'City Slickers' director wanted emotional adventure, not just comedy


Ron Underwood, the director of the successful "City Slickers," says he felt it was important to make the film "a heartfelt emotional adventure, something that was more than just funny, so people could learn a little more about life."

He also thinks the film is about mid-life crisis, as three men experience it.

"It was what I was going through," he said.

At age 37?

"Yes," he said. "I had three kids before I was 30, I was doing educational films, and I felt trapped. I felt this was a film I wanted to be part of."

Underwood had done only one previous feature film. That was "Tremors," a put-on sci-fi comedy-thriller. It didn't do all that well in theaters, but it won some very enthusiastic reviews, and at that point in Underwood's career, the reviews may have been worth more than financial success.

"I got a lot of job offers after that, but I waited, and when I saw the script for 'City Slickers,' I knew I had found the job I wanted," he said.

"The script spoke so deeply to me about life."

Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby are the stars of the film. They play New Jersey residents who vacation at a dude ranch where they actually herd cattle. They had to ride horses in the film, but all three had had some experience. "They were great on horseback," said the director.

Jack Palance is also in the cast. He did "Shane," a Western classic, the year before Underwood was born.

"He was great," Underwood said. "He took direction very well. He was a joy to work with. He was a pro. He is so good at what he does."

Underwood doesn't think of the new film as a Western. "I wouldn't call it that, but I have always loved cowboys," he said. "When I was a kid, I had a six-shooter and wore the cowboy hats. I loved seeing 'The Professionals,' and 'Red River' was a big influence on me."

He admits that both Crystal and Palance ad libbed during filming, but he was glad they did. And most of the ad-libbed material was in the finished product.

"The film was hard work," he said. "It was a pain, but it was worth it."

Crystal was executive producer of the film, but this posed no problems, according to Underwood.

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PD The theater, built in 1910 as a vaudeville house, later became a

first-run movie theater housing Twentieth Century-Fox films. It closed in 1986, then, for a time, became a "temple of performing arts" for local producers of live shows.

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Sure, we've heard that before. The only thing that will end these films is bad box-office and bad after-life as a cassette.

The studio, New Line, is doing this one bigger-budget. It will cost $10 million, and most of that, they say, is going into special effects.

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