Mannequin 2

Part 2: The Politics of Hollywood

Stewart Raffill: What happened was I used some of the money from from renting animals and I made my first movie, a kid’s movie, down at the Okefenokee Swamp down in Georgia. The Tender Warrior [1971]. And then sold that to Warner Bros. They didn’t do much. Bought it back and then re-distributed it with someone else. Then did things like [The Adventures of] the Wilderness Family that became quite successful. Independent family films with lots of animals and kids.

Blake J. Harris: That’s a pretty fun niche.

Stewart Raffill: It was. I did quite a few family films. The second script I wrote was a thing called Napoleon and Samantha, which I sold to Disney. I was one of the producers on it and I had the pet lion on it. I believe that was Jodie Foster’s first job and Michael Douglas’ first film as a star.

Blake J. Harris: Oh, wow. What was that experience like?

Stewart Raffill: That was great. I mean Walt Disney was still alive in those days. The studio was a very lively place. And then, of course, he died and it went through all sorts of transitions and it became a conglomerate. It became less personal, as far as I’m concerned.

High Risk

Blake J. Harris: You either wrote or directed about ten films during the ’70s and ’80s. Does any stand out as a favorite?

Stewart Raffill: Probably High Risk. With Anthony Quinn, James Coburn, Jim Brolin, Lindsay Wagner and Ernest Borgnine. I made that in Mexico with a Mexican crew. Then after that, I got hired by John Forman and David Begelman—who were over at MGM—to do a movie called The Ice Pirates. We did that at the old MGM. In fact it was the last film that was shot on that lot before it became part of Sony. And of course David Begelman and John Forman were the producers on Mannequin: On the Move, the second one.

Blake J. Harris: Right. The beginning of a fruitful relationship. How did they find you?

Stewart Raffill: David was the head of the studio, MGM. And the studio had not been doing well. So the bank put a limit of $8 million on each movie they made. Which put a project they’d been developing into real jeopardy. A project called The Water Planet. The budget was, like, $20 million, so they came to me and asked if this was something I could make for $8 million. I said I’d have to re-write it and make it into a comedy or something. That worked for them. The studio had a contract with Bob Urich at that time, for a TV series, so they wanted him in it. So that’s how it came about. But it ended up being a fiasco.

Blake J. Harris: How so?

Stewart Raffill: Because MGM went through a transition and they brought in a new guy, who was eventually found out to be stealing money from the company. He was a little problematic sort of a fellow. And he had a bad time with John Foreman so he tried to sabotage the film. Pulled the money out on them, but we did finish it. [long sigh] The politics of Hollywood.

Mannequin 2 cover

Part 3: On the Move

Blake J. Harris: So how did Mannequin 2 happen?

Stewart Raffill: David [Begelman] owned the company that did the original, and it was very successful, so they just decided to make a sequel. They had a screenplay written, and they were just looking for someone to make it for a sensible price. They called me up and I just finished a thing called The Philadelphia Experiment. This project was a comedy and it seemed like it could be fun. So I said, “I’ll do it.”

Blake J. Harris: And how familiar were you with that first Mannequin movie?

Stewart Raffill: I wasn’t at all. Had never seen it. This was one of those “Can you do it?” “Yes I can” situations. John Foreman was a close friend of mine. There was money in the bank. Sure, let’s do it.

Blake J. Harris: You mentioned that there was already a script in place. Did it change much after you came on board? Did you weigh in on it?

Stewart Raffill: No, I didn’t. That was part of the deal. Just do this thing.

Blake J. Harris: What do you remember about the filming?

Stewart Raffill: I remember how beautiful the girl was in it.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, she was. Kristy Swanson was great.

Mannequin 2

Stewart Raffill: Oh, she was just such a beautiful girl, she was. And it’s a shame, you know, because she was the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And when they came to do the series, she was a celebrity and she said, “I don’t want to go into TV.” Which was the biggest mistake ever. Because TV became the pre-eminent medium, really, for making money for actors. And features has been on the decline for several decades.

Blake J. Harris: What about the rest of the cast? Where did they come from?

Stewart Raffill: Well, Meshach [Taylor] had been in the first one. And the boy in it, I forget his name [William Ragsdale], he was kind of an up-and-coming yuppie love-interest. But he never went anywhere after that. And then that was it.

Blake J. Harris: What about Terry Kiser?

Stewart Raffill: Oh, he was amazing. You know, he eventually got fed up with Hollywood and moved to Colorado. Then he went out of business. I put him in another low-budget film I made. He was a wonderful, eccentric fun character who just disappeared, you know? He did Weekend at Bernie’s and that was it. They already thought he was dead.

Blake J. Harris: And what about those three tough guys? I think, maybe, they were foreign. Do you remember them? The comic relief?

Stewart Raffill: I call them the goons. The muscle guys. They were all weightlifters.

Blake J. Harris: Exactly, yeah. I think their voices were dubbed. How come?

Stewart Raffill: Because they just weren’t actors. Just muscular guys that they hire because of their looks. Never acted before. And just didn’t have that vocal ability. To be real or even just say simple things like, “Look out!”

Mannequin 2

Blake J. Harris: [laughter] Compared to most of the other films you’d been doing—be it The Philadelphia Experiment or family films with animals—this one was a bit different. So how did you approach that? The sensibility?

Stewart Raffill: The main thing was just to play the humor. It’s a situation comedy so you have to set up the situation. It’s obviously an outlandish idea—it’s an inanimate thing and then it comes to life—so in that structure you have all sorts of humor. Particularly if the person is just suddenly falling in love. You want that person’s reactions to be interesting, so you try to come up with scenes that, you know, take advantage of that particular configuration of comedy potentials.

Blake J. Harris: Do you remember what the most challenging part of filming was?

Stewart Raffill: It was not a very challenging movie. I mean, it was a very simple film to make because it mostly took place in a big store. This place called Wanamaker’s, which is one of the great stores of Philadelphia (and one of the first department stores in the United States). So that went well. It was a good shoot. And Kristy was a charm to work with. Very accessible and not spoiled in any way. She was just a neophyte as far as being an actor is concerned, but she played that part pretty well.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, she was charming.

Stewart Raffill: It’s a cute movie. Maybe they need some more things like that nowadays. But innocence has sort of faded, hasn’t it? That type of innocent humor. This was an era when, you know, simpler values existed.

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