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The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper

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Title: The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper  
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Language: English
Subject: 1981 in film, Roger Spottiswoode, Doris Grau, Cooper Huckabee, The Last Innocent Man
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The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper

The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper
Film poster
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Buzz Kulik
Produced by Daniel Wigutow
Michael Taylor
Screenplay by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin
Based on book Free Fall by
J.D. Reed
Starring Treat Williams
Robert Duvall
Kathryn Harrold
Paul Gleason
R.G. Armstrong
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Harry Stradling Jr.
Charles F. Wheeler
Edited by Allan Jacobs
Robbe Roberts
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 13, 1981 (1981-11-13)
Running time
100 min.
Language English
Budget $12 million[1]
Box office $3,702,028

The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper is a 1981 film about infamous aircraft hijacker D. B. Cooper, who escaped with $200,000 after leaping from the back of a plane. The bulk of the film fictionalizes Cooper's escape after he landed on the ground.


  • Plot 1
  • Production 2
  • Soundtrack 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The film opens with the hijacker leaving a plane by its aft airway on a clear day, parachuting into a forest in Washington. The man is later identified as Jim Meade (Treat Williams), an ex-Army man with big dreams. Meade escapes the manhunt using a jeep he had previously hidden in the forest and concealing the money in the carcass of a deer. He eventually meets up with his estranged wife Hannah (Kathryn Harrold), who operates a river rafting company. Meanwhile, Meade is being hunted by Bob Gruen (Robert Duvall), an insurance investigator who was Meade's sergeant in the Army, and Meade's Army buddy Remson (Paul Gleason), who listened when Meade had talked about hijacking a plane.

Gruen confronts the Meades at the rafting company, but they escape down the river. The Meades lead Gruen and Remson separately on a cross-country chase involving various stolen cars. Gruen is fired from the pursuit by his employer, yet continues the chase to claim the money for himself. At an air yard where the Meades acquire a hot-air balloon, Gruen steals the money from Hannah, and Meade chases him down with a barely functioning biplane. Meade runs Gruen off the road and crashes the plane. They discuss how Gruen knew it was Meade; Gruen thought of him because of their history. Meade leaves Gruen with a couple bundles of the cash, and walks away with the rest, to be picked up by Hannah.

At the end, Remson reaches a crossroads the Meades have just passed; thinking he sees their truck parked nearby, he continues the chase.


The movie stars Treat Williams as D.B. Cooper, along with Robert Duvall and Kathryn Harrold.

John Frankenheimer was the original director, but he was replaced by Buzz Kulik before shooting began. Well into shooting Kulik was replaced by Roger Spottiswoode. Only Spottiswoode received screen credit.

In 1982 Frankenheimer described the film as "probably my worst-ever experience. A key member in the chain of command had been lying to both management and myself with the result that we all thought we were making a different movie."[2]

The film was based on American poet J.D. Reed's novel Free Fall. The musical score included the song "Shine", written and sung by Waylon Jennings.

In an attempt to drum up publicity for the movie, Universal Pictures offered a million dollar reward for any information that would lead to the capture and arrest of the real Cooper. No one ever got the money.

The movie includes a lot of inaccuracies. For instance, in the movie it shows D. B. Cooper jumping during daylight with clear weather. However, in the actual event, Cooper jumped during the night and it was raining heavily.

The film was not a success in theatres and is now difficult to find on video, but can be found on Hulu.[3]


A soundtrack album was also released on Polydor (PD-1-6344),[4] consisting mostly of country songs. The musical score was composed by James Horner. It includes the song "Shine", written and sung by Waylon Jennings, which was also released on his 1982 album Black on Black.

Track listing
No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Shine"   Jennings Waylon Jennings 2:49
2. "Maybe He Knows About You"   Enid Levine Rita Coolidge 2:40
3. "Bittersweet Love"   Levine Jessi Colter 3:15
4. "Money"   John Sebastian Rita Coolidge 3:42
5. "Wyoming Bound"   Horner James Horner (conductor) 1:37
6. "Silk Dresses"   Michael Smotherman The Marshall Tucker Band 3:15
7. "Money" (Instrumental) Levine James Horner (conductor) 2:45
8. "You Were Never There"   Smotherman Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter 3:38
9. "White Water"   Horner James Horner (conductor) 4:11
10. "Shine (Bluegrass Version)"   Jennings Waylon Jennings 2:35
Total length:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Mann, R. (1982, Sep 26). FRANKENHEIMER SPEEDS ON. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper on Hulu [2]
  4. ^ "The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper". 

External links

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