Talk Radio (film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Oliver Stone|
|Based on||Talk Radio
by Eric Bogosian
Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg
by Stephen Singular
|Music by||Stewart Copeland|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Talk Radio is a 1988 American drama film, starring Eric Bogosian, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Greene, and Leslie Hope. Directed by Oliver Stone, the film was based on the play by Bogosian and Tad Savinar. Portions of the film and play were based on the assassination of radio host Alan Berg in 1984 and the book Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg by Stephen Singular. The film was entered into the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear.
Champlain's radio show is about to go nationwide. A former suit salesman, he achieves his rise to fame through guest shots on the Jeff Fisher radio show. Barry begins to steal the show with his sense of humor and sharp wit, which aggravates Fisher. Barry is subsequently given his own show which rises to the top of the Arbitron radio ratings. Barry has a substantial number of hostile callers trying to intimidate him and sometimes receives threatening fan mail, such as when one caller makes a bomb threat. His rise to fame is accompanied not only with attention from radical elements, but also with the alienation of his wife.
As his show is going through a final audition to go into national syndication, Barry asks his ex-wife Ellen to come and visit him, saying he needs her input and that she's the only person he trusts. They attempt a return to their relationship. Barry receives calls from people who appreciate him for what he does and how he does it as well as people who seem to hate him. He confesses his sins over the radio, shouting that the American people scare him because of what has happened to his friends, family, and co-workers. Using a fake name and calling from the radio studio, Ellen talks to Barry on the air—the only place he seems to relate to people openly—in an attempt to reach him, to bring him back from the depression he seems to be suffering from. She begs for him to come back, but Barry refuses and tells her that he will be all right from now on, bitterly attacking her on the call as the radio production staff, all friends of Ellen, watch in horror; Ellen walks away. His co-workers tell him it's now the highest rated segment in the show's history. Barry's boss congratulates him on a job well done and says that the show is definitely going to go national.
While walking to his car, a fan asks for his autograph; as Barry signs it, the fan pulls out a gun and shoots him several times, killing him. As the film ends, callers to Barry's show, then his co-workers and Ellen, speak on air about him. They say that Barry was a talented, smart and funny man, but that he loved to push people's buttons and that maybe he finally pushed someone a little too far.
Eric Bogosian wrote the screenplay with help from director Oliver Stone. The script was almost entirely based on Bogosian's original play with some biographical information about Alan Berg, a talk show host in Denver who was murdered in 1984 by white supremacists. In his research for the film version, Bogosian often watched the on-air production of Tom Leykis' talk show, then originating from Los Angeles station KFI. Bogosian's fictional character shares many speech patterns and mannerisms with real-life talker Leykis.
- Eric Bogosian - Barry Champlain
- Wes Martin - Evan Bird
- Ellen Greene - Ellen
- Leslie Hope - Laura
- John C. McGinley - Stu
- Alec Baldwin - Dan
- John Pankow - Dietz
- Michael Wincott - Kent/Michael/Joe (voice)
- Robert Trebor - Jeffrey Fisher/Francine
- Tony Frank - Dino
- Anna Levine - Woman at the Basketball Game/Denise
- Rockets Redglare - Killer/Redneck Caller
- Park Overall - Debbie/Agnes/Theresa (voice)
- Earl Hindman - Chet/Black John/Jerry (voice)
- Linda Atkinson - Sheila Fleming
- Zach Grenier - Sid Greenberg
- Harlan Jordan - Coach Armstrong
- Bill Johnson - Fan #1
- Kevin Howard - Fan #2
- Bruno Rubeo - Tony
- Pirie MacDonald - Judge Willard
- Allan Corduner - Vince/Morris
- Mimi Cochran - Girl #1
- Teresa Bell - Girl #2/Lucy
- Angus G. Wynne III - Engineer
- Chip Moody - Announcer
- David Pointer - Engineer
- Peter Zapp - Josh/Vincent (voice)
- Carl Kissin - Glen (voice)
- Michele Mariana - Rhonda/Elderly Woman/Julia (voice)
- John Seitz - Bob (voice)
- Kyle McClaran - Arnold (voice)
- Dee Pyland - Nancy (voice)
- Daniel Escobar - Frank (voice)
- Bill DeAcutis - John the Rapist/Ralph (voice)
- Frederica Meister - Sexy Woman (voice)
- Luis Barajas - Fred (voice)
- Vernie Bailey - Jackie (voice)
- Martin Rayner - Arnold (voice)
- Alan Clark - Larry (voice)
- Moby - Station Announcer/Newscaster (voice)
- John B. Wells - V.O. (voice)
- Leigh French - Newscaster (voice)
- Walter Lynn - Newscaster (voice)
In popular culture
Parts of the film have been sampled by many bands.
The conversation over the air with "Ralph" while Michael Wincott's character "Kent" enters the studio consisting of "Something is wrong... like nobody's driving the train. The system... there's too many people getting sick" was used by the California punk band Lagwagon on the album Blaze.
The end theme is "Telephone and Rubber Band" by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
Sound clips from the film were used by sound collage group Negativland in a December 1991 episode of their weekly Over the Edge program, "Radio Wars". Clips were also used in a series of Radio sweepers for Australian radio station 3RRR during the early to mid 1990s.
- Rossi, Umberto. “Acousmatic Presences: From DJs to Talk-Radio Hosts in American Fiction, Cinema, and Drama”, Mosaic, 42:1, March 2009, pp. 83–98.
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