Private Parts (1997 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Betty Thomas|
|Produced by||Ivan Reitman|
|Based on||Private Parts
by Howard Stern
|Narrated by||Howard Stern|
|Edited by||Peter Teschner|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$41.2 million|
Private Parts is a 1997 American biographical comedy film produced by Ivan Reitman and directed by Betty Thomas. The film is an adaptation of the autobiographical chapters from the best selling 1993 book Private Parts by radio personality Howard Stern, developed from a script written by Len Blum and Michael Kalesniko. It follows Stern's life from boyhood to the cusp of break-out success in radio. Stern and several of his radio show staff star as themselves, including newscaster and co-host Robin Quivers, producers Fred Norris and Gary Dell'Abate, and comedian Jackie Martling. The film also stars Mary McCormack, Alison Janney, and Paul Giamatti.
After a proposed film featuring Stern as his superhero character Fartman fell through, development for a new film began in 1994, several months following the release of Private Parts. Stern signed with Rysher Entertainment, who agreed to fund it, and teamed with producer Ivan Reitman who thought a biographical take on Stern's life was best suited for a film. Production was delayed after Stern rejected 22 scripts from several screenwriters until he accepted one developed by Blum and Kalesniko in late 1995. Filming took place in the New York City area and Washington, D.C. from May to November 1996 with a budget of $28 million, during which Stern continued to host his his radio show each weekday morning. Numerous celebrities and family members of the radio show staff make cameo appearances in the film. The soundtrack is formed of songs from several rock bands as well as two original tracks featuring Stern performing with Rob Zombie and the the Dust Brothers.
Released in the United States on March 7, 1997 by Paramount Pictures, Private Parts ranked at number one on the US box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $14.6 million. It grossed a domestic total of $41.2 million at the end of its theatrical run. It received mostly positive reviews from film critics, a group who Stern made a conscious effort to please, including the public who did not listen to the radio show or were not fans of his. In 1998, the film was released on DVD and Stern won a Blockbuster Award for Favorite Male Newcomer for his performance. Stern shot additional scenes for a censored version of the film prior to its premiere television broadcast on the USA Network in 1999.
Following his appearance at the MTV Music Video Awards as his superhero character Fartman, radio personality Howard Stern boards his flight home and is seated next to Gloria who is visibly repulsed by him. Stern, thinking she sees him as a moron, begins to narrate his life story, starting with the verbal abuse he received as a boy from his father Ben. As a youngster, Stern dreams of being on the radio after visiting his father's recording studio and grows up to be a quiet, socially awkward teenager. He decides to work in radio and studies Communications at Boston University. He becomes a DJ at WTBU, the college station, and meets his girlfriend Alison.
After graduating, Howard works at WRNW in Briarcliff Manor, New York and is promoted to program director, which allows him to marry Alison. He leaves after being asked to fire a fellow DJ and moves to WCCC in Hartford, Connecticut, where he befriends DJ Fred Norris. Howard adopts a more casual attitude on the air, becoming more open and upfront. He and Fred attends the premiere of actress Brittany Fairchild's (Melanie Good) new film. The three leave early for Fairchild's hotel room where she strips for a bath and convinces Howard and Fred to join in. Brittany's behavior becomes more sexual, and an embarrassed Howard leaves. When Alison finds his wet underwear in their car and believes he has been unfaithful, she leaves him. Howard leaves Hartford for WWWW in Detroit, Michigan and is miserable, but Alison goes to Detroit and forgives him. WWWW then switches to country music, and Howard quits.
Howard starts at WWDC in Washington, D.C. in 1981 and meets his news anchor Robin Quivers, whom he encourages to riff with him on the air. They refuse orders from boss Dee Dee for constantly breaking format. One of their antics, in which Howard assists a female caller to reach orgasm, almost gets him fired until a ratings boost forces Dee Dee to keep him and hire Fred to the team. Meanwhile, Alison announces her pregnancy, but it ends in miscarriage. Although they cheer each other up by joking about it, Howard makes light of the situation on the air, which greatly upsets Alison.
With Alison pregnant again, Howard gets his dream offer to work in New York City at WNBC, where he has the chance to become a nationwide success. However, upper management at NBC hired Howard not realizing what his show was like until they see a news report about him. Program director Kenny "Pig Vomit" Rushton offers to keep Howard in line or he will force him to quit. Howard, Fred, and Robin ignore Kenny's restrictions on content until a risque Match Game with comedian Jackie Martling causes Rushton to fire Robin. The show fails in her absence and her replacement quits after Howard's interview with an actress who swallows a kielbasa sausage. Robin is eventually brought back, but Howard's antics continue with a naked woman in the studio, resulting in Kenny cutting off the broadcast. Howard gets the show back on the air and gets into a physical altercation with Kenny in his office.
In 1985, Howard becomes number one at WNBC and Kenny tries to regain Howard's friendship but is turned down flat. Howard thanks his fans with an outdoor concert by AC/DC. During the performance, Alison is rushed to hospital and gives birth to a daughter. Back on the flight, it is revealed that Howard has told his story to Gloria and believes he could get her, but stays loyal to Alison. He meets Alison at the airport and his daughters run to greet him.
During the end credits, Stuttering John rants about his absence in the film. Mia Farrow then presents an Academy Award for Best Actor for Howard at the awards ceremony, who appears as Fartman once again, but Howard falls from mid air and the audience applauds. Kenny now manages a shopping mall in Alabama and blames Howard for his downfall. During his outbursts, his swearing is drowned out by jackhammer noises.
- Howard Stern as himself/narrator
- Robin Quivers as herself
- Mary McCormack as Alison Stern
- Fred Norris as himself
- Paul Giamatti as Kenny "Pig Vomit" Rushton
- Carol Alt as Gloria
- Allison Janney as Dee Dee
- Michael Murphy as Roger Elick
- Jenna Jameson as Mandy
- Richard Portnow as Ben Stern
- Kelly Bishop as Ray Stern
- Sasha Martin as Emily Beth Stern
- Sarah Hyland as Debra Jennifer Stern
- Reni Santoni as Vin Vallesecca
- Melanie Good as Brittany Fairchild
- Leslie Bibb as the WNBC Page/Tour Guide
- Camille Donatacci Grammer as Camille the Card Girl
- Edie Falco as Alison's friend
- Amber Smith as Julie
- Janine Lindemulder as Camp Director's Wife
- Michael Gwynne as Duke of Rock
- Paul Hecht as Ross Buckingham
- James Murtaugh as Payton
- Alison Stern (Stern's then wife) as WNBC receptionist
- Nancy Sirianni, (Martiling's then wife) as extra in the film festival scene, seated in front of Stern
- Allison Furman-Norris (Norris' wife) as a WNBC receptionist
- As themselves
In the early 1990s, Stern experienced a rise in popularity as a radio and television personality. He entered discussions with New Line Cinema in 1992 to produce a film based on his superhero character Fartman which he devised in July 1981 when he hosted mornings at WWDC in Washington, D.C. On November 25, 1992, Variety reported that J. F. Lawton, writer of Pretty Woman and Under Siege, was planning to write and direct the film, titled The Adventures of Fartman. The film, which was budgeted between $8 million and $11 million, was expected to go into production in May 1993 with David Permut assigned as producer under his Permut Presentations banner. According to Lawton, The Adventures of Fartman was to revolve around the superhero and his alter ego, a magazine publisher in the mold of Screw magazine's Al Goldstein. On June 28, 1993, Lawton revealed more information for Time. "There's a lot of nudity, some harsh language, a lesbian love scene, and the main character works for an underground sex magazine. We told New Line Cinema the plot, and they said, 'Yeah, it sounds great. But can't we make it PG-13?'" Stern became unhappy with the idea of making a PG-rated film, and had disputes over licensing of its merchandising rights. Coupled with the quality of the scripts being drafted, the project was shelved before the production could begin.
A film project remained inactive until the release of Stern's first book, the part memoir and part commentary Private Parts, in October 1993. It became the fastest selling book in publisher Simon & Schuster's history after five days of release. In the following months, Stern entered an agreement with film and television content management company Rysher Entertainment, who wished to fund a film based on the book. This led to Stern working with Rysher founder Keith Samples, Paramount producer David Kirkpatrick, director John G. Avildsen in September 1994 and, in August 1994, screenwriter Peter Torokvei, who was hired to complete a "production rewrite" of a script already prepared. Torokvei claimed a set of line producers, production secretary, and film coordinators had "seemed to be in place" upon his arrival to New York City, but the project underwent the first of several delays over the film's story. Torokvei completed a draft, but it was not signed off. Stern, who had the power of final script approval, went on to reject around 22 subsequent drafts, sometimes from day to day, as he grew dissatisfied with their content. Torokvei estimated he had worked on as many as five redrafts with Stern, adding: "On any given scene we did the day before, [Stern] would say, 'That's old,' or 'That's boring.' He wanted to freshen the scenes every day. I'd have to remind him that it had worked the day before". In one abandoned version, Stern recalled a scene that had former radio show regular Richard Simmons "in a tutu in my house chasing my children and saying he can't baby-sit them. How fucking ridiculous." Around this time, Kirkpatrick had mentioned a film with as many as 75 cameo appearances, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and radio show regular Jessica Hahn. In addition to Torokvei, assistance over the scripts were developed by Michael Kalesniko, co-author of Private Parts Larry "Ratso" Sloman, Laurice Elehwany, and Rick Copp.
Following several script rejections, Avildsen ceased his involvement with the film by November 1994. Kirkpatrick claimed Avildsen wished for a "story of an underdog taking on the issue of free speech — a man against the system, whereas Kirkpatrick had the idea of a film "in the tradition of Help! (1965) and A Hard Day's Night (1964)". Avildsen's departure led to the involvement of producer Ivan Reitman on the project. A long time fan of Stern's, Reitman had suggested to Stern that he make a film about his life as early as 1991. By February 1995, Stern had yet to approve a final script. Reitman put forward his vision, a biographical film with Stern starring as himself, "almost documentary in feel". Stern agreed with the idea, and believed a script based on the real events from his life were strong and funny enough for a film. Reitman then brought in screenwriter Len Blum to help with a new script. Blum was sceptical about working on the film because he did not understand Stern's appeal and thought he was obnoxious, but his opinion changed after Reitman brought him to New York City to sit in on the radio show for two days. "On the flight home I asked myself, 'Should I do this?' And I realized I had laughed harder in the last two days than I had in the past 20 years." In the following months, Blum and Kalesniko collaborated on a script with Stern that he finally approved. In November 1995, Stern announced "It's bizarre and funny. We're green-lighted to go into production".
On February 13, 1996, Stern announced the start of pre-production during his radio show. Reitman estimated the process would last for ten weeks. Betty Thomas was chosen to direct. David Letterman agreed to play himself in a brief re-enactment of one of Stern's early appearances on Late Night. Originally, producers considered Jeff Goldblum to play Stern, as well as Julia Louis-Dreyfus being Stern's wife, Alison. Stern decided he should play himself; in the film, he acknowledges looking too old to play a teenager, but insists the viewer has to suspend disbelief. Louis-Dreyfus later backed out because she wanted to spend time with her family.
Auditions for roles began before Stern had accepted a final script. On October 8, 1994, auditions for actors to play "a pre-teen, mid-teen and late-teen Howard" were held at the Palladium in New York City. The sessions were organised by casting director Avy Kaufman. Auditions were also planned in Burbank, California, Chicago, and Cleveland. Four scenes for the actors were set up: Stern preparing for a date while reciting a soliloquy on the human condition, a talk with his father on current events, making a prank call, attempting to hide the evidence after smoking in his bedroom. Subsequent casting was overseen by Phyllis Huffman. The film features a portrayal of Don Imus, a long time radio rival of Stern's who hosted mornings at WNBC. The woman who played Irene the Leather Weather Lady was the same person who called into Stern's radio show while he worked at WWWW in 1980 and is considered the first of Stern's radio show Wack Pack.
Principal photography began on May 2, 1996. Shooting took place in several locations, mostly Silvercup Studios in Long Island City and several locations throughout the New York City metropolitan area. Stern, Quivers, Norris and Dell'Abate would do the radio show during the week and immediately travel to the film set afterwards to resume shooting. A temporary apartment for Stern to live in while shooting was built on Silvercup lot during filming to remove the need for him to travel from his Long Island home. A typical filming schedule took place from Thursday to Monday which lasted until as late as 11:00 p.m. Interior scenes, including the reconstruction of seven replica radio studios where Stern worked in his career, were reconstructed at the studios.
The scene with Stern working at WWWW as Hopalong Howie was the first to be filmed. He recalled he had "no confidence" in his ability at that point. Several scenes during Stern's college years were filmed at Lehman College in the Bronx. For the scenes that featured a young Stern in high school, filming was done at Union High School, which comedian Artie Lange, who was part of the radio show from 2001 to 2009, graduated from. The AC/DC concert scenes were filmed at Bryant Park in July 1996. Stern recalled that porn star Jenna Jameson was so comfortable being naked on the set, she stayed without clothes when the crew were at the craft service table. A metal stunt penis was placed in Stern's trousers to create the illusion of an erection during the film premiere screening scene. Stern was a regular guest on Late Show with David Letterman, and the studio wished to incorporate one of his appearances into the film. However, the studio could not obtain permission to use the footage, so Letterman agreed to take part in a reenactment. Stern donned several customised wigs throughout the film and never displayed his real hair. In the scene where Stern apologizes to McCormack at his hotel, actress Teri Hatcher had visited the set and was "about a foot away" from the camera. In one incident, McCormack started smoking a cigarette while wearing a pregnant costume which got several concerned looks from the public.
Filming was set to finish on July 30, 1996, but it was extended until mid-August. Following a wrap up party held to commemorate the end of filming, Stern had a consultation booked for rhinoplasty in early September 1996 before he was to embark on the film's promotional tour. However, Thomas called him shortly beforehand to announce that several scenes had to be re-shot and a change in Stern's appearance would affect the film's continuity. Reitman then contacted Stern, informing him to avoid surgery until production was complete as Paramount owns his face. In October 1996, Stern flew to Los Angeles to view a rough cut of the film that was around 2-and-a-half hours in length, among a small audience in Reitman's personal theater. Around 45 minutes of footage was to be cut. A man found a collection of video tapes containing several dailies of the film in a recycling bin, and returned them to Stern. The final scenes were shot in New York City and Washington, D.C. over a three-day period from November 22, 1996. Stern did not announce the trip beforehand in order to prevent fans from disrupting filming. He announced, on November 25, that filming was complete.
During the Christmas period in 1996, the film was subject to a test screening in California. In January 1997, test screenings were held in San Jose, California and Seattle, Washington, two areas that Stern's radio show were not syndicated to at the time. Stern was told the audience gave the film the highest positive response since Forrest Gump (1994) and one Indiana Jones film.
Stern recorded his parts to "Tortured Man" in December 1996 with writing assistance from Martling and Norris.
The film premiered at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on February 27, 1997. The event opened with Stern and Zombie performing "The Great American Nightmare" outside the theater. Private Parts had its wide release in North America on March 7, 1997. It reached number one on the US box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $14.6 million, overtaking Jungle 2 Jungle. It went on to gross $41,230,799 at the end of its domestic run. Based on a $28 million budget, the film was not a box office success. It was the 56th highest-grossing film released in 1997.
To promote the film in the European markets, Stern attended the 1997 Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 12. He appeared at the festival with two topless women and an 40-foot inflatable picture of himself placed on the shore by the event provided by Rysher. The balloon attracted French security who threatened to shoot it down before Rysher associates agreed to take it down. It was reinflated after French president Jaques Chirac left the event as he visited on the same day.
In 2006, a poor quality rough cut of the film had leaked on the Internet which contained alternate dialogue and music, deleted scenes, and different ending. Some of the deleted scenes, such as Stern being escorted out of the WNBC building, appeared in the film's original trailer and publicity materials before it was cut.
In April 1997, the USA Network agreed to pay $7 million for the rights to air the film for nine years, from 1999. The editing featured on-air explanations from Stern for the pixelization and bleep censors required to air the R-rated film. Stern appeared in new taped segments in which he occasionally pauses the film to comment on it. USA premiered the film even though no alternate scenes had been filmed to replace the nudity nor had any alternate dialogue been recorded to replace the profanity for television broadcasts. The nudity was simply pixelized and the profanity bleeped. In 2007, VH-1 began airing this version.
The film premiered in 1080 High Definition on Universal HD on March 11, 2008.
Private Parts received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A surprisingly endearing biopic about the controversial shock-jock Howard Stern that is equally funny and raunchy." Metacritic reports a score of 67 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
For his performance, Stern won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for "Favorite Male Newcomer". The awards are given by the result of write-in votes from fans and Stern won by a wide margin. Stern was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy". He was also nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for "Worst New Star".
For her directing work, Thomas won the audience award at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1997). She was also nominated for Crystal Globe in Karlovy Vary which went, at the end, to Ma Vie en Rose by Alain Berliner.
American Film Institute recognition:
When the film was released on video, some store customers objected to the original cover featuring Stern with no clothes on. An alternative version of the cover was produced featuring Stern fully clothed.
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- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
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