was hoping it would be funny, and hilarious.
was very happy with it and very happy with the reaction."
says Escanaba is the
perfect place to film 'Moonlight'
shows loyalty to his home state
-- an ESPN Outdoors Top Hunting Video Pick Fall 2003 --
Plan camp to 'Escanaba in da Moonlight'
JAMES A. SWAN, Ph.D.
"In Defense of Hunting"
Fall is just around the corner. That means it's time to plan for hunting season. And if you're a deer hunter, that means deer camp.
Not only is it a place to get together with old friends and go after a big buck, a deer camp is a modern version of the secret society of the past, with its own set of rules, and often a lot of good-natured humor. Actor Jeff Daniels' thought so. That's why he stuck his neck out and created perhaps the funniest hunting movie ever made, "Escanaba in da Moonlight."
Daniels has appeared in more than 45 feature films including "The Hours," "Blood Work," "Dumb and Dumber," "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "Speed," "101 Dalmatians," "Pleasantville," "Arachnophobia," and the television mini-series, "The Crossing," where he played George Washington leading his men across the Delaware.
Like a lot of kids from small towns, Daniels took off for the big city when he decided he wanted to be an actor. But, after 10 years of film and stage acting in New York and LA, in l988 Jeff brought his family back home to Chelsea, Mich., whose other claim to fame is being the home of Jiffy Mix.
When Daniels moved back to the Midwest, people said he'd lose his career. Hasn't happened. People said that if he founded a theater company in Chelsea, an hour's drive away from Detroit, it would flop. Daniels' Purple Rose Theater is flourishing.
Daniels has guts. After he founded the Purple Rose Theater Co., he began writing plays and performing them with local talent. They filled the house, night after night. Another success. His next step was forming a production company, Purple Rose Films. For his first film, he chose one of his most successful stage plays, "Escanaba in da Moonlight," a comedy set in an upper peninsula Michigan deer camp.
Daniels says that no one in Hollywood wanted to fund a movie set in a Michigan deer camp, so he went out and raised $1.5 million from people in Michigan. Many of the investors were people who saw "Escanaba in da Moonlight" performed as a play . at Jeff's Purple Rose Theater or at the Gem Theater in Detroit, where it holds the record as the longest-running play in Detroit history.
"It's basically the story of five people in a deer camp," he said. "The lead character is Reuben Soady (played by Jeff), who is 43 and has never shot a buck, so he's a 'buckless yooper.' ("Yooper" stands for resident of the Upper Peninsula)
"If Ruben doesn't get one this year, he will be the oldest person in the Soady family to not have bagged a buck, except for an uncle who is missing a few screws. His father, Albert, (Harve Presnell) and the others all want to help Ruben break his jinx. As a result, in Albert's Finnish dialect, 'Dat year camp was as tense as a moose's butt durin' fly season.'
"I've described it as 'Jeremiah Johnson' meets 'Dumb and Dumber,' but 'Escanaba in da Moonlight' is basically a hero's journey, where Reuben is guided by his Indian wife, 'Hawk Moon,' (Kimberly Norris Guerro), who is a better shot and very woods-wise. It's not just about deer hunting; it's a spiritual quest with hunting as a metaphor."
"Comedy gives us license to be outrageous," Daniels said.
"Escanaba in da Moonlight" definitely has its outrageous moments: a father-son counseling session in a two-holer outhouse; porcupine urine as a cover scent; visitations from aliens and spirits of ancient hunters; and a wild tavern scene that may influence dancing forever.
The movie is wild and hilarious, but Daniels says this is really a "heart" picture that seeks to present a little-seen facet of modern American life. You can say that again.
The Michigan State Film Office reports the only other film shot in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is "Anatomy of a Murder" in 1959.
Most of Daniels' film was shot in Escanaba, using a lot of locals. The music is scored by Alto Reed, sax player from Bob Seeger's Silver Bullet Band. Ted Nugent supplied props for the hunting camp. "Escanaba in da Moonlight" premiered for a sell-out crowd Oct. 22, 2000, at Detroit's Fox Theater.
Daniels then took the film to Escanaba on Oct. 29, for two more sell-out showings at the biggest space in the area . the 760 seat Chip-In Resort and Casino, owned by the Potawotami Indian tribe. The reviews were great. Time to get serious.
Copies of "Escanaba in da Moonlight" were sent out to distributors far and wide, but none would take it. Film festivals, like the Toronto Film Festival, where Daniels' other pictures, such as "Dumb and Dumber," have premiered, turned him down. Many would have given up at this point. Not Daniels.
He became his own distributor, making expensive copies of the print and contacting theaters. The general release started out in January 2001, in selected theaters in Michigan on Super Bowl weekend. It grossed $250,000 the first weekend, more than any big budget studio release playing in the same area.
News spread, and so did bookings, stretching out into other nearby Midwest states. Its per-screen average rose to higher than any top grossing film in the country. By early April 2001, "Escanaba in da Moonlight" had made its way onto the Variety charts with a higher per engagement box office than either of the Academy Award winning "Traffic" or "Chocolat."
The theatrical release gross, with only a Midwestern showing, rose to well more than $3 million. Then, in 2002, it came time for the DVD release.
A distributor gingerly stepped forward, noting it hoped to sell 20,000 copies of the DVD. Typical of the movie's surprising spirit, to date more 85,000 copies of the DVD have been sold through normal outlets, like Blockbuster, Circuit City, Best Buy and Borders, in addition to other distribution points such as Cabela's.
In case you are still a VHS household, the VHS edition of "Escanaba in da Moonlight" is just coming out this fall in time for deer camp. You can rent it or buy it through all the major outlets, or buy your copy directly from Purple Rose Films.
Daniels admits people living in big cities who have never seen a deer, let alone hunted one, may not get "Escanaba in da Moonlight." But there apparently are a lot of folks who want to see a good, funny movie about deer hunting.
Hopefully the success of this picture will convince Hollywood that money can be made from a movie that has a positive story to tell about hunting.
- Thanks to James Swan and ESPN Outdoors where this article was first published
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'Moonlight' beams onto big screens
I'd feel happy and honored to pay full admission to
"Escanaba in da Moonlight" just to watch and
hear Randall Godwin sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
The first musical eruption by Godwin's Forest Ranger
Tom epitomizes the often anarchic nature of Jeff Daniels'hilarious
movie, adapted by Daniels from his own hit stage play.
While four Upper-Peninsula deer hunters babble feverishly
about their cabin being assaulted by metaphysical forces
(UFOS? Native-American spirits?), Ranger Tom serenely
glides through the hysterical quartet and lifts his
face upward toward some-unseen deity.
Resembling an emaciated silent movie star complete
with over-rouged lips and lashes, the stupefied lawman
commences singing "Swing low..." in a soulful
tenor voice. It's enough to spook the others mute, as
though nothing short
of the Second Coming itself (an event Tom anticipates)
couldn't top this latest outburst of passionate inanity.
By the time Ranger Tom offers a reprise, he's standing
in his underwear and drenched in porcupine urine, a
"sacrifice" to unidentified yet noisy creatures
of the night.
So what did you want Noel Coward?
Seamlessly transferred from stage to screen, "Escanaba
in da Moonlight" elicits more laughs per minute
than any film I've seen this year, or last year. Maybe
the last decade. It's the first launching from Daniels'Purple
Rose Films, an independent arm of Chelsea's Purple Rose
Theatre where "Escanaba" enjoyed two runs
to sold-out houses, then broke every Motor City longevity
record at Detroit's Gem Theatre.
The comedy makes as fluid an adaptation to film as
could be imagined. The focus remains on Escanaba native
Reuben Soady (played by Daniels, who also scripted and
directed the film). It matters not that Reuben is a
happily married family man. What truly counts in a land
where deer-hunting is a sacred ritual is that 43-year-old
Reuben has never managed to shoot a four-legged critter
of any breed. Now he's been dubbed 'The Buckless Yooper,"
a tide spoken both in scorn and fear. Kids razz him
en masse from a school bus as he drives his pickup down
Main Street the opening day of deer season. Other townsfolk
flee in terror, convinced Reuben is cursed by malevolent
Luckless Reuben has reached a crossroads. If he doesn't
bag a buck this year, he'll go down in the meticulously
updated Soady record book as the oldest Soady male to
be "without venison," in the somber words
of Papa Alvin Soady (Harve Presnell), who narrates this
U.P. fable set in 1989. If Reuben fails, he'll pass
his idiot uncle Albert Soady (Guy Sanville in a hilarious
one-scener), who shot his buck in '72 while taking his
ease in the Soady outhouse.
The husky Daniels doesn't possess the physique or bearing
of such a loser, but he evokes such hangdog forlornness,
it's easy-to-believe Reuben shuffles through life in
a constant flinch. Daniels is ably assisted by most
of the original
"Escanaba" stage cast, reprising their roles
with the precise toning-down required to modulate stage
performances for the big screen. First among equals
is the marvelous Joseph Albright as Reuben's dynamic
but thick-headed "big baby brother" Remnar.
A great character actor, Albright takes to a movie screen
like Yooper Tom Izzo to a basketball court. Remnar's
sacred, disrupted "deer camp ritual," enumerated
by Albright with quiet fury ("I eat Spam and mayonnaise
on a Bunny Bread sandwich!"), is a masterpiece
of intensity in service of pure farce.
Wayne David Parker was clearly born to play pint-sized
madman woodsman Jigger Negamanee from Menominee, who'll
guzzle any liquid known or unknown to man - even porcupine
urine. Presnell ("Fargo") makes a feisty family
patriarch whose heart outweighs his brain, while the
very notion of anyone playing Ranger Tom save Godwin
seems an outright sacrilege. Kimberly Norris Guerrero("Northern
Exposure") is fine in the limited, though crucial
role of Reuben's Native-American wife Wolf Moon Dance
Not everyone will be enchanted by "Escanaba in
da Moonlight," which opens across Michigan in hopes
of a larger Midwestern (and possibly Canadian) release.
Much of the humor is conceived in the belief that bodily
functions are naturally funny. The Farrelly Brothers
("There's Something About Mary") have honed
this principle to perfection, and so, for that matter,
has Daniels. Still, emission-
shy viewers will likely beat a hasty retreat. Others
will find themselves in gross-out heaven.
"Escanaba" exudes a professional slickness
when it spins out fantasies that induce chuckles and
shudders. Reuben, clad in long underwear, is jeered
lustily by hecklers packing the Escanaba High football
field ("DA MOTHER THERESA OF DEER HUNTING"
reads one sign). Unseen critters stomp like Godzilla
deep in the woods, while human heads vibrate at warp
speed as they did in the horror classic "Jacob's
Ladder." Traversing its slippery slope, the film
is almost reverent toward the secrets and surprises
nestled away for centuries in Yooperland.
I suspect Daniels is right when he suggests New York
and L.A. audiences wouldn't "get' this quintessentially
Midwestern movie. After all, what-could be more joyously
ours than a film without a palm tree or a skyscraper
ESCANABA - It took place over
the course of just a couple of months as winter turned
to spring, but it looks like the benefits of having
a movie filmed locally could endure well into the future.
The crew from Purple Rose Films
came to town to shoot "Escanaba in da Moonlight" Feb.
28 and were gone by the beginning of April, leaving
about $1 million in the local economy, countless movie-related
anecdotes and the kind of name recognition most small
towns can only dream about.
now knows Escanaba," said Delta County Chamber of Commerce
Associate Director Jeanne Rose. "They know how to pronounce
it. And that kind of publicity you couldn't have paid
Rose Cox, owner of Rosy's Diner
in downtown Escanaba, couldn't agree more. Shortly after
filmmakers began eating meals at Rosy's, the decision
was made to incorporate both the restaurant and its
owner into the movie.
The same colorful personality
that likely got Rosy onto the big screen also made her
the favorite of visiting media, in town to cover the
spectacle. As a result, people were able to read about
Rosy on both coasts, and various points in between.
"It was unbelievable, the amount
of publicity we got," she said. "There's been a lot
of business from people from out of town who come in
to see where they filmed the movie."
City officials say the reaction
they get during their travels around the state is pretty
similar. City Manager Michael Uskiewicz said a conference
he attended a few weeks ago provided more examples of
the city's new-found fame.
"They know something about Escanaba.
Because of the state-wide media coverage, people are
curious. They hear you're from Escanaba and say, 'Oh,
tell me about the movie,'" he said.
"It's opening doors of communication
with other people, it's made them interested in Escanaba,
and I think that's going to be a real benefit."
Mayor Gerald Shapy noted reaction
to city representatives at the last Michigan Municipal
League meeting was all positive. "A lot of people are
envious," he added.
The economics of the event are,
in many ways, just as enviable as the publicity. The
amount of money Purple Rose spent in the community has
been estimated at $700,000 to $1 million.
"I can imagine that it could
have been that," said Rose. "They stayed in hotels,
ate at restaurants, went out in the evenings when they
finished filming, had their lunches brought into them.
They moved into the community for a couple months."
"And they sure bought gasoline
at the most expensive time," she added.
Uskiewicz said economic theory
suggests that money will roll over five times before
it leaves the community.
Much of what was left in the
community, though, had more to do with good will than
it did economics.
"There's this myth about Hollywood
actors being arrogant and self-centered," said Rose.
"That was the furthest thing from reality with these
people. They were gracious visitors to the community,
they were appreciative, and generous in their donations,"
she added, citing the benefit held for the William Bonifas
Fine Arts Center in early February and the fact proceeds
from the local premiere will be split, largely, between
the Community Foundation for Delta County and the Wells
Sports Complex "Twice the Ice" campaign.
"They also didn't have to do
the film here in Michigan; they could've saved money
somewhere else," she said. "And that alone reinforces
the good feelings we had about them."
According to Escanaba's Mary
Anthony, who served as assistant to Executive Producer
Bob Brown, the decision to film here was just one step
in Purple Rose's plan to bring the film industry to
"It's just a small piece of what
Bob Brown and Jeff Daniels want to do in Michigan,"
she said, noting that the next step is to get the state
government to make filming a little more affordable.
As for this particular project,
she said what stands out in her memory is the way the
community reacted to it.
"Escanaba came through, as it
always does, to offer its hand in friendship, and do
what it could," she said. "I was so impressed and so
grateful to be a part of it."
However, she also said she's
looking forward to the end of this extremely hectic
part of the process:
"It will be nice to kick back
and watch it after this all settles down."
For some, the dust has already
settled. After a small army illuminated the woods near
Gladys and Einie Bittner's camp in an effort to capture
Reuben Soady's battle to bag his first buck on film,
the pair found themselves signing the occasional autograph.
As they watched a buck and two does wander into camp
while they ate dinner the other night, it likely became
apparent things in the Bark River area are pretty much
back to normal.
"It seems like, going back there
now, it's hard to believe all that commotion was going
on," said Einie
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says Escanaba is the
perfect place to film 'Moonlight'
ESCANABA - Good things are in store for Escanaba
over the next couple of months, according to the
executive producer of a movie to be filmed here.
Executive producer Bob Brown briefed the media
and guests Tuesday about what is ahead when "Escanaba
in da Moonlight" is filmed here. Brown and other
integral persons involved in the film held a press
conference at Escanaba City Hall.
"There are a lot of things that are going to happen
here that are going to affect us all in a very positive
way," said City Manager Mike Uskiewicz.
Brown and "Escanaba in da Moonlight" creator Jeff
Daniels decided to shoot in Michigan for many of
the same reasons they created the company which
will produce the movie. When the two initially got
together to form Purple Rose Films, they agreed
to stay in the state, do stories about Michigan
and use Michigan resources. When it came time to
find a place to shoot the film, according to Brown,
they realized they had to find a location in Michigan
for the sake of that philosophy.
"You can't play both sides of the fence," said
Brown, "either you're a Michigan-based company or
you're not. If this is really what we're trying
to do, then we've got to pay the price and we've
got to shoot in Michigan."
For Brown and Daniels, the price paid was twice
what it would have been if they had crossed the
boarder and filmed in Canada, according to Brown.
The lower cost is due to discounts and a subsidy
provided by the Canadian government.
Even after Purple Rose decided to film in Michigan,
Escanaba was not a shoe-in to be the main location.
The original plan was to film natural-beauty shots
in Escanaba and the rest of the movie in Traverse
City. According to Brown, they were hesitant to
do all the work here because they didn't know if
the city had all the necessary physical facilities.
However, within the first 90 minutes of their first
visit to town earlier this month, they decided Escanaba
should be the only locale.
"Jeff and I felt very strongly that Escanaba truly
is an unique city," said Brown, "and if we were
to do this film and the story justice, we really
did need to bring the whole movie up here."
Brown elicited a few muffled laughs when he got
a little more specific about the city's charm.
"I said to (Jeff), 'we've got to do it here. Look
at this downtown... you just can't fake this."
The dream became a reality when Brown and Daniels
found a suitable soundstage in which to shoot indoor
footage. According to Brown, it had everything -
quiet, size and heat. That facility will be located
in what once was Superior Health & Racquetball Club
on North 26th Street.
Most of the film will be shot at the soundstage.
However, some real-life locations will be utilized
as well, according to Brown. Among them are the
Michigan Theatre and a "local watering hole." It
is too early to release the name of the bar, said
Brown, but it's movie-name will be "The Porcelain
Other locations will include the real-life hunting
camp of Reinhold and Gladys Bittner of Bark River,
and the home of a yet-to-be-named Escanaba resident,
according to Brown.
"Everybody has been very, very warm, very generous,"
said Brown. "The folks in the community we've talked
to and dealt with, especially for locations, have
bent over backwards to do anything and everything
that they can."
According to Brown, the movie will be shot over
a 30-day period beginning Feb. 28. A crew of approximately
55 will film six days a week, 12 hours a day. Filming
should end April 1. The following months will be
dedicated to editing and other post-production work
and Brown hopes the movie will be "in the can" and
ready for release by Aug. 1.
Brown said the production budget is in excess
of $1 million. He added this would be money spent
locally. Once the movie is completed, said Brown,
it will hopefully be released domestically and worldwide.
"There are no guarantees, but that's our goal,"
said Brown. Due to Daniels' involvement and the
quality of the story, Brown said he was confident
it would happen.
"Escanaba in da Moonlight" will find its way to
the silver screen in an unusual way, according to
Brown. While most people have to sell their idea
before they can even begin shooting, Brown and Daniels
had raised their own money and didn't need to. That
allowed them to keep artistic control, said Brown.
When the film is finished, they will approach outsiders
for the first time to distribute it.
"What we intend to do," said Brown, "is shoot the
movie, get all the artistic elements behind us,
and then begin the full-court press for lining up
Whoever ends up distributing the film will be distributing
a story about "five Yoopers at a deer camp," said
Brown. Included among them are three members of
the Soady family. A son, Reuben, who will be played
by Daniels, struggles throughout the movie with
the fact he is a 43-year-old "Buckless Yooper."
The family patriarch, Albert Soady, will be played
by Harve Presnell, whose face will be familiar to
many. Presnell's recent movie roles include rich
father in-law Wade Gustafson in "Fargo" and Army
Chief George C. Marshall in "Saving Private Ryan."
The movie has some very diverse elements, said
Brown. He described some portions of it as "mystical
and magical." However, it boils-down to a somewhat-universal
"It's truly a love story," said Brown, "between
a man and a wife, and a father and brother supporting
the 'Buckless Yooper.'"
What will soon be a movie began as a play written
by Daniels and performed at his theatre in Chelsea,
Mich. According to Brown, it did extremely well
there and everywhere else it has been performed
throughout the country. The play is currently running
at the Gem Theatre in Detroit and stars three actors
who will also portray their characters in the movie.
Brown added the film will have a broader storyline
than the play, since film affords more freedom.
It's not too early to think about an Escanaba premiere
of the movie, said Brown. "We appreciate the uniqueness
of every community. Our vision would be to have
a premiere here and have it support some sort of
The movie will likely be rated PG-13, but it could
receive a PG rating, said Brown
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shows loyalty to
his home state
ESCANABA (AP) - Pssst. Here comes dat Reuben Soady.
Don't get too close - he's jinxed. Been huntin'
deer since he was knee-high to a gopher. Now he's
43 and still ain't bagged a buck. Dey call him ''Da
In the woods and small towns of Michigan's Upper
Peninsula - fondly dubbed ''the U.P.'' and its residents
''yoopers'' - chronic bucklessness is the worst
form of lucklessness.
To Michigan native Jeff Daniels, it's also fodder
for film. Five years after his ''Escanaba in da
Moonlight'' opened as a stage play in the Detroit
area, Daniels is making a movie about Reuben's struggle
to avoid setting the Soady family record for hunting
Daniels, whose screen credits over a 23-year career
include ''The Purple Rose of Cairo,'' ''Terms of
Endearment'' and ''Dumb and Dumber,'' is debuting
as a film director and also plays Reuben. He needs
to line up a distributor, but hopes the movie will
be in theaters later this year.
Crew members are filming scenes this month in and
around starstruck Escanaba, a shipping and factory
town of 13,600 on the northern shore of Lake Michigan.
''Who'd have ever thunk it, eh?'' jokes retired
logger Reinhold ''Einie'' Bittner, 75, whose primitive,
two-room hunting camp is where most of the outdoor
scenes were shot.
Adding to the fun, about three dozen residents
have been given roles as extras. Moviegoers will
see Rosy Cox, a wisecracking Texas native who moved
to Escanaba 13 years ago, pouring coffee in her
downtown diner and taunting poor ol' Reuben in a
''I told them they'd probably want some skinny
young thing instead of me, but they said, 'No, we
want you,''' Cox said, flipping burgers on the grill
during a recent lunchtime rush. ''My debut on the
silver screen! I'm just loving it.''
City Manager Mike Uskiewicz was chosen for a scene
in a bar - something about dancing and pool cues
and toilet paper rolls. He's been letting his beard
grow since casting officials instructed him to ''grub
''We're having fun with this. It's been a real
community morale booster,'' Uskiewicz said.
Not everyone is thrilled. Yoopers have long been
the target of country-bumpkin jokes, courtesy of
city slickers in Lower Michigan. Some worry that
a humorous film about deer camp will make them look
like, well, bumpkins.
''The U.P. is a well-kept secret ... probably the
last wholesome place in the United States to raise
a child,'' says Roxanne Schramm of Rapid River,
a village up the road from Escanaba where the bawdy
bar scene is being shot.
''We have the old values - courtesy, decency.
My biggest fear is that they'll mock all that.''
Lighten up, responds Daniels, a native of Chelsea
about 50 miles west of Detroit. People will realize
that ''Escanaba in da Moonlight'' is a parody, he
says. Besides, yoopers are known for self-deprecating,
''I defy anyone up here to look me in the eye and
tell me you've never told a two-holer joke,'' he
said in an interview. (For the uninitiated, a two-holer
is an outhouse with two seats.)
More importantly, he says, the funny business about
beer and bodily functions and the exaggerated ''yooperese''
dialect - ya know, sorta like dey talked in dat
''Fargo'' movie, eh? - are simply a backdrop for
the film's theme: Reuben's quest, with the help
of a loving family, to summon his courage and finally
bag that buck.
''If that's all the film were, me coming up here
with my Hollywood roots and making fun of people
and going away, I don't think the play would be
as successful as it's been and the film certainly
won't be,'' Daniels said. ''They really don't have
anything to worry about.''
Most folks don't seem too concerned. Nearly 1,000
braved near-zero temperatures for about five hours
for the filming of a crowd scene in which they repeatedly
taunt Reuben with chants of ''Buckless! Buckless!''
Some wear toy antlers on their heads or wave placards
reading ''Da Buckless Yooper'' and ''Bambi's Best
''Hey, it's a comedy, not a documentary,'' says
Rick Rudden, editor of the Daily Press of Escanaba,
which got into the spirit by inviting readers to
submit humorous deer-camp tales. ''We need to be
able to laugh at ourselves.''
Aside from a couple of films on Mackinac Island,
the only major motion picture shot anywhere in the
Upper Peninsula was ''Anatomy of a Murder,'' the
1959 courtroom drama set in Marquette County, says
Janet Lockwood, director of the state film office.
''Escanaba in da Moonlight'' is set in November
1989, the night before the opening day of hunting
season. Reuben has arrived at camp with his gruff
father, Albert (Harve Presnell), and half-witted
brother Remnar (Joseph Albright).
Reuben is desperate to avoid becoming the oldest
Soady never to get a buck. Even his Potawatomi Indian
wife, Wolf Moon Dance (Kimberly Norris Guerrero),
is a better shot.
Hoping to change his luck, Reuben unnerves his
superstitious kinsmen by altering longstanding camp
rituals. Instead, he triggers a series of bizarre
events. Things get even weirder with the arrival
of Jimmer Negamanee from Menominee (Wayne David
Parker), a wild-eyed backwoodsman once abducted
Jimmer's car bursts into flame and drives away
on its own; Albert's homemade ''sweet sap whiskey''
turns into syrup. A wildlife officer from the hated
Department of Natural Resources barges in to announce
he's seen God up on Soady Ridge. Finally, as an
otherworldly blast of light illuminates the ridge,
Reuben charges off alone for a climactic showdown
with his own fears.
While the surreal aspects of ''Escanaba in da Moonlight''
may be puzzling, veteran U.P. hunters will see much
that's familiar. Antlers, skins and old license
plates on the walls. Rickety bunk beds covered with
patchwork quilts. Rusty wood stove.
Not to mention off-color humor, drinking, card
games, hearty eating, and especially camaraderie
- all part of life at deer camp.
''You're out there with the guys, cooking your
own steaks and chili, getting up at 4 a.m. ... competing
to see who gets the best buck,'' says Mike Boyer,
co-owner of the Swallow Inn of Rapid River, where
the dirty-dancing bar scene is set.
Dave Theoret, another hunter, admits things can
get a bit rowdy: ''There is a lot of beer, but,
hey, you're not driving anywhere.''
Daniels says he treasures such earthy humor in
yooper culture and tries to convey in his story.
He's never hunted, but married a woman from Marquette
and once spent a long ''guy weekend'' at her family
He made friends and heard stories that helped inspire
the original ''Escanaba in da Moonlight,'' first
performed at his Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea
in 1995. It's still running at Detroit's Gem Theatre.
''You know what someone from the U.P. thinks about
something right away, and I find that very refreshing,''
''That honesty, that love of family and the land
... is really the heart and soul of the film."
Back to Top >>
All of the preceeding
stories were published by the Escanaba Daily Press before, during,
and after the shooting of
the movie. Thanks
to the staff at the Escanaba Daily Press.