Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Light Of Day Press Kit, 1987

The following is the original text and photos from Tri-Star Pictures' Press Kit for "Light Of Day" sent to media outlets in 1987:

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Production Notes

"And I got a little lost along the way, But I'm just around the corner to the light of day" -- Bruce Springsteen

Along the way, life's been no bed of roses for 23-year-old Joe Rasnick and his older sister, Patti. They've had some pretty hard knocks, hard times and hard feelings.

And then there's hard rock -- the power, the energy, the redemption that pumps through their veins each time they take the stage. They dream of better days, happier times. And it's the music that keeps the dream alive.

By day, Joe is a worker at one of Cleveland's many pressed metal plants; at night, he plays guitar with the Barbusters, a rock and roll group he formed with Patti, who fronts the band.

They share a tract house with Patti's illegitimate 4-1/2-year-old son Benji, Patti has never revealed the identity of the boy's father, much to the dismay of their mother, Jeanette, who has never forgiven her daughter for keeping the secret.

A loving son, devoted brother and surrogate father, Joe is the peacemaker who struggles to keep the family together. Ultimately, however, his sister's rebelliousness and his mother's rigidity intensify to the point at which only a sudden, unexpected tragedy can heal the scars of a family torn apart.

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A Tri-Star Pictures release, LIGHT OF DAY is a Taft Entertainment Pictures/Keith Barish Productions Presentation written and directed by Paul Schrader. A contemporary drama with music set against the backdrop of the bar bands in the Midwest, the film's title comes from a new song written for the film by Bruce Springsteen.

Michael J. Fox stars as Joe Rasnick. Singer Joan Jett makes her motion picture debut as his sister Patti. Gena Rowlands and Jason Miller portray their parents, Jeanette and Benjamin Rasnick, and Michael McKean co-stars as Bu, Joe's best friend and bass guitarist of The Barbusters.

Director (Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo, Cat People and Mishima) and writer (The Yakuza [shared credit], Obsession [shared credit], Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder [shared credit], Old Boyfriends [shared credit], Raging Bull [shared credit] and The Mosquito Coast) Paul Schrader characterizes LIGHT OF DAY as "a heartland American film about American families and the birth of the individual; basically a grassroots story in the American tradition of family drama, set against a backdrop of rock and roll."

The casting of Michael J. Fox in LIGHT OF DAY was a major triumph for writer/director Schrader and producers Rob Cohen and Keith Barish. Within the past year, Fox has emerged as both a prime-time TV star (his NBC series Family Ties is the second highest-rated program on the air) and a major motion picture star (Back to the Future, in which Fox starred, was the highest-grossing film of 1985).

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Producer Cohen calls Fox's casting "the coup of the century for us. The minute we had him, this project went from being a quirky little project of artistic value, to an incredibly commercial and highly sought-after movie. We had just about every studio in town calling and trying to get it."

LIGHT OF DAY marks a change in direction for Fox who, for the first time, will be playing a character closer to his own age in a role which is decidedly more dramatic than his Family Ties character Alex Keaton, or Back to the Future's Marty McFly.

"The character of Joe Rasnick is a change for Michael," comments Schrader, "and a 'stretch' only in that he's an actor creating a dramatic performance in the course of a two-hour film, being in almost every scene and flushing out a full character which is not contingent on comic situations or special effects. So in that sense, it is a stretch, but one I'd say that any talented performer would welcome."

As for Fox, he was attracted to LIGHT OF DAY because it gave the 25-year-old actor the opportunity to play a character who is both close to him in age (23 years old) as well as "closer to me than any role I've played. When I was a kid," continues Fox, "my dream was to be a musician. When I was 14 or 15, I played in garage bands. I was kind of a hack guitarist, which means I wasn't very good, but I was dedicated. When I started acting, I dropped the music.

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"Joe and I are very similar in many ways. We're both diplomatic, non-confrontational people. We'd rather negotiate our way out of a situation than meet it head-on and thrash it out."

Schrader describes the character of Joe as "a bedrock underneath characters who are not as well-grounded as he is. Like Joe, Michael has a type of 'get along, go along Joe' personality, always trying to make sure things are harmonious. In the film he is caught between these two titanic women, his older sister and his mother. He (Michael) is very strong in the film and his is a fulcrum character."

"To a certain extent," adds Fox, "it's a risk for me to do a serious dramatic film, where I'm not 'Mr. Happy Guy' or 'Mr. Funny Guy,' the kind of characters people are used to seeing me play. But while on the one hand it's a risk to do it, on the other hand, it's a risk not to."

Co-starring with Michael J. Fox as Patti Rasnick, the older rebellious sister, is Joan Jett, making her motion picture acting debut in LIGHT OF DAY. Jett explains, "I wasn't sure I wanted to be in any movie, let alone one in which I play a rocker. Then when I met Paul Schrader, it just felt right. With Schrader you find a purist; he does what he does because he believes in it.

"My character in the film is pretty much like me," continues Jett. Yet while the character of Patti is constantly battling her strong-willed mother, Jett (who, as a teenager, formed the first all-girl hard rock band -- the highly successful Runaways) had a different upbringing. "I hadn't had an unhappy childhood, but rebelliousness is as much a part of me as it is Patti. I figure the music 'establishment' is what I rebel against the most."

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Comparing herself to her film character, Jett says, "When Patti talks about her music, she says, 'I feel that beat on stage for that hour and that's enough.' And that's what I feel. To me, when I feel the audience, the explosion, that's what I live for. It's not the records, it's not the hype. It's kids in rock bands all over the country, and the movie is about a real family going through a lot of problems and trying to come out O.K."

Making the transition from rock and roll star to actress, Jett had to tap into resources that were brand new to her as a performer. For one thing, the actual process of movie-making is much different from cutting a record, or touring to promote an album.

"I guess you wind up spending about as much time in the recording studio each day as you do on a film set," comments Jett, "but if you get tired or need a break when you're recording, you can always step outside for a few minutes and take a walk or just get some fresh air. Then you come back to it with some perspective, even if it's just a little distance.

"But on the set," she continues, "you're pretty much stuck, not as a negative, but it's like being on call all the time. So it's really adjusting to a structure that's new and different for me." Joan credits Sondra Lee, ace acting coach, Paul Schrader, and her co-stars Michael and Gena for helping her make the adjustments.

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Another change for Jett in undertaking her role in LIGHT OF DAY was somewhat more physical -- her hair color. "Paul figured that people knew my 'look' pretty well and that it might be difficult for audiences to see me as a fictional character. So they dyed my hair chestnut -- closer, I think, to Patti Rasnick than Joan Jett."

Paul Schrader was more than pleased with Jett's performance. "Often when you work with first-time actors," he explains, "you end up extracting a performance, almost line-by-line. That was not at all the case with Joan and, quite honestly, I was surprised at how strongly and quickly she has developed. It's quite phenomenal -- she's phenomenal."

LIGHT OF DAY has its roots in a film script writer/director Schrader wrote six years ago, originally titled Born in the U.S.A.; "I was going to do it after American Gigolo, then I was going to do it after Cat People, and I finally ended up being able to make it after Mishima,"" explains Schrader.

"It came out of a couple urges. One was that my mother had died and I wanted to somehow deal with that in a fictional context, and the other was to do a story about growing up in a rock and roll context. Every kid old enough to stand on two feet is fantasizing, somewhere, about playing a guitar in a garage band and so forth.

"LIGHT OF DAY is not a music film about demos and limos -- all that star-search bull," say Schrader. "There's no glamour. Sometimes I refer to it as, 'Long Day's Journey Into Cleveland Heights.'"

Why Cleveland? "I wanted to set the film in a bar band rock and roll environment and Cleveland has always been one of the best cities for rock music. Also, I'm from that part of the country, so it just seemed like a logical place," explains Schrader.

"Back around 1980," he continues, "I called some people I knew in Cleveland and they put me in touch with a local bar band called The Generators. I hung out with them for a while and LIGHT OF DAY is sort of based on that experience. I was able to take the story I wanted to tell and put it into this environment."

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It is more than coincidence that superstar Bruce Springsteen, whose music is firmly planted in America's heartland, is involved with LIGHT OF DAY, Schrader's admittedly "heartland American film." It was, in fact, Schrader from whom Springsteen borrowed the title Born in the U.S.A. for his legendary multi-platinum album.

Schrader had written the screenplay Born in the U.S.A. and sent it to Springsteen some six years ago. "Bruce was pretty legendary before the Born in the U.S.A. album," laughs Schrader. "So, he told me later that the script had been sitting on his coffee table and he said he walked by it everyday until, finally, the damn title just stuck in his head.

"When I finally got the 'go' on this picture, I couldn't use 'Born in the U.S.A.' after it had become so identified with Bruce. I was sort of out of a title. So Bruce volunteered to write a new song, which would then be the new title. Hence, 'LIGHT OF DAY.'"

Stylistically, LIGHT OF DAY has its roots in some of Schrader's earlier films. "The last several films I've done have become progressively stylized," explains the director, "to the point, especially with Mishima, that stylization takes charge. LIGHT OF DAY required a different direction and it was time to back off and do a film closer to what I had done with Blue Collar, which is essentially a working class drama. I've sort of completed a circle and it's as if I'm starting over now with the benefit of ten years' experience."

In order to give LIGHT OF DAY the gritty, realistic feel the story requires, Schrader has eliminated some of the same cinematic elements that have given his recent films their highly stylized look. "No gels, no dollies, no cranes," explains the director. "I've used a lot of group shots instead of close-ups and conventional angles, a lot of sound overlapping and a lot of 'ragged framing' to give the audience that 'you are there' sense. There are no dolly moves that are unnatural to the eye, nor are there many unmotivated camera moves in which the cameral moves independent of the characters."

Adding further to the realism of the film, Schrader had The Barbusters band (Joan Jett, Michael J. Fox, Michael McKean, Paul J. Harkins and Michael Dolan) rehearse together for two months before actual rehearsals for the film began.

The band went to Chicago to play two bars as The Barbusters. Fox recalls those appearances: "We played a gig at this bar called 'The Lucky Number' on a Friday night and then played the next night at a place on the South Side called 'The Depot.' We did about a 45-minute set each time and they went really well. We'd figured the only way to really test if we were a viable working band was to put ourselves on the line and go out in front of a bunch of beer-drinking folks who'd come to see rock and roll. I think we accomplished that."

The band was billed as The Barbusters from Ohio, an anonymous enough label. But despite their billing, there was no avoiding the fact that Fox, Jett and McKean are recognizable faces. "I think most of the recognition during those gigs went to Joan," recalls Fox. "There were some people who said, 'You know, that looks a lot like Michael J. Fox,' but not too many people picked up on it, which is great. In fact, I took it as a compliment; I figured they just thought I was a guitarist. I don't think too many people expected to go into a bar in Chicago and see me playing guitar."

During rehearsals and production, the band recorded live -- not to taped recordings of their songs -- as most musical numbers are filmed. Schrader insisted the band perform its own songs, which were taped in a 24-track recording truck parked outside the club, and while the soundtrack album will feature polished versions of the same songs, the music in the film was recorded live -- mistakes and all.

This was a great bonus for Fox, who got to do all his own playing and singing in the film, as well as write and perform a song he wrote specifically for LIGHT OF DAY. Whereas his big rock number in "Back to the Future" was looped over by a studio musician, he himself sings part of the title song in LIGHT OF DAY (along with Joan Jett) and the guitar playing heard on other tracks is also his.

"I knew Paul want me to play every note Joe played and I had no problem with that," says Fox. "Then there's a moment in the script where Joe actually writes a song and I asked if I could take a crack at it. Paul said 'go ahead',' and my song ended up in the film. Then they came to me and said they'd like to use it on the soundtrack, which was great, and I just assumed they'd get somebody terrific like James Taylor to sing it. But they said, 'No, we want you to sing it.' So I went into the studio and recorded the song, which is called You Got No Place to Go. It was an amazing experience."

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Fox even received high praise from his co-star, veteran rocker Jett, who recalls: "We'd been rehearsing, Michael and I, and you've got to give the guy credit. He can really play."

"I have to give so much credit to Joanie," comments Fox, "because we had this sort of unspoken agreement that I would treat her seriously as a peer when we were acting if she would do the same for me when we were playing. My part of the bargain was very easy to keep because she did such a terrific job and I had no reason to think of her as anything but a fellow actor.

"She had the tougher end of the deal, but she was great. If I was strumming my guitar while she was tuning up, she'd tell me to cool it and I did. We had a mutual respect for each other as artists."

Schrader summed up the philosophy behind LIGHT OF DAY thusly, "I think the best way to do a film about rock and roll is to do a film about life, about families, about growing up and the music that's so much a part of that. I think where so many rock and roll films go wrong is that they try to make the film just about the music, rather than about the people making the music. LIGHT OF DAY is about real people with real problems who just happen to make real good music."

"Music is all that matters. One hour on stage makes up for the other 23." -- Patti Rasnick

Taft Entertainment Pictures/Keith Barish Productions present through Tri-Star Pictures a Film by Paul Schrader, Michael J. Fox, Gena Rowlands and Joan Jett in LIGHT OF DAY. Written and directed by Paul Schrader and produced by Rob Cohen and Keith Barish, LIGHT OF DAY also stars Michael McKean and Jason Miller. Doug Claybourne is executive producer with music by Thomas Newman.


MICHAEL J. FOX, who starred in the biggest box-office success of 1985, Back to the Future, and who continues to lead the NBC television series Family Ties to the top of the ratings, stars as 23-year-old Joe Rasnick in LIGHT OF DAY.

In his first dramatic outing in a feature film, Fox plays a musician, brother, surrogate father and family mediator all wrapped into one. Within the film, he says, "there's the rock and roll movie, the brother/sister movie and the family movie. While you have to approach them all differently, there are common denominators in all those aspects that add up to make the character complete."

Award-winner GENA ROWLANDS (A Woman Under the Influence, Gloria) portrays the highly-religious, strong-willed Jeanette Rasnick. "I thought the script was intriguing. It's really a tangle of family love, guilt, hatred, strong wills -- there are so many elements. I think it's really quite extraordinary."

Co-staring with Fox as Patti, the rebellious older sister and mother of her illegitimate 4-1/2-year-old son, is JOAN JETT, making her feature film acting debut. Jett first exploded on the music scene at age 15 when she formed The Runaways, the first of the all-girl rock bands. Her unique, rebellious style made her an instant star, and she later formed Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, a highly successful group which has sold over 11 million records worldwide.

MICHAEL McKEAN, who is best-known to audiences as "Lenny" of Lenny and Squiggy in the long-running TV series Laverne and Shirley, and who received top notices for he performance in the motion picture This Is Spinal Tap, co-stars in LIGHT OF DAY as Bu Montgomery, Joe's best friend and fellow band member. "My character is committed as much as the world he's living in will permit. He's working on his second marriage and he's still working at this plant. He'd like more, but he's prepared to settle."

Rounding out the other members of The Barbusters band in LIGHT OF DAY are MICHAEL DOLAN as Gene Bodine and PAUL J. HARKINS as Billy Tettore. Paul Harkins has since joined The Blackhearts and is currently on tour with Joan Jett.

CHERRY JONES portrays Cindy Montgomery, the understanding wife of band member Bu Montgomery. THOMAS G. WAITES plays Smittie.

A veteran of some 75 television commercials, 6-year-old BILLY SULLIVAN is young Benji Rasnick, Patti Rasnick's illegitimate son who receives love and guidance from his 23-year-old uncle Joe.

And as the long-suffering father, Benjamin Rasnick is acclaimed actor (The Exorcist) and multi-award winning playwright (That Championship Season) JASON MILLER. "What attracted me to LIGHT OF DAY was its content and texture -- so deeply and specifically American. It has a kind of Rockwellian quality to it, which I've never before seen or read in a script."

JOAN JETT Biography:

Making her feature film acting debut in LIGHT OF DAY is rock phenomenon Joan Jett, who portrays singer/guitarist Patti Rasnick, a complex combination of angry older sister to 23-year-old Joe (Michael J. Fox), confused young mother to 4-1/2-year-old Benji (Billy Sullivan) and rebellious daughter (to Gena Rowlands).

Writer/director Schrader has described Jett's character as "a sort of bad-seed girl who has this massive, ongoing battle with her mother, and a brother who's caught in between. She's a woman wearing the mantle of James Dean, with the black leather jacket and tough talk, and it's very unsettling to see all the frustration and misdirected anger in a woman."

For Jett, making the move from music to film was unexpected enough much less playing a singer and musician on screen. "When I read the script," recalls Jett, "I realized this was really a family drama, so I went for it."

Joan Jett has never been one to "hold back." She forged new ground exploding onto the music scene at age 15 when she formed The Runaways, the first of the all-girl rock and roll bands, guiding the group through four tumultuous years.

Jett began playing guitar at the 13 in junior high school in Rockville, Maryland. Her family moved (for the 15th time) to Los Angeles in 1972 and Jett began hanging out in the various clubs and by 1975 she had formed The Runaways.

The Runaways released six albums and toured the world for five years -- all this before Jett's 21st birthday. When the group disbanded in 1979, Jett formed Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Despite her success with The Runaways, however, Jett had a hard time finding a record company to sign with. Undaunted, she formed her own Blackheart label and released an album on her own. That renegade album, Bad Reputation, sold an incredible 22,000 copies in just four weeks. That, combined with the Blackhearts' non-stop touring (over 200 international dates per year), created a groundswell that continues unabated today.

With the release of the I Love Rock 'N Roll album in 1981, Jett had three Top Ten singles: the Multi Platinum title hit (which spent eight weeks at number one), "Crimson and Clover" and "Do You Want To Touch Me" (re-released from Bad Reputation). Her 1983 release, Album, sustained her winning streak with Gold sales and two more hit singles: "Fake Friends" and "Everyday People."

The next year brought the album Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth, which was heralded as "devastating hard rock, as unrepentant as its title." The album's highlights were the singles "Cherry Bomb" and "New Orleans," which the Los Angeles Times cited as "the most irresistible party song of the season."

Her most recent album in entitled Good Music and continues in the Joan Jett tradition of hard-driving, innovative rock and roll.

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