In 1989, Vince Gilligan, a graduate of New York University with a degree in film production, won first prize in the Virginia Governor's Screenwriting Competition with his very first screenplay. He was just 22 years old. Luckily for Gilligan, one of the judges was Mark Johnson, a partner with Barry Levinson in Baltimore Pictures, who was so impressed with Gilligan's talent that he purchased another work by the young writer, Wilder Napalm.
"The script is basically about two brothers who love the same woman and hate each other," explains Gilligan. Because the theme had been explored before in countless movies, he knew he had to come up with something that would set his script apart, and "it seemed to me that 'pyrokinesis' was a neat, very cinematic way to show how angry, frustrated and lustful these characters are at times."
"It's so rare to find something so wonderfully original," Caron says. "I responded to this script immediately because it's filled with comedy and, at the same time, filled with heartache."
The most important scenes in Wilder Napalm, which was filmed on location in the central Florida communities of Lakeland and Sanford, take place in three main settings: Wilder and Vida's trailer park home, Wallace's carnival and a miniature golf course --the "Putt-O-Saurus" -- unlike anything ever seen before.
"This is a movie that takes place in a heightened reality, a kind of hyper reality," Caron says.
Bringing that heightened reality to the screen was production designer John Muto, who says, "I wanted each of the three main sets to evoke its own mood, to let the audience know exactly where they are all the time."
Muto's main tool was color. Wilder and Vida's trailer park and the trailer itself are done in calming greens and blues to signify the tranquil path their life together has taken.
"The trailer park is supposed to be Eden, a peaceful green oasis," Muto says.
When Wallace re-enters the picture, that tranquility is shattered.
"I like to use color very psychologically," says Muto. "For example, the trailer is safe, calming colors, but when Wallace drives up in his garish pickup, it's like an incredible orange invasion. The audience knows just from that clash of colors that Wilder and Vida's life together is about to change."
If the trailer park is supposed to be heaven, then the carnival must represent hell. Populated with unsavory characters and done primarily in garish reds and oranges, the setting by Muto is perfect for the fiery duels between the Foudroyant brothers, including the final explosive confrontation.
Perhaps the most unusual set Muto designed was the "Putt-O-Saurus," the dinosaur-themed miniature golf course where Wallace tries to convince Vida that she's wasting her time with his dull, uninspired brother. When Wallace kisses Vida, sparks fly... both figuratively and literally.
"The scene between Wallace and Vida is about the ignition of pure passion," says Caron. "I wanted something extremely visual to convey that. The passion created in that scene is primal and so are dinosaurs."
The carnival world is filled with wonderfully strange and fascinating characters, and so is the carnival in Wilder Napalm. Perhaps the most fascinating of this carnival's denizens is Biff the Clown, Wallace Foudroyant's alter ego. Until now, Wallace has had to hide his telekinetic powers behind Biff's clown makeup, but he's ready to remove that makeup for good and finally show the world what he can do.
"What's great about playing a clown," Quaid delightedly admits, "is that you can go completely over the top and get away with it."
Quaid did not come to the role without some practical experience.
"I was a clown in an amusement park called Astroworld in Texas when I was in college," Quaid says. "It was great fun to get behind the makeup and kind of let it all out again."
Next on the list of fascinating characters populating the carnival is Rex, the head carny, whose ambition is to be Wallace's head assistant when he goes public with his flame-throwing abilities. Rex, as played by Jim Varney of "Ernest" fame, is a dreamer and a schemer who sees Wallace as his ticket away from the grime, tattered clothes and dead-end existence that make up his life.
"The ultimate thrill for Rex," Varney says, "would be a house in Beverly Hills, gold lame suits and a two-tone pink Cadillac with a white interior and gold-plated hubcaps."