10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The 1982 Film Diner
Featuring a talented, young ensemble cast that includes Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin, the comedy-drama Diner sees a group of friends reuniting at the titular eatery as one of them prepares to get married.
Below are 10 things you probably didn’t know about this 1982 film, which High Fidelity and About a Boy author Nick Hornby has been quoted as saying is “a work of great genius.”
10. It was the directorial debut of Rain Man filmmaker Barry Levinson
He worked as a writer on a handful of films during the late 1970s, but Diner marked the directorial debut of the award-winning filmmaker Barry Levinson.
Levinson went on to direct a number of classic films during the 1980s, including the Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman-starring Rain Man, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director.
9. Over 600 unknown actors were auditioned for the five lead roles
Diner is famous for introducing us to a number of now popular actors who at the time were relatively unknown.
Over 600 actors auditioned in New York, Los Angeles and Maryland for the five lead male roles, with another 40 auditioning for the remaining smaller parts.
8. A bout of flu helped Kevin Bacon land the role of Fenwick
After deciding not to renew his contract with a soap opera called Guiding Light, Kevin Bacon planned to audition for the part of either Billy or Boogie in Diner.
But after coming down with a serious bout of flu just prior to his audition, in his own words Bacon was “spaced out [and] not all there,” which instead helped him to land the role of Timothy Fenwick.
7. Paul Reiser only attended one of the film’s auditions to accompany a friend
Diner was the debut film for Paul Reiser, who at the time was best known for being a stand-up comedian, but who would go on to star in such classic films as Beverly Hills Cop and Aliens.
Reiser had only attended one of Diner’s auditions in order to accompany a friend, but he was convinced to audition himself and eventually landed the role of Modell.
6. The cast spent a week hanging out together in order to build a genuine rapport
So that the scenes set in the diner would look as natural as possible, the film’s cast spent a week hanging out together before the cameras even started rolling.
This meant that Steve Guttenberg, Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser and the rest of the male cast built a genuine friendship, with the dialogue in the diner set scenes being a mixture of improvisational and scripted.
5. Studio executives wanted to shelve the film rather than release it into cinemas
MGM studio executives were not impressed after watching the completed film, with reports suggesting they were hoping it would be something more akin to the 1981 teen comedy Porky’s.
The executives were keen to shelve Diner indefinitely rather than give it a theatrical release, but the film’s producer Mark Johnson showed it to the critic Pauline Kael without the studio’s knowledge, and her response was so positive that MGM were persuaded to give it the green light.
4. It’s the first of four films collectively known as the Baltimore Series
Diner is the first of what became known as the Baltimore Series, a collection of four semi-autobiographical films set in Barry Levinson’s home town of Baltimore, Maryland.
The other three films in the series – all of which were also written and directed by Levinson – are the 1987 Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito starring Tin Men, 1990’s Avalon, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, and Liberty Heights, which was released in 1999 and starred Adrien Brody.
3. It was a critical success and received a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination
Diner made a respectable $14 million at the box office from a budget of £5 million and was popular with film critics upon its release, with The New Yorker calling it “a wonderful movie [that] features some of the best young actors in the country.”
It also saw Barry Levinson receive a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination, but he lost out to John Briley for Gandhi, a film that won an impressive eight statuettes that year.
2. It was adapted into a failed TV pilot a year after the film’s release
Only a year after the film was released into cinemas Barry Levinson wrote and directed a Diner TV pilot, which saw Paul Reiser reprise his role as Modell.
The project saw James Spader replace Kevin Bacon as Timothy Fenwick, Mike Binder replace Steve Guttenberg as Edward ‘Eddie’ Simmons and Michael Madsen replace Mickey Rourke as Robert ‘Boogie’ Sheftell. Unfortunately, despite its impressive pedigree, the show failed to get picked up by the TV network.
1. The film was turned into a 2013 musical featuring music by Sheryl Crow
Diner was also adapted into a musical that was written by Barry Levinson, directed by Kathleen Marshall and featuring music by the Grammy Award-winning US singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow.
Diner the Musical premiered at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia in December 2014, but it has yet to make its debut on Broadway.