Heathers

Winona Ryder as: Veronica Sawyer
Directed by: Michael Lehmann
Written by: Daniel Waters
Other cast: Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker
Release date: March 31th, 1988
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Running time: 103min

Three high school girls named Heather run an iron clad social clique at high school. One of their anointees, Veronica, isn't sure she wants to fit into the clique, particularly when she has to snub some of her old friends at the Heathers' behest. When Veronica meets the new guy at school, she starts pulling away from the clique, while some of the more popular students start showing up dead with suicide notes.

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The film brought director Michael Lehmann and producer Denise Di Novi the 1990 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Daniel Waters also gained recognition for his screenplay, which won a 1990 Edgar Award. Despite its high critical praise, the film was not a big hit in the box office but went on to become a cult classic, with high rentals and sales business. In 2006, it was ranked #5 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the “50 Best High School Movies” and in 2008, it was ranked #412 on Empire’s list of “The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time”.

Winona received a nomination at Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and another one at Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress.



Theatrical Trailer

Productions

Development

Daniel Waters wanted his screenplay to go to director Stanley Kubrick, not only out of profound admiration for Kubrick but also from a perception that “Kubrick was the only person that could get away with a three-hour film”. (The cafeteria scene opening Heathers was written as an homage to the barracks scene opening Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.) After a number of failed attempts to get the script to Kubrick made Waters realize the futility of the enterprise, he decided to give the script to Michael Lehmann, who then took it on with Denise Di Novi.

Casting

Many actors and actresses turned down the project because of its dark subject matter. Early choices for Veronica and J.D. were Jennifer Connelly, who turned down the role, Justine Bateman and Brad Pitt. Pitt auditioned for the role of J.D. but the filmmakers rejected him because they thought he came across as “too nice” and therefore would not be credible. Winona Ryder, who was sixteen at the time of filming and badly wanted the part, begged Waters to cast her. Eventually she was given the role with Christian Slater being signed shortly thereafter. Heather Graham, then seventeen, was offered the part of Heather Chandler but turned it down. Kim Walker, who was dating Slater at the time, was offered the role instead. Graham was then cast as Heather McNamara, but her mother wouldn’t allow her to accept the role, so Lisanne Falk was given the role instead.

Filming

Principal photography took place over 32 days in July and August 1988. It was completely filmed in Los Angeles, California.

Trivia & Facts

  • Friends Veronica Sawyer and Betty Finn are named after other fictional friends Veronica and Betty from the comic strip “Archie”, and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
  • The high school is named “Westerburg High”. Winona Ryder’s favorite band at the time was “The Replacements”, whose lead singer is named Paul Westerberg.
  • Westerburg High in reality is John Adams Middle School.
  • Originally, the book that suicidal students supposedly underline “meaningful” passages from was “The Catcher in the Rye”. The producers could not get clearance to use this book and it was changed to “Moby Dick” instead.
  • When Heather Duke gathers signatures for the Big Fun petition, one of the students stamps his name: Dennis Di Novi. This is a reference to the film’s producer, Denise Di Novi.
  • The radio call-in show “Hot Probs” featured in the movie is a version of the now nationally famous KROQ radio show “Loveline”, and the radio DJ in the movie is James ‘Poorman’ Trenton, the creator and original host of “Loveline”.
  • Veronica’s bedroom was built in the gym of the school they used in the film.
  • Heather Duke’s kitchen in the dream sequence was also the kitchen used for Heather Chandler’s house. They just switched the colors and lit it differently.
  • The book on the glass table that Heather Chandler fatally smashes through is a copy of Cliff Notes for “The Bell Jar”.
  • The hotel imploded on TV in the movie is the Hotel King Cotton in Memphis, Tennessee which was destroyed 29 April 1984.
  • At the beginning of the film Heather Chandler asks Heather Duke “did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?” The actress who played Heather Chandler, Kim Walker later died of a brain tumor.
  • The first day of filming took place on Ash Wednesday and the first scene filmed was the croquet game that took place after J.D. fires his gun in the cafeteria.
  • The film’s first scene was actually the last one to be shot. By that time, Lisanne Falk had cut her hair and had to wear a wig.
  • The name Heather is said 90 times throughout the film.
  • The closeups of Veronica’s legs was filmed with a body double.

Quotes: Character

  • “Watch it Heather, you might be digesting food there.”
  • “It’s one thing to want someone out of your life, but it’s another thing to serve them a wake-up cup full of liquid drainer. “
  • “What is your damage, Heather? “
  • “My parents wanted to move me into high school out of the sixth grade, but we decided to chuck the idea because I’d have trouble making friends, blah, blah, blah. Now blah, blah, blah is all I ever do. I use my grand IQ to decide what color lip gloss to wear in the morning and how to hit three keggers before curfew… “
  • “[writing in diary] Betty Finn was a true friend and I sold her out for a bunch of Swatch dogs and Diet Coke heads. Killing Heather would be like offing the wicked witch of the west… wait east. West! God! I sound like a fucking psycho. “
  • “Dear Diary: Heather told me she teaches people “real life.” She said, real life sucks losers dry. You want to fuck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly. I said, so, you teach people how to spread their wings and fly? She said, yes. I said, you’re beautiful. “

Quotes: Miss Ryder

  • To me Veronica was a sort of Humphrey Bogart role, a part for a forty-eight-year-old man. But it’s taking place in high-school, and lines like “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw”, coming out of a sixteen year old mouth, that was really a strange thing.
    Winona about Veronica
  • Now when I’m faced with any sort of decision, I think, what would Veronica do? And it’s kind of screwing me up because the answers are usually to do with killing somebody.
    Winona about Veronica

Quotes: Other

  • Noni was offered 9000 light comedy feelgood hits of the summer movies, and she chose one where she kills all her friends. Winona is a pure-at-heart person who knows that the darkness is all around her. She brings to light that there is truth and love even in the darkest impulses. She’ll call me up and say “I wrote another script” like “I did another load of laundry”.
    Robert Downey, Jr. about Noni
  • She can play the unsympathetic or ambivalent part, and the audiences hang with her. I tease her that she’s like a witch. Her instincts are so good , it’s almost creepy. From her first film to her last, you look at her and say: “There’s a real movie star”.
    Denise DiNovi
  • She’s a wild woman to work with.
    Christian Slater

Promoting the Movie

Winona and Christian Slater attended together the 1989 Academy Awards.