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
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
Swingers was released in Australia
on June 5, 1997.
Friends can be seen Monday nights on
the Nine Network.