Chapter Three
   The shooting of Xanadu began September 18, 1979, primarily in and around the Los Angeles area. Key scenes of the film were
filmed at locally revered LA landmarks such as Paradise Park (
the park scene where Kira first “bumps” into Sunny) and the Main Street
district in Santa Monica (
the van riding scene), an unknown corner in an old outdoor mall in Burbank (Platinum Palace), Malibu Pier in
Malibu (
Sonny diving off the pier) and Venice Beach and it’s famous boardwalk (pretty much any scene with a lot of skates). Even the
Foirucci store, where
All Over The World number was filmed, was housed in the first theatre built in Beverly Hills.

   The club itself was filmed at two locations. The exterior was another old LA landmark, the
Pan Pacific Auditorium. The Auditorium
was built in 1935 and quickly became a popular venue for large concerts and sporting events; it was one of the stopovers utilized by
Elvis Presely during his first appearances in LA. The Pan Pacific was closed down in 1972 and was for a moment forgotten. It would
be declared a local landmark due largely to its architectural Art Deco design; it was a prime example of Streamline Modern design that
was so prevalent though out the 20’s and 30’s, particularly it’s front entrance. For this reason, Xanadu’s producers chose to use the
Pan Pacific’s facade as the exterior of Xanadu for the film. This area is located next to LA landmark Farmers Market which is on the
corner of Fairfax and Beverly Blvd.
   Xanadu’s interior was built in Studio 4 of the Hollywood General Studios (then the home of
France Ford Coppola’s Omini Zeotrope); it took roughly three months to build the mammoth two-
story set. Its design was in keeping with the architectural look of the Pan Pacific exterior.

   Another integral aspect of the film’s design and plot was the mural that the muses first leap
out of and danced at the start of the film. Many believed that the mural was actually in Venice
Beach. Well, yes...and no. First, the mural was painted and photographed at the studio and was
superimposed over still photos of the end of Dudley Avenue facing the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
   A last minute re-write suggested an animated sequence depicting the
love developing between Kira and Sonny. The job was hastily handed to
Don Bluth, an animation producer/director who had made his reputation
working for the Disney Studios; among Bluth’s credits were
The
Rescuers
and Pete’s Dragon. By the late 70’s, Bluth had parted company
with Disney and was attempting to establish his own studio with a
handful of fellow dissident Disney ex-staffers.
Xanadu would be the
second major undertaking of the small fledgling animation house as
they had just started on their first movie,
The Secret Of N. I. H. M. In order
to save some money for his little studio, Bluth ended up animating the
entire scene on tracing paper by himself and had his staff xerox it on
plastic animation cells and paint them.

   The special effects were handled by R/Greenburg Associates in New
York City. Before Xanadu, the company was doing commercial and
industrial film work, well as assembling movie commercials and trailers
(
Alien and Empire Strikes Back being their early clients). Then the
company expanded into traditional SFX, bucking the Hollywood tradition
of all SFX studios were located in L. A. Their first major SFX break came
when they were assigned to design and execute the opening and
closing credits of ‘
Superman’. From there, they ended up with projects
for ‘
Flash Gordon’, ‘Altered States’ and ‘Xanadu’. This outfit was the first
to develop a ‘slit wipes’ effect that was used to fade in and out between
scenes as seen in
Xanadu.
   During the production of Xanadu, Roger Ebert visited the set for an article on Gene Kelly. When Roger asked
Greenwald what Xanadu was all about, Robert quickly described it was an “Art Deco Musical Fantasy”. When
asked if ‘Xanadu’ might be a “gigantic disco”, Greenwald quickly denied it, “No! This is not a disco movie. The
interior will be an Art Deco….ah, environment.”

   Greenwald then offered his reason why musicals are popular again after years of neglect: “Several reasons.
One is that the Broadway stage musical does not necessarily reach the same contemporary audience as
popular recording artists do. Another is that since movie budgets in general are crazy these days, musicals
aren’t so prohibitive.”

   When Ebert finally got around interviewing Kelly, he addressed the same musical revival question from his
more experienced view. “One great reason was economics: You were gambling a great deal of money on
untried material and untested songs. You need somebody like Olivia Newton-John, who has a certain return
on her record sales, who is an important musical personage, who’s known on television….”

   While touring the hollowed empty building of the Pan Pacific, Gene continues his theory. “There hasn’t been
the need for it: Starting with Elvis and his discovery of black music, the new musical trends have all been on
records, not in the movies. Groups like the Beatles, that kind of young music predominates.” He concludes,
“That why I like
Xanadu. It’s the same kind of young music.”

   With all this activity flying everywhere during filming, there was one persistent problem that remained: the
script. As Greenwald recalls: “I remember very clearly getting this script. It was 45 pages. It was weak to be very
polite about it and I said ‘Oh, I guess they’ll fix it.’ Well, low and behold, the script never got fixed. It became
longer than 45 pages, but it never got fixed, even though they were many writers working on it many different
hours of the day, night and weeks. ”

   The endless amount of script revisions plagued the production almost on a regular basis. The basic plot
and characters remained, but large bits of dialog and major scenes were being revamped or replaced over
and over again. According to an article on Joel Silver that appeared in
Première magazine, there was an
unconfirmed story that at one point, he locked
Xanadu’s screenwriters in their offices until they concocted a
rewrite of the entire script. Naturally, rumors like this did little to dispel the in creasing scuttlebutt around
Hollywood that the Xanadu project was on thin ice.
    Then, the director was dissatisfied with the music that was submitted by
Jeff Lynne. He was told to re-record the songs again
WITH the ELO
members. It was also decided that the ELO crest and name would be used
to help sell the soundtrack. Barry DeVerizon (
best known for the 1976
instrumental top 40 hit Nadia’s Theme
) would later replace the bulk of Lynne’
s score, though Lynne’s score can still be heard in the extended
introduction to
I’m Alive and the loud outré under the cast credits just before
Xanadu is played over the ending credits.
(#4)

   ...and if THAT wasn’t enough, the original release date for Xanadu was
moved from December to August 1980. So, it seems that the film’s
production team was less than thrilled; these disruptive incidents
undoubtedly influenced the moral and, possibly, the final result on the film.
This didn’t count a brief lawsuit over a “stolen” dance step that even
included John Farrar. Undaunted, all those involved collectively kept their
chins up and forged ahead to finish the film and soundtrack on time.
   However, when the whole frantic production officially wrapped up (Ortega: “You just kept sculpturing and bringing in different
elements until you finally found there’s no more money, no more time and I can’t find anything more, so okay, this is it.”
), there was
something missing. During the very early publicity junket for the movie, the producers realized that what everybody wanted wasn’t in the
movie and that was a number between Gene and Olivia. After much pleading, Gene, who was by now disappointed by the way the
movie was made and terminated his end of the contract, begrudgingly agreed to come back but had made one firm condition: a closed
set with only Gene, Olivia, Ortega, the camera operator and the director of photography. In the end,
Whenever You’re Away From Me
was the last scene to be filmed.

   When the dust finally settled and the film was finally assembled, all that remained was to sell the film to the public. Whatever
shortcomings
Xanadu might be faulted for, certainly the publicity machinery would be running on all cylinders...
RIGHT:
between shots of the
Whenever You're Away From Me
number
ABOVE: Set photos and a tad
belower,
Don Bluth's roughs from
the Don't Walk Away number
ABOVE: some
Xanadu SFX
stills from
R/Greensburg
sale brochure.
ABOVE: a still from a deleted scene. Sonny meets Danny at
Dodger Stadium just before their first arrival at the Pan Pacific
Chapter Four
Story home