.:Mask:.

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Year: 1985
Country: USA

Tagline: They told 16-year-old Rocky Dennis he could never be like everyone else. So he was determined to be better.

Sometimes the most unlikely people become heroes.

Production Companies: Universal Pictures

Cast: Cher, Sam Elliott, Eric Stoltz, Estelle Getty, Richard Dysart, Laura Dern, Micole Mercurio, Harry Carey Jr., Dennis Burkley

Writer: Anna Hamilton Phelan

Produced by: Howard P. Alston, C.J. Kettler, George Morfogen, Peggy Robertson, Martin Starger

Original Music by: Dennis Ricotta

Cinematography by: László Kovács

Film Editing by: Barbara Ford

Genre: Biography | Drama

Runtime: 120 min | 127 min (director's cut)

Release Date:

8 March 1985 USA
29 May 1985 France
8 June 1985 Japan
20 June 1985 Australia
2 August 1985 Finland
30 August 1985 Sweden
5 September 1985 Argentina
5 September 1985 Netherlands
31 October 1985 West Germany
12 April 1986 Philippines (Davao)
February 1989 Turkey

Opening Weekend: $135,499 (USA)

US Gross: $42,417,782

Worldwide Gross: $48,230,162

Filming Dates: May 1984

Filming Location: Azusa (California, USA); Los Angeles (California, USA); Malibu (California, USA); Monrovia High School - 845 W. Colorado Boulevard, Monrovia (California, USA); Stage 28, Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City (California, USA); Stage 36, Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA

Trailer: youtube.com

Official site: maskdvd

Video - Cher in Mask: youtube.com

 

Plot summary:

 

Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffers from a skull deformity, is accepted without question by his freewheeling biker mother's boyfriends, the extended motorcycle family, and his maternal grandparents (who share his love of baseball card collecting) but treated with fear, pity, awkwardness, and teasing by those unaware of his humanity, humor, and intelligence. Rocky's mother, Florence "Rusty" Dennis (Cher) is determined to give Rocky a life as normal as possible, in spite of her own wild ways as a member of the biker gang. She fights for Rocky's inclusion in a mainstream junior high school, and she confronts a principal who would rather classify Rocky with mental retardation and relegate him to a special education school to fulfill his special needs. Rusty asks the principal if they teach "algebra, biology, and English at this school, because...these are Rocky's needs."

Rocky goes on to thrive at school. He wins friends by assisting a locker neighbor in remembering his combination. Using humor when faced with an awkward silence during roll call, Rocky just repeats the prior new student's line "Wow, thanks a lot." The class turns to smile and laugh with Rocky. He shows his brilliance in History class by giving a terrific rendition of the Greek myth about the Trojan Horse and it being the starting point of the Trojan Wars. Gradually overcoming discrimination and tutoring his classmates for $3 per hour, the principal asks Rocky to accept a job as a counselor's aide at Camp Bloomfield, a summer camp for the junior blind. At his graduation from junior high, Rocky takes home the academic achievement prizes in mathematics, history and science.

Rocky feels the need to leave his chronically depressed and drug addicted mother, and in a tough love way, he helps Rusty help herself break her drug habit. At camp Rocky falls in love with Diana Adams (18-year-old Laura Dern), a blind girl who cannot see (but feels) his deformed countenance and is entranced by Rocky's kindness and compassion. Rocky uses his intelligence to explain to Diana the sighted words like pillowy, clouds, red and green by using cotton balls as a touchable vision of pillowy clouds, a warm rock to explain red and pink, and a frozen rock to explain icy blue. Diana introduces Rocky to her parents, who have a suspicious feeling about Rocky, due to his appearance. It becomes clear that Diana is overprotected by her parents, who don't give any messages to her, nor is she allowed to answer the phone when Rocky calls from home.

Near the end of the film, Rocky faces the pain of separation from his girlfriend who goes away to a Special School for the Blind and the collapse of his dream motorbike trip through Europe when his best friend who was to come with him moves back to Michigan for good. However, Rocky feels better after taking a bus trip by himself to visit Diana at the equestrian stables, located near Griffith Park. Diana tells Rocky that she never received the phone messages from her parents, and this visit was to be Rocky's final encounter with Diana. One evening when Rocky's "Biker Family" is visiting, Rocky is fighting a fierce headache and quietly withdraws to his room. However, Rocky dies in his sleep during the night. On the next morning, Rusty flies into a fit of grief-stricken rage that wanes into mourning after realizing that her son had died. Rusty then re-pins his map of Europe and poetically says, "Now you can go anywhere you want, Baby."

The movie ends with Rocky's biker family, Rusty, Gar and Dozer, visiting his grave, leaving flowers and some 1955 Brooklyn Dodger baseball cards by his headstone. A prized poem Rocky penned earlier in the movie closes the film:
These things are good:
Ice cream and cake,
A ride on a Harley,
Seeing monkeys in the trees,
The rain on my tongue,
And the sun shining on my face.
These things are a drag:
Dust in my hair,
Holes in my shoes,
No money in my pocket,
And the sun shining on my face.

 

Reviews:

People Magazine - March 18, 1985 Vol. 23 No. 11

By Candice Russell, Film Writer - Cher Wears `Mask` Of Understanding - March 21, 1985

Mark Bego: "If You Believe" - Removing the Mask

By Paul Tatara (TCM)

By Roger Ebert - Cher: "This woman is unique" - March 17, 1985

Rotten Tomatoes - Critic Reviews for Mask

Photos:

  

See all photos in the gallery.

Trivia:

 

- When Cher was cast in the film, she wanted her then boyfriend, Val Kilmer to play Gar but he was rejected for being too young for the part.

- Rob Lowe was nearly cast as Rocky Dennis. He declined due to scheduling conflicts with an unannounced film that was eventually canceled.

- Jane Fonda was the company's first choice.

- Eric Stoltz spent so much time under heavy makeup that when he arrived for the post production party he had to present I.D. to security to prove that he was Eric Stoltz. Also, when he got there he had to introduce himself to some of the cast and crew because many of them didn't know what he really looked like.

- The poem that "Rocky" reads to "Rusty" was written by the real Rocky Dennis.

- Songs by Bob Seger were substituted in place of those by Bruce Springsteen shortly before the film's release after a failure to reach agreement with Springsteen.

- Bruce Springsteen's music was chosen for several reasons. It was the real Rocky's favorite music, and it served to denote the passage of time. Springsteen wanted his music used in the original release, but the owners of his catalog at that time could not agree on a royalty rate with the studio. The music was reinstated for the Director's Cut when Springsteen himself pushed for its inclusion.

- Florence "Rusty" Tullis, the mother of Rocky Dennis, passed away on November 11, 2006, at age 70 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on October 14. Ms. Tullis was portrayed by Cher in Mask.

- Rusty actually had two sons. The older son, Joshua Mason, passed away in 1987 at age 32 due to complications from AIDS, which he received through a blood transfusion.

- Kevin Costner was considered for the role of Rocky Dennis.

- The Director's Cut print runs around 7 minutes longer and includes a scene where Rocky & Rusty sing a song "Little Egypt" around a bonfire, and the funeral of cyclist Red (his motorbike is buried beside him). It also replaces the Bob Seger songs with those of Bruce Springsteen.

- In preparation for the role, Cher met the real-life Rusty Dennis

- Cher earned $500 000 for this role.

- Cher received the 1985 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress.

- "If Cher would have stood behind me and fought for the Springsteen music and the lost footage," Bogdanovich was quoted as saying, "I think we would have won [the fight against Universal]. Furthermore, if she had just taken no sides at all, I think she would have been nominated, Eric would have been nominated, the film would have been nominated, and I would have been nominated.

- Bob Mackie designed the garish ensemble worn by Cher at the March 1986 Academy Awards: black stretch pants, a bejeweled loincloth, knee high boots, a black chainlink top, and a huge feathered Mohawk headdress that was one and a half times taller than her head. Introduced by Jane Fonda with the words, "Wait'll you see what's gonna come out here," Cher was appearing as a presenter after what many considered an Oscar snub (Cher was not nominated for her performance in Mask). "As you can see," said Cher, "I did receive my Academy booklet on how to dress like a serious actress."
- "When I came out onstage Oscar night to present the Best Supporting Actor Oscar," Cher later remarked, "it broke my heart to read off those names, knowing that Eric wasn’t included. He gave, in my opinion, the best supporting performance of the year." The 1985 Best Supporting Actor winner was Don Ameche for Cocoon.

- (SPOILER!) The movie ends with Rusty Dennis and Gar visiting Rocky's grave. In real life, however, Rocky Dennis was not buried. His mother donated Rocky's body to the UCLA Medical Center for medical study.

- According to Peter Bogdanovich, on Sunday, 14 March 2004, in a talk at the Cleveland Public Library (Ohio), he has secured the rights for the Bruce Springsteen songs and the print will be re-released with the music chosen the first time around. There was a possible snag when the studio told Bogdanovich that the negative of the film had been lost - they only had positive prints - but the negative hadn't really been lost - Bogdanovich had removed it from the studio some years prior.

- A similar disfigured character is portrayed in the hit science fiction drama X-Files during the episode "The Post-Modern Prometheus". The disfigured boy is called Mutato by people in his town who have rejected him from society. Mutato watches Mask obsessively and dreams of one day meeting Cher, a dream which is fulfilled at the end of the episode.

- Screenwriter Anna Hamilton Phelan wrote the Mask script with an 8" x 10" glossy of Cher beside her index cards.

- On the set, Cher had her own battles to fight with director Peter Bogdanovich, a situation she couldn`t anticipate. "He did Paper Moon, which is one of my favorites. I figured that someone who could shoot that probably could do anything."

 

Memorable quotes:

 

Rusty Dennis: First you told me he was gonna be retarded, then you told me he was gonna be blind AND deaf. If I'd dug his grave every time one of you geniuses told me he was gonna die, I'd be eating fuckin' chop suey in China by now!

 

Rusty Dennis: What's the matter, never seen anyone from the planet Vulcan before?

 

Rocky Dennis: What's his problem, Ma?
Rusty Dennis: Nothing. He's just another asshole. You let that negative dreck in and it'll put ya away. You can be a chicken shit and die or be a mensch and keep makin' yourself well.

 

Gar: Rocky, your mom sometimes does the wrong things, but for the right reasons.

 

Rocky Dennis: [smashes some plates] I hate you going out every night and coming home wasted all the time!
Rusty Dennis: It's none of your goddamn business!
Rocky Dennis: You're my mother!
Rusty Dennis: Well, you're not my warden!

 

[after an unpleasant visit with the grandparents, Rusty is about to take a lot of drugs]
Gar: [gets a beer from fridge] If you get wasted off that crap, I'm not gonna stay here and babysit.
Rusty Dennis: [scoffles] You must be confusing me for some who gives a $hit.
Gar: Must be.
Rusty Dennis: [looks at drugs in hand and sighs sadly] You know, this just isn't going to work. You're telling me to do things and I'm just gonna end up hating you again.
Gar: Oh come on. You and your old man have been going through this $hit for the longest time I can remember. Got to again, didn't he? Got you ready for another one of those 2-hour screamers. Gets you to the place where I'm gonna put you through the God Damn wall.
Rusty Dennis: [snaps back] Oh fine. Then put me through the God Damn wall. Why should you be any different than any man I've known before.
Gar: [clonks beer bottle down on table and leaves her]

 

Rusty Dennis: [her final line, after finding that Rocky has passed away in his sleep] ... Now you can go anywhere you want, baby.

 

Weekend Chart Record

 

Date Rank Gross % Change Theaters Per Theater Total Gross Days
1985/03/08 28 $135,499   4 $33,875   $135,499 3
1985/03/15 22 $157,544 +16% 5 $31,509   $361,521 10
1985/03/22 3 $6,121,129 +3,785% 800 $7,651   $6,568,258 17
1985/03/29 2 $4,807,470 -21% 839 $5,730   $13,427,677 24
1985/04/05 2 $4,472,392 -7% 1,023 $4,372   $20,058,589 31
1985/04/12 2 $3,718,551 -17% 1,024 $3,631   $25,814,068 38
1985/04/19 4 $2,779,527 -25% 1,002 $2,774   $29,823,069 45
1985/04/26 5 $2,121,280 -24% 947 $2,240   $32,873,263 52
1985/05/03 5 $1,727,153 -19% 879 $1,965   $35,410,622 59
1985/05/10 8 $1,366,813 -21% 794 $1,721   $37,314,022 66
1985/05/17 6 $1,586,467 +16% 841 $1,886   $39,437,533 73
1985/05/24 7 $1,321,657 -17% 718 $1,841   $41,257,723 80
1985/05/31 7 $864,000 -35% 720 $1,200   $42,417,782 87

 

Awards:

 

 

Academy Awards, USA

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1986

Won

Oscar

Best Makeup
Michael Westmore
Zoltan Elek

 

BAFTA Awards

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1986

Nominated

BAFTA Film Award

Best Make Up Artist
Michael Westmore

 
Cannes Film Festival

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1985

Won

Best Actress

Cher
Tied with Norma Aleandro in La historia oficial (1985)

Nominated Palme d'Or Peter Bogdanovich
 
Casting Society of America, USA

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1986

Nominated

Artios

Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama
Jackie Burch

 
Golden Globes, USA

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1986

Nominated

Golden Globe

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

in a Motion Picture
Eric Stoltz

Best Performance by an Actress

in a Motion Picture - Drama
Cher

 
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1985

Won

New Generation Award

Laura Dern
Also for Smooth Talk (1985).

 
Writers Guild of America, USA

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

1986

Nominated

WGA Award (Screen)

Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Anna Hamilton Phelan

 

 

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