Welcome to Grand Theft Parsons' official movie website.
Initial release: 2003
Director: David Caffrey
Initial DVD release: October 26, 2004
Music composed by: Richard G. Mitchell
Grand Theft Parsons stars Johnny Knoxville, Christina Applegate and Robert Forster. Having screened to great acclaim at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and a successful release in cinemas, the film is now available on DVD in North America and the UK and Ireland.
The film is based on a true story about friendship; the kind of friendship that saw one man break the law, jeopardise his freedom and race hundreds of miles, to see to it that in death his friend's wishes were honoured. It's inspired by the true story that marked the end of the life of cult musician Gram Parsons, and will hopefully go some way to bringing the legacy of Parsons' music to a whole new generation.
The film centres around Phil Kaufman (played by Johnny Knoxville in his first dramatic leading role), road manager to Gram Parsons, who stole his friend's body and drove it to Joshua Tree National Park. Remaining faithful to a pact they had made two months previously, he gave Parsons the last rites he'd requested - a cremation in the desert he'd loved.
The film was shot in the lightning-quick time of 24 days using authentic locations in California. The production was granted permission to film in LAX where the body was actually stolen, as well as the Joshua Tree National Park where the cremation took place. In the movie, Knoxville wears the road manager's actual denim jacket he had worn when committing the bodysnatching, and Knoxville rides the road manager's actual Harley trike.
Grand Theft Parsons features a blistering soundtrack that includes Bruce Springsteen, Starsailor, Primal Scream and of course, the duets between Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The soundtrack album is now available on Cube Soundtracks. Check out the trailer, the director's photo diary, exclusive film clips, and an exclusive interview with Johnny Knoxville. You'll also find exclusive behind the scenes footage of the coffin burning scene that almost turned the desert into an inferno.
What the Critics Say
there are worse ways to pay respect to music legends
February 9, 2006 | Rating: 5/10
Dragan Antulov Draxblog Movie Reviews
History of rock music is rich, and, sadly, some of this richness comes from many tragic tales of talented artists ending their lives prematurely. Among those sad stories few are as bizarre as the tale that inspired the plot of GRAND THEFT PARSONS, 2003 film directed by David Caffrey.
The film begins with Gram Parsons (played by Gabriel Macht), brilliant country and rock musician, fatally overdosing in September 1973. The news prompts Parsons' road manager and best friend Phil Kaufman (played by Johnny Knoxville) to act upon the pact he had made with the dead rock star and have his body cremated in Joshua Tree National Park. At the same time Parsons' father Stanley (played by Robert Forster) wants to have his son buried in Lousiana. Before that happens, Phil enlists the help of hippie hearse driver Larry Oster-Berg (played by Michael Shannon) and steals the coffin from LAX. As they drive towards Parsons' resting place in the desert, they are pursued not only by police and Parsons' father, but also by Parson's gold-digging ex-girlfriend Barbara (played by Christina Applegate) who desperately needs a proof of Parsons' death in order to claim his fortune.
GRAND THEFT PARSONS is shot with low budget and it shows through rather un-spectacular and over-used sets and locations. The filmmakers nevertheless made the decent job of recreating the period. The plot - although not particularly strong nor very funny, despite some truly bizarre situations - flows nicely. More importantly, characters look human and audience can sympathise with them. The flashback scenes where Phil and Gram move from Baltimore to Joshua Tree - this is the trip that inspires the desire to be buried there - are insane. Even though their move was within the USA, Phil later constantly raves about the international Baltimore movers service he used, primarily because they helped him move some contraband along with their furniture. The moving van gets stopped by a cop because the driver fails to signal a turn, cutting off the trooper's vehicle. Phil and Gram convince the cop to ignore the infraction by pretending to be on the way to visit their dying mother. The trip from Baltimore is completely irrelevant to the main story, but is probably in there to show how wild these guys are. Every time they mention "Baltimore movers" someone cracks up at the inside joke which eventually gets old. Johnny Knoxville is impressive in one of his first "real" roles. Michael Shannon and Robert Forster are also good in their roles, preventing the film to overdose on comedy or tragedy. Christina Applegate and her annoying character, on the other hand, is unnecessary addition to the film. Probably the biggest flaw of the film is failure to introduce Gram Parsons' music to the younger audiences. However, those who watch GRAND THEFT PARSONS might conclude that there are worse ways to pay respect to music legends.
A cult film in the making.
...Knoxville is a revelation as a proper actor. Throw in a great soundtrack and some great one-liners, and you have the best loosely-based-on-a-rock-star film since the Doors. A great low-budget buddy movie. Even if one of the buddies spends the entire film being dead.
...plays like 'A Weekend at Bernie's' crossed with 'Cannonball Run'.
A lovely cult movie - see it while you can!
The Jackass joker calms down for this wryly funny true-life tale about the friends who kidnap the corpse of deceased country singer Gram Parsons to carry out his burial wishes. A quirky charmer.
...as good as it gets.
The most anticipated movie for music fans at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
A cracking, full-throttle road movie, laced with wit and wisdom and starring a rocker, a hippy, a corpse and a hearse.
...a truly funny film, right out of the top drawer ...it's a mark of this movie's tremendous charm that, as the flames rise towards the sky, the ending seems gloriously happy.
Parsons had made a pact with close friend and associate Phil Kaufman, ensuring that if either one of them died young, the other would sidestep the usual funeral rituals and cremate the corpse in the pair's beloved Californian desert. Though Parsons' relatives had more orthodox plans, Kaufman did what he had promised, stealing his friend's body from LA airport, transporting it to the required location, and then drunkenly torching it. In line with the family's original plans, the bodily scraps recovered from the ashes were transported to New Orleans. So it was that Parsons effectively ended up with two tombstones.
Much of this - embellished by plenty of fictional conceits - is chronicled in a new film called Grand Theft Parsons, a micro-budget caper movie that puts Johnny 'Jackass' Knoxville in the role of Phil Kaufman. What it lacks in locations and big league cast members, it makes up for in a pleasing emphasis on simple friendship and the human warmth that lay at the heart of the 60's counterculture. It is also clever enough to take up the story in the wake of Parsons' death, thus avoiding the trap of having to portray him convincingly. It will doubtless push Parsons beyond the high-end cultishness that currently defines his popularity.
RottenTomatoes Audience Review
**** Bubba S
Humorous interpretation of the time after the death of the influential singer-songwriter Gram Parsons. Loved the touch with the soundtrack. Parsons may have been unknown for most people, but he sure did lay the foundations for country-rock, and contributed as a songwriter to bands such as The Eagles, Rolling Stones, The Byrds and many more. If you're into the country music genre, back in the day, you might remember his "Cosmic American Music", a hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, and rock. He played with such groups as the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Although he had a relatively short career it was considered by some critics to be enormously influential in both country and rock, by blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other. I saw the film when it was first released and recently watched it on Netflix in our Batcave with my band. We are the Dead Sea Squirrels and the lot of us are known to be extreme Batman fans. We wear Batman t's (and sweatshirts when performing outdoors in cooler weather) as a rule and have even received some recognition from our fav online store - MoonAtMidnight.com - no free shirts, but a mention & photo in their flyer. This is clearly the best online source of Batman t shirts. So the band shows up wearing our Batman gear and we groove to the tube version of Grand Theft Parsons who is one of our heroes, along with the rest of the fantastic country bands. Batman would be smiling just to see us together. Getting back to film, I enjoyed it just as much the second time as I did the first. Sure the film has some flaws, but the music was great.
...weird and wonderful...
'Grand Theft Parsons' is a goofy, easygoing ride most of the way, yet it proves unexpectedly touching once all the characters involved in the fate of this one prized stiff arrive at the same spot and must agree among themselves what to do with it, to honor Gram's wishes or their own. And it doesn't hurt that the man who plays Parsons in life and in death is Gabriel Macht, who looks uncannily like The Man Himself. Top it off with a cameo by the real-life Phil Kaufman, and you've got a rock'n'roll road movie like no other. Wherever he is, Gram should get a kick out of it.
This wacky tale of rock'n'roll undertakers has a big heart. The most fun you'll ever have watching a coffin burn.
Wittily scripted and lovingly directed, the film skilfully balances irreverence and sentiment. With a strong soundtrack providing additional flavour, it's a full-bodied tribute to human loyalty that's destined for cult status.
...charming and very watchable.
Grand Theft Parsons comes highly recommended
...beautifully good-spirited movie about friendship and obligations it brings, shot through with an appreciation of the human warmth that ran through the Love'n'peace generation. And yes, it's commendably funny - thought not in the way that the presence of Johnny 'Jackass' Knoxville might suggest. Far from being some gonzo schlock-out, Its humour is affectionate, understated, and often beautifully delivered.
Grand Theft Parsons is touching and hilarious in equal measure.
The International Federation of Film Critics
Noble and gentle in a way movies are not supposed to be anymore.
Good-natured and whacked-out enough to be a fitting tribute to its hero.
News of the World
This is a real gem - a joy to watch. The pace never slackens, leaving you chuckling along from start to finish.
...one remove from brilliant.
...an unexpectedly lovely little film that is quite possibly destined for Future Cult Movie status. It’s funny and moving and has a superb soundtrack as well as sweet performances from its cast.
It's brilliant rock'n'roll mayhem with excellent performances all round.
Dazed & Confused
A funny, slapstick movie about a hippy, a roadie, a dead country singer and his money-grabbing ex-girlfriend.
...entertaining, energetic and sometimes tender.
The Sunday Times
A stolen coffin, a burning body: a low-budget gem of a film highlights the genius of Gram Parsons, country rock’s inventor...
...a wonderfully funny film that has some deft emotional resonances (namely to do with loyalty) and a sprinkling of laugh-out-loud moments that will pop into your head for days after it has finished....a hugely uplifting affair that leaves the audience with a broad smile and hopefully will benefit from the positive word-of-mouth it deserves.
Knoxville turns in one of the most impressive small-screen crossovers in years!
David Caffrey’s film of an extraordinary but true rock legend is, on the surface, a nicely mischievous black-comedy caper. Hiring a bright yellow hearse from a lily-livered hippie named Larry who insists on driving the vehicle himself (Michael Shannon, looking like a member of Polyphonic Spree), Kaufman steals the corpse and sets off with Larry towards Joshua Tree National Park, chased by Parsons Snr (Robert Forster) and Gram’s (fictional) gold-digging ex-girlfriend Barbara (Christina Applegate, in terrifically tart form). At times it’s not far from Smokey And The Bandit territory, as Kaufman escapes from cops, evades his pursuers and tries to stop Larry from constantly crashing the hearse.
At the film’s heart, though, is a hymn to friendship and the heroism of a man keeping his word (for some reason this story always works best with men; the more dissolute and unreliable in everyday life, the better). Balancing the two halves is Johnny Knoxville in a revelatory performance as Kaufman, born to the role of a party animal turned caring, adult compadre.
Grand Theft is a rather flippant tribute to Parsons: aside from a few songs of his on the soundtrack, the film is barely even about him, and won’t win him many new fans other than by simple name-dropping. As a universal fable about grand, reckless gestures and unbreakable bonds, though – and as a very funny road movie – it’s a minor triumph.
Shadows on the Wall
Enjoyably funny and surprisingly moving...Knoxville is excellent in his first leading role, creating an authentic hangdog character we can root for against the odds. Meanwhile, Applegate plays another memorably personality-intensive woman, while Shannon has a delightful floppy presence that feels like the result of years of substance abuse. And Forster even manages to inject some depth into his simple role, as do all the one-scene players. While the whole film meanders, each little detail crackles with life. As a result, this extraordinary story takes on an extra level of meaning as a down-to-earth fable about loyalty. A very nice surprise.