|Honky Tonk Freeway|
UK DVD Cover
|Directed by||John Schlesinger|
|Produced by||Don Boyd
|Written by||Edward Clinton|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein
Honky Tonk Freeway Company
|Distributed by||Associated Film Distribution|
|21 August 1981|
Honky Tonk Freeway is a 1981 comedy film directed by John Schlesinger. The film, conceived and co-produced by Don Boyd, was one of the most expensive box office flops in history, losing its British backers Thorn-EMI an estimated $11,000,000 and profoundly affecting its fortunes and aspirations. The film was financed in part by accountant Roy Tucker's tax avoidance schemes funded by the Rossminster banking group.
In a small Florida tourist town named Ticlaw, the Mayor/Preacher Kirby T. Calo (William Devane) also operates a hotel and tiny wildlife safari park. The town's major draw is a water-skiing elephant named Bubbles.
When the state highway commission builds a freeway adjacent to the town, Calo slips an official $10,000 to assure an off ramp. The ramp doesn't come, so the townsfolk literally paint the town pink to attract visitors.
Meanwhile, tourists from various parts of the United States, shown in a series of concurrent, ongoing vignettes, are heading to Florida and will all end up in Ticlaw, one way or another. They include a pair of bank robbers from New York (George Dzundza, Joe Grifasi) who pick up a cocaine-dealing hitchhiker (Daniel Stern); a Chicago copy machine repairman (Beau Bridges), who picks up a waitress (Beverly D'Angelo), who is carrying her deceased mother's ashes to Florida; a dentist and his dysfunctonal family (Howard Hesseman, Teri Garr, Peter Billingsley, and Jenn Thompson), vacationing cross-country in their RV; an elderly woman (Jessica Tandy) with a drinking problem and her loving husband (Hume Cronyn), who are heading to Florida to retire; two nuns (mother superior Geraldine Page, novice nun Deborah Rush); and a wannabe country songwriter (Paul Jabara) hauling a playful rhino and other wild animals to Ticlaw.
This movie was filmed in the small central Florida town of Mount Dora. The off-ramp filming took place at the I-75 and Palmer Road overpass in Sarasota. Most of the highway scenes take place on I-75 between Sarasota and Ft Myers while the highway was still under construction. Dynamite crews blew up a wooden bridge built to look like the southbound lane overpass at I-75 and Palmer Road before the Tampa to Miami leg of the highway was completed in 1981. Many portions of Fruitville were painted pink to match the sets in Mount Dora and remained pink for decades afterward. Palmer Road was never designated for an I-75 exit because it is not a main thoroughfare. The exit for Fruitville is about two miles north of the filming location.
The overriding question about EMI's Honky Tonk Freeway is why anyone should want to spend over $25m. on a film as devoid of any basic humorous appeal ... [Its] long-term commercial appeal appears to be almost nil.
The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "You're Crazy, But I Like You."