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Story Notes for Eraser

Monday through Thursday, at 8PM | 7C, AMC presents Story Notes — real-time on-air trivia about your favorite movies. Tonight’s movie was Eraser.

Biographical Notes
James Caan once directed a movie about the witness-protection program: Hide in Plain Sight.

Eraser was directed by Chuck Russell (The Mask). This was his first action movie.

Caan was nominated for an Oscar for playing Sonny in The Godfather. He made four movies in 1996: Bottle Rocket, Bulletproof, The North Star, and this one.

Vanessa Williams and Arnold Schwarzenegger both have titles. She was Miss America, and he was Mr. Universe.

Cinematographer Adam Greenberg also filmed Arnold in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Composer Alan Silvestri also scored Back to The Future, Forrest Gump, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Eraser was Caan’s first blockbuster action movie. He’s usually “not really in favor of these huge pictures, but in this case there was a good story.”

Blooper Note
You can trace a pager call only back to the pager company, not to the pager itself.

Casting Notes
James Coburn played superspy Derek Flint in the sixties and won an Oscar for Affliction.

This is Williams’s first starring role in a movie. She got her start as a model before becoming a singer and an actress.

James Cromwell is the tallest actor ever to be nominated for an Oscar. He’s six seven.

John Slattery from AMC’s Mad Men plays an agent.

Williams was suggested for this role by Maria Shriver.

Andy Romano was in Under Siege and started in the Beach Party movies of the sixties.

Nick Chinlund memorably stalked Agent Scully as Donald Addie Pfaster on The X-Files.

Danny Nucci (Titanic, The Rock) was born in Austria. So was Arnold.

The drag queens are the Fabulous Wonder Twins, famous in the gay community.

Joe Viterelli (Analyze This) plays a mobster in most movies he’s in.

Olek Krupa has been a bad guy in Blue Streak, Home Alone 3, and Behind Enemy Lines.

Ben Shenkman was nominated for an Emmy in 2004, for Angels in America.

Finance Notes
Eraser‘s budget was past $100 million. It was originally planned for $70 million.

Eraser made over $200 million in theaters worldwide. It was the last Arnold movie to make over $100 million in the U.S. until Terminator 3.

Health Note
It’s possible to foam at the mouth during a seizure, but the person is usually unconscious.

History Notes
Since the twenties, police have found hundreds of cars dumped into New York’s East River.

The U.S. Marshals Service’s Witness Security Program has been in operation since 1971.

In 2011, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker led a plan to eliminate union rights.

The Soviet Union broke into fifteen separate countries in December of 1991.

Location Notes
The futuristic computer is actually the PowderHorn tape-data storage library in Boulder, Colorado.

Before they moved into their building, in 1974, the FBI was split up between nine locations.

Doyer Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown is only one block long — about 200 feet.

The inside of the zoo was actually filmed at an old abandoned zoo in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. The production had to ship in all of the animals themselves.

This exterior of the zoo was filmed in New York on a set built in Central Park.

Fight Club and The Rock also filmed on the San Pedro docks in California.

Press Notes
In 1996, Entertainment Weekly ranked Schwarzenegger the ninth most powerful actor in Hollywood. Eraser was written specifically for him.

Eraser is a throwback to Arnold’s eighties movies like Commando. The Cincinnati Post called it a “made-to-order Arnold action picture.”

Prop Notes
The EM-1 rail gun, just one of Eraser‘s futuristic weapons, was designed by artist TyRuben Ellingson, who also worked on Jurassic Park and Spawn.

Another futuristic weapon: Cyrez’s drill-bit launcher.

Russell says they designed the rail gun on “instinct and rumor.” But then they found out such a weapon really does exist.

Quotation Notes
Arnold was excited about exploring the secretive world of real-life agents. “No information gets out, so we wanted to show what it’s all about.”

Caan: “Arnold and I had fun. We did that macho stuff, but we were always poking fun at it, too.”

Russell says Arnold’s dedication to the stuntwork and an amazing effects team make it work.

Producer Anne Kopelson was happy that Lee Cullen “is not just another damsel in distress.”

Russell set a scene in a drag club for a specific reason. It’s one of the only places he’d never seen Arnold in a movie before.

Arnold says Caan’s character “inhabits an ethical and political gray area of witness protection.”

Russell says Caan was the “right actor to make this, more than the typical Arnold film.”

Arnold: “We paid a lot of attention to making you feel the danger of this weapon, that anyone can be looking right through your walls. It really leaves nowhere to hide.”

Producer Arnold Kopelson “set out to produce a movie so big that we needed a star larger than life. That star could only be Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Russell: “The audience has the final word. That’s what’s so scary and great about it.”

Writer Tony Puryear says the witness-protection program was a “disaster waiting to happen.” He says a lot of the agents were “riddled with corruption.”

Russell looks back fondly on his experience making Eraser. “It’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s still fun to watch.”

Random Notes
There isn’t a New York City Zoo, but there is a Central Park Zoo.

At around 100 decibels, it would probably be tough to take a phone call inside a cockpit.

Script Notes
The data disc is an example of a MacGuffin — an object that drives the plot but ultimately doesn’t matter.

“Trust me” was supposed to be Arnold’s big catchphrase in Eraser.

One scene was written and added by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption). Over half a dozen screenwriters contributed to the script for Eraser.

Producers originally filmed a romantic ending, but it didn’t test well with audiences.

Set Notes
A house was constructed by the crew just for an explosion. It’s an exact replica of a real house in the same Queens neighborhood.

Russell says, “That was a real house we blew up, not a set. Not a miniature.”

One set is a massive section of an actual 747, redesigned for the movie.

The interior of the 747 is resting on air bags so it can shake and roll like it’s really flying.

Arnold really did free-fall for about 65 feet. He was harnessed into a piece of stunt technology called a descender rig.

In total, Arnold was strapped into ten kinds of flying rigs for nearly a week of filming.

One stuntman is in an actual free fall with a prop parachute tangled around him.

Eraser was mostly filmed on handheld to make the audience feel closer to the action. Greenberg sometimes used up to seven cameras at one time.

Several stunts went awry during production, including one where Arnold’s hair caught fire.

Russell says directing some of these bigger scenes was like “designing a big parade.”

Technology Note
One scene used animatronic, CGI, and real alligators. The crew called them “crocogators” because they were a combination of gators and crocs.

Trivia Notes
When Eraser came out, in 1996, Arnold was making both comedies and action movies. His previous two movies were Junior and True Lies.

Using dental records to identify a body is called forensic odontology.

Eraser has a lot in common with another 1996 action movie — Mission: Impossible. Both have high-tech gadgets, and both have covert break-ins.

“Let’s party” is a reference to a famous Arnold line in Commando.

A bullet fired at the speed of light could travel around the Earth about seven times in one second.

Saint George is England’s patron saint. He represents resilience and courage.

61 million Americans used pagers in the mid-nineties.

Two weeks later, Will Smith said “Welcome to Earth” in Independence Day.

Arnold fans rate “You’re luggage” as one of his best lines of all time.

In 1996, it would actually take several weeks to identify someone through fingerprints.

“Wetwork” is slang for an intelligence operation that involves murder or an assassination.

A “backdoor” is a way to access a computer or program without being detected.

In reality, UBS is the Union Bank of Switzerland.

The Web site for Eraser let users type in their personal info and then gave them a new identity.

One of Arnold’s nicknames is the Austrian Oak.

At the Eraser premiere, Williams walked the red carpet puffing one of Arnold’s signature cigars.

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