“Bagdad Cafe” director Percy Adlon and its star, CCH Pounder, talked to The Guardian newspaper in London about their cult film 30 years after it was released.
The eccentric German film was shot at a Route 66 restaurant, Sidewinder Cafe, near Newberry Springs, California. The Sidewinder wisely changed its name to Bagdad Cafe after the film’s release in 1987.
“Bagdad Cafe” became a cult-film favorite, especially in Europe, and the restaurant continues to host hundreds of European Route 66 tourists and film buffs each year. The old motel near the restaurant was torn down years ago.
Some highlights from the inteviews:
— Adlon said the film was inspired by a Route 66 trip into California’s Mojave Desert, where they saw the “strange lights” of a solar farm near Daggett and the ghost town of Bagdad. They brought those two elements together into the film.
— Adlon said the performance by supporting actor Jack Palance turned around his career and set the stage for his Oscar-winning turn in “City Slickers.” Palance turned down a $1 million offer from a TV series to do “Bagdad Cafe.”
— Songwriter Bob Telson composed the film’s theme song, “Calling You,” which turned out to be a Top 10 hit for singer Jevetta Steele in Europe and was nominated for an Academy Award for best song. The song also has been covered by Celine Dion, Natalie Cole, Barbra Steisand, Jeff Buckley, Des’ree, George Michael, Etta James and many other artists. It remains the biggest hit of Telson’s career.
— Pounder said she’s received “tons of letters” from people who were inspired to change their lives because of the film.
— The cabaret scene in the film worked out well enough that Pounder and co-star Marianne Sagebrecht performed it at a local magic club.
(Image of the Bagdad Cafe near Newberry Springs, California, by Vicente Villamon via Flickr)