Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Ritchie|
|Produced by||Peter Douglas
|Narrated by||Chevy Chase|
|Music by||Harold Faltermeyer|
|Edited by||Richard A. Harris|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||May 31, 1985|
|Running time||98 minutes|
Fletch is a 1985 comedy film about an investigative newspaper reporter, Irwin M. Fletcher (Chevy Chase). The film was directed by Michael Ritchie and written by Andrew Bergman, loosely based on the popular Gregory Mcdonald novels. Tim Matheson, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, and Joe Don Baker appear in supporting roles.
In the 1970s, Burt Reynolds and Mick Jagger were considered to portray Fletch but these suggestions were rejected by Mcdonald. The author agreed to the casting of Chevy Chase despite never seeing the comedian in anything. Chase reportedly enjoyed the role because it allowed him to play several different characters and work with props. In a 2004 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Chase confirmed this was his favorite role.
Fletch earned positive reviews from critics and performed well at the box office. It has since developed a cult following and was followed by a 1989 sequel, Fletch Lives. A prequel, Fletch Won, has been in talks for over two decades.
Los Angeles Times reporter Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (Chase) is writing an article exposing the drug traffic on the beaches of Los Angeles. Posing as an addict during his investigation, he is approached by Boyd Aviation executive vice president Alan Stanwyk (Matheson) who mistakenly assumes Fletch is a junkie. Stanwyk claims to have bone cancer, with only months left to live, and wishes to avoid the pain and suffering. Stanwyk offers $50,000 for Fletch to come to his mansion in a few days time, kill him, and then escape to Rio de Janeiro, staging the murder to appear as the result of a burglary.
Fletch is suspicious but ostensibly agrees to the plan. Along with his colleague Larry (Davis), he begins investigating Stanwyk instead of completing his drug trafficking exposé, much to the dismay of his impatient editor Frank Walker (Libertini). Fletch endures a rectal exam from Stanwyk's doctor, Dr. Dolan (Walsh), in a failed attempt to talk Dolan into divulging medical information about Stanwyk. Later, disguised as a doctor, Fletch accesses Stanwyk's file at the hospital and learns Stanwyk lied about having cancer. Fletch visits Stanwyk's wife Gail (Wheeler-Nicholson) at her tennis club and, pretending to be a friend of her husband's, flirts with her during an impromptu tennis lesson. Looking into Stanwyk's finances, Fletch finds Gail converted $3 million of her personal stock in Boyd Aviation into cash for her husband to buy a ranch in Provo, Utah. Fletch breaks into the realtor's office and discovers the deed lists the sale price as only $3,000.
LAPD Chief Jerry Karlin (Baker) gets wind of Fletch's soon-to-be-published drug article and meets with him, saying the article will jeopardize his undercover operation on the beach. Chief Karlin threatens to kill Fletch unless he agrees to drop the investigation. Back at the tennis club, Fletch overhears a rude club member, Mr. Underhill, insulting a waiter and decides to use Underhill's tab to treat Gail to an expensive lunch in her private cabana. Fletch informs Gail of the details to her husband's murder scheme and the fraudulent ranch deal.
Fletch surveils Stanwyk making a suspicious briefcase exchange with Chief Karlin, but is unable to determine the nature of their relationship. He returns home to find LAPD officers lying in wait at his apartment and flees and manages to avoid being caught. Fletch returns to Provo and, under the guise of an insurance investigator, interviews Stanwyk's parents. Fletch discovers Stanwyk has been secretly married to another woman for 8 years, having used Gail for her money.
Fletch arrives at Stanwyk's mansion on the night of the plotted murder only to find Stanwyk armed and ready to kill him instead. Fletch reveals he is aware Stanwyk's real plan was to fake his own death by killing Fletch and burning his body beyond recognition. Stanwyk would then escape to Brazil with his other wife as well as Gail's $3 million. Stanwyk was also using his private jet to smuggle cocaine from South America to supply Chief Karlin who in turn profited by blackmailing ex-convicts like Fat Sam (Wendt) to peddle it on the beaches. Chief Karlin unexpectedly shows up and, upon learning of Stanwyk's intentions to flee with $800,000 of the Chief's drug money, kills Stanwyk. Chief Karlin then turns the gun on Fletch but is knocked unconscious by Gail. Some time later, Chief Karlin is indicted due to Fletch's investigation. Fletch begins dating Gail and takes her on a vacation to Rio.
- Chevy Chase as Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher
- Joe Don Baker as Chief Jerry Karlin
- Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as Gail Stanwyk
- Richard Libertini as Frank Walker
- Geena Davis as Larry
- Larry "Flash" Jenkins as Gummy
- Tim Matheson as Alan Stanwyk
- M. Emmet Walsh as Dr. Joseph Dolan
- George Wendt as Fat Sam
- Kenneth Mars as Stanton Boyd
- George Wyner as Marvin Gillet
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Himself
- Chick Hearn as Himself
- James Avery as Detective #2
- Reid Cruickshanks as Sergeant
- Bruce French as Dr. Holmes
- Burton Gilliam as Bud
- David W. Harper as Teenager (as David Harper)
- Alison La Placa as Pan Am Clerk (as Alison Laplaca)
- Joe Praml as Watchman
- William Sanderson as Jim Swarthout
- Penny Santon as Velma Stanwyk
- Robert Sorrells as Marvin Stanwyk
- Beau Starr as Willy
- WilliamTraylor as Ted Underhill
Gregory Mcdonald's novel was very successful and soon Hollywood came calling. His Fletch books were optioned around the mid to late 1970s but the author had retained the right of approving the actor cast to play Fletch. He rejected the likes of Burt Reynolds and Mick Jagger. When the studio mentioned Chevy Chase as Fletch, Mcdonald (even though he had never really seen Chase in anything) agreed. Years before, Chase's manager recommended Mcdonald's books to him but he was not interested at the time. When an old friend and producer Alan Greisman and screenwriter Andrew Bergman got involved, Chase agreed to do it. Mcdonald sent Chase a telegram saying, "I am delighted to abdicate the role of Fletch to you." Bergman was hired to adapt Mcdonald's book into screenplay form. Bergman remembers that he wrote the screenplay "very fast – I did the first draft in four weeks . . . Then there was a certain amount of improv, and something that we used to call dial-a-joke." Mcdonald read the script and was angry by how far it strayed from his book. He wrote to the studio and listed his many objections to the screenplay. Director Michael Ritchie invited Mcdonald to the set of the film and took him out to dinner where, according to Mcdonald, "Point by point, he showed me where I was wrong. I was beautifully chewed out."
According to actor Tim Matheson, Fletch was the first film Chase did after cleaning up his drug problem. However, the studio hired director Michael Ritchie to keep Chase in check. During principal photography, Ritchie would do one take sticking close to the script and then another take allowing Chase to ad-lib. Chase enjoyed the role because it allowed him to play a wide variety of different characters. He said in an interview, "I love props, like wigs and buck-teeth and glasses. At one point I wear an Afro and play basketball with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There were some scenes where I didn't recognize myself." The comedian enjoyed working with director Ritchie because he gave him the freedom to improvise: "It all began when [costar] Tim Matheson asked me what my name was. Right away, with a straight face: 'Ted Nugent'."
|Fletch (Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Allmusic||(not rated) |
- Stephanie Mills - "Bit by Bit (Theme from Fletch)" 3:38
- Dan Hartman - "Fletch, Get Outta Town" 4:11
- John Farnham - "Running for Love" 2:54
- Dan Hartman - "Name of the Game" 6:02
- Harold Faltermeyer - "Fletch Theme" 3:48
- The Fixx - "A Letter to Both Sides" 3:20
- Kim Wilde - "Is It Over" 3:52
- Harold Faltermeyer - "Diggin' In" 2:44
- Harold Faltermeyer - "Exotic Skates" 3:00
- Harold Faltermeyer - "Running for Love" [instrumental] 2:44
Fletch was released on May 31, 1985, in 1,225 theaters, grossing $7 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $50.6 million in North America and $9 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $59.6 million. The film performed well on home video, earning $24.4 million in rentals.
Fletch received generally positive reviews and has a 75 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "The problem is, Chase's performance tends to reduce all the scenes to the same level, at least as far as he is concerned. He projects such an inflexible mask of cool detachment, of ironic running commentary, that we're prevented from identifying with him . . . Fletch needed an actor more interested in playing the character than in playing himself." Vincent Canby in his review for The New York Times praised Chase's performance, writing, "He manages simultaneously to act the material with a good deal of nonchalance and to float above it, as if he wanted us to know that he knows that the whole enterprise is somewhat less than transcendental." Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "In Fletch, the quick, smartly paced, gags somehow read as signs of vulnerability. Incidentally, they add greatly to the movie's suspense. Every minute you expect the hero's loose lip to be turned into a fat one." In his review for the Chicago Reader, Dave Kehr wrote, "Chase and Ritchie make a strong, natural combination: the union of their two flip, sarcastic personalities produces a fairly definitive example of the comic style of the 80s, grounded in detachment, underreaction, and cool contempt for rhetorically overblown authority figures."
Fletch became a cult film. In an interview for the New York Post, Bergman tries to explain its appeal. "It's so bizarre, but Fletch strikes a chord. There's a group of movies like that in the '80s, like Caddyshack, too, that captured a certain wise-ass thing." In particular, the film appeals to college students who have asked Chase to talk about it at film classes. The actor has said that the appeal of the character is "the cheekiness of the guy. . . everybody at that age would like to be as quick-witted as Fletch, and as uncaring about what others think." Chase has said that this film is his favorite to date because "it allowed me to be myself. Fletch was the first one with me really winging it. Even though there was a script, the director allowed me to just go, and in many ways, I was directing the comedy." Perhaps the most meaningful praise comes from Mcdonald himself: "I watched it recently, and I think Chevy and Michael Ritchie did a good job with it." The film was voted as the 23rd best film set in Los Angeles in the last 25 years[when?] by a group of Los Angeles Times writers and editors with two criteria: "The movie had to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience, and only one film per director was allowed on the list." The 2005 animated feature Hoodwinked depicted the Big Bad Wolf (from Little Red Riding Hood) as a sarcastic investigative reporter in a direct parody of Fletch, right up to the Lakers shirt, disguises, and a version of Fletch's theme playing during his scenes.
Fletch was originally released on DVD in 1998, but that release quickly went out of print. Universal Home Video re-released a special edition of Fletch - the "Jane Doe" Edition on May 1, 2007. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, along with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track and includes the retrospective featurettes, "Just Charge It to the Underhills: Making and Remembering Fletch," "From John Coctoastan To Harry S. Truman: The Disguises" and "Favorite Fletch Moments." IGN felt that this version was a decent replacement for anyone who still owned the film on VHS but for "anyone seeking more than that will be sadly disappointed by the ill-executed extras and slap-dash sound upgrade."
Sequel and prequel
The film was followed by a 1989 sequel, Fletch Lives.
A follow-up to Fletch Lives had been discussed in the 90s at Universal Studios. During his association with Universal after the production of Mallrats (this was because Gramercy Pictures was co-owned by Universal), Kevin Smith expressed interest in doing a third "Fletch" film as a sequel starring Chevy Chase but it never came to fruition. In June 2000, it was announced that Kevin Smith was set to write and direct a Fletch film at Miramax Films, after the rights to the books, which Universal Studios had owned, reverted. At the time, Miramax co-head Harvey Weinstein, expressed the hope that a new Fletch series would be "Miramax Films' first-ever franchise."
After a disagreement between Chase and Smith in regard to differing levels of priority for the sequel project, Smith settled on adapting Fletch Won, which follows Fletch in his early years as newspaper junior reporter. Smith intended to follow the novel's plot and characters much more closely than earlier Fletch films had. Filming the prequel/origin story would have allowed Smith to make the movie without Chase while still leaving the door open for him to appear in a cameo role in framing scenes and/or as narrator. Around this time, Smith mentioned Jason Lee and Ben Affleck as possible choices to play Fletch.
In August 2003, it was reported that the film was set to start shooting in January, with Smith still at the helm. Though Smith insisted on casting Lee in the lead role, Miramax head Harvey Weinstein refused to take a chance on Lee, citing the general inability of his films to gross more than $30 million at the box office. The role of Fletch remained uncast, with Smith considering a list of actors including Affleck, Brad Pitt, Zach Galifianakis, Will Smith, and Jimmy Fallon. Though Smith considered compromising and casting Zach Braff in the role, he eventually left the project in October 2005.
Smith was replaced as writer/director by Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence, in what would have been his directorial debut. He had enthused, "Not only can I recite the original Fletch movie line for line, I actually read all the Greg Mcdonald books as a kid. Consider me obsessed — I'm going to try as hard as I can not to screw this up." Lawrence was signed to direct both Fletch Won and a sequel. Scrubs star Zach Braff was rumored to be in talks for the lead role, and in January 2007, Braff posted on his web site that "Bill Lawrence is writing and directing Fletch in the spring and he wants me to play young Fletch, but no firm plans are in place yet. He is still writing the script." In April 2007, Braff announced that he had dropped out of the film to work on his own film, Open Hearts. In June 2007, it was announced that Lawrence was off the project and had been replaced by Steve Pink.
In 2011, rights to the project were purchased by Warner Brothers, who requested screenplays from several writers that turned out to be unsuitable. In 2013, David List, who represents the McDonald estate, stepped in with his own draft which proved attractive enough to engage Jason Sudeikis in the title role. The studio has signed off on the screenplay, described as more of a "gritty action comedy with heart" and is looking for a director.
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- Jonathan Bing; Claude Brodesser (2000-06-29). "M'max, Smith fetch 'Fletch' for franchise". Variety. Retrieved 2007-02-17.
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