30 years later, these things are good: Cher, Eric Stoltz and 'Mask'

Published Mar. 12, 2015

Remember when Cher was a better actress than she was a singer? Yes, the '80s. And 30 years ago this week, she gave fans one to remember when she co-starred with Eric Stoltz in Mask.

Released March 8, 1985, Mask followed the life and early death of Rocky Dennis (Stoltz), a teen suffering from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia (sometimes commonly called "lionitis"). Cher played "Rusty" Dennis, his protective and loving mom who is fighting her own demons with addiction. The movie was based on a true story.

Both Cher and Stoltz scored Golden Globes nominations for their work in Mask. The movie would also win an Oscar for best makeup.

The movie holds a 93 percent "fresh rating" on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars and wrote: "Mask is a wonderful movie, a story of high spirits and hope and courage. … The story of Rocky and Rusty is absorbing from the very first, maybe because the movie doesn't waste a lot of time wringing its hands over Rocky's fate…"

Here are five things you probably didn't know about Mask.

1. Hardcore fans will notice a big difference between the soundtrack of the original movie and later DVD releases. Director Peter Bogdanovich originally wanted to use Bruce Springsteen tunes for the movie, but the studio and Springsteen's label couldn't work out a deal. At the last minute, Bob Seger songs were substituted instead. The 2004 director's cut DVD restores the original Springsteen songs.

2. Ever the cougar, Cher wanted her real-life boyfriend Val Kilmer to play the part of her on-screen boyfriend, Gar. Sam Elliott got the role instead. Elliott is 17 years older than Kilmer.

3. Both Rob Lowe and Kevin Costner were considered for the role of Rocky.

4. At the end of the movie, Rusty and Gar visit the grave of Rocky. But in real life, Rocky wasn't buried. His mom donated his body to UCLA for medical study.

5. The poem that Rocky reads to Rusty -- "These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face" -- was written by the real Rocky Dennis. The real Rusty died Nov. 11, 2006, at age 70 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.


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