'Breaking Away' director Peter Yates dies

January 10, 2011
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Peter Yates' film "Breaking Away" served as my intro to Indiana.

Sixteen and on a date in a New Jersey theater in 1979, I saw that there was a universality to my small town thoughts. Apparently four "cutters" in Bloomington had the same sense of aimlessness that I saw around me—the same desire to punch the bully, kiss the girl, please the parents and win the big race.

Yates' film—which, except for the silly freeze frame at the end, still holds up beautifully—was on my mind when I flew out to Indianapolis for a job interview. It was on my mind when I delivered my eldest daughter to Indiana University. And it's on my mind now, as I note this weekend's passing of Yates. He was 82.

The credit most noted for the director is "Bullitt," where his San Francisco car chases helped define the cop film genre. But I'll take "Breaking Away" bike races over those hill-hopping pursuits any day.

As one would expect, "Breaking Away" is among the films being screened at IU Cinema's inaugural season. It will be playing April 10-11.

So when did you first see "Breaking Away"?

Your thoughts?

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  • My Favorite Hoosier Film
    I first saw "Breaking Away" at the Artcraft Theatre in my hometown of Franklin when it came out. From the first line--"He was as normal as apple pie. Now look at him."--you realize this is so much more than a mere sports movie.

    While I love "Hoosiers" and "Rudy," "Breaking Away" remains my favorite movie about Indiana. The brilliant casting--especially of Paul Dooley playing the retired stonecutter and wise-quipping dad to a first big role by a young Dennis Quaid--captures so much of the richness and frustration of how we interact with family and friends that transcends a group of townies in late '70s Bloomington. I find myself re-watching it every April.

    Peter Yates' mastery at direction transforms Steve Tesich's wonderful script into a location shoot that truly captures the location.

    While "Bullitt" and "The Dresser" will no doubt command the headline of Yates' obituary, I will long appreciate his wonderful portrayal of Hoosier life, wit, and values.
  • Steve Tesic Scree Play of Breaking Away
    Don't forget Steve Tesich, who wrote the prize-winning screen play. Grief-stricken over the destruction of his native Yugoslavia by "humanitarian intervention", and PR defamation of his people, the Serbs, his health failed and he died of a broken heart.
  • Universal
    I saw it when it first came out, as a senior in high school in suburban Washington, DC. I was not a biker or a sports fan, and I knew nothing about Indiana (even less about small towns). But it was a very powerful movie. When I went away to college that fall I met someone from Bloomington, Indiana and the first thing I said to her was something about the film, how much I loved it and possibly something about how real it all seemed. I remember an eye roll and a "don't ask" comment, leading me to believe that Bloomington was somewhat embarrassed about its portrayal. Today my son attends IU and is planning to ride for his dorm in the Little 500, with his roommate part of the Cutters team. He has not yet seen Breaking Away but I have encouraged him to do so. All teens should.
  • Breaking-Away
    I watch the movie every year just before the Hilly Hundred...pure, delightful, Indiana!
  • SR 67
    I think about some portion of that movie every time I am on IU's campus. "The duel" with the semi driver on SR 67 is one of my favorite scenes.
  • FACT
    FACT: The male stunt rider for the lead, including the infamous "duel" with the semi driver on SR 67, is now a transgendered female.
  • wasn't it SR 37
    It's been awhile since I've seen the movie but I thought the scenes with the semi driver were on SR 37.
  • Great Film
    I was an IU freshman when the movie was being shot in Bloomington. At that time, it had a running title of 'Bambino'. I was taking an into film class at the time and the professor was anticipating the movie to be a forgettable 'B' flick. Wrong! I was fortunate to be in the crowd scene when the trophy was being presented to the Cutters after they won the Little 500. The old 10th Street Stadium was a great venue. The experience was great fun and it was a pleasant surprise for the movie to be such a hit and an Oscar winner.
  • Bullitt
    You've had 2 days now to proof read your article, care to correct the title of the film that influenced all car chase scenes since then. It's called Bullitt. Thank you.
  • Fav line
    My favorite line: REFUND?? REFUND?? Whenever that movie is on - no matter what time day or night, I ALWAYS have to watch it!
  • Indiana Pride
    I saw Breaking Away when I was a teenager, growing up in Ft. Wayne. I completely identified with the stifled, predestined existence that he shattered. It gave me the courage to follow my own dreams and move to NYC. Still love that movie!

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