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Revisiting Reese & Rudd's Minnesota bomb

Posted by: Neal Justin under Movies, Behind the scenes, Minnesota History Updated: December 15, 2010 - 6:21 PM

 

 

 

"How Do You Know" does not mark the first time Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd hooked up on screen. That honor belongs to "Overnight Delivery," shot in the Twin Cities. So how come you've never heard of it? Here's my 1998 article on how things went awry:

 

" Overnight Delivery" should have been one of Minnesota's finest
moments on film.

The ingredients were there: a hot screenwriter, two rising
stars and a two-month shooting schedule that showcased so much of
the Twin Cities that it could have been produced by the tourism
bureau.

So how come you've never heard of it?

" Delivery" went straight to the video stores this month -
nearly two years after filming here - without a theatrical release,
a stunning blow. The mainstream romantic comedy was originally
penned by Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy") and featured Paul
Rudd ("The Object of My Affection," "Clueless") and Reese
Witherspoon ("Twilight," "Freeway"), two young actors whom
Entertainment Weekly pegged last week as members of the next Brat
Pack.

Steve Elzer, vice president of publicity for New Line, which
produced the film, said the company would have no comment except
that "it was a business decision." Agents for the actors didn't
return phone calls.

Even director Jason Bloom didn't want to talk about his movie.
"I'm incredibly proud of it," he said. "I love the film and I hope
people see it, but I don't want to talk about it for print."

It's no surprise that the major players don't want to get too
close to this bomb. Deborah Moore, who served as the film's line
producer and is a former New Line executive, said that in the 70 or
80 films she oversaw while working for the company, she can't
remember one intended for theatrical release that ended up going
directly to video.

" Overnight Delivery" cost $10 million to produce, while the
normal budget for a straight-to-video movie is about $1 million or
$2 million, Moore said. To market the film successfully, the studio
would have had to spend another $10 million in advertising, she
said. Ultimately, the film would have needed to gross $60 million to
turn a profit.

No one could have guessed that " Delivery" was headed to the
dead-letter office when production began in April 1996. In fact, it
looked like a quiet coup for the state's film industry.

"The script wasn't that bad," said Randy Adamsick, executive
director of the Minnesota Film Board. "I take that back. It wasn't
bad at all. There were a lot of laughs in there. I would have never
thought it would meet this horrible fate."

The story line: A Twin Cities college student (Rudd) believes
that his long-distance girlfriend (Christine Taylor) is cheating on
him. In a drunken rage, he express-mails her a nasty breakup letter
with the help of a cheeky stripper ( Witherspoon). But he changes his
mind, and the two teenagers jump into a car and head to Memphis in
hopes of intercepting the package.

The entire movie was shot in the Twin Cities, taking advantage
of the changing spring temperatures to represent both chilly
Minnesota and the warmer states on Rudd's and Witherspoon's journey
south. The film includes such local landmarks as the Ground Zero
nightclub in Minneapolis (as a strip joint), the Minneapolis
Convention Center (as the airport), the Loring Cafe in Minneapolis
(as a student lounge) and the University of St. Thomas and Crown
Sterling/Embassy Suites in St. Paul (as a Tennessee college).

"We shot all over the place. . . . " said production manager
Kevin Reidy. "It was one of the most pleasant filming experiences
I've had."

Despite the numerous shoots, you might not have noticed these
busy visitors. That's because they got lost in Arnold
Schwarzenegger's shadow. "Jingle All the Way," the most expensive
movie ever filmed in Minnesota, was in town at the same time.

"The big joke was that people were hanging around the set,
looking for Arnold," Adamsick said. "They put signs on their
trailers that read: `NO ARNOLD.' "

CHASING KEVIN


While actors and crew members interviewed for this article said
the shooting went smoothly, there was one big problem from the start:
Screenwriter Smith was missing in action.

No one remembers seeing him on the set. Although he's listed as
the sole writer in the production schedule, the video credits Marc
Sedaka and Steve Bloom as writers.

Adamsick said Smith's irreverent sense of humor was missing
from the final product. "I thought it needed a lot more Kevin Smith,
and I'm not the biggest Kevin Smith fan," he said. "It fell
somewhere between not mainstream enough and not outrageous enough.
The premise seemed plausible on paper, but didn't in the video."

It's unclear how much of the film's dialogue and story came
from Smith, who also directed the Minnesota-filmed flop "Mallrats."
He is currently shooting the movie "Dogma," with Matt Damon and Ben
Affleck, and could not be reached for comment.

John Pierson, who helped Smith sell "Clerks" to Miramax and now
hosts the Independent Film Channel series "Split Screen," hasn't
talked to his associate about the movie, but knew that it wasn't a
high priority.

"I wouldn't even pick up ` Overnight Delivery,' " Pierson said.
"I was aware of how quickly it was written."

Production supervisor Julie Hartley, who lives in the Twin
Cities, said the script was nothing special. "I must admit I'm not a
fan of Kevin Smith's writing," she said. "I was not particularly
enamored of it."

SOPHOMORE SLUMP

Another problem was lack of experience. Jason Bloom - son of
Jake Bloom, one of California's highest-profile entertainment
lawyers - had directed only one feature, the Pauly Shore-polluted
"Biodome."

"There were a lot of novices involved," said Hartley, a veteran
who worked on "Fargo" and "My Cousin Vinny," among other movies.
"The producers had really only done a few films and this was the
director's second film. The person with the most experience was the
editor, and once it gets to that stage, there's not a lot he can
do."

Reidy, who co-produced last year's indie film "The Whole Wide
World" and was an associate producer on Kevin Spacey's 1994 movie
"Swimming with Sharks," said it's sometimes harder working for a
second-time director than a novice. "A first-time director is asking
for help, putting together a team, learning the lingo, but someone
who has done one tends to get a little cocky," he said, adding that
his comments were a general assessment, not necessarily pointed at
Bloom.

According to Reidy, " Overnight Delivery" tested well with
audiences and even had a L.A. premiere party. He expected the teen
romance to be released last spring or fall. When that didn't happen,
some speculated it would come out after "The Object of My
Affection," the romantic comedy co-starring Rudd and Jennifer
Aniston that was released a week and a half ago.

Instead, " Delivery" has quietly hit the stores - so quietly
that many who worked on the film hadn't heard. That's bad news for
them, but Minnesota is still something of a winner. Adamsick
estimates that New Line spent about $3 million locally and that 75
percent of the cast and crew were Minnesotans.

And while the tape may not win any awards, it serves as a
showcase for the state's many looks - something the Film Board can
use to lure other productions. "We've never played so many places
and had standard locations used in so many ways," said Adamsick.

 

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