (Joey, Serrano's thug) all previously worked together on "The Untouchables" (1987). De Niro portrayed Al Capone, and Kehoe portrayed Walter Payne (the bookkeeper). Miranda portrayed the thug in the white coat (in the cabin at the Canadian border) who is shot by Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness and (through the mouth) by Sean Connery's Malone.
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Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Michael Keaton, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Gene Hackman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, John Travolta, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were considered to play Jack Walsh.
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The Duke and Jack Walsh debate over who lied first. At the end of the debate, the Duke claims that Jack lied to him first at the river. The Duke forgets that Jack lied to him even earlier. When the Duke meets Jack, Jack immediately lies, introducing himself as Alonzo. However, the Duke likely would reply to this piece of trivia: "At that time, I had no knowledge Jack wasn't Alonzo, so as far as I knew, Jack did not lie to me at my home."
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Mickey Rourke, Jeff Bridges, Ryan O'Neal, Jon Voight and Michael Douglas were considered to play Jack Walsh.
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Audio book narrator Hubert Williams was an extra, playing a blackjack dealer while the movie was shooting at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. Two of the Aladdin security guards, noticing the Aladdin uniform he was wearing, tried to make him leave the area. A member of the crew had to explain that Hubert was involved in the movie. It was the first of many times that Hubert appeared as an extra in movies.
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Philip Baker Hall played Jimmy Serano's attorney named Sidney. In 1996 he played a professional gambler named Sydney in Paul Thomas Anderson's first film Hard Eight.
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In the latter part of the film, there is a shot of Jimmy Serrano and his associates walking from a taxi into a casino in Las Vegas. The Dunes Hotel's sign is clearly visible against the sky in the background, and its hotel tower can be seen at the left edge of the screen. This indicates that the camera was pointed toward Las Vegas Boulevard from the Dunes property. The Dunes closed in 1993, and The Bellagio was built on its former grounds.
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In the scene where Marvin (John Ashton) is turning Jonathan over to the mob, there's a really subtle joke referring back to Jack and Jonathan's argument over tipping on the train. Marvin asked for the bounty to be increased to 2 million dollars because he figured a man who stole 15 million should be worth as much. 2 million is roughly 13% of 15 million, the same percentage as the initial tip Jack, also a bounty hunter, left for his train dinner.
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When Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina) is meeting with his attorney, he threatens to bury the telephone on the desk in the attorney's skull. In "Get Shorty" (1995), Dennis Farina's character (Ray "Bones" Barboni) hits Gene Hackman's character (Harry Zimm) in the head with a telephone.
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There are two references to types of Hispanic meat in the film. The villain is called "Jimmy Serrano", and "Serrano" is a type of dry-cured Spanish ham. In the restaurant, Jack and John are offered Chorizo and eggs, the waitress helpfully explains that Chorizo is a Mexican sausage.
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The helicopter pursuing Jack Walsh, Jonathan Mardukas, and Marvin Dorfler is a Bell 206L-3 LongRanger III according to the Civil Rotorcraft Registry record for its tail number, N2303V.
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The helicopter in which Mosely rides during the off-road Arizona chase scene is an example of the MD 500 series.
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The train scene in Flagstaff, Arizona, actually prevented a kidnapping, at the end of the "searching the train" scene, filmed in downtown Flagstaff. Rick Long and I (Waysie Atkins) were extras, dressed as policemen, and driving "police vehicles". Word arrives that the suspects have been spotted near Sedona. At this point, a dozen or so "police cars", driven by extras, leave the train station toward Sedona, via downtown Flagstaff. Two men were in the process of kidnapping a young woman from a coffee shop in downtown Flagstaff right as the dozen or so "police cars" drove past the coffee shop. The attempted kidnappers were spooked into thinking they were being chased by real policemen, and threw the girl down, and fled the scene of the attempted kidnapping.
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