LRB Screen Bookseller's Choice: The Fugitive

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There’s a strong case for 1993 being the second-best year in the history of film (behind the annus mirabilis 1997): Jurassic Park, Cool Runnings, Demolition Man, the unexpectedly excellent Hocus Pocus, bookshop favourite Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, two watchable John Grisham adaptations, In The Line of Fire, Carlito’s Way, Schindler’s List, Mrs. Doubtfire, the superb Sleepless in Seattle, Last Action Hero, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (which I fell asleep halfway through on a flight, but Gayle assures me is very good). Chief among these is The Fugitive, an adaptation by Andrew Davis of Roy Huggins’ long-running TV drama. (I’ve never seen an episode, but moustachioed literary theorist Stanley Fish was so enamoured with it that he wrote a whole book about it – reviewed in the LRB by Jenny Diski.)

All films are chase films, in one way or another, and The Fugitive is the chase film par excellence, the distillation of the genre. Harrison Ford plays Dr. Richard Kimble, convicted of killing his wife, who escapes and goes on the run in the hope of finding the real killer – the sinister One-Armed Man. Tommy Lee Jones plays the unpleasant US Marshall who pursues him, through every ‘henhouse, outhouse and doghouse’ in Illinois. They have many adventures and misadventures. There was a sequel in 1998, which featured a fine turn from Wesley Snipes but beside that dragged more than somewhat. The Fugitive’s director, Andrew Davis (not to be confused with Andrew Davies, of Pride and Prejudice fame, as I notice we have done on our posters) never produced anything as compelling (though Chain Reaction, with Morgan Freeman and Keanu Reeves, has its moments, and certainly does not deserve its paltry 5.6 star rating on IMDB).

The main reason I’ve picked The Fugitive for my Bookseller’s Choice film screening, though, is its relationship with the London Review Bookshop itself. Several crucial scenes were filmed within these very walls.

The ‘charity reception’ scene was filmed entirely in the Cake Shop. Watch out for a cameo from our own Terry Glover, playing a sassy neurosurgeon, who remembers the day of the filming very well. ‘Harrison Ford was a lovely man’, she says. ‘He ate buns between takes but said he didn’t have his card. He promised he’d come back and pay for them, but he never did, and then they announced his character wouldn’t be continuing in US Marshalls.’ In the end, Tommy Lee Jones settled for the buns.

In this shot of Harrison Ford making a phone call, the dark green livery of the London Review Bookshop is plainly visible in the background.

This shot of Tommy Lee Jones grinning was filmed downstairs, next to our bathroom. Jones, a consummate pro, nailed the shot in a single take, and the bathroom was swiftly re-opened for our customers.

Harrison Ford stands in front of the ‘judge’s bench’ – which is, in reality, the shop counter, rigged up by set designers in fake mahogany. To make the shot work, Ford had to be kneeling, rather than standing. ‘It was hell on the knees’, he recalled in his 2005 memoir, ‘but I was motivated by the thought of more of those free buns.’

The Fugitive will be shown in the London Review Bookshop on April 21st at 7pm. Book tickets here.

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