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Million Dollar Movie

Over at Variety our good pal Jon Weisman celebrates “Diner”.

Check it out:

Though studio execs had their own vision problems for the film 30 years ago, Levinson’s audition process had laid solid groundwork. Given how dependent the pic was on naturalistic chatter, he had to look not only at how the actors would play the part, but how they would play against each other.

“Ellen Barkin, oddly enough, is the only person I met for (the role of) Beth,” Levinson says. “She came in, I met her, that was it. Five or six hundred guys, one person for Beth.”

Rourke, who was coming off a memorable supporting turn in “Body Heat,” probably had the highest profile at the time, but future “Mad About You” star Reiser wound up playing a key role as well, even though his was the smallest part among the guys and his casting was fairly accidental.

Reiser came to the auditions not in hopes of a part but just to keep a friend company. Levinson says that casting director Ellen Chenowith noticed Reiser in the hallway and called him in. Arguably as much as anyone, Reiser raised everyone’s game.

“When we got to the improv-y stuff, we had a professional comic in our midst who was going to eat us alive if we didn’t stay on our toes, Stern says. “There was a line that Reiser had. Somebody said, ‘You think she’ll go down for the count?’ Reiser, out of nowhere, said, ‘No, but I heard she blew the prince.’

“We had to stop shooting that day, because we got so hysterical. Tried for half an hour, and they finally shut us down.”

I first watched “Diner” on VHS when I was in junior high. I loved it and the next day I was told my mom about it at breakfast. My step father said, “It’s just a boring movie about a bunch of jerks sitting around wasting time.” I was convinced that my step father would never understand me.


1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 6, 2012 1:05 pm

I was instructed that Diner was crap before I was old enough to have my own opinion, and I've never bothered to re-check for myself. I remember a relationship predicated on a Colts test and a movie theater dong-bet.

2 Jon Weisman   ~  Feb 6, 2012 1:26 pm

I'm feeling better about myself as a parent for the simple reason that I would never tell someone a movie this great was crap.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 6, 2012 1:51 pm

It was just that we were from such different worlds. 1) So worth watching again. And what is great is that it takes place on the eve of the 1960s. The pill wasn't out yet...This was about guys still clinging to their adolescence. They don't know how to be around women yet so they hang out with each other. I've often wondered what their lives would have looked like 10 years later at the end of the Sixties. Much, much different.

4 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 6, 2012 2:01 pm

[2] I don't quite follow that - what does pareting have to do with taste in movies?

Regardless, it wasn't parenting, poor or otherwise that sent down that instruction. It was a friend of my older brother's, who most have been around 15 and I must have been about 7.

When I read your article, I realized I don't remember a lot of the movie and I've allowed this kid's (whose name I don't remember) opinion of the film to stand in for mine.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 6, 2012 2:13 pm

There's a great scene between Daniel Stern and Ellen Barkin about his record collection and it works so well because you can see where both of them are coming from. It doesn't just side with Stern. You just see how little he knows about women, how little she cares about his obsessions and how difficult it is for them to be intimate with each other.

6 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 6, 2012 2:24 pm

[5] The one enduring impression I have from the movie is that the guys did not deserve the girls. Especially whichever character devised the football trivia test. And that must have been from me, since I was not discussing the film on those levels with my brothers friends, who were undoubtedly expelling me from his room at the time.

But with Belth and Weisman behind it, I'll have to give it a go.

7 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 6, 2012 2:32 pm

I think it's Barry Levinson's best movie.

8 Jon Weisman   ~  Feb 6, 2012 2:54 pm

[4] Oh, I was just teasing about for all my flaws as a parent, at least I will make sure to guide my kids to watching Diner. (I had gotten the impression from your first comment that you hadn't seen it.) Anyway, the joke was funnier in my head than in the execution ...

9 bags   ~  Feb 6, 2012 3:01 pm

one of my favorite movies. and i love the record filing scene.

they're both so right. and so wrong.

10 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 6, 2012 3:10 pm

[8] Ok got it, I was just worried that there's yet another parental measuring stick out there against which I'll come up short:)

I did see it, probably on VHS in 1983 when I was 7, but I was too little to remember any details except the most extreme ones. And too little to appreciate it for better or worse.

11 bags   ~  Feb 6, 2012 4:49 pm

Haha. so if you click through to the article and then follow the link to the original film review in Variety you'll see that they refer to Barry Levinson as Barry Le Vinson throughout.

Le Vinson.

Like he's some sort of French auteur. Hilarious.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 6, 2012 5:23 pm

Funny to remember a time when Guttenberg was good. Love the scene with his mother in the kitchen. What a dick. LOL

13 Jon Weisman   ~  Feb 6, 2012 6:44 pm

[11] I think that's a computer bug or something - in the actual review, it's "Levinson." Not all the pre-web Variety files got transferred to the web cleanly.

14 Boatzilla   ~  Feb 6, 2012 8:39 pm

Mathis or Sinatra?

There're so many great lines in that flick. However, I think the "Sonny Test" is better than the Colts test.

My wife failed the Sonny Test and I've been suffering ever since.

15 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Feb 6, 2012 8:57 pm

[7] Pretty low bar there, isn't it? But I need to watch Diner again, saw it once many years ago and it didn't really stick.

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