What were the most influential movies of 1996? The alien-resurrecting Independence Day, of course. The Oscarly epic The English Patient, sure. And… the ode to swizzle sticks, Swingers?
Yes, Swingers. With its group of average L.A. Joes in search of pretty girls and dry martinis, the film’s having an intoxicating effect on Hollywood. Though it was less than bubbly at the box office (grossing just $4.5 million for Miramax, which bought it for $5 million), studios are eager to capitalize on the hip-talking cats. Fox Searchlight released Love and Other Catastrophes, hoping it would become Swingers down under (it didn’t), and the Sundance entry Puddle Cruiser (Swingers in college) is about to snag a distribution deal. But Swingers’ biggest beneficiaries — if you don’t count L.A.’s newly mobbed swing clubs — are its cast, now knee-deep in the lush life.
”I didn’t have expectations of it helping me like this,” says dance-partner-next-door Heather Graham, 27, now in London playing Judy in the film version of Lost in Space and next seen in the porn saga Boogie Nights. ”When I went to meetings for other jobs, everyone was like, ‘How did you learn to swing-dance?”’ Graham’s success is just the first round: Her costar Vince Vaughn, 27, can be seen in The Lost World and has already lined up four follow-up projects. ”The thought that Steven Spielberg saw Swingers and hired Vince is just too bizarre, you know?” says Graham.
Meanwhile, Swingers star/screenwriter Jon Favreau, 30, just completed a six-week stint on Friends and will appear in Universal’s football drama Leatherheads, which he also wrote. And director Doug Liman, 30, begins helming the Alicia Silverstone grifter comedy The Breakers in August.
Favreau, who says the movie clicked because it arrived just as twentysomethings were discovering Cosmopolitans and cocktail music, credits Miramax’s decision to push the film in New York and L.A.: ”It was direct marketing to the people that control our destiny.” But like any stellar night out, Swingers has left some with a hangover. Liman tried to block Favreau from creating a Swingers pilot for Fox but lost the brawl. ”There’s no bigger sellout than a TV series,” Liman insists. ”Jon’s a friend, and I want to see him advance. I just wish there had been another way to do it.” Though Favreau wrote and directed the pilot, he omitted the film’s trademark ”You’re money” dude-speak. ”I invite anybody to look at the show and tell me that it degrades the film,” responds Favreau, who changed the TV title to Hollywood Tales, for which Liman is ”very appreciative.”
Fox has yet to decide whether Tales will air as a mid-season replacement. Nevertheless, the film’s creator is still feeling punch-drunk. ”If we tried to get to this point,” says Favreau, ”I don’t think it ever would have happened.”