Being A Very Brief and Sketchy Description of the Events Leading Up to Times Square

The Times Square Press Materials packet puts it this way:

"Times Square" first began to take shape early in 1979 when film director Alan Moyle invited screenwriter Jacob Brackman and singer-actor Tim Curry to the 42nd Street loft in New York City which he shared with writer Leanne Unger above a sleazy movie house on "The Deuce," the infamous strip of theaters and porno attractions between 7th and 8th Avenues. Moyle's latest project had whisked him from his native Montreal to 42nd Street, where he was entranced by its vitality and people. Brackman agreed to flesh out a screenplay from an original story by Moyle and Unger, and Curry made a commitment to enact the key role of a disc jockey who would figure prominently in the story of two teenage runaways in Times Square.

Moyle's original intention--making a "little independent film"--evolved into a major screen event, complete with the closing off of 42nd Street's "Deuce" for a never-before-attempted sequence, courtesy of Robert Stigwood. The Australian entrepreneur, whose RSO entertainment empire includes hit theatrical productions, recordings, television programs and feature films, decided to make the film the very first day he read the screenplay.

There is of course actually more to it. The story is told better by Robin Johnson and Allan Moyle themselves on the Times Square DVD commentary track. But while you're waiting for your copy to arrive...

In late 1978, Moyle and Unger bought a secondhand sofa for their Times Square loft. Hidden beneath the cushions, they found a notebook, full of the writings of an apparently disturbed teenage runaway girl. Poems and doodles and lists of how many cigarettes she'd smoked that day, stuff like that. They immediately became infatuated with the notebook's anonymous author, and knew she'd be a perfect character for a movie. And of course, they were living in the middle of a perfect setting for a teen runaway movie.

They quickly worked up a story, and developed a full treatment entitled "She's Got The Shakes," even giving it a cover with a drawing of their teen runaway wearing a pair of headphones. This is probably what sold Brackman and Curry on the project.

Brackman's screenplay divided the one girl into two. They quickly realized that the success of the film turned on the casting of these two roles. Stigwood saw a publicity opportunity, and a nationwide talent search ensued: 3,000 girls in cities across the U.S. answered ads placed in hip magazines and flyers posted everywhere.

The final result of the massive search saw professionally trained Trini Alvarado cast as Pamela... For the demanding central role of Nicky, Moyle intended to cast an established, slightly older actress.

ZoŽ Lund came very close to being cast, and her Times Square audition photos in fact won her the lead role in Ms. 45. 1

But, in one of those inexplicable chance occasions, out of the blue, Robin Johnson appeared. She had been given the casting director's number while standing on the steps of her high school in Brooklyn. An exceptionally bright, well-adjusted student, Robin certainly didn't fit Moyle's preconceived notions of what his Nicky was going to be. But with her raspy, husky Brooklyn style of vocalizing, a quick-witted sense of humor and total lack of pretense, she stunned and charmed not only the director but producer Robert Stigwood as well....

Filming on "Times Square" began in October 1979 with the company in a race against winter weather.

Robin Johnson was given a crash course in acting, as well as a crash course in acting like a rock star from David Johansen.

And then...

"Once again, a script has offered a unique opportunity to marry film and music," producer Stigwood said.

Fresh from the successes of Saturday Night Fever and Grease, and the not-exactly-a-success of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Robert Stigwood Organization had learned an important economic lesson: it didn't matter whether the film was any good... the money was all in the soundtrack album. They started demanding Moyle make changes in the film to make it more accessible to a wider audience, and to accomodate more music, some of which was appropriate, some not, so the soundtrack could be a double album set. Violent and sexual overtones were removed, major continuity problems were created, and as it became obvious that RSO's intent was to produce a 90-minute commercial for the soundtrack album, Moyle refused to make any further changes, and was summarily fired. Production was completed without him. Pammy and Nicky - Mediascene Prevue Vol 2 No 2, Sep-Oct 1980, p 16

By August 1980, the publicity machine was in high gear...

Newsflash, dateline 1980!
Moyle says Stigwood didn't want Robin to play the big part!
Times Square isn't a "punk" movie, and has no message!
The soundtrack will feature Tom Petty's Refugee!
All this and more, in the Sept/Oct Prevue!

Home                       Next: Times Square