Under The Disco Lights: A Few Minutes with Donna Pescow as we reminisce about ‘Saturday Night Fever’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Interviews, Movies by - May 03, 2017
Under The Disco Lights: A Few Minutes with Donna Pescow as we reminisce about ‘Saturday Night Fever’

It takes time to reflect on something truly unforgettable that may have happened to you…even 40 years later.

With the release of the brand new Saturday Night Fever: Director’s Cut in celebration of this story of young, restless and charismatic Brooklyn rebel Tony Manero (John Travolta) who may spends his days in a paint store but spends his nights dancing the night away as the king of the disco scene hoping and praying for something better then the listless future that he sees for himself.

In advance of the release of the Blu-Ray I got the unique pleasure to speak with Donna Pescow who played the iconic role of Annette who could never quite get Tony to love and who never quite understood that he aspired for so much more then the universe that they co-existed could offer him.  We talked about her audition process, time on set working with John Badham, being nurtured as a young actor and her memories these 40 years later about this iconic piece of cinema that is as timeless then as it is today.

Dave Voigt: Saturday Night Fever is such an iconic film; walk us through your experience about auditioning for the role, ultimately landing the part and your first days on set?

Donna Pescow: When I auditioned for this role I really had no idea the size of the role.  I figured I was going out for something that would end up being four, five lines because I never got to see a full script, I only ever saw ‘sides’ which are like two-three pages max.  I was a complete unknown at that stage because I had only been out of school for a short period of time and I really didn’t that I had a shot at any of the larger roles.  The agent that I had at the time was smart to not tell me and so I went in on the audition and I did great because I got the part, but when I got the script I was kind of blown away by the actual size of the role (laughs) not to mention the kind of role that it actually was which was obviously so amazing.  Then just being on set, which was the first time that I had ever done a film and it felt like I had landed in the Disneyland of acting! (laughs)  I had never done anything out of sync before, I had only done theatre with everything going from start to finish but it was a lot of fun and everyone on set participating in it all were just all really supportive especially with all the actors because with the exception of John (Travolta) for almost everyone else in the ensemble it was their first films as well.  We were all in the same boat as this committed club of young actors trying to do the very best job possible.

DV: Did that create a sense of camaraderie on set? Because even John didn’t have a lot under his belt at that time.

DP: Well he had done Carrie, which was a good role and he did do The Boy In The Plastic Bubble for TV along with Welcome Back Kotter before this came along, however this WAS the first lead in a feature that he had so it was definitely something different for him.  But the guys who played his friends in the gang, most of them had never done a feature before or at least anything of this size.  I think everybody was really enthusiastic to make this something genuinely spectacular.  John Badham who really is such an actor’s director had us rehearse for a couple of weeks before we all started filming which allowed us all to really get comfortable with one another and by the time that the cameras were finally rolling we all knew each other pretty well.

DV: Did these little things that someone like Badham brought to the table help along the way considering that I can imagine the first time on set can be somewhat overwhelming?

DP: Oh they aren’t little things at all!  They are truly the things that can make or break a project, especially on something like this when you are dealing with people who are supposed to be friends and already have these lifelong relationships in place with one another.  I think that John Badham really made that work by having us rehearse, improvise and hang out together.  I really feel that is the difference between a film that is completely realistic and one that isn’t because the friendships are really there.

DV: Now obviously you can never truly know that something will be a success when you are making it but did you all at least have some kind of sense that what you were involved in was at the very least ‘special’?

DP: Oh not a clue! (Laughs) I really was just hoping that it would help me land my next job a little bit quicker.  I was happy for a good credit on my resume it never really went beyond that while we were in the moment of filming it all.

DV: How was the reaction for you; post-premiere for someone who didn’t have a lot of jobs under her belt to now have this high profile job out there in the universe where people actually know who you are?

DP: My life did a complete 180 turn, everything changed.  I went from leaving pictures and resumes in hopes of getting an audition to subsequently getting offered roles from some pretty major players in Hollywood in a pretty short time.  It’s incredibly exciting on one end, but at the exact time it’s also incredibly frightening because there is no prep.  Granted I was extraordinarily lucky to have this happen to me, but I had no prep for it, there was no path that I followed and it was a steep learning curve.  I had never been taught on how to behave when in a meeting with Dino Di Laurentis! (laughs)  It was scary but I really did have some great nurturing people around me to guide me along the way.

DV: Is there one indelible memory that you pull from personally from the entire Saturday Night Fever experience?

DP: I really think that it comes down to the reaction from people.  When I talk to different people who love this movie it is truly so personal for them.  It’s so tangible for these people and how it relates to that time in their lives.  It’s so moving to me because you feel like you’ve touched someone through your work and that stays with them, which is extraordinarily humbling and rewarding for me.

DV: Now if you had to sell or explain Saturday Night Fever to someone who had never seen it before, how would you do it?

DP: Oh wow… (Long Pause) Polyester on Parade?  (Laughs)  To put it simply, what Rebel Without a Cause was to the 1950’s, Saturday Night Fever was for the 1970’s.

DV: I like that line…

DP: Oh good, me too (Laughs)

Saturday Night Fever: 40th Anniversary Director’s Cut Edition is available now at all major retailers.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.