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A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men(1992)

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teaser A Few Good Men (1992)

Mention the 1992 film A Few Good Men in a conversation, and within a few minutes you'll invariably hear someone's best Jack Nicholson impression as he snarls, "You can't handle the truth!" These five words landed A Few Good Men at #29 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movie Quotes list. The role also landed Jack Nicholson a cool $5 million - not bad for 4 scenes of screen time and 2 weeks work!

Nicholson stars alongside Tom Cruise and Demi Moore in this story of a military lawyer assigned to defend two Marines against murder charges. Adapted by Aaron Sorkin from his own Broadway play, the film rights for A Few Good Men were sold before the play even premiered. Sorkin, who later created the television series The West Wing (1999-2006), was inspired to write the story of A Few Good Men at age 28 after a telephone conversation with his older sister, a Navy Judge Advocate General lawyer. As in the film, she was being sent to Guantanamo Bay to work on a hazing case involving Marines and an alleged "Code Red" order. Shortly after the conversation, Sorkin reportedly went to his bartending job at the Palace theatre and began writing the script on cocktail napkins. It was his first full-length play. Sorkin makes a cameo appearance in the film version of A Few Good Men, appearing as an anonymous man in a bar; he would continue to appear in cameos in his 1995 film The American President and his critically acclaimed but short-lived TV series Sports Night (1998-2000).

While lead Tom Cruise is one of the biggest box office stars in recent film history, Nicholson was the center of attention during the filming of Men. From the bio Jack's Life, by Patrick McGilligan, "The cast, made up of mostly Hollywood's young guard, showed themselves in awe of this actor who was entering his third decade of stardom. When the cast gathered for the first read-through, everybody stirred when Nicholson entered the room. They scurried to their seats. 'It was so strange,' the actor told director Rob Reiner afterward. 'I felt like the [expletive] Lincoln Memorial. I blushed, actually.'"

But Nicholson did not merely rest on his laurels: for the filming of the climactic courtroom scene, Reiner required several takes of Jack's monologue in order to film different characters' reactions. Reiner explained: "We have this eighteen-minute scene in the courtroom at the end, and he's got a speech that's, like, two pages long. And he gets all worked up. He comes in there and bangs it right off. He's there to work and do his job. And then we did coverage on all the other people, and he was off-camera. He must have done the thing fifty times, with the same amount of enthusiasm, with the same amount of energy every time. I was surprised, because you get ideas about a guy of his stature. And I said, 'Jack, it's amazing, you do your...' And he says to me simply, 'Raab, I love to act. I don't get a chance to play a part this good very often.' And that's it. He loves to act."

In addition to Nicholson, Cruise, and Moore, A Few Good Men is well supported by its additional cast, including Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland is well out of the shadow of his father Donald with his recent success with the television series 24, but he struggled with his driving skill during filming. The scene in which his character drives the legal team around the base called for multiple takes because he clipped a couple of the Marines performing as extras as he tried to navigate a military jeep by them. Joshua Malina, who can currently be seen on The West Wing, was the only original member from the Broadway version to make it to the screen, albeit in a bit part. In a 2003 interview, the actor commented, "Still, I made my film debut with Jack Nicholson. I literally had five words, three of them 'yes,' two of them 'sir,' but if you're going to make a film debut, it's nice making it with Jack Nicholson."

A Few Good Men also features a few other actors in minor roles who would go on to bigger film and television careers, including Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Noah Wyle. Gooding, Jr. would win an Oscar® for his role in the Tom Cruise-pic Jerry Maguire (1996), and Wyle is the longest-running original cast member on television's ER (1994- present). Director Reiner's sister-in-law, Maud Winchester, was also cast in a bit role. The crew had some notable offspring in it, including Frank Capra III as first assistant director and Marlene Dietrich's grandson, J. Michael Riva, as the production designer.

A Few Good Men is credited with the most simultaneous world premieres, with over 50 occurring all over the globe upon its release. Its success seemed to bring out the diva in Demi Moore, who, upon being provided with a private plane to take her to the New York premiere, reportedly demanded a second plane to accommodate her luggage. The film scored four Oscar® nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor for Nicholson, but didn't win an Academy Awards. Still, the filmmakers think they got their $5 million worth for Nicholson's now-legendary performance. As he once explained, "Let me put it to you this way. They won't pay it to you if you ain't worth it. Period."

Producer: David Brown, Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman
Director: Rob Reiner
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Film Editing: Robert Leighton, Steven Nevius
Art Direction: David Klassen
Music: Marc Shaiman
Cast: Tom Cruise (Lt. Daniel Kaffe), Jack Nicholson (Col. Nathan R. Jessep), Demi Moore (Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway), Kevin Bacon (Capt. Jack Ross), Kiefer Sutherland (Lt. Jonathan Kendrick), Kevin Pollak (Lt. Sam Weinberg).
C-138m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Eleanor Quin

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