Exclusive Interview: Peter MacGregor-Scott on The Fugitive and Batman
Peter MacGregor-Scott has been a movie producer since the ‘70s, so when he was available to discuss the 20th Anniversary Blu-ray and DVD release of The Fugitive, I knew it would be a chance to ask about all his classic movies. The Fugitive starred Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, framed for his wife’s murder who escapes a prison transport in a train crash. U.S. Marshal Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) pursues him and doesn’t care who killed Mrs. Kimble. MacGregor-Scott was also involved with Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, three Cheech & Chong movies and many more, and he was happy to talk about all of them.
CraveOnline: The Fugitive was a huge hit in 1993 but this was before the internet and social media, everything we know about movie marketing now. How was this movie sold in an age where it was really just theatrical trailers and TV ads?
Peter MacGregor-Scott: It was very traditional. In those days traditional was commercials, television spots and radio ads, even though Warner Brothers is not very big, or wasn’t at that time, into radio. We had a number of quite large television buys. Nowadays they have so much involved, so many dollars involved in the production cost and in the marketing that they spend a gazillion dollars advertising a movie.
But it worked for The Fugitive.
Well, they didn’t spend more than they would normally have done on a movie of that scale. Just it clicked and, as you know, was number one for many weeks at the box office. At that point it becomes self-supporting.
Word of mouth was huge, but again that was word of mouth before there was an internet.
Yes, yes, it wasn’t easy but I’ve had a few films like that. Animal House was like that.
Of course. The Cheech and Chong movies I’m sure.
Yes, they were. Cheech and Chong have a tremendous fan base. Just to give you an example, they don’t sign autographs during the daytime when we’re filming but at the end of the day, when we say, “Goodnight, that’s it,” they sit for three hours signing autographs. They’re very conscious of their base.
Were The Jerk and Revenge of the Nerds word of mouth movies also?
Yes, word of mouth.
The Fugitive was one of the best examples of adapting a TV show into a successful movie. Was there the stigma against that at the time like there is now?
No, there wasn’t. You have to say that putting Harrison Ford in there is a huge plus. He was an enormous movie star and a very serious movie star. It wasn’t something frivolous. Television remakes, you think “that’s frivolous.” With him it was quite serious.
Andy Davis told me that an earlier script had Gerard spearheading the conspiracy against Kimble. Were you involved with that script?
Yeah, we read them all but they were all discarded. Really, Jeb Stuart, the last writer, made by far the largest contribution to the movie script.
But it sounds like that one script Andy told me about, you were making that movie until he came on board and insisted on changing it?
Yes, that’s true. That was the leader in the race at that point but he never bought into that, luckily.
After 20 years, there’s all these new Blu-ray/DVD extras discussing The Fugitive. Are there any stories you haven’t told in the last 20 years?
I know today they couldn’t make it as good, I’ll tell you that, because we did it all real, with a full scale. I’ll tell you a little story. We had the second rail running parallel to the first one, but because of the speed we wanted to go in the high 30s, 38 was actually the speed we wound up shooting the sequence at, as far as the speed of the train. The stunt coordinator came to me and said, “There’s a real possibility that some of these cars are going to leave the track.” I said, “Oh, God, how bad is it?”
I had this old railroad guy with me at the time and he said, “You heard of concrete?” I said yes. He said, “If you put concrete in the floor of every one of these cars, it’ll reduce the center of gravity and you can go through this section at 100. So that’s what we did for two days. We had cement mixers coming up, pouring concrete into all the cars and we did the train crash with probably 250 tons of concrete.
Were there any behind-the-scenes stories about the jump from the dam?
The jump off the dam, our editor who’s been with us a very long time said, “Oh, it’s terrible. It’s a complete reshoot. You have to reshoot everything.” I said, “I don’t know if we have to do that. Let’s look at the film.” We got a cut on it, which is the one that’s in the movie, which is very believable and it was nominated by People Magazine as the stunt of the year. So I printed up a wall sized poster which he carries around, it’s now sitting in his house, so you should be careful what you say and wish for. We never reshot anything.
Did you not want to be involved with U.S. Marshals?
They didn’t ask us. They made four Revenge of the Nerds and we’ve never been asked. They think somehow they need new blood. I don’t know what new blood they’re talking about.