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A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: Always – The 30th Anniversary

“I know now, that the love we hold back is the only pain that follows us here”. A 30th anniversary celebration of Steven Spielberg’s underrated and under appreciated “Always”. Spielberg’s film offers the concept of life in mentoring, in love, and of letting go. In one of Richard Dreyfuss’ best screen performances, here he establishes himself as a bona fide movie star. “Always” is Spielberg at one of his best and is always a top pick as one of my favorites of his career. It’s a rousing adventure story, a romance, and an affecting afterlife fantasy.

“It’s a story about life and love and how love connects even after so Métis gone. It’s a romance that spans two worlds; one present and one ever-present. There’s something about the idea that somebody could be just over your shoulder, getting through to you even though you can’t see him or hear him”

-Steven Spielberg-

One of the most important, groundbreaking filmmakers Steven Spielberg is celebrating anniversaries this month for two of his most underrated, both of which were box office disappointments. “1941” (see my Film Rewind article celebrating the 40th anniversary) and his 1989 drama, romance, fantasy “Always”. Unfairly deemed by many as his worst film, that acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert considered it “dated” and more of a “curiosity”, calling it Spielberg’s “weakest film since his comedy 1941”.

“Always” will always be one of my favorites and one of his best films. I love this film and every time I watch it I feel something special for it. It’s a special movie and Spielberg should be proud of it. Released the same year as “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” and two years before “Hook”. Steven Spielberg’s “Always”, offers the concept of life in mentoring, in love, and of letting go. A remake of director Victor Fleming’s (“Wizard Of Oz” and “Gone With The Wind”), 1943 movie “A Guy Named Joe” starring Spencer Tracy. Spielberg’s remake is at once a rousing adventure story, a romance, and an affecting afterlife fantasy.

The main departure from the 1943 film is the altering of the setting from WWII to that of a modern aerial firefighting operation. “Always” follows the same basic plot line: the spirit of a recently dead expert pilot mentors a newer pilot, while watching him fall in love with the girlfriend he left behind.

During the filming of 1974’s “Jaws”, Spielberg and Dreyfuss, often traded quips on set from “A Guy Named Joe”. They both considered it a classic war film and both of them wanted to remake the film. Dreyfuss has said that he has seen the 1943 film “at least 35 times”. For Spielberg, who recalled seeing it as a child, said “it was one of the films that inspired him to become a filmmaker”. 

Principal photography began on May 15, 1989 as production took place in Northwestern Montana in the Kootenai National Forest, with some scenes filmed in and around Libby. Some 500 of its residents were recruited for the film as extras to act as wildland firefighters. Other locations “Always” was filmed were in Flat Rock, Colorado. The scene where Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) and Hap (Audrey Hepburn) are walking through the wheat field was filmed at Sprague, southwest of Spokane, where they spent two weeks filming in June. Sound stages were also used at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, CA with production wrapping in August 1989.

Steven Spielberg originally wanted to cast either Paul Newman or Robert Redford in the leading roles, one as Pete Sandich and the other as Ted Baker. However, both men wanted to play Pete, which went to Richard Dreyfuss and Spielberg was unable to work it out between them. Although I’m glad Dreyfuss was in it as I think it’s one of his best performances. At the time of “Always” he was still at the height of his career. His performance in “Always” really establishes himself as a bona fide movie star. 

Steven Spielberg wanted Sean Connery for the role of Hap. Spielberg wanted the role to be like “God” or an “Angel Of God”. Because Connery was unavailable he decided to cast Hap as a woman and go with the angel of god approach instead, and only one person came to his mind: Audrey Hepburn.

During filming Audrey Hepburn had to be carried on a stretcher by crew members when shooting her scenes in the burned-out forest so that the dirt and ashes wouldn’t smudge her white costume. The sweater and slacks Hepburn wears through the movie were from her own, personal wardrobe.

This was Audrey Hepburn’s final film before her death on January 20, 1993 at the age of 63. She accepted the role of Hap because she wanted to work with Steven Spielberg. Audrey Hepburn was paid $1 million for her role. She donated her entire salary to UNICEF.

Actors Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman each received a Mazda Miata as a gift from Steven Spielberg upon completing the film.

When the movie was released on VHS cassette, Spielberg insisted that it be in letterbox/widescreen format to preserve the visual integrity of the film. At the time, it was traditional to release movies on VHS in pan and scan. “Always”opened at #5 at that week’s box office, grossing $3 million, competing with “Christmas Vacation”, “Tango & Cash” (both opened the same week) and holdovers from the previous week “The War Of The Roses” and “Back To The Future Part II”Although now considered only a modest financial success when compared to other Spielberg ventures, the film brought back returns grossing over $74 million worldwide total. 

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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