SWINGERS IS ONE of those indie miracle babies: a movie that should have been born deformed, due either to its makers' poverty and inexperience or big-studio meddling--but instead emerges fat, shiny, and full of itself. It portrays a Hollywood that's just walking distance from reality, and a pack of doll-faced boys (unemployed actors by day) who lounge-hop, sport sharp gabardine getups, and try to talk to girls, but mostly talk to each other. And talk. Talk is the film's central element, a repetitive, stacatto jag of hand-picked slang and urgent ego-bolstering.
"I made it up. I made it up!" confesses writer/co-producer/star Jon Favreau in a recent interview. "Nobody talks like that." This 30-year-old film nut, cartoonist, and former fat kid from Queens (upholding the theory that most interesting people were nerds or fat kids) got his big break well past 25 with the film Rudy. "I thought I had made it. But you move [to L.A.] and you meet a bunch of other people who got their big break, and they're all just sorta hanging out--nothing's happening. And everybody's really depressed about all the rejection that's going on. That's what inspired Swingers."
Favreau, costar Vince Vaughn, and their friends tried to sell the script for two years, but everyone wanted to change it and use stars. Finally a friend, little-known director Doug Liman, offered to shoot it for next to nothing ($250,000). They shot in clubs during business hours, shot without permits, used regular lights and sensitive film in a hand-held camera, and even drove down the Vegas strip with a camera mounted on the car hood, blocking their vision. "There were chances with our safety. But we saved all the illegal stuff [for the end of the shoot]. We knew if we ended up in jail we'd have the film in the can," Favreau laughs. Vaughn proves himself a born movie star (this was his first major film role; his next is Jurassic Park 2), but Favreau is philosophical about his friend's onscreen dominance. "I put everything on the line to get Vince in the movie, so every scene he did well was like a victory for me. My feeling is, let everybody steal every scene from me. I just want the movie to come out good."
Next, Favreau will direct Vaughn in his own film, The Marshal of Revelation, a Western about a Hasidic Jewish gunfighter. He'll do it with more cash, too; tight budgets are not something he romanticizes. "Mostly, [not having money on Swingers] really got in the way. We were very lucky to get a film as good as we did. It could have just as easily been a piece of garbage. But when things are going your way, they go your way." (Kate Sullivan)