When Michael J. Fox met with Michael Caton-Jones to discuss Doc Hollywood, a light American comedy set in an offbeat small town, Fox wondered: ”Why does a British drama director want to make this?” recalls Caton-Jones.
Good question. The 33-year-old Caton-Jones, who hails from Broxburn, Scotland, previously directed Scandal (1989), about Britain’s Profumo affair, and last fall’s Memphis Belle, an adventure story he describes as ”a logistical nightmare.” After Belle, Caton-Jones says he wanted to try a simple story. Having grown up on films by Preston Sturges, John Ford, and Frank Capra, Caton-Jones felt old-fashioned values are universal. ”All I did was concentrate on the kinds of people and things that could happen in a small town in Scotland,” he says. ”People die, people cry, people lust, there isn’t that much difference.”
Except maybe in the way they speak — which is what the thickly accented director discovered on his first American set. ”I thought the crew was terribly rude because they wouldn’t answer my questions, but they didn’t understand what I was saying,” he says. ”I thought I was losing my marbles.” That communication gap sometimes led to confusion. For instance, for a scene in which Fox crashes his convertible into a fence, the director ordered the car’s top down, but he referred to it as ”the hood,” which the crew painstakingly removed.