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(5 Stories)

Prompted By Planes and Trains

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Written in response to Hitchin' A Ride

Nick’s story, first published on July 25, 2016 was inspired by Suzy’s story on the Hitchhiking prompt, which she had titled Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. He agreed to have it moved to this prompt, for obvious reasons. Hope you enjoy.

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles was the first big-budget movie I ever did.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles was the first big-budget movie I ever did. In comparison, the Nick Nolte movie Weeds, the only other movie I’d done, was practically a guerrilla shoot down in North Carolina. PT&A — or at least my scene — was shot on the streets of midtown Manhattan, with all the attendant permits and crowd control and costs. This was pre-Home Alone, but Paramount had enough faith in John Hughes (and perhaps Steve Martin and John Candy) that cost was a minimal object. The guy in the makeup trailer had the same name — Ben Nye — as the name on all that makeup I’d bought as a young actor. (Just like the costume designer on Catch Me has the same name — Bob Mackie — as the guy who did those flashy clothes for Cher et al.)

Two things stick out for me from that shoot. One was the antipodal reactions of Steve Martin and John Candy to the crowds of onlookers who pressed against the ropes shouting semi-moronic references to “wild and crazy guy” etc. Steve Martin never acknowledged them with a smile, a word, a wave, a look. He kept his hands in the pocket of his trench coat, and stared at the twelve inches of sidewalk between us as if he could by sheer will power make himself invisible. John Candy worked the rope line as if he were running for mayor of E.48th Street, laughing, joking, shaking hands, having a great time. Now John is dead and Steve has a multi-million dollar art collection. The moral: never talk to the little people.

The other memorable moment? I was used to doing plays where the script was the script and either set in dead-author stone or subject to occasional overnight revisions that would be rehearsed for some time before being placed before an audience. John Hughes had absolutely no preciousness about his words. They flowed out of him like water and were equally fungible. As Steve Martin and I ran our scene, he kept up a constant stream of “Now say ‘___________’,” “Now try ‘_____________’,” “How about ‘_________’” as if we were sitting around some conference table or living room. On and on we went, changing the sums of money, adding or subtracting references to Thanksgiving, force majeure, etc. etc., while this midtown setup ticked along like the world’s most expensive taxi meter costing Paramount thousands of dollars a minute. In my jaded dotage, I would ascribe this behavior to a) a writer/director being given too much power and/or b) a script being rushed into production to meet a distribution deadline (Thanksgiving) before it had been thoroughly baked. But at the time, I thought it was cool fun to have this giant toy of a big-budget movie to hack around with and delighted that John let me play with him.

Profile photo of Nick Wyman Nick Wyman

Tags: Movies, Steve Martin, John Hughes, John Candy
Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. John Zussman says:

    Thanks for this peek behind the scenes! I love the metaphor of a big-budget movie as a giant toy and I wonder how many actors and directors still feel that way. Of course, the $30M Paramount spent on PT&A in 1987 would constitute a low-budget studio movie today—if a studio would deign to make it at all.

  2. Susan says:

    If that was your “first big-budget movie,” you’ve got LOTS more stories. Keep sharing! Loved reading this.

  3. Suzy says:

    Nick, I love this story, and I’m glad to have inspired it by stealing the movie’s title for my hitchhiking story. I’m also glad I brought you to Retrospect with that sneaky ploy. Looking forward to more of your stories.

  4. Glad I caught up with this story of yours Nick and thanks for the look behind the camera!

    I’ve always thought Steve Martin a multi-talented guy, but disappointing to hear of his condescending behavior toward his fans. You must have a lot of interesting celeb reveals!

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thanks for this “behind the scenes” look, Nick. Always fascinating. I have a friend who was in the last Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin, who described him as being not at all “wild and crazy”, but extremely shy. He stayed away from everyone on set (not just the screaming fans on the street), so that might explain some of his behavior.

    I heard Sigourney Weaver on Colbert last week say the same thing – most actors are introverts. They get into acting to be able to put on a different persona. Perhaps that’s what Steve Martin does as well.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for reposting Suzy. Interesting look into the movie world. Now I have to see the movie.

  7. Fun to read this again Nick, hope to read more of your movie-making memories!

  8. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific story, Nick. I particularly loved the Hollywood “inside baseball” — to mix metaphors dreadfully. I’d always heard what a mensch John Candy was, and this confirms it. Plus I just read that Ryan Reynolds (an old Canadian buddy of Candy’s) and Colin Hanks (I recall his old man and Candy made a couple of funny movies together) are making a documentary about him, with the full love and support of his family.

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