It all happened to me, but I sort of glamorized it. I spent four years of my life cruising the main street of my hometown, Modesto, California. I went through all that stuff, drove the cars, bought liquor, chased girls... a very American experience. I started out as Terry the Toad, but then I went on to be John Milner, the local drag race champion, and then I became Curt Henderson, the intellectual who goes to college. They were all composite characters, based on my life, and on the lives of friends of mine. Some were killed in Vietnam, and quite a number were killed in auto accidents.
American Graffiti is newly available on HBO's streaming services this month, so we figured it was worth another pass down the main drag. Here are some lesser-known facts to know about it, in case you settle in for a rewatch or a first watch — it's highly recommended if you haven’t seen it before.
1. Some 300 cars were used in filming. Local vintage-car owners were paid $20 to $25 per night (reports vary) plus food.
9. The prank in which Curt attached a chain to the cop car’s rear axle, which is then ripped out from under the car when the police set off, was tried and proven not possible on Mythbusters. For the film, the axle had been cut away from the frame, and the chain was not really attached to a light pole but to a winch on a heavy-duty tow truck. The winch was activated as the cop car pulled away, yanking the axle out from underneath it.
10. Although set in George Lucas’s hometown of Modesto, California, the film was shot largely Petaluma, California. Petaluma hosts an annual Salute to American Graffiti.
11. The entire movie takes place over one night, and filming was done between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The shoot lasted just 28 days.
13. The DC-7 airliner that appears in the final scene was later converted to cargo use, and in 1986 it crashed after taking off from Dakar, Senegal, killing all four people on board.
Article courtesy of Hemings, written by Joe Lorio.