There have been around 300 films and television series produced in Austin over the past 50 years. In this series, we will look back decade-by-decade and explore those classic #MadeInAustin productions that are available to stream from the comfort of home. In this second part, we will look at the second half of the 1990s.
By the mid-'90s Richard Linklater had solidified his career and was bringing a number of high profile productions home to Austin after a brief trek to Europe to shoot "Before Sunrise." "SubUrbia" builds on the examination Linklater's previous examination of American youth culture focusing on a group of outsiders and a mundane night of hanging out which was followed up by his Texas-based period epic about a family of nice bank robbers "The Newton Boys."
The late '90s also brought three of the best comedies of the era which just happened to be made in Austin: Christopher Guest’s ensemble documentary "Waiting for Guffman," Nora Ephron’s witty and whimsical comedy "Michael" and "Office Space," Mike Judge’s live-action debut about the American work space. Comedy was not the only genre popular in Austin during this period. From big budget romance with "Hope Floats" and sports movies for the MTV generation with "Varsity Blues," to bombastic war films like "Courage Under Fire" and an offbeat indies with "Home Fries."
During the first half of the decade, local maverick Robert Rodriguez had been making a name with a series of adventurous films starting with the Mexico shot "El Mariachi," which he made without a crew for $5,000 earned by taking part in a medical testing trial. "El Mariachi," gave Rodriguez the traction to segway into a series of adventurous studio features including "El Mariachi," sequel "Desperado" and the Quentin Tarantino penned "From Dusk Till Dawn." The success of these films gave Rodriguez the freedom to bring his next feature The Faculty home to Austin. Looking back the cast is very similar to "Dazed and Confused" as it launched the careers of a number of now huge names including: Jon Stewart, Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett and Usher.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Starring: Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Matt Damon
20th Century Fox
Rated R / 116 minutes / Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, War
During the 1991 Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally caused a friendly fire incident; a mistake that was hushed up by his superiors. "Courage Under Fire" picks up following the war, as Serling is assigned to investigate the case of Army Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), killed in action when her Medevac unit was attempting to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter. As Serling interviews Walden's crew, including Specialist Andrew Ilario (Matt Damon in a pre-"Good Will Hunting" role) and Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips), he realizes their stories about the incident don't add up. Local film locations for "Courage Under Fire" included the Austin State Hospital, Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos and the Texas State Capitol grounds, filling in for Washington, D.C.
Waiting for Guffman (1996)
Directed by: Christopher Guest
Starring: Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated R / 84 minutes / Comedy, Mockumentary
Master of the mockumentary Christopher Guest ("This is Spinal Tap," "Best In Show," "A Mighty Wind") decamped in Lockhart to make "Waiting For Guffman," a comedic treat focused on community theater. When the town of Blaine, Missouri, approaches its sesquicentennial, there's only one way to celebrate: with a musical revue called "Red, White and Blaine." Hoping the show will be his ticket back to Broadway, impresario Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) rounds up a cast of enthusiastic but untalented locals (played by guest regulars Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara and Parker Posey) to perform his masterwork. But, when Corky reveals that theater agent Mort Guffman will attend the opening, things really kick into high gear.
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn, Jayce Bartok, Amy Carey, Nicky Katt, Ajay Naidu, Parker Posey, Dina Spybey-Waters
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated R / 121 minutes / Comedy, Drama
After heading to Europe to make "Before Sunrise," Richard Linklater came home to Austin to film his adaptation of Eric Bogosian's play "SubUrbia." The film follows an aimless gang of suburban slackers as they spend an evening hanging out at a local convenience store in hopes of seeing an old high-school buddy whose career as a rock singer is about to hit the big time. The film built on many of the themes or Linklater’s earlier Gen X opus "Slacker" and utilized a who’s who of young actors of the era including Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn and Parker Posey. Those familiar with South Austin will recognize the main convenient store location which was filmed around at the intersection of West Stassney Lane and South First Street.
The Whole Wide World (1996)
Directed by: Dan Ireland
Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Renee Zellweger, Ann Wedgeworth
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated PG / 111 minutes / Biography, Romance, Drama
In Dan Ireland’s fact-based film set in 1930s Texas, pulp fiction master Robert E. Howard (Vincent D'Onofrio) is introduced to Novalyne Price (Renée Zellweger), a teacher with aspirations of becoming an author herself, and they begin a unique relationship filled with conversation and imagination. Although the possibility exists for romance, Howard's obsession with his work, including Conan the Barbarian and dedication to his sick mother (Ann Wedgeworth) leads Price to look elsewhere for love, leaving Howard feeling betrayed and alone. When auditioning for the film "Jerry Maguire," Zellweger convinced Cameron Crowe she was right for the role by showing him a tape of "The Whole Wide World" and upon receiving her Oscar for "Cold Mountain," Zellweger thanked Vincent D'Onofrio for teaching her how to act while the pair were making "The Whole Wide World."
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Starring: John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt, Bob Hoskins, Robert Pastorelli, Jean Stapleton, Teri Garr, Joey Lauren Adams, Carla Gugino
New Line Cinema
Rated PG / 105 minutes / Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Nora Ephron’s "Michael" follows jaded journalists Frank (William Hurt) and Huey (Robert Pastorelli), along with "angel expert" Dorothy (Andie MacDowell), as they travel to a small town in Iowa to investigate a story. Here, they find Michael (John Travolta), a disheveled man claiming to be an angel. But Michael is less than angelic: he drinks, smokes and basks in the attention of women. As the group travels to Chicago, Michael teaches them about relationships, faith and miracles, suggesting that he may be exactly whom he says he is. John Travolta considers this his finest work on screen. Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, built in 1878 and known as the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas, served as the bar location where the famous "Chain of Fools" dance scene and the ensuing brawl took place.
The Newton Boys (1998)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dwight Yoakam, Julianna Margulies
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 / 122 minutes / Action, Crime, Drama, History, Western
"The Newton Boys" is based on the true story of America's most successful bank robbers of the early 1920s, the Newton brothers from Texas, who embarked on a crime spree which spread across the US and into Canada, heisting bank vaults only at night in order not to hurt anyone. As far as locations go, "The Newton Boys" utilized more of the regional American communities than most in showing the brother’s “robbery” robbery spree. As well as filming at Austin’s famous Paramount Theater, "The Newton Boys" also filmed in Bartlett, Bertram, Buda, Liberty Hill, Lockhart, Martindale, Pflugerville. Richard Linklater pulled together a stellar cast, with Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, and Vincent D'Onofrio playing the Newtons. Fun fact: Matthew McConaughey is from Uvalde, Texas, as was the real Willis Newton who he plays in the film.
Hope Floats (1998)
Directed by: Forest Whitaker
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr. Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 / 114 minutes / Drama, Romance, Comedy
"Hope Floats" is the first film made under Sandra Bullock's own production company, Fortis Films. In the film, Birdee Calvert (Sandra Bullock) must choose between her morals and her heart after her husband divorces her and a charming young man from her past, Justin Matisse (Harry Connick Jr.), who her daughter disapproves of, comes back into her life. More than two decades after the release of "Hope Floats," Smithville continues to get visitors who want to see the downtown backdrop where Birdee rekindled her romance with Justin Matisse. The home in the movie is the McCollum-Chapman-Trousdale House, located just off main street in Smithville.
Home Fries (1998)
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Luke Wilson, Catherine O'Hara, Jake Busey, Shelley Duvall
Rated PG-13 / 91 minutes / Comedy, Romance, Drama
Before there was "Breaking Bad," there was "Home Fries," penned by series creator Vince Gilligan in 1989, for a screenwriting class he was taking at New York University. "Home Fries" is a dark comedy about Dorian (Luke Wilson) and Angus (Jake Busey), who chase down their womanizing stepfather with a helicopter, accidentally frightening him to death. In his effort to cover their tracks, Dorian begins investigating his stepfather's mistress, Sally (Drew Barrymore). She works at a fast-food drive-through, she's pregnant and Dorian quickly falls in love with her. Unfortunately, his scheming mother wants Sally dead. And Sally isn't sure she wants Dorian to be her child's father and also his half-brother—mayhem ensues.
The Faculty (1998)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Elijah Wood, Jon Stewart, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy, Selma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Usher
Rated R / 104 minutes / Horror, Sci-Fi
Robert Rodriguez came home with "The Faculty," after launching his career with the back to back "El Mariachi," "Desperado" and "From Dusk Till Dawn." To the students at Harrington High, the principal and her posse of teachers have always been a little odd, but lately they've been behaving positively alien. Controlled by otherworldly parasites, the faculty try to infect students one by one. "The Faculty" is a mix between "The Breakfast Club" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," as nerd Casey Connor (Elijah Wood), cheerleader Delilah (Jordana Brewster), football player Stan (Shawn Hatosy), drug dealer Zeke (Josh Hartnett) and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris) team up with some of their other classmates to fight back against the invaders. The High School in the film is actually multiple local schools: Lockhart High School and Texas School For The Deaf.
Varsity Blues (1999)
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Starring: James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Paul Walker, Scott Caan, Amy Smart
Rated R / 106 minutes / Comedy, Romance, Sports, Drama
This film opened #1 at the North American box office the day it opened. "Varsity Blues" is the story of a small Texas town where high school football reigns supreme. When starting quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) turns up injured, the Coyotes' ruthless coach, Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight), must promote benchwarmer Jonathon "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek) to lead the team in its quest for a divisional title. Suddenly thrown into the spotlight, Mox must deal with the pressure of carrying the aspirations of an entire town on his shoulders, as he struggles to pursue his own very different dreams.
A Slipping-Down Life (1999)
Directed by: Toni Kalem
Starring: Lili Taylor, Guy Pearce
Rated R / 109 minutes / Drama, Musical, Romance
"A Slipping-Down Life" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999. Drumstrings Casey (Guy Pearce) is an aspiring rock musician, though he hasn't had much success so far. Evie Decker (Lili Taylor) is likewise searching for direction and meaning. She works at an amusement park by day and at night bides her time alongside her troubled father. Between the two, Evie might be the more emotionally disturbed, as evidenced by how obsessed she becomes with Casey—going so far as to carve his name across her forehead. Look out for then-Austin Mayor Kirk Watson in a cameo during the drugstore scene.
Office Space (1999)
Directed by: Mike Judge
Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Anniston, David Herman, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, Ajay Naidu, Diedrich Bader, John C. McGinley, Richard Riehle
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 / 89 minutes / Comedy
A box office dud at the time of release, Mike Judge’s "Office Space" went on to gain a huge cult following, becoming one of the most successful home video releases of all time. Corporate drone Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) hates his soul-killing job at software company Initech. While undergoing hypnotherapy, Peter is left in a blissful state when his therapist dies in the middle of their session. He refuses to work overtime, plays games at his desk and unintentionally charms two consultants into putting him on the management fast-track. When Peter's friends learn they're about to be downsized, they hatch a revenge plot against the company inspired by "Superman III." Judge's film spawned from his animated series, Milton, which also starred the hilarious Stephen Root. If you have your flair, you should stop by the Baker Street Pub which played Chotskie's, the sports bar Jennifer Aniston’s character Joanna worked.
As with previous posts, this week’s missing in action titles not available to stream includes: "The War At Home," "Natural Selection," "A Texas Funeral" and "Rock Opera." These titles may be available at your local video store or other retailers. Check out the previous lists of streaming films from the 1970s and streaming films from the 1980s and the previous part of streaming films from the 1990s. Join us next time as we kick off the 2000s.