Back in Time for a Night

SpIFF 2016: Vision Quest star Matthew Modine reflects on his time in Spokane

Spokane-shot Vision Quest is the opening night film at this year's Spokane International Film Fest.
Spokane-shot Vision Quest is the opening night film at this year's Spokane International Film Fest.

It's been more than 30 years since Vision Quest hit movie theaters, telling the story of a up-and-coming high school wrestler's pursuit of glory on the mat, and for the attention of a sexy houseguest. Matthew Modine, soon to star in Full Metal Jacket and Married to the Mob, played Louden Swain, the wrestler in question. He was in his early 20s and just starting out in his career when he came to Spokane to film the movie that had a lot of scenes of Modine sprinting across the downtown bridges or working at the Ridpath Hotel, an MTV-ready soundtrack (Journey! Dio! The Style Council!) and an inexplicable cameo by then-new star Madonna as a bar singer.

Modine (pictured) returns to Spokane for opening night of the Spokane International Film Festival, where he will be joined by the film's director Harold Becker and the writer of the original story, Terry Davis, as well as Jess Walter and legendary local wrestling coach Cash Stone. Together, they will discuss the film at a screening at the Fox, with all proceeds going to INK Art Space.

Modine traded emails with us to talk about the movie, how it fit in his career, and what he remembers about Spokane.

INLANDER: What did VisionQuest mean for you in your career when it arrived 30 years ago?

MODINE: I have to give credit to my wife, Cari, for encouraging me to make Vision Quest. You see, I was fresh out of drama school and felt the film wasn't important and didn't challenge the morals of the status quo. Or something silly thing like that. What I'm saying is, when a lot of actors come out of school, they're perched upon a very self-righteous "high horse" and they need to get off of it! That said, because I was filled with those wonderful, big ideas young actors come out of school with, I brought all that knowledge and passion to the character of Louden Swain. When I broke the film and the character down, like Joseph Campbell did with Star Wars, it was clearly an epic tale about coming of age and slaying a dragon. We even had Elmo as Yoda!! I'm very happy my wife saw this aspect of the story and helped illuminate it for me.

As you look back on it now, how do you look at the movie in context of all the things you've gone on to do? Is it among your favorite films?

Yes. It is absolutely one of my favorites. Louden is someone everyone knows. He's like a son or a best friend to millions of people. When I go to sporting events there will always be someone who shouts "Hey Louden! Do you think you'll make the weight?!" How could you not love that!

What sticks out most in your memories of your time filming here in Spokane?

I loved how the town feels surrounded by rivers. All the bridges. But mostly the spirit and generosity of the people from Spokane. It's a special place.

Are you at all surprised at how excited the people of Spokane still are about Vision Quest? And did you ever expect you'd be returning to Spokane to celebrate the movie?

In my opinion, in many ways, Louden Swain is the physical embodiment of the spirit of Spokane. Louden and Spokane possess that desire to accomplish great things. To live each day like there's no tomorrow.

Finally, did you get to spend any quality time with Madonna during her part of the shoot?

Not quality time. She was only there for a day of the shooting. I think she was quite nervous and wanted, like everyone working on the film, to make her mark. ♦

Vision Quest • Fri, Jan. 29, at 7:30 pm • $13. Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox • 1001 W. Sprague

U-Pick Lavender Festival @ Evening Light Lavender Farm

Sat., July 9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., July 10
  • or

About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...