Ten years ago this week, there were jobs going as extras on the new Jake Gyllenhaal movie. But to fill the bill, you had to have a certain look, which went something like this: 'Jeans, baseball caps, T-shirts, flannels and tie-dye. Props such as candles and flowers are encouraged.' While no fee would be paid, the best costumes would win prizes, including snowboards and mountain bikes. If there's any film of Jake's that would require its extras to bring along candles and flowers, it would be Highway.
Back in July 1999, the production crew of A Leonard Cohen Afterworld, as Highway was then known, descended on Seattle to recreate the Kurt Cobain vigil of 1994. While this was a source of excitement for Nirvana fans (and for that rare beast in 1999 - the Gyllenhaalic), it didn't go down too well with the rest of Nirvana: '"The real problem is that the average kid listening to the radio or reading the paper has no idea that we're not involved with this... offering door prizes as a means of getting people to 'look grunge' for the camera." Novoselic added, "It's the same old story, people trying to exploit everything Nirvana stood for -- and continues to stand for -- just to turn a buck." A representative of the Estate of Kurt Cobain also weighed in on the subject, adding, "We are not participating in this film. We find it without merit and boring."'
In response, the film's production told Nirvana's fans '"We are not in any way attempting to recreate the memorial service in any way that denigrates the memory of Kurt Cobain. If anything we're trying to do as much justice to that time as possible. In our script, that memorial serves as the backdrop for major life-changing moments in our main characters lives."
Filming continued in Las Vegas for eight days. Of course, this wasn't Vegas at its shiney best. This was the trailer park from which the two heroes had to escape: 'After all, as one character observes, "Las Vegas in the day is like a showgirl without her makeup."
But filming for Highway didn't just attract attention in Seattle. It also drew stares in the small town of Wilkeson in Washington, which was taken over by the film for two days that summer. It didn't just get attention because the scene involved cutting the top off a perfectly decent car, but because Jared Leto's girlfriend at the time, Cameron Diaz, who sat and watched the scene from across the street. A 'quick-thinking neighbor dashed into Wilkeson Grocery, the town's general store, grabbed its rental copy of "Mary," and persuaded Diaz to autograph the box. It now sits in a place of honor on a shelf behind the checkout counter ... right next to the box for the store's copy of "Prefontaine," which bears Leto's autograph.' I hope that now at least they would stop to get a Jake signature.
'Wilkeson seemed to be taking the filming in stride. Crowds were small at Chuck's - just clumps of people really, looking on and occasionally taking snapshots. One young woman asked Leto, Gyllenhaal and Blair to pose for her, and with a smile they complied.'
'Why the roof amputation? "Road trips are best done in convertibles," said Guy Riedel, one of the picture's two producers.'
This post is dedicated to Pilot's many devotees - and one in particular (I think she knows who that is). Includes pictures from IHJ.