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Latest in the line of Airplane!-inspired spoof comedies is the very tasteless Gulf War skit Hot Shots! , with Charlie Sheen and co. sending up your typical Tom Cruise aerial heroics something rotten. Trevor Johnston, our man with the patented pifﬂe-seeking Scud missile, homes in on Hollywood’s least scintillating leading man.
When a press conference opens with a question about Chihuahuas, your heart has every right to sink and thus it proved to be when the Hot Shots! crew hit town for this year’s Royal Film Performance. Obviously in dear old Blighty with ~ the express intention of meeting and greeting genuine 100 per cent regal types, the downside of it for star Charlie Sheen, director Jim Abrahams and writer Pat Proft is that they’re mercilessly thrown into a room with ‘the UK press’. One always had the feeling that the encounter was hardly going to prove a forum for significant ideological ferment, but little could have prepared Tinseltown’s finest
I for the onslaught of banality to which they were about to be subjected.
‘Chihuahuas? I’m not sure I follow . . .’ The Sheen sibling stalls, perhaps beginning to feel out of place in the kind of Leninist beard that lends him the look of this year’s tortured young intellectual about town. Throughout the proceedings he retains a thoughtful air, stroking the hairs on his chin and gazing mournfully at the table in front of him, as if discussing matters of almost metaphysical import. A shame really that all he gets to talk about are small Mexican dogs, the state of his career, and the Heidi movie he thought everyone had forgotten about.
‘You want to know what they were like to work with? They were fine. Really. I mean, we didn’t actually sit on them. I feel I have to point that out.’ Animal cruelty or not, connoisseurs of crushed-canine humour will undoubtedly find a place in their hearts for Hot Shots!, a movie whose standard of wit operates at a level comfortable for those who discovered the Police Academy movies only later in the series. Ever realise halfway through your bucket of popcorn that — damn! — you forgot to take off your mittens? Then Hot Shots! is the picture for you.
Ostensibly a take-off of the Top Gun flyboy school of entertainment, Proft and Abrahams
haven’t quite managed to spin enough comic mileage from a fairly restrictive area, so in go bits and bobs of comic flummery parodying just about anything from The Fabulous Baker Boys to 91/2 Weeks and, even more laboriously, Dances With
Wolves. The filmmakers’ glibly opportuninst attitude towards laff-gathering is best illustrated by the various Iraqi references swiftly absorbed into the script when (hey!) the Gulfconflict just happened to ﬂare up during production. ‘Saddam got in there because we put him in the trailer for the movie,‘ explains gagman Proft, ‘and he got
Hot Show: ‘a take-oft oi the Top Gun ﬂyboy school of entertainment’
Ever realise halfway through your bucket of popcorn that - damn! - you forgot to take off your mittens? Then Hot Shots! is the picture loryou.
such a great response from audiences that we had to put him into the picture itself.‘
Hot Shots! resultant tag-line, ‘The Mother of All Movies’, probably marks a new low in marketing crassness but so far as Charlie Sheen is concerned, at least the film’s American success (almost certain to be repeated over here) has helped him get his act back together. Whether battling with the dreaded Parental Conflict Syndrome or frying eggs on Ms Golino’s scorching bod, his role as renegade pilot Sean ‘Topper’ Harley allows him to stumble along with the same old wooden ‘Charlie Sheen’ expression that has often been used to apparently serious ends — in the titanic Navy SEA LS for instance - but here is held high in the name ofwacky comedy.
‘In my choice of roles now I’m aiming for a certain unpredictability,’ he adds, predictably. ‘I’m looking for original aspects in the roles. I want to keep people guessing. . .’
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‘Here, it was something of a contrast with most of the things I‘ve done before, which were rather dramatic storylines. It was important for me to let people know that I’m not all as serious as I was in the past.’
Ah yes, the past. It has to be said that after the first flush of stardom in the Oliver Stone Oscar-winners Platoon and Wall Street, our Charlie, like any young man striving forth into the future, faced a period ofconfusion, ofexistential doubt, of searching for the true path in a world of superficial falsehoods. The outcome in this case was a miasma of booze. drugs and women — notably, a much-publicised ‘romance’ with porn queen Ginger Lynn Allen — which affected the star’s, erm, decision-making process in the intervening stretch until he backed a goer with Hot Shots!.
This, apparently, is the explanation for Courage Mountain, the sensitive variation on Heidi, with Mr Sheen as the throbbing lederhosen-clad lurve interest for the teenage Swiss heroine.
‘Uh . . . [wasn’t in that film, it was my evil twin brother Hector! . . . Uh, that represents not having a clear enough mind to choose the right project. Looking back on it, you do tend to cringe. I knew, I just knew someone would bring it up eventually.’
So, is the fact that having a major hit again at a time when you're living life a little less to the full something of a coincidence?
‘I‘m a strong believer in karma. I think that somebody or something somewhere knew that I would need to have my head back on to deal with what happens when a movie gets as big as this one. You know, it's not just about giving up drugs and all that stuff, it‘s about understanding yourself better as a person and therefore as an actor. There‘s been a definite. . . re-prioritising.‘
Hot Shots! (12) opens widely across Scotland on Friday 6 December.
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The List 6— 19 December 1991 15