Flight film features obscure connection to Mesa

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Darner Chrysler in Mesa ArizonaHow does the new Denzel Washington film Flight, about a flawed hero who saves a plane full of passengers from catastrophe, connect to the eccentric city of Mesa, Arizona? Well, it’s definitely not through the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

In 1980, Flight’s director Robert Zemeckis helmed the feature film Used Cars, which was filmed at the Darner Chrysler car lot at 837 W. Main St. in Mesa; as well as sets created in an empty lot across from Darner’s and at locations on the outskirts of town (for the movie’s big car race finale.) In addition to having the director in common, Flight and Used Cars are the only “Rated R” films that Zemeckis has ever made.

Besides the cool local connection, Used Cars is on my list as one of the funniest comedies ever made. The movie stars Kurt Russell as a car salesman with political ambitions who is competing with the Roy L. Fuchs lot across the street. The film also stars Jack Warden in a dual role and David L. Lander and Michael McKean (Lenny and Squiggy from the ’70s classic Laverne and Shirley show.) President Jimmy Carter even makes an unauthorized but funny cameo appearance. This movie is hilariously zany and if you’ve never seen it before, I highly recommend you put this film on your rental queue.

You can still see the Darner Chrysler sign at the Mesa location on Main Street, but it’s now just an empty and dilapidated car lot; and across the street an apartment complex now stands where the Used Cars movie sets had been built over three decades ago. Take a gander at the clip below for a look at the location in its heyday. The Used Cars lot is a movie set, but the Roy L. Fuchs lot across the street was actually the Darner Chrysler car lot.

Please note the following video is from the R-Rated film, Used Cars.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.