BetteBack November 30, 1991: Bette Midler says she got what she wanted in ‘For the Boys’

Kokomo Tribune
November 30, 1991


BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.Bette Midler says she got what she wanted with her new movie “For the Boys.”

“It looks great, it’s well acted, it has beautiful music in it, it has laughs, it has tears, it has dance, it has an idea at its core,” says Midler, who stars with James Caan.

The film, directed by Mark (“On Golden Pond”) Rydell, is co-produced by Midler, Bonnie Bruckheimer and Margaret South, the trio who also produced “Beaches.”

Midler shows almost motherly pride in “For the Boys,” the story of a singer named Dixie Leonard who joins a popular comedian-song-and-dance man named Eddie Sparks (Caan) on a World War II USD tour, thus launching a longlasting show-business partnership.

The script is a; Hollywood anomaly, Midler says. The screenplay was written by Neal Jimenez and Lindy Laub, with fine-tuning by Marshal Brickman.

Midler, 45, worked with director Rydell on her first starring film, “The Rose.” Caan, 51. has worked with Rydell on two other pictures, “Cinderella Liberty” and “Harry and Walter Go to New York.”

The chemistry of friendship can go a long way in making a film, work, Caan says.

‘ ‘You don’t sleepwalk through 25 years; hopefully, you learn a little something,” says Caan, whose credits include “Funny Lady,” “Chapter Two,” “Gardens of Stone” and “Alien Nation.”

“To me, the greatest luxury of being successful is being able to pick and choose who you work with. If it can be friends, great. “This picture really typified – not to be corny – but it was such a major team thing. To me it was like a great symphony orchestra, where we had the string section, a brass section and the percussion and a great orchestra leader, Mark. If one of them were not there, it wouldn’t work.”

Rydell was the one who suggested Caan.

“Mark and I go back a long ways, and we’re good friends, not just in working conditions but off-screen also, which is a major plus,” says Caan. “With Mark, I don’t have to mince my words and think, like, ‘OK, how do I say this without sounding pretentious?’

“If I want to say, ‘Hey Mark, this stinks; I don’t think this is right,’ I can just go in and say it.

And then he goes, ‘You’re right’ or ‘You’re wrong’ or whatever.

We’re friends like that. He knows where I’m comin’ from. I know where he’s comin’ from. We’re all lookin’for the same end.”

Midler and Caan get to age 50 years during the course of the story, a process Midler found “liberating.” But though she and her co-producers have been developing the film for about seven years, she now says she’s glad they weren’t able to get it together earlier.

“I think I needed the age, I really do,” says Midler, whose daughter, Sophie, is now a schoolgirl. “I think I needed the experience. I wouldn’t say that I was the wisest person in the world, but I think I’m a little wiser than I was.

Caan says he had no trepidation about making the film, not even knowing that his co-star was also his producer and that many people consider “For the Boys” to be a Midler vehicle.

“It was not even close to being that,” says Caan, who held his own against another formidable female, Oscar winner Kathy Bates, in last year’s smash “Misery” after a long absence from the screen.

“This was the longest picture I ever did. Most of the time, it’s just a question of when it happens – it could happen in the middle of the picture, towards the end – you go, ‘aw, Christ, when is this thing gonna be over?’ You start countin’ the days. But this, oddly enough, was, like, really an act of love. It was a lot of fun.”

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