Cruising Movie Poster

Trivia for Cruising

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  • James A. Contner's first job as a director of photography. William Friedkin gave him the opportunity after having been impressed with his work as a camera operator.
  • The L.A. punk band The Germs recorded five or so songs expressly for the soundtrack to this movie, although only "Lion's Share" was actually used. During the recording sessions, director William Friedkin was so energized by the Germs' playing that he took to doing the "pogo" dance around the engineer's booth.
  • Karen Allen was never shown a complete script before she worked on this film. Director William Friedkin deliberately kept her in the dark, since her character Nancy wasn't supposed to be aware of what was happening to Al Pacino's cop as he explored the gay underworld.
  • James A. Contner originally wanted to shoot the film in black and white, as he felt it would fit the look of the S/M world.
  • Rumor has it that William Friedkin's original cut ran 140 minutes. There is an increasing demand for a home video release of this version, if the deleted footage still exists and was not, as commonly believed, destroyed by United Artists. Apparently, Friedkin delivered this cut to the studio and it was condemned by the MPAA for ultra-provocative content. Friedkin has said that all of the footage he was ultimately forced to cut (over a series of 40 different edits, at a cost of $50,000, before the MPAA finally granted the film an R rating) involved graphic sexuality and wasn't connected to the murder investigation plot, and that the footage did provide some "twists and turns in the story" that were not present in the film's final cut.
  • In an effort to make the scenes of gay "leather bars" as real as possible, actual leather bars in New York City that catered to gay men were used. These locations are in Manhattan's lower West Side neighborhoods in the meat packing district, most of which remain open to this day. The extras in full black leather and chaps, among other provocative sexual attire, were actual patrons of the bars recruited for the scenes a few days before filming began. They were instructed to act as they would normally act in gay bars, but to tone down sexually-oriented activities because of the likelihood these acts would give the film an "X" rating.
  • Brian De Palma really wanted to direct this film but his producers could not obtain the rights to the material, so he made Dressed to Kill (1980) instead.
  • The film is based on a series of murders of gay men that took place between 1962-79 in New York City.
  • In addition to protests that occurred when the film was released, the production itself was plagued by demonstrations protesting it. Protesters would clog streets, make lots of noise--in order to ruin live recorded sound--and even climb up on rooftops and shine lights with reflectors down on to the set,k to disrupt the lighting and distract the crew.
  • In 1972 director William Friedkin-huge after The French Connection (1971)--was shooting his spiritual/psych-horror The Exorcist (1973) in downtown New York. For a scene requiring mock brain-scans of the possessed lead character, he shot a real-life radiologist and his assistant, Paul Bateson. In 1979 Friedkin was planning an adaptation of Gerald Walker's novel "Cruising", inspired by a real-life serial killer who was carving up "leather boys" in the city's underground gay bars and dumping their body parts in the Hudson River, wrapped in black plastic bags. When Friedkin learned that his "Exorcist" radiologist assistant Bateson was awaiting trial for the post-coital slaying of gay film critic Addison Verrill, Friedkin decided to pay him a visit to do a little research into the psyche of his cruising killer. Bateson was later sentenced to life in prison for the Verrill murder, but not before dropping hints while in custody that he was also the body bag killer. Those cases remain unsolved, but there's a good chance that Friedkin had not only inadvertently consulted the actual killer responsible for the murders that were the subject of both the novel and the film it was based on, but that Friedkin had also cast him in a film he made years before.
  • During a murder scene in a room at the St. James Hotel where a man is stabbed to death on a bed, director William Friedkin edited in several near-subliminal frames from a gay hardcore movie that can clearly be seen in slow motion on DVD.
  • The plot, about murders of the patrons of gay nightclubs, caused many to protest the release of the film. In fact, organized protests by gay groups were planned on the day the film was released. The public largely ignored the protests.
  • Joe Spinell made this movie before Maniac (1980), playing a brutal, closeted police officer in the early scenes. His character mentions his wife leaving him and moving down to Florida with their young daughter to live with his wife's sister. In real life, Spinell's wife, porn star Jean Jennings, divorced him several weeks before he filmed his scenes and moved to Florida--exactly as his character describes.
  • The film was part of a cycle of mainstream Hollywood movies featuring gay partnerships and drag characters. Others included Making Love (1982), Victor Victoria (1982), Partners (1982), Tootsie (1982) and Personal Best (1982).
  • Angered over reports of the film's negative portrayal of gay life that leaked out during shooting, activists distributed hundreds of whistles to members of New York City's gay community and encouraged them to spoil exterior filming on city streets by blowing them loudly whenever they spotted a crew from the film shooting on location, a tactic that cost the studio a considerable amount of money that had to be spent on lost production time and post-dubbing.
  • In 1977 and '78 the gay community in New York City was terrorized by a series of "bag murders"--six male victims were murdered, mutilated and dismembered, their remains wrapped in black plastic bags and dumped in the Hudson River. Some of the grisly fragments washed up on the New Jersey shore, others came to ground near the World Trade Center. Police traced items of recovered clothing to a shop in Greenwich Village, catering to gays, and distinctive tattoos identified one of the victims as a well known member of the gay community. Because several of the cases involved unidentified persons and there was no confirmed cause of death, the crimes were not officially classified as homicides but were listed as CUPPI's--circumstances undetermined pending police investigation. One of the cases was solved due to evidence collected in an "unrelated" case. On September 14, 1977, film critic Addison Verrill was beaten and stabbed to death in his New York apartment. Charged with the slaying, Paul Bateson, a 38-year-old X-ray technician, confessed to meeting Verrill in a Greenwich Village gay bar. After having sex at Verrill's flat, Bateson admitted to crushing his victim's skull with a metal skillet, afterward stabbing Verrill in the heart. Convicted of the homicide on March 5, 1979, he was sentenced to a term of 20 years to life in prison. While in custody awaiting trial, Bateson bragged of killing other men "for fun," dismembering their bodies and dropping the bagged remains in the Hudson River. This case inspired the novel upon which this film was based. Detectives were satisfied that Bateson actually was the serial killer they had been looking for, but lack of solid evidence resulted in his not being charged with them.
  • William Friedkin initially wasn't interested in the project when producer Philip D'Antoni first brought it to his attention. D'Antoni then tried Steven Spielberg who dropped out when--not surprisingly--none of the major studios were prepared to back it.
  • William Friedkin returned to the project after some well-publicized murders were committed in New York City's gay community were committed. He remembered the project that The French Connection (1971) producer Philip D'Antoni had first talked to him about a few years earlier, which eventually resulted in this film being made.
  • For research, William Friedkin worked with members of the Mafia, which owned most of New York City's gay bars at the time.
  • Richard Gere was William Friedkin's first choice for the lead. And was even signed on for the lead role and was very excited for the project. "I think he would have been wonderful," says Friedkin, "because he had a strange, ambiguous quality about him." Pacino got a hold of the script and decided he wanted the role, and as one of the biggest and most acclaimed actors at the time (Serpico, 1973; The Godfather Part II, 1974; Dog Day Afternoon, 1975) it was decided that he would be the better bet.
  • Banned in Finland, Iran and South Africa.
  • Al Pacino makes his first appearance 15 minutes into the film.
  • The ongoing protests from the gay community about the making of the film caused Al Pacino to become extremely uncomfortable with his role during filming, Friedkin stated: "He had never frequented that world, and it freaked him out throughout the whole film. If there's a note that appears to be fear in his performance, it was there for real." They agree that Pacino's fear actually benefits the character, but Friedkin makes it very clear that he wishes he had gone with Gere.
  • Two of the notorious gay bars featured in the film - Mine Shaft and Eagle's Nest - eventually barred William Friedkin.
  • The film is very much a time capsule of a bygone era in gay life; a year after its release, the first reports of AIDS-related illnesses were reported in New York City.
  • The lead cop character was a naïve 20-something in the book; Al Pacino was 39 when he made the film.
  • Most of Karen Allen's performance ended up on the cutting room floor.
  • William Friedkin did some of his research for the film by attending gay bars dressed in only a jockstrap.
  • On first viewing the film, Richard Heffner, head of the ratings board, said, "There aren't enough XXXs in the alphabet to rate this movie".
  • Robert De Niro and Roy Scheider turned down the role of Steve Burns.
  • William Friedkin asked noted gay author John Rechy--some of whose works were set in the same milieu as the film--to screen the film just before its release. Rechy had written an essay defending Friedkin's right to make the film, although not defending the film itself. At Rechy's suggestion, Friedkin deleted a scene showing the Gay Liberation slogan "We Are Everywhere" as graffiti on a wall just before the first body part is pulled from the river, and added a disclaimer: "This film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world, which is not meant to be representative of the whole." Friedkin later claimed that it was the MPAA and United Artists that required the disclaimer, calling it "part of the dark bargain that was made to get the film released at all" and "a sop to organized gay rights groups". Friedkin claimed that no one involved in making the film thought it would be considered as representative of the entire gay community, but gay film historian Vito Russo disputes that, citing the disclaimer as "an admission of guilt. What director would make such a statement if he truly believed that his film would not be taken to be representative of the whole?"
  • Throughout the summer of 1979, members of New York's gay community protested against the production of the film. Gay people were urged to disrupt filming and gay-owned businesses to bar the filmmakers from their premises. People attempted to interfere with shooting by pointing mirrors from rooftops to ruin lighting for scenes, blasting whistles and air horns near locations, and playing loud music. One thousand protesters marched through the East Village demanding the city withdraw support for the film. Al Pacino said that he understood the protests but insisted that upon reading the screenplay he never at any point felt that the film was anti-gay. He said that the leather bars were "just a fragment of the gay community, the same way the Mafia is a fragment of Italian-American life", referring to The Godfather (1972), and that he would "never want to do anything to harm the gay community".
  • Paul Morrissey was going to direct with Jeff Bridges as Steve Burns and Jan-Michael Vincent as Stuart Richards.
  • The title is a play on words with a dual meaning, as "cruising" can describe police officers on patrol and also cruising for sex.
  • Timothy Bottoms was considered for the role of Steve Burns.
  • Joe Spinell played with Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II (1974).
  • Tobin Bell, according to his website, was an extra in this film.
  • 10 years later, actor Paul Sorvino and Mike Starr also appeared in Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990).
  • The actor portraying the killer in the first murder, also portrays the second victim (murdered in the park).
  • At one time upon the film's release it opened with an on-screen disclaimer that Friedkin describes as "an ass-covering measure that covered no ass." It was meant to declare that the film's content was not intended to critique a certain subset of society.
  • The film is a very loose adaptation of Gerard Walker's novel, but a bigger inspiration for Friedkin was the discovery in the 70s of body parts discarded in New York City's East River which coincided with a series of slayings targeting gay men.
  • Some of the parts were found in body bags belonging to NYU's Medical Center Neuro-Psychological Division which is where he filmed a scene for The Exorcist (1973). An extra in that scene, a radiographer named Paul Bateson, was later charged with being the serial killer responsible for those body parts and was convicted of murder. Friedkin went and spoke to him while in custody, and Bateson admitted committing the first murder but having no recollection of the rest.
  • "Every incident in the film happened," says Friedkin regarding the various interactions we see between cops and potential perps. The cops patrolling this area at the time were known as "the pussy posse."
  • One of Friedkin's friends on the police force, Det. Randy Jurgensen, has a role here as the lead detective and was the real inspiration for Pacino's character. He's the cop who went undercover trying to catch the real killer and told Friedkin that the work made him question his own sexuality.
  • Friedkin filmed a scene involving the two uniform cops from the beginning where they play a game of Liar's Poker (involving serial numbers on dollar bills). One loses intentionally so he has to be whipped on his bare ass by his partner's nightstick.
  • The early club scene was filmed at The Mineshaft, "a members only club for the purpose of extreme S&M." All of the extras are the club's actual members. The man who owned the club was the head of the Gambino crime family and another of Friedkin's friends. "I used to go to his house and have breakfast with him in his kitchen." He said they could film there as long as the movie wasn't about his business.
  • Some of the murder scenes include subliminal flashes of anal sex during the stabbings because "I felt that because the murderer used a knife, a very sharp edged knife to kill his victims, that there was a kind of reference to anal intercourse." The connection between a killer's blade and his dick is well-established elsewhere, but this is the first I've heard someone draw a direct connection to anal sex specifically.
  • Friedkin sent the film to the MPAA with forty extra minutes of footage that he had no intention of keeping and "which amounted to pure male pornography." It was a bait and switch to give the MPAA something to demand he cut with the hope that they'd leave him the rest, but he still had to go back fifty times to secure the R rating.
  • James Franco made a film called Interior. Leather Bar (2013) which imagined what might have been included in those legendary and lost forty minutes of footage, and he moved forward on the film before speaking to Friedkin. Franco eventually called the director during production, explained he was making a film about the missing forty minutes of Cruising, and then asked "What were the missing forty minutes of Cruising?"
  • At 13 mins.) The morgue scene was the first time a feature film was given permission to shoot in an actual morgue. The city's Chief Medical Examiner, Michael Baden, was fired for that decision, but he went on to a lucrative career as an expert forensic witness.
  • Steven Spielberg was originally going to direct Cruising but ended up making Jaws (1975) instead.
  • There were protests during filming as the city's gay community felt the movie was bad news for their movement towards civil rights. They would blare music, reflect lights, throw rocks, and yell at Pacino with derogatory slurs. It forced them to re-record a lot of dialogue for the film.
  • Kermode draws a comparison to Basic Instinct (1992) as another film which was protested for one thing before being revealed to be about something else. Friedkin doesn't see the connection.
  • "I've never worked with an actor who was less prepared," says Friedkin about Pacino. He adds that Pacino seemed to following in the footsteps of Marlon Brando in not memorizing his lines and choosing instead to be "spontaneous." Kermode seems surprised.
  • 26 mins) The salesman is Powers Boothe.
  • Friedkin spoke with a man who survived an attempted murder by the alleged serial killer at the time, and he mentioned the assailant's little sing-song couplet "Who's here, I'm here, you're here." He made note of it and included it in the film.
  • The film uses different actors as the killer at various times and shares a voice between them. "It's not an attempt to confuse about who the killer is but to underline the fact that there were multiple murderers."
  • The clubs would have theme nights where patrons had to dress like cops, wear only jockstraps, or even go completely nude. Kermode asks if he ever visited the clubs on those nights, and Friedkin replies "Yes, and I was the ugliest guy in the room. Nobody ever hit on me."
  • The head of the MPAA at the time was Richard Hefner, host of a long-running show on public access called The Open Mind -- "we used to refer to it as The Empty Head" -- and he was no fan of challenging cinema. They played the film for him at a dinner gathering, and Hefner called it the worst film he'd ever seen.
  • The S&M clubs frequently played the same music you'd hear in "regular" clubs including the likes of KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer, "and I hated that stuff. I just hated it!" He instead went out with composer Jack Nitzsche and found young punk bands to give a "harder edge" to the bar and club scenes.
  • This is Ed O'Neill's feature debut.
  • Sonny Grosso, the real cop who Roy Scheider played in The French Connection (1971), has a cameo here as a cop too.
  • The 6'5 African American man wearing a jockstrap and a cowboy hat is played by the real cop who really used to do this during certain interrogations. They did that in part so the perp would lose credibility when trying to complain about the detectives' behavior. "It was very extracurricular."
  • The scene where Pacino's character confronts his neighbor's roommate (James Remar) and kicks in the door "is the only scene where I let Pacino cut loose and do a Pacino." said Friedkin.
  • For a long time Pacino wouldn't talk about the film, and Friedkin adds "that's a good thing because he's not very eloquent."
  • Friedkin still wishes he had gone with Richard Gere for the lead, but he's come to appreciate Pacino's performance in the film. "I think that Pacino's performance works, now. I didn't at the time, but I can see that there are aspects of it now that do work which I didn't realize when we were shooting. I thought I had made a mistake."
  • At 1hr 33 mins) The corpse's position is modeled on the cover of David Bowie's album Lodger. "It also was an interesting position to find a dead body in."
  • Friedkin made no claim or suggestion that Pacino's character is a killer but allows the possibility that he may be. Kermode asks him how he directed Pacino for the final scene seeing as he didn't tell him to play it like a killer, and he says he only told Pacino the following. "You're happy to be home, you're happy it's all over, and you're shaving. And then at a certain point I want you to look in the mirror at the camera." He adds that "I don't know what the hell it means" and that it's for the audience to figure out.
  • Writer/Director William Friedkin still thinks the film should've been Rated X.
  • Released in theaters roughly one month after Windows (1980), another film that was protested by gay rights activists for portraying a lesbian character with what some considered homophobic and hateful stereotypes.
  • William Friedkin was disappointed with Al Pacino's performance at the time. Even though he has come to warm up to Pacino's work in the film, he still thinks Richard Gere would have been a better choice.
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