For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “MOVIES” and go with Backdraft. This movie was released in 1991, and was one that my family loved! Having an uncle in the fire department really had it ring true for us and knowing what these amazing men and women go through each and every day. All of their heroism for people that they don’t even know, makes me always tip my hats to those that serve in any capacity. I remember years later, going to Universal Studios and going on the Backdraft “ride”…getting to see and feel the fire was always scary and exciting.
If, for some reason, you are of an age that makes it difficult to remember the Backdraft movie, here’s a preview of the movie that we all saw before it came out:
Did you ever watch the Backdraft movie when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV or Netflix later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Movie:
Backdraft is a 1991 American drama thriller film directed by Ron Howard and written by Gregory Widen. The film stars Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca De Mornay, Donald Sutherland, Robert De Niro, Jason Gedrick and J. T. Walsh. It is about the firefighters in Chicago on the trail of a serial arsonist who sets fires with a fictional chemical substance, trychtichlorate.
The film grossed $77,868,585 domestically and $74,500,000 in foreign markets, for a total gross of $152,368,585, making it the highest grossing film ever made about firefighters. The film received three Academy Award nominations. The film’s theme, “Show Me Your Firetruck”, by Hans Zimmer is also used as the theme for the U.S. broadcast of the hit Japanese cooking show Iron Chef.
Two firefighters of Engine 17 of the Chicago Fire Department, are brothers. Lt. Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey, the elder, is experienced, while Brian has labored under his brother’s shadow all his life. The younger brother returns to firefighting after a number of other careers falter, though Stephen has doubts that Brian is fit to be a firefighter. In 1971, Brian witnessed the death of their firefighting father, Captain Dennis McCaffrey, when he accompanied him on a call.
The longest serving of all the men at Engine 17, John “Axe” Adcox, served under the McCaffreys’ father in the department and was like an uncle to the boys when their father died. He attacks fires head on, but is concerned about Stephen’s unorthodox methods and disregard for safety procedures. Helen McCaffrey is Stephen’s estranged wife and the mother of their son, Sean. Helen has grown fearful of Stephen’s dedication to firefighting and the risks he takes. While they were still in love, she separated from Stephen to protect herself and Sean.
Martin Swayzak is an alderman on the Chicago City Council. Swayzak hopes to be elected mayor, but has had to make a number of budget cuts to the fire department. Many of the rank and file firemen believe that the cuts are endangering firefighters’ lives. Jennifer Vaitkus is Brian’s ex-girlfriend and works in Swayzak’s office. As she begins to reconnect with Brian, her loyalties are torn between her job and him.
CFD Captain Donald “Shadow” Rimgale is a dedicated arson investigator and veteran firefighter. He is called in because a number of recent fires appear to be like fires committed by pyromaniac Ronald Bartel, who has been imprisoned for many years. Brian is soon reassigned as his assistant after a falling out with Stephen. Rimgale manipulates Bartel’s obsession with fire to ensure Bartel’s annual parole application is rejected. It is revealed during an investigation that Swayzak was paid off by contractors to shut down firehouses so they could be converted into community centers, with the contractors receiving contracts for the construction.
When 17 answers a call in a high-rise, Stephen urges them to move in quickly to take out the fire despite Adcox’s advice to wait for back-up. Brian’s friend and fellow “probationary fireman” trainee Tim Krizminski, under Stephen’s wing, accidentally opens a door only to be met by a backdraft. His face is burned beyond recognition, but he survives. Adcox and Brian both blame Tim’s condition on Stephen’s reckless tactics.
Rimgale and Brian go to Swayzak’s home to confront him but interrupt a masked man about to set the place alight. The latter attacks them with a pipe but is burned by an electrical socket on his back. Rimgale saves both Brian and Swayzak from the house but is injured in an explosion. In his hospital bed, Rimgale tells Brian to visit Ronald again. Ronald helps Brian to realize that only a firefighter would be so careful to not let the backdraft fires rage out of control.
Brian initially suspects Stephen, though he later spots a burn in the shape of an electrical socket on Adcox’s back and reveals his suspicions to his brother just before an alarm. When Brian realizes Adcox has heard their exchange he jumps aboard Truck 46 after borrowing some turnout gear. Stephen confronts Adcox about the deadly backdrafts during a multiple-alarm fire at a chemical plant. Adcox admits that he set the fires to kill associates of Swayzak because Swayzak was benefiting from the deaths of firefighters. When an explosion destroys the catwalk they are on, Stephen grabs Adcox’s hand while hanging on to the remains of the catwalk. Adcox requests Stephen let go of him, but Stephen loses his grip on the catwalk. Adcox is killed and Stephen is mortally wounded. Brian, having been injured by Adcox, rushes to help other firefighters reach his brother. Stephen dies on the way to the hospital with Brian at his side, his final request being that Brian not reveal that Adcox was behind the fires.
After Stephen and Adcox’s funeral, Brian and Rimgale, with the help of the police, interrupt Swayzak at a press conference. Rimgale questions Swayzak on a fake manpower study that led to the deaths of several firemen, including Stephen and Adcox. They also state that Swayzak engineered the downsizing of the Chicago Fire Department along with Cosgrove, Seagrave and others. This effectively destroys Swayzak’s mayoral ambitions. Jennifer also loses her job with Swayzak.
Brian decides to continue as a firefighter despite the loss of his father and brother. The last scene involves him giving advice to a rookie firefighter on how to properly don his turnout coat as Stephen once did for him as Engine 17 races to a fire.
Some of the Characters:
Kurt Russell (Stephen ‘Bull’ McCaffrey) was born March 17, 1951 in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Louise Julia (Crone), a dancer, and actor Bing Russell (Neil Oliver Russell). He is of English, German, Scottish, and Irish descent. Russell landed a part in the Elvis Presley movie, It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963), when he was 10 years old. In 1960, Walt Disney himself signed Russell to a 10-year contract. Once his stint as a child actor ended, he spent the early 1970’s playing minor league baseball. In 1979, he gave a classic performance as Elvis Presley in John Carpenter’s A.B.C. TV movie. He followed with roles in a string of well-received films: Used Cars (1980), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982) and Silkwood (1983). In 1983, he became reacquainted with Goldie Hawn (who appeared with him in The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)) when they worked together on Swing Shift (1984). The two have lived together ever since. The movie was a failure – as was their next one together, Overboard (1987). During the 1980’s, Russell starred in a rash of disappointments: The Best of Times (1986), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and Winter People (1989). Finally, his career seemed to be seriously stalled. He only landed Tango & Cash (1989) after Patrick Swayze dropped out; Dennis Quaid was the first choice for the part in Backdraft (1991). In the end, these two roles were the key in reestablishing him as a box-office draw. Russell and Goldie Hawn live on a 72-acre retreat, Home Run Ranch, outside of Aspen. He has two sons, Boston Russell (from a brief marriage to actress Season Hubley) and Wyatt Russell (with Goldie Hawn).
William Baldwin (Brian McCaffrey) was born on February 21, 1963 in Massapequa, Long Island, New York, USA as William Joseph Baldwin. His father was a high school history/social studies teacher and football coach. He is the brother of actors Alec, Daniel, and Stephen, sometimes collectively known as the Baldwin brothers, and of sisters Beth and Jane, all together known as the Baldwin family. Baldwin was raised in a Catholic family, and has English, Irish, Scottish, French, and German ancestry. A graduate of Alfred G. Berner High School and Binghamton University, where he was a varsity wrestler, he has a degree in political science. He is an actor and producer, known for Backdraft (1991), The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Flatliners (1990). He has been married to Chynna Phillips since September 9, 1995. They have three children. Baldwin splits his time between an estate in Santa Barbara, California and another in Bedford Corners, New York (30 minutes away from his brother Stephen’s estate in Nyack, New York).
Robert DeNiro (Donald ‘Shadow’ Rimgale), thought of as one of the greatest actors of all time, was born August 17, 1943 in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City, to artists Virginia (Admiral) and Robert De Niro Sr. His paternal grandfather was of Italian descent, and his other ancestry is Irish, German, Dutch, English, and French. He was trained at the Stella Adler Conservatory and the American Workshop. He first gained fame for his role in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973), but he gained his reputation as a volatile actor in Mean Streets (1973), which was his first film with director Martin Scorsese. In 1974 De Niro received an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role in The Godfather: Part II (1974) and received Academy Award nominations for best actor in Taxi Driver (1976), The Deer Hunter (1978), and Cape Fear (1991). He won the best actor award in 1980 for Raging Bull (1980). De Niro heads his own production company, Tribeca Film Center, and made his directorial debut in 1993 with A Bronx Tale (1993).
Donald Sutherland (Ronald Bartel) is a towering presence from Canada. Actor Donald Sutherland is often noticed, as are his legendary contributions to cinema. He has appeared in almost 200 different shows and films. He is also the father of renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland, among others. Donald McNichol Sutherland was born July 17, 1935 in Saint John, New Brunswick, to Dorothy Isobel (McNichol) and Frederick McLea Sutherland, who worked in sales and electricity. He has Scottish, as well as German and English, ancestry. Sutherland worked several different jobs – he was a radio DJ in his youth – and was almost set on becoming an engineer after graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in engineering. However, he also graduated with a degree in drama, and he chose to abandon becoming an engineer in favor of an actor. Recently, he has joined forces with his son Rossif Sutherland with the new comedy The Con Artist (2010), as well as acting alongside Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum in the sword-and-sandal film The Eagle (2011). Sutherland has also taken a role in the remake of Charles Bronson’s film The Mechanic (1972). Donald Sutherland has made a lasting legacy on Hollywood, whether portraying a chilling and horrifying villain, or playing the older respectable character in his films. A true character actor, Sutherland is one of Canada’s most well-known names and will hopefully continue on being so long after his time.
Scott Glenn (John ‘Axe’ Adcox) was born January 26, 1941, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth and Theodore Glenn, a salesman. As he grew up in Appalachia, his health was poor; he was bedridden for a year and doctors predicted he would limp for the rest of his life. During long periods of illness, Glenn was reading a lot and “dreaming of becoming Lord Byron”. He challenged his illness by intense training programs and eventually got rid of his limp. Glenn entered William and Mary College where he majored in English. He spent three years in the Marines and then tried to combine his passion for storytelling with his passion for adventures by working for five months as a criminal reporter at the Kenosha Evening News. Glenn planned to become an author but found out he had “problems with dialogs”, so he decided to overcome it by studying acting. In 1966, he headed to New York where he joined George Morrison acting class. He helped in directing student plays to pay for his studies and appeared onstage in La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club productions. Soon after arriving in New York, Glenn became a fan of martial arts. In 1968, he joined The Actors Studio and began working in professional theater and TV. In 1970, James Bridges offered him his first movie work in The Baby Maker (1970). Continuing into the 21st century, Glenn has also appeared in Training Day (2001), W. (2008) (as Donald Rumsfeld), Secretariat (2010), Sucker Punch (2011), The Paperboy (2012), and two of the Bourne films: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and The Bourne Legacy (2012).
Did You Know?
Kurt Russell, Kevin Casey, Scott Glenn, and William Baldwin did a lot of their own stunts, and the Stunt Coordinator Walter Scott was so impressed by their performances, that he credited them as stunt performers in the credits.
Robert De Niro’s character, Don Rimgale, is a real arson investigator with the Chicago Fire Dept’s Office of Fire Investigation. Don Rimgale also appears in the movie.
The iconic promotional image of the fireman’s silhouette emerging from a fiery doorway appears on Firefighter License Plates issued in the state of California.
The film’s screenwriter, Gregory Widen, was a firefighter for three years before becoming a screenwriter. The film is based on the death of a friend in an actual backdraft.
The photos of firefighters seen on the walls of the investigators office are of the Los Angeles Country fire fighters who were on scene during the filming of the fire scenes as a precautionary measure.
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