Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
THE BUDDY SYSTEM
IT'S GOT A MEASLY $8 MILLION BUDGET AND A NEOPHYTE Director, Larry Bishop, whose biggest credit is a bit part in 1968's Wild in the Streets. But the cast is an intriguing mix of actors—Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Rob Reiner, Richard Pryor, Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin and Jeff Goldblum. And the movie, Trigger Happy, a send-up of '40s gangster noir films that just finished shooting in L.A. for release this fall, is creating a buzz reminiscent of 1992's The Player. How did Bishop, 48, pull this off? "I was lucky," he says. Yes, but there's a lesson here too. In Hollywood, it seems, it's not what you know but who you knew in high school. Bishop, the son of Rat Pack comic Joey Bishop, graduated in 1966 from Beverly Hills High School, where one of his best pals was Dreyfuss. A year ago, Bishop took his 10-year-old screenplay to Dreyfuss, who was by chance looking for an offbeat project to follow the earnest Mr. Holland's Opus. Dreyfuss says that he was drawn to the "eccentric characters" in Trigger Happy—especially a smooth but clinically insane mobster named Vic. Dreyfuss not only agreed to play Vic, he recruited Goldblum and Byrne, who in turn lured in his wife, Barkin, from whom he is separated.
Reiner was another of Bishop's BHH buddies, and Reynolds has wanted to be in the film since he read the script eight years ago. Landing Pryor was a bit trickier. Although Bishop hadn't seen him since Wild in the Streets, he reintroduced himself at an L.A. club and pitched the idea of Pryor playing a retired hit man who uses a wheelchair. The comic, who has multiple sclerosis, loved the idea. "I play a badass," says Pryor. "Slowed but still a killer."
That left only one role to fill—a mortician, perfect for that master of deadpan, Bishop's dad, Joey, 78. There was no finesse involved in that negotiation. Says the younger Bishop: "I just put some pressure on him."
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