We’re always up for a Tom Berenger flick, but for this one we’re especially psyched. In American Dresser, Tom’s riding a Harley Davidson Electra Glide , because what else would you ride cross-country?
There seems to be some not-so-nice names for this fine machine, which piss us off: bagger, grocery getter, and geezer glide (the hot debate motors on at the Harley Davidson Forum). The name American Dresser ultimately wins the day, as does Tom’s character in the film. And we love ’em both.
“It’s a generic term for a pretty good size highway bike,” Tom says, “the one you take on long trips, with your tour box and your pack rolls and your rain gear. You can get as much as you possibly can in there, but you can have a comfortable ride for a long distance, so your kidneys are not all rattled.”
The kidneys survive, but the ride is a rattle-fest when it comes to making a decision to live your life in first gear. The tale follows John Moore (Tom), an alcoholic and recently widowed Vietnam vet. After hitting rock bottom, he picks himself up and pushes the choke in. From his home base on Long Island, he floors it cross-country. The goal is to uncover a long-kept secret that his late wife had kept from him for much of his marriage. His travel vehicle of choice: an American Dresser.
Is Tom in on the name debate, or is American Dresser acceptable?
“Once you heard it a bit, you say, yep, fine,” he says. “It’s just another noun.”
A Berenger movie is usually enough to get us watching, but American Dresser draws us in with even more top-drawer talent, including Keith David (Tom’s co-star from Platoon), Gina Gershon, Penelope Ann Miller and scene-stealer Bruce Dern. It’s a road picture, allowing the characters to explore both the micro and the macro.
The lesson (and it’s a good one): move forward, even if it’s one mile at a time. And all the while, with the help of helicopters and drones, the movie shows us breathtaking, sweeping scenes of America the (truly) beautiful.
“When you’re on a four-week schedule, you have to figure out how to do all that,” Tom says of capturing the cross-country feel. Most of the filming took place in Syracuse, NY, but Tom says, “We had a day or a day and a half of shooting in the apple orchards and out by the Finger Lakes. And we shot in downtown Sturgis [home of the famous motorcycle rally]. We shot riding in the Black Hills, riding on the Interstate, then out in the Badlands. We got some good footage of the prairies in between the Badlands and the Black Hills that you could use as generic prairie stuff in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Dakotas.”
Long rides like that leave time for plenty of soul searching. What’s been searching Tom’s soul these days?
“At my age, people older and younger than me — and even at the same age — are passing away,” he says. “That stuff always affects you.”
He was friends with Burt Reynolds, who had died just days before the interview. Tom says, “I knew him. We did two movies together. We got along great. We had dinner. I knew his son. He knew my kids. Together, we once threw a surprise birthday party for Rod Steiger. I sent flowers to him down in Florida when his dad passed away.”
As far as any roads yet to be traveled, Tom says, “I would love to stop doing what I’m doing and write a novel. Take things from my own life, but incorporate them in with the characters.”
A major character of the kickass variety could be Tom’s wife, Laura Moretti Moore, who happens to be a motorcycle fan. He says, “She’s like Steve McQueen’s little sister. She could probably take a bike apart and put it back together. I noticed that all of my male friends are real impressed by her.”
His own cycle history goes back a ways:
“I had a Honda CB450 when I was 21,” he says, “which is a big enough bike, but not as heavy as the one I had [in this movie]. This one was an Ultraglide. It was pretty loaded up and pretty heavy fare. Those bikes are real top heavy. So it takes a little getting used to. It’s could be terrible. It can spill it over when you’re going too slow.”
Hard to imagine the man who played Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes in Platoon to be taking a spill on any damn road. As an seasoned actor, Tom Berenger is good at balance, and extremely go-to for playing solid and unflappable. Hell, he was nominated for an Academy Award for that role in Platoon, which rightfully won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1986. Tom also won an Emmy in 2012 as an outstanding supporting actor in The Hatfields and the McCoys — “outstanding” pretty much sums up that performance. His list of credits are well known and beloved — now by generations of fans — including Major League, The Big Chill, Eddie & The Cruisers, Looking For Mr. Goodbar, Shoot To Kill, The Substitute and Sniper. Sounds like a weekend binge watch to us.
Of course, nothing better depicts Tom’s stoicism, winning smile and unshakable confidence better than the Close-Up Toothpaste TV commercial he filmed in the early 1970s, before he hit the Big Time.
In it, Tom is unwaivering in his conviction that Close Up will be the very strategy that will win his imbecile friend’s hopeless pursuit to impress a girl. The friend thinks the job could be done simply by purchasing a $55 cowboy hat. Tom, of course, advises him otherwise. Needless to say, the imbecile friend takes Tom’s advice and easily wins his girl. Tom is, once again, the unsung hero.
“I can’t believe that stuff is still out there,” Tom says of the classic commerical, and regarding the mysterious magic of YouTube. You can believe it, Tom, because this joint only makes us believe in you more.
Devour the trailer for American Dresser:
If you’re up for American Dresser, you’ll also love Chassy’s Indian Wrecking Crew, narrated by Jay Leno. After WWII, two brands would battle for supremacy in the early days of American motorcycle racing – Harley Davidson and Indian. Three men, Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill and Ernie Beckman, racing for the Indian team, endured lethal heat, exhaustion and barely any pay. In spite of all this, they regularly dominated the better-equipped Harley riders and were dubbed the Indian Wrecking Crew. Their battles across the dirt tracks of America would define the burgeoning sport of motorcycle racing for years to come.
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