Running Scared (1986)
Release Date: June 27th 1986
Directed By: Peter Hyams
Starring: Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines
"Two of Chicago's Finest?"
Ray Hughes and Danny Costanzo are two Chicago cops on the trail of local drug kingpin Julio Gonzales. But after being nearly killed when a bust goes awry they're put on vacation. Living the easy life in Florida the pair plan to quit the force and open a bar. However, upon returning to Chicago they discover Gonzales is back on the streets. Will they survive 30 days in the city, get Gonzales back behind bars and retire to the sun?
By the mid-1980s, the buddy movie was still an incredibly popular genre with the cinema-going public. The general plot differed little from movie to movie - two leads, often mismatched, must put aside their differences for the greater good. The central plot device all but stretches back to the origins of cinema itself, and has changed over the years to suit the mood and stars of the time. The early 1930s and 40s saw the likes of Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello, as well as the Crosby and Hope 'road' movies. Stray Dogs, an 1949 Akira Kurosawa picture, played things much straighter and according to Film International, served as a pre-cursor to the modern day buddy-cop movies.
The 1960s saw Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin team up, while Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau began their lengthy partnership with The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple. By the end of the decade the genre had splintered again, taking in the Western (Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid), the voyage of discovery (Easy Rider) and the tale of a male prostitute and con man in Midnight Cowboy. Busting, and Freebie and the Bean, both in 1974, gave opposing views on the buddy-cop genre, with the latter's comedy beating out the former's serious drama at the box office. As the 70s drew to a close, Arthur Hiller teamed Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder on Silver Streak; they would go on to have even great success on Stir Crazy (1980).
The likes of Busting and Freebie and the Bean provided interesting takes on the theme, but it's arguable that the genre came into its own with Walter Hill's blistering 48 Hrs in 1982. Teaming Nick Nolte's world-weary cop with fast-talking criminal Eddie Murphy, the movie played incredibly well with audiences (and subsequently the box office) and established Murphy as a force to be reckoned with. Most of the studios wanted in after that. Amongst others, Paramount had Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop, Warner Bros. dusted off an old Blake Edwards script for City Heat and also teamed Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd on Spies Like Us. MGM had their own spin on things with their story for Running Scared. They saw two near-retirement New York cops take on one final case before heading off into the sun. However, director Peter Hyams had other ideas.
At the time he was offered the chance to direct Running Scared, Peter Hyams had been in the industry for well over a decade and had a number of pictures under his belt. He'd actually started in front of the camera, as a newsreader for CBS, but had tired of the role, often finding the story within the story to be far more interesting. With an almost child-like naivety, he quit his job and began writing scripts - with little idea of the odds of actually selling something. However, Hyams struck lucky first time out with the screenplay for T.R Baskin, on which he would also act as producer. More offers followed but what he wanted to do was direct. To this end, he met with ABC's Barry Diller, who was in charge of producing the Movie of the Week for the network. Hyams pitched two ideas, a Raymond Chandler-esque period piece, and another about a faked Mars mission.
Diller opted for the former, and Hyams went on to direct Goodnight, My Love as well as the drama Rolling Man. Goodnight scored some good notices and bought him the attention of Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, with whom Hyams would make Busting. A tough, cynical police procedural movie, it was an early example of a buddy cop picture - though it was played completely straight. Busting found itself entirely overshadowed by Freebie and the Bean later in the year - which did play the genre for laughs to great success and box office. Hyams moved on to school drama, Our Time and then all but ended his career with the disastrous Fat Chance, which despite starring Michael Caine and Natalie Wood, sat on the shelf for over a year, before very quietly being released under the guise of Peeper. The film was so maligned that some actors wouldn't even list it on their resumes.
Hyams couldn't get shot in Hollywood after that, let alone hired to direct. He took on script rewrite work under the offer of directing, but he knew only too well the offers would be rescinded once he'd turned in his draft. He dusted off his Mars landing conspiracy picture, Capricorn One, and also set to work on new script, Hanover Street. A chance conversation with producer Paul Lazarus got Hyams' career back on track. Seeking funding from Sir Lew Grade, who being based in the UK wouldn't know that Hyams was persona non grata in Hollywood, Lazarus and the director were able to get Capricorn One made. Grade made a deal with Warner Bros who all but planned to dump the picture. However a series of events worked in Capricorn's favour. The first of which was that it turned out to be a really good movie, and went down very well with audiences (The studio tested and tested the movie, convinced each positive notice was a fluke). The second stroke of luck was when Richard Donner's Superman The Movie was delayed. Rather than give up all the screens they'd reserved, the studio slotted Capricorn One into them.
Hyams was already shooting Hanover Street with Harrison Ford when Capricorn One struck gold, going on to be the most successful independently funded film of the year. Sadly the success was short-lived as Hanover was a failure in the May of 1978. Undeterred, Hyams switched genres to science fiction, no doubt influenced by the success of Alien. Outland, which was a very loose take on High Noon set on one of Jupiter's moons, saw Sean Connery's marshal investigating the deaths of a number of mine workers. Again, despite a solid cast, decent reviews and some impressive set and effects work, the picture was not a success, though did perform well on the burgeoing home video market. The Star Chamber, about a group of judges who inflicted their own brand of justice on criminals who had avoided conviction via legal loopholes, fared even worse upon release in 1983.
With one major success to his name, the director was somewhat surprised to be offered 2010. An ambitious sequel to Stanley Kubrick's much revered 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hyams only agreed to direct if Kubrick gave his blessing. After a two hour phone call, in which Kubrick quizzed Hyams about shots he'd done in Outland, he nonchalantly gave his blessing to 2010 telling Hyams to make it his own. The director would joke with writer Arthur C. Clarke that he had told Kubrick everything during their call, and in return the famed director had told him nothing. Clarke said he had had a very similar experience. 2010: The Year We Made Contact was a modest hit in 1984, making around $40M from its $28M budget, despite competition from Starman and Dune (2010 would go on to out gross them both). MGM were pleased with the result, the film again going on to be a success on the home video market. With a director who shot fast, on budget and on schedule, the studio were keen to work with Hyams again.
MGM offered him Running Scared. As mentioned, the story originally saw two grizzled New York cops, on the verge of retirement, setting out to crack that one final case, take down that one last big villain, before heading out to the sun. According to comedian (and Running Scared fan) Paul Scheer in his interview with The Dissolve, he thought the idea was written for the likes of Paul Newman and Gene Hackman, though it's unlikely that MGM had approached either star at that very early stage.
Speaking at the 25th anniversary screening for Running Scared, Hyams told the audience that he wasn't really keen on the idea, that it didn't feel that different to a number of other buddy cop pictures (and similar) of the time. Instead, he envisaged two seasoned, but much younger Chicago cops who decided not to retire. Hyams bought in Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston to rework the script and expand the idea. The former had worked on the screenplay for Dogs of War, Back Roads and would script the Arnold Schwarzenegger action feature, Raw Deal. Houston on the other hand had written and directed the horror flick The Final Exam in 1981. Running Scared marked his second (of only three) screenplay credits. DeVore would receive a story credit as well as share the screenplay on the final movie.
The three headed out to Chicago to scout locations, get ideas and generally immerse themselves in the city and its goings-on. The director liked the idea of shooting a cop movie somewhere other than Los Angeles or New York, and Chicago offered a great backdrop to the events. Furthermore, this trip would inspire arguably the most talked about sequence in the film - the car chase on the 'L' Train tracks. While walking the city, Hyams took note of Chicago's famous elevated transit system, the 'L Train'. He mentioned this to his scriptwriters, that the location would make for a great and more importantly, original car chase. They were baffled as to how Hyams would pull this off, but he insisted that if they wrote the sequence, he'd find a way to make it happen.
With the script in shape, casting could begin. As with the original story, Peter Hyams wasn't happy with who the studio put forward for the roles of Ray Hughes and Danny Costanzo. Amongst others who were offered the part or on the studio's shortlist, Tom Selleck had to turn the offer down due to commitments with Magnum P.I (similar had happened to the actor, with a far more reaching impact, on Raiders of the Lost Ark), while John Travolta was advised against the project by his then agent, Mike Ovitz. Hyams pushed for Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, who he felt would have a great chemistry and make an interesting team. According to the director, again speaking at the film's 25th anniversary screening, you could hear the thud when he mentioned their names to the assembled studio executives. Hyams pushed for Crystal to be cast, and the studio agreed, provided the actor come out to Los Angeles and screen-test.
At the time of casting on Running Scared, Billy Crystal was a noted sitcom player and comedian, but had little in the way of film acting experience. Born in 1948, the young Crystal got into comedy by copying the routines of Sid Caeser and Bob Newhart, with his two brothers. Yet, it would be his skills on the baseball field that earnt him a scholarship to a college in West Virginia. Alas, the program was scrapped within the first year so Crystal opted not to return, following his soon to be wife to New York instead. He would study film and television directing, but upon graduating he became part of a comedy trio that would play colleges and the like. He landed a part in the first ever episode of the show that would become Saturday Night Live (then known as NBC Saturday Night) but his sketch was cut before the show aired because he was unable to reduce its runtime from six minutes to two. He would eventually appear in a single sketch later in the season - though his time with the show was far from done.
Crystal's major break came when he was cast as Jodie Dallas on the sitcom, Soap. Noted for being one of the first openly gay characters on a primetime sitcom, Crystal would come in for support and criticism from all sides during his tenure on the show, but he remained with it until its end in 1981. Outside of Soap, he won his first movie role in the Joan Rivers directed Rabbit Test, playing the world's first pregnant man. It was not well received and Rivers never directed again. After the sitcom ended, Crystal hosted his own comedy hour but upon arriving to shoot episode 5, he discovered the show had been cancelled. Since his foray with Saturday Night Live, the show had become a smash hit and Crystal had been invited to host a couple of times. He joined the show as a regular during the 1984-85 season, and his impressions of Sammy Davis Jr (amongst others), as well as his parody of Fernando Lamas, became hugely popular with audiences. The character of Lamas inspired the comedian to release a stand up album and single ('You look... mahvelous!').
Peter Hyams had loved the comedian's work on Soap and especially Saturday Night Live and reached out to his agent with the script for Running Scared. Writing in his autobiography, Still Foolin' 'Em, Crystal said he liked the story straight away and was happy to screen test for the role. However, the night before he was due to fly to Los Angeles, he received a call from NBC president Brandon Tartikoff, who informed him that the network was toying with the idea of having a fixed host for SNL and he wanted Crystal for the role. The comedian was overjoyed but told Tartikoff that he would need to know if this was definitely happening as he had a screen test the next day and the shooting of the movie would coincide with this SNL project. The president said he'd call him back, but never did. Crystal met with Hyams and got the part, and suggested he keep the stubble/beard he'd grown since finishing up on SNL. According to the director, he takes credit for Crystal keeping the beard for most of his working life.
Of the two leads, it's arguable at that time that Gregory Hines was the bigger star - he certainly had more movie experience, and performing experience in general, than Billy Crystal. Hines had started tap dancing when only two or three years old, and began dancing semi-professionally from the age of five. By the time he was nine, he and his older brother had formed a duo, The Hines Kids, and began to play night clubs at weekends. Even an accident that left Gregory legally blind in one eye didn't stop his career. By 1962, their father had quit his job and joined his sons on stage as their drummer. This also signified a name change to 'Hines, Hines and Dad'. Although they toured the international circuit, they were never truly successful. Hines told People magazine that they were '“... a very strong opening act, but we never got over the hump.” By 1972 Hines had developed a cocaine habit, and a year later, somewhat frustrated with the family act, he quit, as well as separating from his wife.
A move to Venice Beach started the next chapter of his life, joining the band Severance as their lead singer. They put out an album but didn't amount to much more. Hines would spend four years in California before moving to New York to be closer to his daughter. His brother got him an audition for a Broadway show and Hines junior got the part. This would eventually lead to more work, which he went after with aggression and great gusto, often badgering producers when he didn't get the part or if they took too long to make a decision. He would be nominated for a Tony award three years running, starting with 1979's Eubie! In 1981 Hines made his feature debut in Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1, winning positive notices for his work. A month or so later, he appeared in the horror thriller, Wolfen, alongside Albert Finney, who Hines credits as giving him an Acting 101 experience.
More work followed. According to an interview on donshewey.com, he pursed a role in The Cotton Club that had been earmarked for Richard Pryor, but was offered a different part instead. Rather than accepting it, Hines researched Pryor's upcoming schedule and proved to producer Robert Evans that Pryor wouldn't be available to play the role anyway. He continued to push, visiting Evan's office every day, calling and even showing up at his house until the producer relented and cast him. The film had a notorious shoot, going over budget and schedule, and Evans and director Francis Ford Coppola falling out. At one point it was claimed the film had between 30-40 different versions of the script, five of which were produced in one weekend. For his part, Hines came out of the project relatively unscathed and went on to work with Mikhail Baryshnikov on 1985's White Knights. In the same year, Peter Hyams cast him in an episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories, having been impressed with his work in Wolfen.
When Running Scared started to come together, Hyams sought out Gregory Hines for the role of Ray Hughes. There's the possibility of some crossover here as both Hyams and Hines claim they pursued the other for the part. A bizarre, yet one imagines typical story to emerge during Hines' casting was when an executive told Hyams the part wasn't 'written for a black guy'. Hyams responded with 'He's not playing a black guy, he's playing a guy'. Upon hearing the story later, Hines claimed that this is what he was always up against.
With the leads now approved and cast, the director looked to fill out the supporting roles. In the meantime he encouraged Hines and Crystal to hang out together. The pair got on famously, with a ready chemistry that the director knew would translate brilliantly to the screen - a good thing too given the pair were in almost every single scene in the movie.
For the part of Danny's ex-wife Anna, Hyams chose Darlanne Fluegel, whom he had been impressed with in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. Fluegel had made her debut in The Eyes of Laura Mars, before taking on the female lead in cult favourite, Battle Beyond the Stars in 1980. In 1984 she played Eve in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, which she followed up with To Live and Die in L.A. Tracey Reed, who would play Ray's 'girlfriend' was a veteran of more than a decade's worth of work when she was cast, including numerous TV shows and the hit movie, Car Wash. Despite being in only a handful of scenes, Reed would give a memorable turn as Maryann.
Elsewhere, Dan Hedaya would play the hard-assed, no-nonsense, typical 80s police captain, Logan, with Steven Bauer and Jonathan Gries playing two undercover cops who Crystal and Hines end up reluctantly working with. Bauer had been in a number of pictures prior to Running Scared including Scarface and Thief of Hearts. Gries was similar, appearing in TV shows and films, including a memorable turn as Lazlo Hollyfeld in Real Genius. In terms of the bad guys, Joe Pantoliano, who had made his mark as Guido the Killer Pimp in 1983's Risky Business, was cast as Snake, a two-bit criminal who very reluctantly agrees to cooperate with the police. Rounding out the cast was Jimmy Smits, in his first major role, taking on the part of drug kingpin Julio Gonzales.
The shoot was set to take around four months, beginning on 16th September 1985, with a view to release Running Scared in the summer of the following year; taking in both Florida and Chicago, which was about to endure its harshest winter in living memory. In the meantime, Crystal and Hines had become firm friends, and having gone through the script a few times, realised they'd need to get in shape - not only for the action sequences and stunts they'd largely perform themselves, but also for their topless fishing scene in the Florida montage. To this end they began working out and eating healthier, following a fairly harsh routine to be ready for what was to come. Hyams didn't rehearse the cast, save for one or two scenes just prior to the start of shooting, preferring to run through things as they were about to shoot them.
Going all the way back to that first walk around Chicago, Hyams still had to figure out how he was going to shoot the 'L' train chase he'd gotten DeVore and Houston to include in the script. He knew from living in Chicago and working in the industry for so long, that the city had an active film commission. He met with the head of the film board and explained his plans for the sequence. Pulling a few strings, the commission head was able to put Hyams in front of the director of the Chicago Transit Authority, to whom he pitched his idea. This was a big ask and would require the train 'loop' to be shutdown to the public while they shot. Fortunately, Hyams was seen as something of a local boy, having worked for CBS in the city earlier in his career, and with certain conditions, his request was granted. All he had to do now was convince his stunt team it could be done.
Billy Crystal recalled in his book, Still Foolin' 'Em (and on numerous talk shows since) how the first shot on the first day went. The scene, set around two thirds of the way into the picture, called for Hughes and Costanzo to burst into a room full of drug dealers. It took a few weeks to choreograph because of the number of events that were to happen in a short space of time. Crystal was set to dive in to avoid a shotgun blast which would destroy the wall behind him, roll onto the floor and begin shooting. Hyams called action, Crystal dove into the room, the wall exploded on cue and the actor began rolling and shooting. Hyams quickly called cut, and invited Crystal to watch the scene. Excited, he walked over to the camera to watch the replay. Upon landing on the floor Crystal had held his gun while shouting BAM! BAM! BAM! Hyams simply said 'You can use the gun'.
While scenes were shot to plan, the director gave the leads a lot of leeway in terms of dialogue, encouraging them to improvise. If something didn't work, Hyams would ask Crystal to come up with a response, a one liner or a 'voice'. He and Hines worked so well together that many of the funniest lines were of their own invention, and they were both so quick that one could pick up when the other was going off script. As shooting continued through November and into December, winter began to take hold.
Working on the climax of the film, which took place in the then unopened state of Illinois building (another favour from the film commission) took its toll on the cast and crew. As temperatures plummeted, one cast member was taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia, while three or four others suffered exposure. Cameras seized up and refused to operate, while equipment filled with oil (or lubricated with grease) froze stiff. And while Gregory Hines was happy to do his own minor stunts, rappelling down the inside of the incredibly high building on a window-washer's chair, was not something he (or the studio) wanted to do. In the end, Hyams was able to hire the actual window washer to perform the stunt, with Hines safely rigged for the close ups. The freezing cold of Chicago was a world away from Key West, where the vacation sequences were shot.
As part of their agreement, The 'L' chase scenes had to be shot when the transit system was closed, which meant reconvening every Sunday for seven weeks. Hyams and his stunt co-ordinator Bill Couch got together to discuss how it would all work - with Couch believing it was too dangerous to even atempt. The studio too, were dead against the idea. They decided to do some testing and set up on a ground-based track in Skokie, just outside the city. By deflating the wheels on a car, they discovered they could get it to sit perfectly well on the rails. This only further convinced Hyams that he could pull off the sequence. They hired legendary stunt driver Carey Loftin, who the director estimated was around 75 at the time, to work with them on the entire chase. Setting up the equipment on flatbed carriages, they could convincingly shoot the action from in front of, and behind, the cars. The stars were brought in for the close ups and over the course of nearly two month, Hyams created a memorable and original car chase. The only casualty ended up being a camera, destroyed when one of the car's brakes failed. On December 22nd 1986, shooting was complete, with production finishing a month or so later.
The 1980s saw a real rise in the movie soundtrack album, and Running Scared was to be no different. Rod Temperton, who amongst many other things, had written Rock With You and Thriller for Michael Jackson, was tasked with putting it together. It was planned primarily to feature pop songs, with some instrumentals. Temperton wrote the film's score and performed on two of the songs, as well as writing what would become the theme for the picture, Sweet Freedom.
Crystal and Hines hit the promotional circuit with Running Scared, appearing on the likes of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman, on which Hines tap danced on the host's table. Despite the film's production being completed months earlier, the two stars remained firm friends, and both were eager to talk up the other during interviews for the film.
While the summer of 1986 wasn't as full of heavy hitters as 1984, there was still plenty of competition. Running Scared was set to debut on June 27th 1986, and would go up against at least one new comedy, and two or three existing ones, as well as the movie that went on to be the biggest of the year. Reviews for Running Scared were mixed, and while most cited the partnership of Hines and Crystal as the real stand out, many felt the picture didn't do anything other genre pictures hadn't already done before. Roger Ebert did enjoy it, stating that it “transcends its dreary roots and turns out to be a lot of fun”.
Running Scared opened on 1,376 screens, the highest of all the top ten releases save for Top Gun. Up against Ruthless People, the Danny DeVito - Bette Middler comedy, which opened on the same day, Running Scared made $5.2M on that first weekend for a fifth place finish. A solid enough start for the R-rated comedy, and less than $50K behind Ruthless People. The Karate Kid 2 remained in the top spot for its second week, while Legal Eagles and Back to School swapped places. Top Gun, despite being in its seventh weekend of release, was still making good money ($5M) and almost certainly cut into Running Scared's demographic.
As word of mouth started to build on Ruthless People, it moved up into second place on the following weekend, while Running Scared dropped a single place (but only lost 19% of its business). None of the new releases offered much in the way of competition, though as an observer looking back now, it is bizarre to see Big Trouble in Little China opening outside of the top ten. By the end of that second weekend Running Scared had made $12M, certainly not a break out hit but not a failure for Hyams and MGM either.
A week on it moved back up a spot, losing just 2% of business as it faced off against Robin Williams' Club Paradise. Back to School, Ruthless People and The Karate Kid 2 were all still playing well on what was a quiet summer release week. By weekend four, Running Scared had slipped down to eighth place as it began to lose its screen count. While budget details for the picture weren't available, chances are that by this point the film was close to recouping its budget, if it hadn't already done so. By its fifth weekend of release, the film had dropped out of the top ten but was approaching the $30M mark. All up it would remain on general release until November, making $38.5M and ending up as the 26th most successful film of the year.
The soundtrack was also a success, and spawned three hits singles. Michael McDonald's Sweet Freedom, released as Sweet Freedom (Theme from Running Scared) complete with a picture of Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines on the cover, made it into the Billboard Hot 100, rising as high as seventh place. The song received a lot of airplay, as did the accompanying video, which was made up of clips from the movie, alongside the stars joining McDonald in a Florida bar. It would be the singer's last top ten hit to date, earning him a Grammy nomination and be included on the re-release of his album, No Lookin' Back. Klymaxx's Man Size Love (also penned by Rod Temperton) reached number fifteen, and tracks by Patti Labelle and New Edition were also hits. The Kim Wilde track, Say You Really Want Me, was released in December 1986, and re-released in the summer of 1987 on the back of Wilde's hit single 'You Keep Me Hanging On'.
With the success of the picture came talk of a sequel but it never materialised. 'Still Running' went through a number of ideas, one of which would see the leads chasing up a crime in London. According to Hyams, he and Crystal would often call the other up and say they weren't doing this idea or that idea. Before long the likes of the Lethal Weapon series, and movies like Midnight Run, had made a sequel largely redundant.
As he had done for most of his career to date, Peter Hyams threw himself straight into his next project, the Sean Connery-Meg Ryan thriller, The Presidio. He followed this with Narrow Margin in 1990, which featured Gene Hackman. Hyams would turn out a new film once every two years or so, for the remainder of the 1990s, seeing the biggest hit of his career to date with 1999's End of Days. He would also collaborate with Jean Claude Van Damme on three pictures, including the 1994 hit, Timecop. While never quite reaching the big time, he has worked consistently over three decades, across many genres. Running Scared, at the time of writing, is the fourth biggest picture of his career.
Jimmy Huston went on to direct horror-comedy, My Best Friend is a Vampire in 1987 and TV movie The Wharf Rat, before all but retiring from the industry, save for work on the TV show High Tide. Gary DeVore earned a couple more credits, before becoming something of an unofficial script doctor for Peter Hyams on Timecop, Sudden Death and The Relic. There were very bizarre circumstance surrounding the writer's death in 1997. DeVore disappeared while driving home one night, and it would be a year before his body was discovered in an aqueduct - without its hands. Speculation ran rampant that DeVore was killed by the CIA, for whom he was said to have secretly worked. Many more things about the crash and the death didn't make sense, to the point where it spawned a book and award winning documentary entitled The Writer With No Hands.
Billy Crystal took a memorable cameo in Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride, as well as appearing opposite Danny DeVito in Throw Momma From the Train, both in 1987. After the disappointing Memories of Me, he again teamed up with Reiner on the timeless romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally, a hit in 1989. Two years later he scored big again with City Slickers, which gave him enough clout to direct his own pictures, Mr Saturday Night and Forget Paris. In the meantime, he was also making a name for himself as host of the Academy Awards, a task he would undertake nine times between 1990 and 2012.
Further movie success would come with Analyse This, though like City Slickers 2, the sequel Analyse That was less well received. He also lent his voice to the character of Mike Wazowski in Monsters Inc. and its sequel, Monsters University. Crystal is said to have taken the job on with Pixar after regretting turning down the role of Buzz Lightyear in the original Toy Story movie. In 2005 he won a special Tony award for his one man play, 700 Sundays, for which he also produced a book. In 2013 he released his autobiography, entitled Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? Crystal remains a popular talk show guest, actor and writer.
Three years after working on Running Scared, Gregory Hines fulfilled a lifelong dream - that of acting opposite his idol, Sammy Davis Jr in the 1989 drama, Tap. Hines would also go on to speak at Davis' funeral a year later. He continued to work throughout the 1990s, in theatre, TV and movies. He would win another Tony award for his work in the 1992 musical, Jelly's Last Jam. On the silver screen he starred opposite Forest Whitaker and Robin Givens in A Rage in Harlem, as well as appearing twice with Whitney Houston, first in Waiting to Exhale and then again in The Preacher's Wife. Like his on-screen partner in Running Scared, Hines also appeared opposite Danny DeVito, playing Sergeant Cass in Renaissance Man.
He moved to TV with The Gregory Hines Show, which ran for one season, as well as making eight appearances in the sitcom, Will & Grace. He also got to portray another of his icons in the TV movie, Bojangles, for which he would receive a number of award nominations. All through his career, he never gave up his love of tap dancing, managing in 1988 to create the National Tap Dance Day, which continues to be celebrated in North America and elsewhere. In 2002 the actor was diagnosed with liver cancer, though only very close friends were aware of his condition. Gregory Hines died on August 3rd 2003 aged 57.
It's a shame that Running Scared is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs. It's arguable that Crystal and Hines' on-screen chemistry was easily as good as Gibson and Glover's. The central chase sequence is still a solid action set-piece and the back and forth from the leads ensures the picture keeps moving at a fast and funny pace. The fact that Hughes and Costanzo are regular people and not super cops also helps add a further level of comedy and danger to proceedings. Running Scared is well worth discovering to witness how a potentially run-of-the-mill genre can be elevated to something special with the help of great on-screen chemistry and two actors in their element.
IMDB - Numerous
Wikipedia - Numerous
The Dissolve: Interview with Paul Scheer
People Magazine: August 1986
Brian McQuery's Youtube channel: Running Scared 25th Anniversary Q&A Parts 1-4
Steve Herold's Youtube channel: HBO Behind the Scenes: Running Scared
Still Foolin' 'Em by Billy Crystal
TCM.com - Running Scared page
Fast-Rewind: Running Scared
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