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FAVREAU, JON : Swingers

SWINGING FROMHOLLYWOOD ROOFTOPS
A year ago Jon Favreau was an unknown young actor trying to succeed in the most cutthroat of businesses. But that all changed when he wrote, co-produced and starred in his semi-autobiographical Swingers. Now a commercial and critical hit in the US, Favreau is a hot talent: the movie not only led him into the TV arms of Courtney Cox in several episodes of Friends, but he's about to star in a new movie which he also wrote. A star is in the making writes PAUL FISCHER.

When Jon Favreau set about to write his first script, Swingers, little did he know the impact the final film would have on a broad audience. "I wrote it very specific to my life. In fact, part of what I thought was working against me was just how specific it was and how inaccessible it would be to anybody who was unaware of any of the situations explored in the movie." The movie revolves around Mike (Favreau), a fledgling actor/comedian who arrives in L.A. seeking fame and fortune. He's also trying to get over the fact that his girlfriend, Michelle, dumped him months ago. But he can't get over her and he compulsively checks his answering machine for any message from her. His friends can't stand this, so they try to get him back out into the real world.

"I guess the universal appeal of the film only proves that something YOU like and YOU'RE proud of will rub off on other people."

Trent (Vince Vaughn), his best friend, takes him to Las Vegas for a little gambling and to meet some women. When that doesn't work out, his other single, dateless, and aspiring actor friends, Rob (Ron Livingston), Sue (Patrick Van Horn) and Charles (Alex Desert), take him out to the bars and swing clubs hoping that he'll find someone who will make him forget about Michelle. With all of their rules about returning calls to women and pick up lines, his friends are as pitiful as he is, but eventually things begin to change for him. "I guess the universal appeal of the film only proves that something YOU like and YOU'RE proud of will rub off on other people."

"If you're not willing to do something that involves dinosaurs or explosions, it's tougher getting things made here."

In writing his first script, his intention, he says reflectively, was merely to do something that was distinctly personal. His agenda was not to be mainstream Hollywood. "If you're not willing to do something that involves dinosaurs or explosions, it's tougher getting things made here. My intention with Swingers was to make my mark and to have a piece of work that I was proud of, and the people involved would be proud of as well. I just wanted to get something done; I had no idea it would snowball."

Favreau was born and raised in New York's Queens, this son of schoolteachers. He dropped out of college and travelled throughout the US, landing in Chicago. There, the then-heavyset Favreau became inspired to pursue acting after seeing Chris Farley perform with the Second City. "That was also where Belushi and Aykroyd got their starts and it was the perfect place to begin." After honing his craft in dinner theatre productions of plays like Twelve Angry Men, he landed his first screen role as a cab driver in the unsuccessful Tom Selleck vehicle Folks! (1992). Favreau had his first success when cast as the shy, overweight friend of Sean Astin's aspiring football player Rudy (1993) in David Anspaugh's biopic. Finding good follow-up roles, however, proved elusive. Favreau made guest appearances on TV series like Seinfeld and Chicago Hope and landed big screen berths in Hart Bochner's PCU as a genial but dumb party guy and Alan Rudolph's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (both 1994), barely registering as Elmer Rice.

Favreau began lifting weights, dropped 75 pounds and spent his time amid the young Hollywood hopefuls in the "cocktail nation" of the L.A. club scene, which form the basis of Swingers. He continued to land small roles in films like Batman Forever and Notes From the Underground (both 1995). Favreau's father had given him a screenwriting software program and in two weeks the novice writer had turned out this autobiographical script based on his friends and himself. "Much of what happens in the film happened to me, in that I DID move from New York to Hollywood and I had ended a relationship once I moved. I was really down in the dumps and so my friends tried to get me dating, most of whom play themselves."

"Can you imagine what it was like kissing one of the sexiest women on television? I really had to pinch myself."

Swingers attracted attention from producers who wanted to cast a name actor. Seeing it as a vehicle for himself and friend Vaughn, Favreau eventually sold the rights to director Doug Liman who cast the friends. Made on a shoestring budget, the film with its retro-jargon, homages to Tarantino and Scorsese and charismatic performances earned respectful reviews and became an arthouse hit. Now, the film had "opened up doors for all of us". Friend Vince Vaughan, for instance, stars in The Lost World, while Favreau went on to play a recurring role as Courtney Cox's computer millionaire boyfriend in soon-to-be-aired episodes of Friends. "That was a great experience. I mean, can you imagine what it was like kissing one of the sexiest women on television? I really had to pinch myself."

Still in demand as both an actor and writer, he filmed a role as a racist tormenting Mary Stuart Masterson in the upcoming Dogtown (1997) and with Vaughn was developing an offbeat Western about a Jewish Hasidic gunslinger, The Marshal of Revelation, on which the pair hoped to collaborate as co-directors and co-stars. Immediately next for the 31-year old actor/writer is a major new movie about the beginnings of American football in the 20s. "The great thing about these dual roles of writer and actor is that you can literally become what you want to be on film. I've always wanted to be a pro-footballer, now that dream is about to be fulfilled." From Swingers to Friends and the big Hollywood movies, Favreau has plenty to smile about these days. Oh yeah, and he's no longer searching those dingy bars for that all-elusive date.

Swingers was released in Australia on June 5, 1997.

Friends can be seen Monday nights on the Nine Network.

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Jon Favreau (centre) with co-star Vince Vaughn and a 'babe'.


Scene from Swingers

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