Mac and Me

Part 4: Mac and Me

Stewart Raffill: Mac and Me? That was another movie where somebody called me up and he was a producer who had worked on quite a few films. He’d made a lot of big movies, but he decided he want to make his own movie. And he raised the money from one of the main partners at McDonalds—I think, like, the produce provider for McDonalds—and he put up the money to do that movie with the understanding that the proceeds from that movie would go to the Ronald McDonald Foundation.

Blake J. Harris: That’s…unusual.

Stewart Raffill: Just wait. So I was hired out of the blue. And the producer asked me to come down to the office. So I did and he had a whole crew there, a whole crew on the payroll. It was amazing. He had the transportation captain. The camera department head. The AD. The Production Manager. He had everybody already hired and I said, “Well, what’s the script?” And he said, “We don’t have a script. I don’t like the script. You have to write the script. You’re gonna have to write it quick so prep the movie and write the script on the weekends.”

Blake J. Harris: No way. Really? Did you?

Stewart Raffill: Yeah, so I’d go and lock myself in a hotel on Friday night, write ’til Monday, anticipate what the locations were going to be, go out and find the locations, design the aliens and all that stuff. It was kind of a messy way to make a movie.

Blake J. Harris: Of course.

Stewart Raffill: The interesting thing was the guy wanted to do a film with a real…you know, he wanted to help someone who was handicapped. So he found a kid who had spina bifida. The kid had never acted before, but he was a wonderful kid. But when they finished it was as if the fact that they used a real encumbered person to play the person didn’t mean anything to even the people who lived in the world. You’d think that if you made a movie about a kid with spina bifida and you really used a real kid with spina bifida, it would be something unique for the millions of people in the country who have spina bifida or their parents or anyone who’s life has been affected by it.

Blake J. Harris: If nothing else, I’m surprised that wasn’t part of the marketing.

Stewart Raffill: Right? So that was Mac and Me. “Would you be interested in directing an alien movie with a kid that’s handicapped for kids for the McDonalds Company. And we gotta do it quick.” I said yes and just made it up and there you go.

Passenger 57

Part 5: How Scripts Evolve

Blake J. Harris: Before we finish, there was one project I feel compelled to ask about. Passenger 57. A longtime favorite in the Harris household. I didn’t realize that you were the screenwriter on that. How did that come about?

Stewart Raffill: Well, that’s a whole different story. That was a great script that I had written and everybody in town loved it. But it was a very…the original story was about a guy liked Clint Eastwood and it was about a guy who went to bury his son in Spain and on this plane he sat next to some urbane guy from Iran. And the guy from Iran turns out to be a terrorist and they highjack the plane and take all the Americans to Iran. And they take them off the plane and they put them in to different cells and they kept them all away. And Clint Eastwood, through the whole thing, is watching this guy and eventually gets the gun. Shoots a whole bunch and says, “Who are the people running this country?” The Mullahs. He says, “Okay” and he goes to where the Mullahs are and he takes all the Mullahs as prisoners and he holds them as prisoners to exchange for all the Americans there and then fights his way out of Iran. That was the original story. Way too political.

Blake J. Harris: Haha.

Stewart Raffill: The head of the studio said to me, “If I make that movie, they’ll blow up the theaters.” So I did a couple of re-writes for them, for Warner Bros who owned it, then I got another picture and came back and then it became a black movie. And that was it.

Blake J. Harris: So you didn’t write that famous line “Always bet on black?”

Stewart Raffill: No I didn’t because there wasn’t any black people in it when I wrote it.

Blake J. Harris: So one final question. Good or bad, Passenger 57—the version that was shot—was pretty different from your initial vision. And with movies like Mannequin 2 and Mac and Me, these weren’t really your creative vision to begin with. So I was just curious, during this time—the ’80s and ’90s—which movie, or movies, you think are most reflective of your artistic sensibilities.

The Philadelphia Experiment

Stewart Raffill: I’d say The Philadelphia Experiment. By the time I got involved, that movie had been rewritten 9 times. I was doing the Ice Pirates for MGM at that time, but there was a Canadian guy who was supposed to do the next re-write and I said I’d do it subject to the screenplay coming in. But when it came in, the screenplay was terrible. So I said to my agent, “I just can’t do this. The script doesn’t even make sense.” And he said, “You’re going to have to tell the head of the studio.” So I spoke to the head of Universal for a while and I told him I didn’t want to do it. He said, “Well what did you want to do?” I said it should have been this and this and this. And I told him what I had envisioned. Then he said, “Alright, well, why don’t you make that movie?” And I said, “Because I’m supposed to start shooting it in three weeks.”

Blake J. Harris: Oh wow.

Stewart Raffill: So he asked if I had ever dictated a screenplay before. I told him I had not. Then he said, “Well, I’m gonna send someone to your house, a girl, every afternoon, and just dictate the story you told me and fill in the dialogue and we’ll make that.” And I said, “Okay.” So that’s what I did.”

Blake J. Harris: Worked out pretty well.

Stewart Raffill: It did. Though the funny thing is that I never even got a writing credit on that one. Oh well.

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