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Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The SWINGERS lounge in a booth against the cork-paneled walls sipping cocktails. They watch Marty and Elayne, the resident lounge act, perform an off-key cover of “Staying Alive” on synth and upright bass. The '70s are alive and well here, but they’re starting to yellow around the edges.
-From Swingers by Jon Favreau
Perhaps no other film depicts the reality of young people chasing the Hollywood dream quite like 1996’s Swingers. The independent comedy known for coining such pop culture phrases as “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it,” and “Vegas, baby, Vegas!,” rejuvenated swing dancing and showed us what it was like for 20-somethings trying to establish themselves in the sprawling metropolis of L.A.
Mike, a struggling actor and comedian, played by Jon Favreau (who also wrote Swingers), has recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to try to make it in Hollywood. The sacrifice was moving away from his family and breaking up with his longtime girlfriend back in Queens. Unable to move on from the breakup, Mike is encouraged by his L.A. friends, including fast-talking actor Trent, played by Vince Vaughn, to get back out there and realize how “money” he is.
Doug Liman, the director of Swingers as well as blockbusters The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, tells the Weekly that because L.A. is made up of so many transplants, friends become family. “Everybody, including me, moved there from somewhere else,” says Liman, who now lives in New York. “I think there’s something that’s kind of special that happens socially when you have all these people who aren’t tied down, are away from home. Everybody has left their family behind, and suddenly Thanksgiving isn’t with grandparents and distant cousins; Thanksgiving is with a group of friends.”
Liman met Favreau, appropriately, because of a girl at a party. Favreau famously sold the screenplay of Swingers to his new friend for $1.
Swingers is mainly set around the nightlife of Hollywood – bars, parties in the hills, 24-hour coffee shops. “I’m somebody who maybe doesn’t appreciate L.A. by day, but once the sun goes down I think it’s a beautiful city,” Liman says.
A number of the places where Liman and Favreau hung out together, forming their friendship, were written into Swingers. An establishment where the struggling actor and director spent many a Wednesday evening is the only nightspot featured in the film that is not around today: The Derby, one of L.A.’s iconic live-music and dancing venues, located on the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue, closed in 2009. Favreau and Liman would often go there on “swing night” to hear bands such as Royal Crown Revue or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. In the late '90s, Swingers almost singlehandedly brought swing dancing back onto the scene in a big way, and the film’s two-volume soundtrack went gold.
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