By Tim Arnett
WABASH,Indiana – Many people in the MiBash area will be curled up on their couch watching the 88th Academy Awards this Sunday night on ABC. But few know that a resident of Wabash votes on the Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and every other category every year as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. What’s even more amazing is that there are only around 6,500 voting members of the Academy in the entire world.
Wabash-native John Corso spent 37 years in Hollywood as a feature film production designer and art director from the 1950s to the 1990s. The list of his most famous credits reads like a rite of passage for generation X thanks to his close working relationship with the late director John Hughes. Corso worked as the Production Designer for “Sixteen Candles,” “Weird Science,” “Ferris Buller’s Day Off” and “Pretty In Pink.” But perhaps his most memorable design is the library in the 1985 film “The Breakfast Club.”
The library, Corso said, was actually built on three basketball courts 150 feet in length inside a school in Chicago after the school’s real library did not satisfy director Hughes. In our conversation, Corso enjoyed recalling many of the directors he worked under and productions he worked for . . . but he kept coming back to his experience working for Hughes as some of his fondest memories.
Corso is a 1948 Wabash High School graduate and has himself been nominated for an Academy Award for his Art Direction on the 1980 film “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” He agreed to an interview with MiBash News on Friday out on his farm off old 24 and talked leisurely for over on hour about his incredible experiences working on the sets for 1963’s “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor and the Alfred Hitchcook film “Topaz” released in 1969. He spent many years working for Universal Studios as a production designer after coming over from 20th Century Fox where he worked as a set designer at the very end of the studio system.
He chuckled when asked if Hitchcook was a perfectionist. “Oh, yes” he replied before recalling that the famous director did not want any of props from his sets used in other films and therefore ordered them all destroyed.
Corso has been a member of the Academy since 1986. To become a member, one must be voted in other after working on a relatively large number of films. Every year, he gets a ballot from the Academy listing that year’s nominations. The major studios will send out “screeners” of the nominated films on DVD which helps the Academy members chose who or what to vote for. These days, Corso said, the ballots are all done online. He said that his niece in Los Angeles fills out his ballot after they both consult each other about the choices.
Corso worked for many years in television as well and received an Emmy award in 1982 for his work on ABC pilot “Tales of the Gold Monkey.” He also is a member of the Television Arts and Sciences.
When asked if he had written any books, Corso responded in the negative. But after MiBash News listened to his wonderful stories Friday afternoon, perhaps he should consider that as his next production.