When you think about cult classic coming-of-age films, there will be dozens that will flood your mind, but the first ones that you will immediately be thinking are Clueless, The Breakfast Club, and Mystic Pizza. Released in 1988, Mystic Pizza has garnered a cult following over the years despite not being the most popular movie during its year of release. Its relatable story and likeable characters are what made Mystic Pizza a modern coming-of-age classic for fans of all ages. To know more about this fantastic movie, here are some production facts about Mystic Pizza.
The name of the film and the name of the titular pizza shop where the main characters are employed in are based on a real-life pizza parlor that was frequently visited by the movie’s screenwriter, Amy Holden Jones. The pizza shop, which has the name “Mystic Pizza,” is located in Mystic, a village found in Connecticut.
During the time when Jones visited the restaurant, Mystic is already a popular destination among locals and tourists because of its beautiful marine-centric tourist spots, including the Mystic Seaport that houses more than 500 historical sea vessels that have been used for various purposes.
Besides the village’s catchy name, Jones is also fascinated by the daily life in Mystic and wanted to portray it in a film. Jones then pitched his story to The Samuel Goldwyn Company, and it was eventually approved for production.
Mystic Pizza’s Production
Amy Holden Jones was set to be the director of the film, but the production company wanted a new and inexperienced director for Mystic Pizza. Donald Petrie was then hired to direct the movie, and it served as his directorial debut. Alongside Jones, three other screenwriters were tasked to write the script, and they are Perry Howze, Randy Howze, and Alfred Uhry.
Despite the film taking place in Mystic, Connecticut, the sets were arranged and built in different locations in the United States. The fictional Mystic Pizza parlor was set in a home in Stonington Borough, Connecticut, which was converted into a small restaurant to suit what the film needs. Interestingly, the home is just a few blocks away from the real-life Mystic Pizza. The other memorable locations in the movie, such as the restaurant used for the wedding reception, as well as the pool hall at the Peg Leg Club, were all filmed in Stonington.
The home of the Araújo family, where the two female lead characters are living, was situated in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. The sets for the wedding church and the lobster farm/factory were built in Noank, Connecticut. The only two locations that were actually filmed in Mystic were the Mystic Seaport and the River Bascule Bridge.
Filming for Mystic Pizza started on October 12, 1987, and the crew only had six weeks to complete the scenes for the movie. Because of the short production time, Petrie’s crew decided to film scenes in places that are near Mystic, Connecticut, so that they would spend less on travel costs. Since the village of Mystic is always busy, there were not given an opportunity to film most of the scenes there, which prompted them to find set locations near the village.
Annabeth Gish and Julia Roberts were chosen to play as Kat Araújo and Daisy Araújo, respectively. Roberts has only played roles in two films before Mystic Pizza, and these movies are Firehouse in 1987, where she was uncredited and played a minor role, and Satisfaction in 1988, where she played as a member of the lead character’s all-girl rock band. On the other hand, Annabeth Gish was also a relatively new actress during that time, as she only appeared in three low-budget films before the release of Mystic Pizza.
The other main female character, whose name is Jojo Barbosa and is the Araújo sisters’ co-worker, is played by Lili Taylor. The film serves as the first starring role for Taylor. The love interests for the three female characters are played by Vincent D’ Onofrio (Bill Montijo), William R. Moses (Tim Travers), and Adam Storke (Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr.)
Mystic Pizza is also notable for being the film debut of Matt Damon, but he only appeared for one scene in the movie.
After Mystic Pizza
The film served as a launchpad for the careers of actors, directors, and screenwriters involved in its production.
Julia Roberts would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2000 for her role in Erin Brockovich, while Annabeth Gish would find more success in TV shows, wherein she would play recurring roles in The X-Files, Pretty Little Liars, and The Haunting of Hill House. The other female lead in the movie, Lili Taylor, moved to independent films after Mystic Pizza, although she would then star in big-budget movies like The Conjuring and Maze Runner.
Although he played only a minimal role in Mystic Pizza, Matt Damon is arguably the one who received the most success out of all the cast members in the film besides Julia Roberts, as he was nominated for the Academy Awards multiple times, although he only won one for Best Original Screenplay for the 1998 film Good Will Hunting.
Amy Holden Jones went on to write the screenplay for Indecent Proposal in 1993, which is regarded as one of the worst movies of all time. For her efforts in the film, Jones won the Razzie Award for Worst Screenplay in 1994. Jones currently works as a writer and executive producer for The Resident, a medical drama on Fox that has been running since 2018.
Jones co-screenwriter for Mystic Pizza, Alfred Uhry, won the Academy Award for Adapted Screenplay in 1989 for Driving Miss Daisy, a film adaptation of a play also written by Uhry and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1988. The adaptation won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Makeup, and Best Actress for Jessica Tandy in 1989 as well.
Because of the movie’s popularity, the real-life Mystic Pizza was renovated a few years to look like the fictitious restaurant of the same name.