TANK GIRL JOURNAL
I had planned to spend most of 1994 directing a documentary about Deadheads. By May, we had a shooting schedule, a detailed budget, vendors at the ready, and a small crew assembled to follow the Dead on the summer tour. The only problem we encountered was that we had no money to make the film. At the eleventh hour we scrapped the plans and I jumped onto the best first job I could grab--TANK GIRL.
What follows is the record I kept while working on the film. Everything I wrote was from the perspective of a Production Assistant and by my knowledge, is all true, even if it's not the official and authorized version of the incidents.
May 9, 1994. Well, it looks like my film, "Following the Dead" may have one foot through the cemetery gate with the rest fast following.
My contingency is "Tank Girl" and I've decided to start a journal in case I end up working the whole show cause I could've killed myself for not having one on "Ed Wood".
So far I've just been driving Emily Lloyd around. She is playing the title character and seems O.K. as far as I can tell right now.
The other day I took her to a boot fitting on Sunset and then to a wardrobe meeting at MGM in Santa Monica. I waited for her in the office for about a half an hour when suddenly she came out of the conference room crying. Apparently everyone wants her to shave her head for the part and she is reluctant so the director and producer brought Stan Winston ("the special effects wizard") in for a little duress on Emily. Besides the fact that Emily got upset, I'm not sure how the meeting ended.
Today I drove her out to Aqua Dulce to see the Tank in progress. It's a regular tank with a bunch of Styrofoam pieces on top but it shows promise.
On the way back to L.A., I dropped Emily off at a park where set met her personal fitness trainer.
May 11, 1994 - Took Emily to Venice Beach where she met and rode a water buffalo that will play her pet in the film.
May 23, 1994 - Drove Emily to MGM today for what was supposed to be a quick read through of the script but she holed herself up with Tedi Serafian (the writer) for four hours to go over the script pages.
June 6, 1994 - Met Naomi Watts today. She'll play Jet Girl in the movie. I took her to A.T. Tramp to get her blonde hair dyed black. Emily was supposed to come too to get her hair bleached in the hopes that she wouldn't have to shave her head but she backed out because she wanted to have Sharon Stone's colorist do it.
June 7, 1994 - We're on the stage today doing hair and make-up tests. Naomi got her hair chopped shorter and she looks great.
After the tests, I took Emily to her colorist to get her hair taken care of. On the way there, she had me stop at a pay phone so she could call her agent and try to postpone the appointment. Her agent then talked to our 2nd A.D. and to make a long story short, Emily got her hair done at 10p.m. while I sat in the hairdresser's living room pretending to sleep cause I didn't feel like talking to his lover. When we left, Emily's hair was much lighter and she said she hated it and started to cry. I finally got her to laugh but when she asked me what I thought, I said it didn't look that bad and she stopped laughing. I suck at bluffing.
I dropped Emily off at her place and gave her a hug as she went inside. Back in my car I laughed my ass off about how frustrating the whole night was. I wonder if Sharon Stone cries to her driver?
June 8,1994 - We're into our 2nd day of make-up tests and The Rippers (a band of half human-half kangaroo soldiers) are here. They look awesome. Stan Winston's guys did a fuckin' great job. I wonder how the actors (i.e. Ice-T, Jeff Kober, Scott Coffey) will hold up under all that foam and latex in Tucson's heat?
Emily had a bald cap on for some of the tests today and it looked awful. The hair situation is really getting out of hand.
The night got really long with both Emily and Rachel Talalay (our director) getting too tired to finish.
June 9, 1994 - Went to take Emily to MGM for rehearsals and after about 10 minutes we left and I took her home. Once again, she was in tears. Apparently Rachel told her to shave her head or don't do the film. I wish she'd just shave her fucking head and get it over with.
June 11, 1994 - Well, the dam broke yesterday. Emily was "let go" for breach of contract or something like that. She didn't shave and she was gone just like that.
Current word has Lori Petty as Tank Girl and I'm to be the film runner in Tucson, AZ. I drove there and moved into an apartment just off the U of A campus. My roommate is Jack Harvey, Rachel's stepson, and he is working as an Art Dept. P.A.
June 12, 1994 - Not much production news today but everyone went to Golf 'N Stuff. Rachel, who I really don't know too well yet, told me she was glad I came to Tucson with them and that boosted me a little.
The Emily situation is still a little tense but Lori seems like a logical choice. I heard she walked into Hair and Make-up, sat down in the chair and said, "Do whatever you gotta do."
June 13, 1994 - Tucson is hot as hell and it looks like it's going to be a long summer. We'll be shooting at an open air mine about 15 miles south of the city. Principal photography got pushed back four days for the transition from Emily to Lori.
June 14, 1994 -Met Lori when I went to her hotel to take her picture for Stan Winston's Studios. She has beautiful blue eyes.
June 16, 1994 -They had me put on some wardrobe for the camera tests today. I wore uniforms for a Trooper, a Pilot, and the best, a stunt Ripper suit which was foam latex body armor. It was great but I started sweating in that thing right away and I was under air conditioning. The actor's are gonna die.
June 17, 1994 - Had a decent day today. Took yesterday's film to dailies and started to see major changes from the comic book character to the film version. Wardrobe and hair & make-up are adjusting colors and shapes for Lori to help her "become" Tank Girl.
O.J. Simpson was involved in some sort of chase/police standoff back in L.A. We watched some of it on the t.v. in the accounting office.
June 21, 1994 - We're currently in White Sands, NM for 7 days of shooting farmhouse scenes in the desert. The crew assembled and met for the first time yesterday and principal photography started today. Everyone seems to get along well except there was a small fight on Saturday between one of the Art Directors and a Leadman. It seems they got into a shoving match over clean-up at the farmhouse.
The 2nd 2nd has become known around the office as S.S.B. which stands for Sharon Stone's Boyfriend. It turns out he used to be her driver. Go figure.
Rachel is getting nervous as her dream is finally becoming reality.
Four years ago, Jack showed her a Tank Girl comic book and I guess the whole project began there.
Now that we're shooting, my job is to take the film to the El Paso, TX airport and send it off to the L.A. lab. On the drive to El Paso, I drive past a military base and see a "Tank Crossing" sign. I must have it!
June 24, 1994 - Nerves are starting to get shot on the set as the crew burns the midnight oil during night shoots.
The Asst. Production Coordinator had to go to the jail to pick-up a set dresser who was taken in for a D.U.I.
The vulture they needed for a desert shot had something wrong with its wing when it was brought in and it ended up dying on the set.
June 27, 1994 - One of the accountants passed out and dropped to the ground in Walgreen's today. She said her first worry upon regaining consciousness was whether or not she'd lost bladder control. They took her off in an ambulance.
Our Sandhermit character complained of weak knees and diarrhea and wanted a medic. Susan McCarthy, our Production Coordinator, said she personally felt like that everyday and she didn't have a medic, so why should our Sandhermit?
Back in Tucson, there was a chemical spill in the concentrator building on the set. No serious injuries occurred but our Production Manager had to go there to take care of the politics of the situation.
Word on the set is that there are too many cooks behind the camera. It seems that the camera operator and the D.P. quibble about how to get the best shot, then when Rachel enters the set she discovers it's nothing like what she wanted and the entire set-up has to be changed.
June 30, 1994 - Shooting wrapped in White Sands this morning at 5:30a.m. and we didn't get all the shots we needed. I took all the film to El Paso to send it off and then drove back to Tucson from there. On the way, I picked up a hitchhiker named Bill who was heading to Sacramento to fulfill his dream of working on a traveling carnival. "Big money there", he said. He offered to sell me an old cassette of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I passed and dropped him off in Road Forks, AZ.
July 1, 1994 - This morning I woke up late for the film run to the Tucson airport. I raced there and just missed the cut-off time for cargo so I took the film to the gate and tried to give $50.00 to any passenger who would take it as a "carry-on" and give it to the P.A. who would meet them in L.A. I almost convinced a woman to take it but her husband thought it was a bomb. The Delta employees saw me harassing the passengers and kicked me out of the terminal.
July 5, 1994 - Because the director's stepson is my roommate, it allows me certain perks; like going out to dinner with them. We went out last night along with the producer, Aron Warner, the prod. manager, Michael Polaire, and others. I listened as they talked about who should be fired. Those mentioned included a props person and a flirtatious make-up girl.
July 9, 1994 - Both Malcolm McDowell, who plays our villain, and Lori seem excited about the show and the dailies are looking good in my opinion.
On the set, we had a trailer accidentally burn to the ground as the scenic guys were aging it with fire. The fire department showed up but there wasn't much for them to do but watch it fry.
July 12, 1994 - Took Stan Winston to the airport for his flight back to L.A. He's a strange guy. During conversation, he speaks in a short, frank way to find out if you lean more towards being an asshole or an idiot and once he sizes you up, that's that. We didn't talk too much and I'm not sure what my standing was when I dropped him off.
July 23, 1994 - Met Ice-T when I picked him up at the airport and while at baggage claim he spoke to a couple of fans about "parlaying" your success. To paraphrase, "If you're successful in records and they interview you, mention that you'd like to do a movie. Next thing you know, you got offers coming in. Once the movie thing is going, mention you'd like to write a book. Pow, like that. They want you to be an author. That's how you parlay from one thing to another."
I've been working in editorial with Chris Baird and Jim Symons on off hours and Saturdays. I'd like to assist them in post-production if possible.
July 27, 1994 -I think the hours or the climate or something is beginning to effect the mental state of the crew. Almost every day when leaving the office, I see one of the accountants sitting outside under a tree crying. Yesterday I saw the script supervisor driving through town, hiding her face until she pulled into a Carl's Jrs. drive-thru. Go figure.
August 4, 1994 - At 3:30pm today, I raced from the set to try and get the film on the 4pm flight to L.A. Eight miles up the road I ran out of gas out in the middle of the desert on I-19. Luckily my roommate drove by and I flagged him down, jumped into his car with the film, and told him to get me to the airport. "What about your car?", Jack asked. "Fuck the car! Get me to the airport", I shouted. The film made the flight and Jack dropped me off back at my car with a jug of gas and left to finish his run. It was then that I discovered that I'd locked my keys in my car.
August 5, 1994 - Monsoon season here in Tucson has been causing technical problems for the shoot. Most of the hold up is being felt by the 2nd unit when they have to keep pulling the Musco lights down because of the incredible lightning.
"In the Army Now", a Pauly Shore movie, is being released and Lori seems pretty pissed about what they did to her part in that film. Apparently they totally changed her character in the editing.
Ice-T, virtually unrecognizable under the latex, is finally starting to get tired of the Ripper make-up. He was urging for a scene to be rewritten the other night so he wouldn't have to wear his armor. The other day he said, "There's no way I'm doing a sequel. They can let someone else act and I'll do the voice."
Naomi is as cheerful and pleasant as ever but Rachel and Aron do not seem pleased with her performance. A few days ago Rachel walked over to Naomi and said, "You're going to have to act in this scene", then walked away. Naomi responded with an "Oh well, O.K." sort of expression.
August 8, 1994 - I think Rachel is starting to feel a little overwhelmed. She accidentally overturned a monitor on the set when she got frustrated about a shot set-up taking too long. We continue to fall behind the shooting schedule.
I got a speeding ticket for doing 78 in a 55 today. Bugger.
August 11, 1994 - Lori looks and seems miserable but Rachel is in better spirits.
I've been hanging out with Scott Coffey (one of the Rippers) at Club Congress in downtown Tucson; a very cool place.
Had a dream last night that Malcolm was killed in a helicopter accident during the shoot. When I told him about it he simply smiled and apologized for having invaded my sleep.
They're still working on the final battle in the script--trying to find an ending that works.
August 23, 1994 - We're now shooting in Phoenix for a week at the "Liquid Silver" brothel set which is actually an abandoned mall. Besides getting film to the airport, my job now includes driving Ann Magnuson to and from the set. She, like myself, is a Denison University alumni so we have no problem with conversation.
Yesterday Lori was supposed to cut some of Ann's hair off with a razor blade but she accidentally sliced the top of one of her fingers off. They ended up shooting the Iggy Pop stuff in place of Lori's scenes while she was at the hospital.
Rachel seems really tired and has some dissension in the ranks as the crew openly talks about her on the set. One of the guys from camera was fired and over-all morale is low. Ironically, I'm having the best time of the whole shoot.
August 29, 1994 - We're all back in L.A. now and shooting the Ripper hideout in an old bowling alley down by Long Beach. Everyone seems happy to be home even though the days are still grueling.
Sept. 13, 1994 - A reduced crew is finishing up shooting various interiors in a helicopter hanger in Culver City. Wrap was supposed to be today but we're continuing on to try and get most of the stuff we need.
Rachel, it turns out, is pregnant and that's why she's been so fatigued lately. She said her worst days were when we were shooting at the mall in Phoenix. She's doing much better now and is ready to finish this puppy up.
Sept. 21, 1994 - We're wrapped! but not really. I'm staying on in the office to clear it out and help move everything back to the MGM plaza in Santa Monica.
Lori got us all "Tank Girl" caps and the wrap party is planned for next Tuesday at the Dragonfly in Hollywood.
October 13, 1994 - My last day on "Tank Girl". The offices are moved to MGM and the editors are working there with Rachel to get the film out by March.
November 30, 1994 - I've been working as a set P.A. on a feature called "Angus Bethune" for the past month. Chris in "Tank Girl" editorial called me and asked if I'd be interested in helping them out during post production for a couple of months. Today was my first day back.
December 8, 1994 - Saw one of the first cuts of the movie over at the Fox lot after some sound mixing had been done. I enjoyed it and believe it shows promise. A few of the crew members were there and everyone enjoyed it and congratulated Rachel afterwards.
December 9, 1994 - The studio heads screened the director's cut of the movie today. They proclaim, "We have a hit on our hands!" Later, Jim, the editor, jokingly counters with, "If studios knew what a hit was, they wouldn't make anything else."
December 23, 1994 - We've had a couple of test audience screenings of the movie with a mostly 14 to 24 year old audience. They seem to like it more in the discussion groups than what the cards show. With each viewing the movie changes more and more to try and cater to the younger crowd. They like the music, but not the dance number -- it gets sliced. They like Lori but not when she burps at the end of the movie -- it's gone.
January 9, 1995 - The studio has been asking for changes that they haven't been seeing so they took control of the movie from Rachel on Friday. She was crushed and feels that they've taken it out of her hands prematurely. Apparently, to the studio heads here at MGM/UA, this is standard procedure.
January 17, 1995 - The movie is now being "directed" by one of the guys in marketing. Some of the changes are good, some are questionable. On the good side, they're bringing in Jamie Hewlett, who is the "Tank Girl" comic book artist, to draw some panels that will be interspersed throughout the film. I heard that Rachel was able to get some sort of limited approval of the changes and she is still in the office here, although I think she feels powerless for the most part.
January 20, 1995 - I've decided to end the journal. The movie is basically done and any changes that happen after this point aren't going to be too significant (unless they decide to call the movie "Tank" and cut Lori out of the picture).
Julie, the producer's assistant, showed me the program for this year's Sundance Film Festival. On the schedule is "Tie-dyed", a film documenting Deadheads traveling across the country. Go figure.