Steve Latshaw got an early start in the movie business. He was making headlines while still in high school by shooting comedy specials for the GE Cablevision channel.
The 18-year-old was featured in a Daily Review article in 1977 after making a Monty Python-like program with his friends. In the article, Latshaw was quoted as saying, “I plan to do it for a career. If I have any luck with it.”
Fast-forward 33 years, and he is living it up in California, working as a screenwriter. In just the past few months, Latshaw has seen the release of some of the biggest projects of his career.
In late 2009, “1974,” a documentary he coproduced about one of his favorite bands, the Beach Boys, was released. The film was made with footage shot on the road with the Beach Boys during their Midwest tour in 1974.
“This is a big dream come true for me,” he said.
But the biggest celebration came in November with the release of the DVD “Command Performance,” a tongue-in-cheek action flick he made with Dolph Lundgren, the Swedish actor best known for his role as Capt. Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV.”
“It’s the best reviewed film I’ve ever worked on,” Latshaw said. “A lot of my stuff has been done on the lower budget realm, and you can’t help but get bad reviews on that level.”
He helped Lundgren write the screenplay after the action star asked him to join in on a project.
“He wanted to make something that was fun,” Latshaw said. “It’s basically ‘Die Hard’ in a concert arena.”
Lundgren’s character plays an ex-biker turned drummer who opens a performance by an American pop-star for the Russian president in Moscow. When the president and his family are kidnapped during the concert, Lundgren saves the day.
“In the film, Dolph really works hard to make fun of himself and his image,” Latshaw said. “He just wanted to do something different that would be fun and loud and broke a lot of the rules.”
Latshaw has worked in the straight-to-video tier of the movie world since 1987 when he was living in Orlando, Fla., and making full-length monster movies on the weekends.
“They were huge home video hits,” he said.
Then in 1995, he packed up his family and moved to Hollywood to break into the movie business. It took a little while for him to catch a break, but once he did, the screenwriter stayed busy making the type of science fiction and action films he dreamed of as a kid in Decatur.
Latshaw started his love affair with film as an 8-year-old when he picked up his grandfather’s Super 8 camera.
“I used to run around in my old neighborhood on Cantrell Street near Lake Decatur and pretend we were all in a spy movie,” he said.
At 16, he got a job as a news photographer at WAND, and he and his friends spent their free time making comedy shows for the local cable station.
He went on to college at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he got into broadcast news for a while before finding his way back to movies.
“I knew the eventual direction was Hollywood,” he said. “I was always fanaticizing about L.A. while living in Decatur.”
He and his friends were known to practice their stunt man skills by staging fights on the hood of a 1968 convertible Camaro while driving down Lake Shore Drive.
“We were just doing stunts to see if we could freak out the people standing outside watching,” Latshaw said. “Nobody believed it.”
Doug Workman was the other stunt man Latshaw would battle on the hood of the car. Workman always expected Latshaw would end up working in movies.
“I always kind of assumed it,” he said. “It’s just a pretty neat thing to be able to point to the TV or a movie and say, ‘Hey, look, that’s my friend.’ ”
Workman recently watched “Command Performance” on Netflix and agrees that it’s Latshaw’s best movie so far.
Dave Garriott, the driver of the ’68 Camaro, said he used to spend his weekends with Latshaw watching movies and then attempting to make their own.
“He was always the brains behind everything,” Garriott said. “He would come up with the ideas, and we would all kind of embellish them together.”
He always knew Latshaw would end up working in movies, but even so he’s still impressed with what he’s achieved.
“It’s really a joy to see him get to where he’s at now,” he said. “Not everybody has to be a superstar screenwriter to have success. To have anything released at all is quite an achievement.”
Read more: Mission accomplished: Steve Latshaw followed his dream to Hollywood
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