with Jerry Grandey
by Samantha Husik
What do Grease, Risky Business, Ray, X-Men, Collateral Damage and Raging Bull have in common?
Answer: Jerry Grandey.
Nowadays Grandey is an avid sailor and an active member of his local Rotary club in Colorado. In speaking to him, you’d never know that this down-to-earth, “un-Hollywood” guy was once immersed in the fast paced, ego-filled, “time is money” entertainment industry. But Grandey has indeed spent his fair share of time on film sets. He has served as an Assistant Director to prominent moviemakers like Martin Scorsese, Robert Mulligan, Taylor Hackford, Bryan Singer, Richard Donner and Michael Bay, to name a few.
Grandey wasn’t always interested in film. He started out as a broadcast journalism major in radio and television at Syracuse University. Due to a (fortunate) mistake, Grandey was assigned to the Film Unit in the Air Force, where he got a taste for life behind-the-scenes. Once out of the military, Grandey honed his skills at Twentieth Century Fox, after which he remained active in the industry until his retirement in 2006.
With his extensive on set experience, MovieMaker was interested to know if Grandey loves watching movies as much as he enjoyed making them… He does. Grandey’s top five favorite films reflect his sense of humor, his love of nature, and above all, his appreciation for great visual storytelling.
Napoleon (1927) directed by Abel Gance
Though we can appreciate the story, acting or cinematography in a film – as Grandey did of Napoleon – sometimes it’s the “when” and “how” that effect our feelings about a particular film. For instance, Grandey first saw Abel Gance’s epic, 5-hour silent film in 1979 at an outdoor screening in the Open Air Cinema at the Telluride Film Festival. Over the years, the film had been divided among various parties and as a result, it had not been shown in its entirety since its release. Film historian Kevin Brownlow spent years collecting and restoring as much of the film as he could find and invited Abel Gance (then 89-years-old) to come to Telluride to premiere this restored version. At an awards ceremony, clips from Gance’s films (including a clip from Napoleon) were shown before Gance was given an honorary award. Gance became exceedingly upset, thinking he came all the way from France to see a clip when he was promised the full version. Gance did not attend the screening of Napoleon that night, but Grandey noticed him watching the film from the window of his hotel room. Grandey attended a festival panel the next day, at which Gance apologized for the misunderstanding and expressed his joy and gratitude at seeing his lost film restored. “It’s a remarkable film,” says Grandey, “but the way I was exposed to it has something to do with [my love for] it.”
Young Frankenstein (1974) directed by Mel Brooks
This Mel Brooks classic, nominated for a best screenplay Oscar (1975), tells the story of the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced “Frank-n-shteen”), played by Gene Wilder, who inherits his grandfather’s castle and starts recreating his experiments. “I’m a sucker for Mel Brooks’ humor. And I’m a sucker for the way those actors played those roles,” Grandey says, highlighting his particular fondness for Marty Feldman who plays the humpback Igor. “I cannot keep my mouth shut during that movie, I’m laughing from beginning to end. Especially knowing that some of the lines are coming. I’m laughing before they even get there.” After Grandey finishes praising the film, he recounts a story of how he and a colleague (who were 2nd ADs at the time) swapped their studio assignments; Grandey took an on location picture in Nashville starring Burt Reynolds, while his colleague took a soundstage film. That film turned out to be Young Frankenstein. But Grandey has no regrets about the assignment trade. The film was still in production when he returned from Nashville, so he did get to witness the filming, an experience made more exciting by the fact that many of the sets were recycled from the studio’s 1931 production of Frankenstein.
Dersu Uzala (1975) directed by Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa has directed many extraordinary and influential films in his 50-odd year career, including Seven Samurai and Rashomon, but it’s one of his lesser-known works that Grandey counts as one of his favorite films. Dersu Uzala is the story of the friendship that develops between a Goldi hunter named Dersu and a Russian Captain (or “Cappy-tan,” as Dersu calls him). Dersu guides the Captain and his men through the vast and dangerous wilderness as they survey the landscape. After Dersu saves his life on several occasions, the Captain tries to return the favor by bringing Dersu to live with his family in the city. This turns out to be torture to the undomesticated Dersu who doesn’t understand, “Why man live in box?” “It’s a fascinating film from a psychological standpoint,” Grandey remarks. “It’s also beautifully shot.” The film’s magnificent, sweeping views of Siberia rival those of the famous, panoramic desert scenes in Lawrence of Arabia. The film’s beauty combined with outstanding performances from Maksim Munzuk (Dersu) and Yuri Solomin (Captain Arseniev) earned Kurosawa the 1976 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Man Who Would Be King (1975) directed by John Huston
Sean Connery and Michael Caine are two of the world’s most beloved dramatic actors. However, in this film these thespians prove that their comedic timing is every bit as sharp as their Shakespeare. The Man Who Would Be King, based on a Rudyard Kipling story, is about two British soldiers who become gods to an Indian village that hasn’t seen white men in thousands of years. The legendary, and notorious perfectionist, John Huston, spent years trying to adapt this story into a film, originally recruiting Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart to star in the picture. Thanks to Paul Newman, who suggested Connery and Caine as an alterative to he and Robert Redford, the right artists came together to create this memorable comedy, which garnered four Oscar nominations in 1976. “It’s absolutely astounding how beautifully this film was done… And it’s hilarious! You keep thinking that these guys couldn’t possibly get out of these absurd situations, but they always do.” Grandey chuckles.
The Girl on the Bridge (1999) directed by Patrice Leconte
The Girl on the Bridge is the story of an unusual relationship between two strangers. Gabor (played by acclaimed French actor Daniel Auteuil), a professional knife-thrower, meets Adele (Vanessa Paradis) on a bridge where she is about to drown her sorrows (and herself) in the Seine. They bond immediately and Adele becomes the human target in Gabor’s act. Their platonic relationship is tested when Adele runs off with a married man. During their time apart, they learn that they cannot live without each other. One of the reasons Grandey loves this movie is because of its unpredictability. “There were so many points during the film where I’d say, ‘I know what’s going to happen here… please tell me that’s not going to happen.’ And yet, I was wrong – it goes in a different direction.” Grandey was also impressed with the visual style of this black and white film, “The effects, especially during the knife throwing scenes, are so simple but so effective.” According to Grandey, this little French gem is a definite must-see.
Check out Jerry Grandey’s resumé on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0334845/