Detonating the Future

This was the Brazilian title for the live-action adaptation of a comic book titled Tank Girl. It’s more inspired than the Portuguese title – A Woman of Weapons. Had Björk not refused to play Sub Girl, the Icelandic title would have been Domme and Sub. She refused at the last minute because of time constraints. It’s a shame because there would have been a distinctly European charm had she interacted with the original choice for the titular anti-heroine – a Brit named Emily Lloyd.



In theory, Emily’s autobiography (i.e. Wish I Was There) contains a version of the story which makes other official accounts seem like they are excluding details. Like similar books written by impartial people, things have been excluded in a way which renders it partisan as opposed to forthrightly candid. Among the quintet of production assistants, one brave soul was kind enough to provide an unequivocal diary account which, among other things, reveals more about the exclusion of Emily as follows.



The assistant’s introduction:


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).


Monday, May 9, 1994:



Well, it looks like 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 that I end up working the whole show, because 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 then 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 Agua 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 she met her personal fitness trainer.



Wednesday, May 11:


Took Emily to Venice Beach where she met and rode a water buffalo that will play her pet in the film.


Monday, May 23:


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 Sarafian (the writer) for four hours to go over the script pages.



Monday, June 6:


Met Naomi Watts today. She will play Jet Girl. 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.



Tuesday, June 7:


We’re on the stage 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 second 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 because I didn’t feel like talking to his lover. When we left, Emily’s hair was much lighter and she said she hated it, then 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 about how frustrating the whole night was. I wonder if Sharon Stone cries to her driver?



Wednesday, June 8:


We’re into our 2nd day of make-up tests and The Rippers (the human kangaroo hybrid soldiers) are here. They look awesome. Stan Winston’s guys did a 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.


Thursday, June 9:


Went to take Emily to MGM for rehearsals. 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 head and get it over with.



Saturday, June 11:


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, Arizona. I drove there and moved into an apartment just off the Uni of A campus. My roommate is Jack Harvey, Rachel’s stepson, and he is working as an Art Dept. P.A.



Sunday, June 12:


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 that 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.”



Monday, June 13:


Tucson is hot as hell. 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.


Tuesday, June 14:


Met Lori when I went to her hotel to take her picture for the Stan Winston Studio. She has beautiful blue eyes.



Thursday, June 16:


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 armour. It was great but I started sweating in that thing immediately despite being under air conditioning. The actors are gonna die.



Friday, June 17:


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, hair along with 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.



Tuesday, June 21:


We’re currently in White Sands, National Monument for seven 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 A.D. has become known around the office as S.S.B. which stands for Sharon Stone’s Boyfriend. It turns out he was 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, Texas 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!



Friday, June 24:


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.



Monday, June 27:


One of the accountants passed out and dropped to the ground in Walgreens today. She said her first worry upon regaining consciousness was whether or not she had lost bladder control. They took her off in an ambulance. Our sand hermit character complained of weak knees and diarrhea, so she 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 sand hermit? 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. The camera operator and the D.P. quibble about how to get the best shot. Rachel enters the set to discover that it’s nothing like what she wanted, so the entire set-up has to be changed.



Thursday, June 30:


Shooting wrapped in White Sands this morning at 5:30 a.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 a cassette of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I passed and dropped him off in Road Forks, AZ.



Friday, July 1:


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 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 that it was a bomb. The Delta employees saw me harassing the passengers and kicked me out of the terminal.



Tuesday, July 5:


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 Aron Warner (the producer), Michael Polaire (the production manager) and others. I listened as they talked about who should be fired. Those mentioned included a props person and a flirtatious make-up girl.



Saturday, July 9:


Both Malcolm McDowell, who plays our villain, and Lori seem excited about the show. 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.



Tuesday, July 12:


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 A-hole 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.



Saturday, July 23:


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.


Wednesday, July 27:


I think the hours, climate or something is beginning to affect 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.



Thursday, August 4:


At 3:30 p.m. today, I raced from the set to try and get the film on the 4 p.m. 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, Jack drove by, I flagged him down, jumped into his car with the film, and told him to get me to the airport. The film made the flight, 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.



Friday, August 5:


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 peeved 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 armour. 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 along with Aron Warner do not seem pleased with her performance. A few days ago, Rachel walked over to her 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.



Monday, August 8:


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.



Thursday, August 11:


Lori looks and seems miserable but Rachel is in better spirits. I’ve been hanging out with Scott Coffey (a Ripper) at Club Congress in downtown Tucson; a very cool place. I 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 by trying to find an ending that works.



Monday, August 22:


Lori was supposed to cut some of Ann’s hair off with a razor blade but she sliced the top of one of her own fingers off. They ended up shooting the Iggy Pop stuff in place of Lori’s scenes while she was at the hospital.



Tuesday, August 23:


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.



Rachel seems really tired and has some dissension in the ranks as the crew talk about her on the set. One of the guys from camera was fired and overall morale is low. Ironically, I’m having the best time of the whole shoot.



Monday, August 29:


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.



Tuesday, September 13:


A reduced crew is finishing up shooting various interiors in a helicopter hangar 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.



Wednesday, September 21:


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. The wrap party is planned for next Tuesday at the Dragonfly in Hollywood.



Thursday, October 13:


My last day on Tank Girl. The offices are moved to MGM where the editors are working with Rachel to get the film out by March.


Wednesday, November 30:


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.



Thursday, December 8:


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 crew members were there. Everyone enjoyed it and congratulated Rachel afterwards.



Friday, December 9:


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.”



Friday, December 23:


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 evermore in a bid to 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.



Monday, 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.



Tuesday, January 17:


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.



Friday, January 20:


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.



Editor’s note:


Looking back at the box office failure, I think that it would’ve made a profit had Lori not been axed from Demolition Man (which launched Sandra Bullock into the stratosphere of mainstream stardom). In issue 54 (circa 1993) of Empire (a British magazine), Joel Silver (one of the three line producers) said: “We shot a few days and it didn’t work. Lori Petty was wonderful in A League of Their Own; but in this situation, in this society, the girl, the relationship, it didn’t work. The other day, I was watching Medicine Man. That’s an example where they should have made the same decision. I mean, what were they thinking? It’s unwatchable. The girl was horrible. Was nobody seeing dailies? “I want to find a cure for cancer” – I looked at that and said they should have stopped shooting right away.”

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