‘A River Runs Through It’ celebrates 25 year anniversary

Samantha Hill

Over 25 years ago, “A River Runs Through It” premiered, impacting several Livingston residents even today.

The Livingston Depot will be showing the film during the Movies on the Lawn series on Thursday along with guest speakers and an exhibit showing props and photos from the cast several years ago.

“A River Runs Through It” directed by Robert Redford, was a semi-autobiographical novel by Norman Maclean.   The story follows two sons of a Presbyterian minister, as they grow up and come of age in Missoula and Helena during World War I, the Great Depression and the Prohibition era. The film stars Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd.

The movie was primarily filmed in the Livingston-area using Redeemed Lutheran Church, Livingston Civic Center and downtown streets to create the backdrop.

As the film hits the quarter century mark, area residents look back on how it impacted them.

Lindie Gibson, who owns a cleaning business, Pretty Good Housekeeping, was offered a job picking up the rooms at the Gone Fish’ Inn for some of the actors.

Gibson said that once a week she would clean for both Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt, the two main characters as well as a couple others.

She said she would barely see them and sometimes would bring them cookies. At the time she really didn’t know who Brad Pitt was, with the film constituting as one of his  break out roles.

“If I would have known who he was, I would have saved the hairs off his pillow and sold them on eBay,” Gibson joked.

Between cleaning and a job serving coffee, she got to see many of the actors just hanging out. She was even able to get the autograph of Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, which she framed and is currently on display at the Depot.

Her son, Ira Gibson, at 17 years-old, was cast as Pitt’s body double, which they didn’t end up needing. However, when he was on set, Gibson said it was like looking in the mirror between the two.

“There is a picture of Brad Pitt, and he looks more like Ira than Ira does in it,” she said.

Over the hill from Livingston, a professor at the Montana State University film school Dennis Aig was also fortunate enough to get involved with the movie but behind the scenes.

Aig was a graduate student at the university at the time when he was alerted that the film was being done in Livingston. He was instantly interested and they told him he could do a behind the scenes making of “A River Runs Through It.”

“Shadowcasting: The Making of ‘A River Runs Through It’” premiered on PBS in 1993 and was one of the most widely spread PBS documentaries at the time. Aig and a crew were able to get behind the scenes to show how filmmakers were able to transform Livingston into a different time.

Aig said they caught hundreds of hours of footage of actors trying to shadow cast and how the Civic Center was made to look like a house, but for the sake of time, it was cut to one hour.

He said he was able to see how the film was created with few known actors and a cult classic book.

“I never knew it would get so big,” Aig said.

Aig will speak Thursday night at the movie event about the impacts of the film on Livingston and the process. Other speakers will also be in attendance.

The film will begin at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Depot courtyard, with a $5 admission in support of the museum exhibit and programs. Children under 14 accompanied by an adult are free. There will also be beer, wine and snacks for purchase.

“A River Runs Through It” exhibit including a script, photos and memorabilia from the film will be on display through the weekend.

The Depot is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.  Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Depot office at 222-2300.