Decades before wildfires became a year-round occurrence, the 1991 movie Backdraft played out as a love letter to the selflessly noble heroes who run into burning buildings. The film was released to favorable reviews from critics, was a hit at the global box office, and received three Oscar nominations. Now, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Kurt Russell starrer will be heading back to theaters this September.
For two nights only, Fathom Events will host a special Backdraft anniversary event that brings the classic firefighter thriller to long-time Kurt Russell fans and new audiences. The screening will also be accompanied by a mini-documentary about the making of the movie called The Explosive Stunts.
Backdraft was directed by Ron Howard from a script by Gregory Widen. The film features an all-star cast, showcasing the talents of Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca De Mornay, Donald Sutherland, Robert De Niro, Jason Gedrick, and J. T. Walsh.
The story follows two feuding siblings (Kurt Russell and William Baldwin) who are carrying on a heroic family tradition as Chicago firefighters. But when a puzzling series of arson attacks is reported, they are forced to set aside their differences to solve the mystery surrounding these explosive crimes.
The acclaimed Kurt Russell suspense story is filled with some of the most awe-inspiring fire sequences ever filmed. So naturally, from 1992 to 2010, Universal Studios Hollywood hosted a fire special effects show based on the movie. The attraction is still open at Universal Studios Japan.
Speaking about the movie’s effects with The Hollywood Reporter, Ron Howard gushed about his actors (like Kurt Russell) and explained the complexities of working with flames. “We had gas burners and fire retardants and a team of 10 Chicago firefighters around us at all times with extinguishers at the ready, and they needed to move in at times,” he told the publication. “No matter how well planned, [we] just never knew when the fire was going to get away from us. And it did on occasion.”
In addition to the performance from Kurt Russell, the director also described how awe-struck he was at Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Inspector Donald “Shadow” Rimgale. In preparation for his role, De Niro met with different fire investigators. So when filming began, he adopted the posture of one guy, the attitude of another, and the sort of cadence and command of the vernacular from a third. “I realized this is what he does. It was a master class in preparation and application,” Howard said.
The legacy of Backdraft endured for decades, and a sequel was released in 2015. Backdraft 2 was directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego and penned by original screenwriter Gregory Widen. William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland reprise their respective roles as Brian McCaffrey and Ronald Bartel, with Joe Anderson also starring. Sadly, Kurt Russell and Robert De Niro did not return, and the film didn’t live up to the gold standard of its predecessor.
Fortunately, fans can catch the original Kurt Russell film in theaters on September 5th and September 8th. Screening and ticket information for the Backdraft 30th anniversary special can be found at Fathom Events.