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The American Film Institute ranks it as the 13th greatest movie of all time. And 43 years later, people still enjoy it as it takes them back to a simpler times in their lives.

“American Graffiti” premiered in 1973 with a young cast and a new director who would go on to do projects that were out of this world.

Four of the cast members were on hand to reminisce and answer questions during a screening of the classic film on Friday, Feb. 26, at the Sedona Performing Arts Center. The showing helped round out the nine-day Sedona International Film Festival.

Earlier in the day, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Candy Clark and Lynne Marie Stewart met with the media to discuss the movie and what it meant to them then — as well as four decades later.

According to IMDB, “It’s the proverbial end of the summer 1962 in a small southern California town. It’s the evening before best friends and recent high school graduates are scheduled to leave town to head to college back east.”

“We didn’t know at the time but looking back, ‘wow,’” Williams said. “We were all young and just thought we were making another old hot rod movie.”
Phillips, who was just 12 at the time, added, “I didn’t know what was happening. I thought we were making an Afterschool Special or an educational film. But I did it and had a lot of fun. It’s the quintessential car film.”

The movie was filmed over 28 nights in Northern California with Williams describing it as a camp-like atmosphere.

The movie had a relatively small budget so there were no dressing rooms or make-up artists. But that didn’t seem to matter for her and her fellow co-stars which included Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford.

Two weeks into the filming, the movie’s young director, George Lucas, called the cast into the editing room to see a few scenes accompanied by some of the classic songs that could be heard in the film.

“It was jaw-dropping — we knew we had something special,” said Williams, who later starred in “Laverne and Shirley.” “After it premiered, I remember calling Richard Dreyfuss and telling him that the line to see the movie was around the block. He said, ‘You’re lying.’ I said, ‘No, it’s around the block for every showing.’ I was with [co-star] Charles Martin Smith. We went up to the box office to see if we could get tickets. They recognized us and said, ‘No, you come right in.’ To listen and watch everyone’s reaction was thrilling.”

Compared to some of her co-stars, Stewart’s role as Bobbie was relatively small. But that didn’t matter to her.

“I was very happy with how it turned out,” she said. “It was so much fun. That little part changed my life. It was a fabulous group to work with.”

Like her fellow cast members, Clark, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Debbie, said it’s been exciting to see how the movie still holds up all these years later and is still a crowd favorite.

“There’s still a huge following,” she said. “We’re still talking about it today. The theater [SPAC] is sold out so that says something.”


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