dogfight-film

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“In the Summer of 1990, I was hired to assist with props and minor special effects for the film Dogfight, featuring Lilly Taylor and River Phoenix, which was filming in Seattle. River and I eventually migrated towards one another as we had many interests in common. Mutually we were both big fans of the English band, XTC. While on the set, and sometime between takes, one of us would sing a line from an XTC song, and the other would sing the next. The rest of the crew was mostly baffled by our spontaneous musical flurries. During lunches, River and I would often go to his trailer to eat, smoke American Spirit cigarettes and fiddle about on guitars. He was a fantastic musician and song writer. With our days off, we would grab some food together, then head to his house to drink a few beers and jam. We spent our time exchanging musical ideas and improvising. We even wrote a couple of songs together. 

By the end of the film, River and I had become close. The evening during the wrap party, I was sitting at a table with him and some of the crew. At one point he opened his wallet to pull out some cash for tips or something, and pulled out his U.S. Armed Forces Military identification card that was a prop for the film. I asked if I could look at it. He handed it to me. When I attempted to return it to him, he waived his hand and said, “keep it.” Over the next couple of years, we kept in touch. The last time I saw him was in 1992, backstage at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco, where I was doing flaming helmets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That next year I sent him an invitation to my wedding. He responded, saying he could not make it due to his filming schedule. River died on October 31st, 1993. I was married on the same day. I miss him a lot”

River Phoenix Is Not Just The Boy Next Door By Karen Schoemer.

In “My Own Private Idaho,” River Phoenix plays the boy next door, except that next door is a ghetto where street youths sleep on the sidewalk. As Mike Waters, a narcoleptic teen-age hustler, Mr. Phoenix’s closest approximation to home is a ransacked, burned-out hotel; his surrogate family is a rickety support system of street friends. His knowledge of his real home consists of dim memories of his mother, a house whose color he can’t remember, and a brother who lives somewhere in Idaho.

In the film, which was shown at the New York Film Festival and opens today in New York and nationally Oct. 18, Mr. Phoenix wears no makeup, and there’s a even pimple or two on his cheek. His clothes are seedy, and his dirty-brown hair continually disheveled. In other words, he strips Mike of none of his grime in a performance that earned him the best-actor prize at this month’s Venice Film Festival.

“He’s put his lips as close to any street-gutter ooze as you can,” Mr. Phoenix says of his character. “His cut-open flesh is as close to a stone brick wall as anything. He’s part of the street. He’s like a rat.”

Mr. Phoenix’s performance as Mike, along with his role as an aggressive marine in the current film “Dogfight,” represents a marked departure for an actor who has epitomized the more conventional version of the boy next door.

In the 1986 film “Stand by Me” he was a tough but tender small-town teen-ager who goes on an adventure with three pals; in “The Mosquito Coast” (1986) he played the earnest son of an idealistic inventor. His portrayal of a brainy, sensitive piano student breaking free of his family in the 1989 film “Running on Empty” won him an Academy Award nomination. Even playing the young Indiana Jones in a big-budget action film like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” that same year, Mr. Phoenix had the chance to grapple with the differences between right and wrong.

Roles like these have made the 21-year-old Mr. Phoenix one of the most respected and popular young actors in Hollywood. The list of directors he has worked with includes Sidney Lumet, Peter Weir, Rob Reiner, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan; among his co-stars have been William Hurt, Harrison Ford, Christine Lahti, Kevin Kline and Sidney Poitier.

“River is the archetype of the young male lead,” says Gus Van Sant, the director of “My Own Private Idaho.” “He had a slot that he was in, and that he’s actually growing out of. But at the time in Hollywood, everyone with a project that had an 18-year-old blond-haired, blue-eyed kid would always say, ‘We’re thinking of River Phoenix in this part.’

In another sense, “My Own Private Idaho” is simply an extreme, desanitized version of themes that have cropped up repeatedly in Mr. Phoenix’s films. “Running on Empty,” “The Mosquito Coast,” “Little Nikita” and even “Stand by Me” addressed the meaning of family relationships and, in particular, the attempt to create a normal family situation under abnormal circumstances. These problems are the primary motivation for Mike Waters, who eventually embarks upon a twisted, circular journey in search of his mother.

Sitting in a Japanese restaurant in the SoHo section of Manhattan recently, Mr. Phoenix at first dismisses these connections. “I don’t ever think of a project in reference to what I’ve done in the past,” he says. “It’s isolated for me. I can’t think of it like that, because it becomes more of a format strategy. Any script is its own little time frame.”

He stops short, momentarily diverted by a conversation between a man and a woman at the table next to him. “ They’re talking about family,” he adds, looking at the man. “He’s talking about how this woman should leave the family and not be supported by her family, and get a job and not be like her older sister who’s always coming back to the house for refuge. It’s just a universal thing.”

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From 20 minutes in (interrupted by a little clip but she continues after, around 28/30 minutes) Lili Taylor talks about her character in Dogfight, how she approached the role and how she ‘worked together’ with her character Rose, but she also talks about preparation with another actor, and about River in the role.
(I took some liberties with her quote, but mostly by removing the ehm’s and speak-language)


Lili: “It was great and painful. River was very uncomfortable with this role, you know. He was/is such a free spirit, really was a hippie at heart, and so soulful, and had to play this marine. And he was so uncomfortable and he was young, so I don’t think he understood what the hell was going on – he was kind of leaking out in weird ways, because he was kind of under the control of this marine, you know. And I notice guys sometimes have a harder time navigating that uncomfortable terrain, just not knowing who’s pulling at them. So River was in a lot of pain actually, but.. such a beautiful guy. (smiles and looks up shortly; to the screen) It’s just really moving seeing him, as I haven’t seen footage of him in a while. He was a real special, special soul. Particularly for a man, a lot of men can’t go there, you know, and do what he did.”

In the Summer of 1990, I was hired to assist with props and minor special effects for the film Dogfight, featuring Lilly Taylor and River Phoenix, which was filming in Seattle  River and I eventually migrated towards one another as we had many interests in common. Mutually we were both big fans of the English band, XTC.  While on the set, and sometime between takes, one of us would sing a line from an  XTC song, and the other would sing the next.  The rest of the crew was mostly baffled by our spontaneous musical flurries.  During lunches, River and I would often go to his trailer to eat, smoke American Spirit cigarettes and fiddle about on guitars.  He was a fantastic musician and song writer.  With our days off, we would grab some food together, then head to his house to drink a few beers and jam.  We spent our time exchanging musical ideas and improvising.  We even wrote a couple of songs together.   By the end of the film, River and I had become close. The evening during the wrap party, I was sitting at a table with him and some of the crew.  At one point he opened his wallet to pull out some cash for tips or something, and pulled out his U.S. Armed Forces Military identification card that was a prop for the film.  I asked if I could look at it. He handed it to me. When I attempted to return it to him, he waived his hand and said, “keep it.”     Over the next couple of years, we kept in touch.  The last time I saw him was in 1992, backstage at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco, where I was doing flaming helmets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That next year I sent him an invitation to my wedding.  He responded, saying he could not make it due to his filming schedule. River died on October 31st, 1993.  I was married on the same day. I miss him a lot.

Josh Segarra

Gender: Male

DOB: 3 June 1986

Nationality: American

Ethnicity: Puerto Rican

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Joshua “Josh” Segarra is an American actor who is best known for his television roles as police officer Billy Cepeda in Sirens, Hector Ruiz on the television show The Electric Company, and Adrian Chase on Arrow. He has appeared many times on- and off-Broadway; he appeared in the original musical casts of Lysistrata Jones as Mick, Pasek and Paul’s musical Dogfight, based on the film of the same name, and On Your Feet!, in which he originated the role of Emilio Estefan.