Matt Damon (and my friend’s dad’s purple car) shine in “The Informant”

April 15th, 2010 by Alison McGaughey

I finally got to see The Informant last weekend, after more than two years of waiting."The Informant" movie cover

Why had I been waiting two years, you ask?

(Well, wouldn’t your interest have been piqued if your friend’s dad had plied his way onto the movie set with a box of donuts?

I think so.)

I worried that my viewing experience might suffer from all the hype, and from knowing too many details about the real-life story.

After all, I had been following the movie’s development for so long. I brought you news of Matt Damon hobnobbing with the local yokels on set in Decatur, IL. I wondered about local connections to the story via the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) plant in nearby Bushnell, IL.) I listened, rapt, to the episode of This American Life that detailed the true story of Damon’s character, Mark Whitaker (the whistle-blower-on-corruption-who-oh-by-the-way-was-also-corrupt). I got regular updates from my friend about her dad’s attempts to somehow work his way into the movie.

So by the time I finally got to sit down and watch it on DVD, I was worried it might not live up to my expectations.

But it turned out I had no reason to worry. Not because of its portrayal of central Illinois life, or anything else I might have expected, but because Matt Damon was so great, and so believable, as the shifty yet somehow sympathetic guy. I even lost sight of the fact that it was Matt Damon after awhile, (which is really saying something for an indie-movie snob). The film also does a great job of giving you the bigger picture of the flabbergasting ease with which the ADM businessmen price-fixed on an international scale.

But the truly critical question about the movie, of course, is how did my friend’s dad fare?

Let me refresh you about why he plied his way onto the movie set with a box of donuts when he first heard that the film would be shooting on location in central Illinois.

Here’s a snippet from his interview with the Rushville (IL) Times:

“Farrar and his Camaro recently responded to calls for extras and travelled to Decatur where he was hired to appear as an extra in a scene. Farrar said he and one other man are in the background of the scene shot at a Decatur motel swimming pool with Damon and co-star Scott Bakula. Farrar’s Camaro also may make an appearance since the producers also needed vehicles from the early 1990s for the movie. “I really like doing this and getting into these movies,” said Farrar, who is retired from the City of Rushville. “It’s the best work I’ve ever done – a lot better than mowing yards.”
When first visiting with the casting agency for the job, Farrar said he took a box of doughnuts from Rogers Bakery in Rushville as a gift.
“They loved them,” he said. “They called me the doughnut guy.”

Sadly, it turns out my friend’s dad didn’t get his time in the spotlight. (Er, background.) His scene at that Decatur motel (described in the snippet above) was unfortunately cut from the film.

But his purple 1995 Camaro, which looks like this if you’re interested, fared much better.

It appears in the latter half of the film, just before the scene in which Damon’s character (starting to really crack) meets with a new lawyer or a reporter at a hotel (divulging a bunch more stuff he’s not supposed to). The camera shows the parking lot of the motel, and not only is the car clearly visible, but the camera hangs there for a good couple of seconds.

It was really quite a star turn. I got so excited I made C-Nor pause the DVD so we could go back and look at it again.

As far as Mr. Farrar goes, I’m sure he’s faring well. Here’s his final quote from the Rushville Times:

“I think that since there are just the two extras in the scene I could get mentioned in the credits, but it could end up on the cutting room floor with the other broken dreams.”

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Do you know anything about local ties to the story via the Bushnell plant? Leave me a comment below.

About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

One Response to “Matt Damon (and my friend’s dad’s purple car) shine in “The Informant””

  1. HerGLX2 says:

    I always wanted a purple camaro…

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On not going out tonight.

January 24th, 2010 by Alison McGaughey

I just learned from picking up the free River Cities Reader during our trip to Hy-Vee that Freedy Johnston is playing in town tonight. The show is sponsored by the amazing Daytrotter outfit, and I don’t think the tickets are too expensive.

(For my imaginary readers-who-are-not-my-friends, it’s my weekend to be in the Quad Cities; my bf, C-Nor, and I have to commute 2 hours one way each weekend to see each other.)

I don’t know much about Freedy Johnston, other than I remember his weird name, and that I seemed to like a song of his at some point in the late-ish 90s. (With help from the article above, I remembered it: the catchy, tuneful “Bad Reputation.”)

Upon reading this information about tonight’s gig, I went through the following mental process, which I thought I would try to describe for you, since I seem to go through it on a weekly basis or more:

Cool, that’s a somewhat decent event for where we live!”

or

Hey, here’s an example of the arts that I should go out and support.”

But, this is then followed by,

If it’s more than 10 bucks, can I really justify it? After all, I already paid for ______ that I haven’t read/watched/listened to yet” (in this case, it’s 500 Days of Summer that’s been sitting in C-Nor’s Netflix queue for weeks now).

Which is then followed by,

But hey, you always complain about how there’s nothing cool to do around here…”

Which is then followed by:

But…is it really worth going to? I mean, if I’m gonna purchase tickets to something, shouldn’t it be to some show/band/singer-songwriter/comedian/speaker I really wanna see? I should save up for that.”

Which is then followed by,

Yeah, but the shows you really wanna see are always in Chicago, and even if the tickets are cheap for the small clubs, they require an overnight stay in a hotel, and a 3-hour drive one-way…”

Which is then followed by,

Aw, man, you used to be so cool. What about how ‘you were gonna live in a city so you could  go to shows every night of the week,’ huh? Remember that?”

Which is then followed by,

Aw shut up, teenaged-self-in-my-head. You don’t have to work in the morning.”

Which was, then, in this particular case, was followed by,

Sorry, Freedy-with-two-e’s, I’d like to support you but I only get 2 days off and 1.5 of those to see my guy. So we’re staying in.”

Yeah.

That goes through my head. A lot. What’s in yours?

(P.S. Freedy has a connection to the QCs other than playing here tonight. He was married to a woman from here and lived here in the early 00s, according to the article linked above.

The article above, though, also has him mentioning that he had “a relationship go south,” which contributed to his lack of output in recent years.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t feel too talkative with the reporter from the QCs, eh?)

P.P.S. Just found out/was reminded of the fact that (according to Wikipedia) that “Bad Reputation” was featured in the movie Kicking and Screaming from 1995–one of my favorite movies of all time. Aha! Anyone remember this song yet?)

About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

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On gangsters and getting old

January 21st, 2010 by Alison McGaughey

So I finally got around to watching Public Enemies, the Michael Mann film based on John Dillinger, who robbed banks and became a kind of folk hero during the Great Depression.

I have to say, I don’t like watching violent movies, but I gave in to this one since

  1. it’s historical,
  2. it took place in the Midwest and Illinois in particular, and
  3. …. okay, because it stars Johnny Depp.

And as my esteemed readers may remember, I’ve been interested in this film since I read/posted that story about a guy from nearby Galesburg, IL who is connected to the movie via a 1930s car.

So: I liked it. Three stars out of four, maybe. But the reason I’m blogging about it is this:

I couldn’t believe it, when it was over and the credits rolled, that there were three rather young, rather notable, rather…comely actors in the film who I hadn’t recognized at all. In other words,

  1. Billy Crudup played J. Edgar Hoover. I mean, this is the same guy who played the rock star in Almost Famous! That guy played this guy! I was truly shocked when I saw his name listed as the actor playing Hoover. (All this is to say, that guy can act. And the make-up/costume people who made him look like ….well, not a rock star, they were good too, obviously.)
  2. One of the main Dillinger cronies was played by Stephen Dorff. I have actually never seen anything with Stephen Dorff in it. But, here’s the deal: I kind of pride myself on recognizing actors in movies, especially the littler-known character actors. In other words, I am really annoying to watch TV and movies with. Because every time a new character comes on the screen, I’ll say to whoever I’m watching it with, “Well, hey, there’s Jane Adams from Happiness. I’m so happy to see her again.” Or, “Say, there’s the guy who used to play Chip on Kate & Ali.”
  3. But the real kicker was the fact that one of the gangsters’ names that came up on the credits was Rory Cochran. I was like, “Wha? Where was he?” (The answer is that he had played one of the FBI guys under Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale.) For the uninitiated, Rory Cochran would be the guy that my friends and I, in high school, went around imitating for months and months after seeing him play a squinty-eyed, small-town stoner dude in Dazed and Confused. (He of “Are you cool, man?” fame.)

Rory Cochran in "Dazed & Confused"After I finished the movie, instead of thinking about gangsters and violence and history, I was more thinking about my own history and pop culture (and obsessions with the combination). Like, how could it be that this skinny, long-haired kid from Dazed could be this adult, round-faced guy with …wrinkles???

This triple shock of non-recognition makes me think one of two things.

I didn’t recognize any of these actors onscreen because

A) I have a tiny, crappy little TV and the screen was very dark throughout many of the scenes,

or,

B) I and the actors from my generation are getting round-faced and wrinkled and old.
(I like the former rather than the latter. How ’bout you?)

About Alison McGaughey

Alison McGaughey was raised in Hancock County, IL, home of one single stoplight and one holy site known 'round the world (look it up). As a newspaper columnist, McGaughey interviewed C- and D-list celebrities, investigated the origin of the Rueben sandwich, and unintentionally set off a firestorm of hate mail from Phil Collins fans. Now a writing instructor and adult-literacy advocate, McGaughey lives and works in Iowa. Her work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Midwestern Gothic, Hippocampus Magazine, and, most recently, in the international anthology What I Couldn't Tell My Mother. She gets super excited when readers send her mail at alison dot sixdegrees @gmail.com.

2 Responses to “On gangsters and getting old”

  1. Tom Snee says:

    Option B has become a disturbingly common insight for me, now that I am 44. I recently had a conversation with a college sophomore who talked about what he wanted to be doing in 25 years. It occurred to me that in 25 years, he will be the age I am now, and I will be pushing 70. Ugh.

  2. Alison says:

    Thank, you, Tom, for feeling my pain.

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