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Adventures in Hollywood: The Doors

Directed by Oliver Stone
Written by J. Randal Johnson and Oliver Stone
Produced by Sasha Harari, Bill Graham, and A. Kitman Ho
Cinematography by Robert Richardson

Starring Val Kilmer, Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon, Meg Ryan, Kathleen Quinlan, Michael Wincott

Released in 1991

Before I began writing the screenplay I logged more than 50 hours of taped interviews with two dozen individuals who were close to Jim Morrison (including his parents) and The Doors.

One of the most entertaining was with UCLA film school professor Ed Brokaw. Morrison and future band-mate Ray Manzarek had been students of his in the mid-1960s – as had I in 1981.

Balding and rosy-cheeked, Brokaw’s avuncular appearance belied an eccentricity – or perhaps the onset of dementia. I’d see him walking the streets of Westwood at all hours of the night and day. Sometimes he’d be quietly talking to himself. There were rumors he lived in his faculty office. Indeed, a strategically-placed Oriental screen blocked the view to the inside whenever he slipped out. Many times I would pass it while taking a break from editing in the dead of night and hear a blistering jazz (Impressions-era Coltrane) coming from behind the door.

Eccentricities aside, Brokaw possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of both the art and technology of film making. He had served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II Burma and afterward ran his own production company in New York City. At UCLA, his editing class lectures might incorporate John Cassavetes, wartime experiences, Miles Davis, and the grain count of a specific film stock.

When I interviewed him in 1986, Brokaw was 69 years old and Professor Emeritus. I met him at the North Campus area of UCLA. He guided me to a nearby grassy knoll and proceeded to walk off the exact dimensions of Bungalow 3K7, the Quonset hut that had once stood there, housing the film school at the time Morrison and Manzarek had attended. Next he vividly described its interior. He finished by pointing out where the port-a-potty that serviced the department had been erected. On the inside of its door, he recalled with a grin, was a graffito that read, “Jim Morrison has the ass of an angel.”

Long after the old film school had been torn down, Brokaw added, the door to that crapper mysteriously appeared in the lobby of the film department’s new building, Melnitz Hall. It lasted there for a while – perhaps as a waggish tribute to the school’s famous alumnus – before it disappeared forever.

Ed Brokow, too, disappeared forever on December 9, 2002. He was 86 years old.

The Doors

Adventures in Hollywood: Dudes

Catherine Mary Stewart and Jon Cryer in DudesSynopsis

Three punk rockers bottom out in New York City and decide to migrate to California. While camping in Arizona, they’re robbed by a gang of rednecks and one is killed. The surviving two punkers resolve to avenge their friend by tracking down his killers. But they’re ill-prepared for what the contemporary American West holds for them.

Released in 1987

Directed by Penelope Spheeris
Written by J. Randal Johnson (Randall Jahnson)
Produced by Mort Engelberg and Miguel Tejada-Flores
Cinematography by Robert Richardson
Edited by Andy Horvitch
Starring: John Cryer, Daniel Roebuck, Catherine Mary Stewart, Lee Ving, Flea

Production Notes

Filmed in LA and locations in and around Jerome and Flagstaff, AZ.

The character name of Biscuit was named after the late Randy “Biscuit” Turner, lead throat for The Big Boys, a great skate-punk band from Austin, TX.

Flea, who plays Milo, is the bass player and a founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Before the Peppers took off, Flea briefly played bass in the notorious punk band Fear.

Actor Lee Ving, who plays the villain Missoula, was the mouth of Fear. He and the band were featured prominently in Penelope Spheeris’ earlier documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization.” Fear broke up right before or after “Dudes” was filmed. After that Lee formed a heavy metal group dubbed Pig Iron, followed by a country western outfit, Range War.

The deputy blown away in the sheriff’s station was played by John Densmore, drummer for The Doors.

DP Bob Richardson would later shoot “The Doors” for Oliver Stone, the “Kill Bill” series for Quentin Tarantino, and “The Aviator” for Martin Scorcese.

Jahnson comments

I was hugely influenced and inspired by the punk rock and art band explosion in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

During that time a number of bands began to weave Western imagery and country music elements into their music. The Dead Kennedys recorded a hardcore version of ‘Rawhide.’ X, who’d never made any apologies for having an ear for Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, launched their rootsy side project, The Knitters. Wall of Voodoo covered Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ and the classic theme to ‘The Good, the Bad & the Ugly’ and even released an album titled ‘Call of the West.’

Then bands like Rank and File (now Cowboy Nation) and Blood on the Saddle – who consciously blended punk and country sensibilities – began to appear. And the Meat Puppets emerged from the Arizona heat with their distinctive brand of desert slacker psychedelia.

Somehow I wanted capture this juxtaposition in a script. The notion of fatalistic urban punkers in a showdown with the vastness, beauty, and history of the American West amused and intrigued me. I placed the start of the story in New York City, so the journey of Grant, Milo, and Biscuit would echo the westward trek of pioneers in covered wagons.

I wrote The Vandals’ classic boot-stomping thrasher ‘Urban Struggle’ into the script because it spoofed the whole punks-out-West phenomena and kicked ass at the same time. So when the time came to cast the band playing in the punk club at the movie’s start, the Vandals and ‘Urban Struggle’ were the only choice.

Behind the scenes on Dudes (1987)

UPDATE 2017: DUDES is finally available on DVD and blu ray from Shout Factory.