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Meet Frank Jasper, 'Shute' from 'Vision Quest'

Three decades after first arriving in theaters, the 1985 movie "Vision Quest" still holds a special place in the hearts and minds of wrestlers and wrestling fans. Based on the popular late 1970s book of the same name by Terry Davis, the movie focuses on high school wrestler Louden Swain in his quest to defeat the muscular, menacing -- and undefeated -- defending state champ, Brian Shute.

Brian Shute gets ready to wrestle
"Vision Quest" helped launch a number of careers, including Matthew Modine (as Swain), Linda Fiorentino (as Carla, the "older" woman who comes to live with Louden and his dad), Michael Schoeffling and Forest Whitaker as Kuch and Balldozer, respectively (Swain's high school teammates), and the one and only Madonna, who plays a bar singer in her first major film role. However, for most in the wrestling community, the actor to remember is Frank Jasper, the guy who played Shute.

Jasper recently submitted to an interview with InterMat to talk about his life before "Vision Quest", what it was like filming the iconic movie, what he's been doing in the years since, and how he still gets a reaction from fans who still have passionate feelings about the film.

Yeah, but could he wrestle?

Yes, the guy who played Shute wrestled for real.

"I started off at 112 (pounds) as a freshman in high school, JV," Jasper told InterMat. "Sophomore year, I moved up one weight. By my senior year, I was wrestling at 155."

Wrestling wasn't the only sport for Jasper. "I also played tennis my last two years of high school. I practiced indoors, and got a scholarship at North Idaho College."

After high school, Jasper took a detour from his educational career, working as an ironworker in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State for four years before enrolling at Eastern Washington University, where, as a student in the pre-med athletic training program, served as athletic trainer for the school's wrestling team.

"For three months I served as a training partner for a wrestler at 190 pounds," said Jasper. "A guy on the team was working as an extra on this movie about a high school wrestler being filmed in Washington (State). Said they were looking for a six-foot tall guy to wrestle in the movie. At the time I was a bodybuilder, and had bulked up to about 215 pounds."

"I thought it was worth a shot. I went to where they were filming the movie, with the idea that I would simply play a wrestler. I wasn't expecting to have to deliver any lines."

Frank Jasper was in for a surprise.

Will wrestle for a movie role

"I met with the casting director first. She handed me some lines from a script, asked me to read them," said Jasper. "She then took me to meet the director, Harold Becker. She grabbed the script out of my hands, saying, 'Do the lines.' I delivered the lines, then Harold said, 'Let's see you wrestle.' Luckily I had just participated in a wrestling competition, so I got through the practice demonstration."

"They said that I looked to be about the same age as Matthew and Linda," Jasper continued. "The only thing they asked me to change was -- get rid of my moustache."

Matthew Modin, who played Louden Swain, and Frank Jasper, who played Brian Shute, talk at a Beat the Streets event (Photo/Larry Slater)
Jasper was then invited back to read for the "Vision Quest" producers, Jon Peters and Peter Guber. "Two other guys had tried out for the part but didn't work out. They apparently had a new guy that they liked, while the casting director and Harold were backing me for the role."

"I had to do my reading for the producers with my shirt off. I felt ridiculous."

"We all went over to the set. The other guy -- his name was Frank Zagarino -- demonstrated his ability to wrestle. They'd say, 'do a takedown' or whatever wrestling move, and he'd do it, then I would do the same. Back and forth. Sort of a wrestle-off."

Jasper's story confirms a popular legend within the wrestling community -- that he had won a wrestling match with another actor to win the role of Brian Shute. Don't feel bad for Frank Zagarino; the former high school wrestler enjoyed a career in action movies before becoming a personal trainer.

The making of a movie -- and an iconic character

Winning the wrestle-off was just the beginning of the hard work for Frank Jasper.

"I was a 215-pound bodybuilder who had to drop down to 189 in two-and-a-half weeks, before my scenes were to be filmed," Jasper told InterMat. "I know what it's like for wrestlers sucking weight."

"The ironic thing was, as I was cutting weight, Matthew (Modine) was bulking up his frame so he looked to be more like a 189-pounder."

Once the weight was off, Jasper was ready.

"We shot for ten weeks, back in 1983, with some follow-up work in 1984."

But that wasn't the end of Jasper's work on "Vision Quest."

"Three months after filming, I was called back. They needed to shoot the weigh-in scenes. In the meantime, I had ballooned back up to 217. I had a month to get back down to what I weighed during the earlier filming."

"In the weigh-in scenes, I thought I looked a little thin."

About a month later, Jasper got another call: We need you again, this time for the famous -- or infamous -- scene where Shute confronts Louden Swain in the men's room with the line "You can't hold your mud."

Jasper called director Harold Becker to warn him that he was up to 225. Luckily, it didn't really matter. "In the bathroom scene, I was wearing a jean jacket, which covered up the fact I was weighing in at about 200 pounds."

Jasper revealed that the first scene he shot was of him getting off the school bus to enter the gym at Thompson High, Louden Swain's school.

Over the course of a total of twelve weeks of filming, Frank Jasper learned just how much work -- and how many long hours -- go into making a movie.

"It was an interesting process to film," Jasper said of his first assignment on a Hollywood movie, citing ten-to-twelve-hour days involving filming particular scenes over and over, especially the wrestling scenes.

Brian Shute training
Jasper shared some background on the filming of yet another truly memorable scene in the movie: where Shute is climbing the stadium stairs with a log hoisted across his shoulders.

"Yes, it was a real log!" Jasper disclosed. "And, even though the inside was hollowed out, it was still damn heavy!"

"The other part no one realizes: even though the scene was to take place on a hot day, it was actually freezing cold. The sweat on my face was glycerin."

Despite it being his first foray into film, Jasper has positive feelings about director Harold Becker, who had also directed "The Onion Field", "Taps" and "Sea of Love", among other films.

"Harold was clear in telling me what he wanted, setting me up to be the monster."

When asked if the director deliberately kept him away from the other actors -- a process that has been employed in some boxing movies and other films where a mano a mano confrontation is key to the story -- Jasper replied, "The only time I spent with other actors was in wrestling practice. I really didn't hang out with Matthew, but that wasn't necessarily by design."

What about Madonna?

"I wasn't around when they filmed her scene," Jasper said. "Realize that this movie was filmed before she became a star, so I wouldn't have really known who she was, even if I had been around for that scene."

"Vision Quest" hit theaters on February 15, 1985. ("I thought they released it at a bad time," Jasper told InterMat.)

Jasper described the making of "Vision Quest" as being "a very cool experience." So cool, it seems, that the student who was a Dean's List honoree in a very academically-demanding athletic training program -- "essentially pre-med" as he described it -- decided to relocate from the Pacific Northwest down to Los Angeles to see if he could make a go of it as an actor.

"For one-and-a-half years, I took acting classes four nights a week, from 6 p.m. to midnight," said Jasper. "Got a gig for the Universal Studios tour where I worked for two-and-a-half years doing stunt work for a live stage show." (He also appeared in a couple other movies -- as well as in Van Halen's "Right Now" video where he played a drifter holding up a sign, "Will wrestle you for food" about a minute into the song.)

Jasper's life beyond "Vision Quest"

Frank Jasper with his wife Sanda
Frank Jasper never lost sight of his original career goals of learning and perfecting various aspects of the healing arts. Since 1995, he and his business and life partner Sanda Jasper have operated Osani Holistic Health Care in Pacific Palisades, Calif., just outside Los Angeles.

As his bio at the Osani website states, Frank Jasper's early background incorporated pre-med studies, energy medicine and athletic training, with a Master's degree in Oriental Medicine from Yo San University, where he did his internship. He holds both California state and national certificates in acupuncture, specializing in sports medicine. He also trained and is certified in clinical nutrition, meridian stress assessment, craniosacral therapy, and reflexology.

That doesn't mean that Jasper is no longer involved in athletics. In fact, he works with a number of athletes at Osani, with a focus on deep-tissue massage, acupuncture, and nutritional guidance for a holistic approach to wellness. In fact, Jasper has developed the TAN program -- Tennis, Acupuncture, and Nutrition -- for tennis players. ("Yes, I'm playing tennis again!" said the 58-year-old Jasper, who, in addition, holds a black belt in Aikido, is a Reiki Master and has studied and taught Qi Gong for over 25 years.)

Looking back at "Vision Quest"

Frank Jasper has fond memories about the making of "Vision Quest", but it's been only in more recent times that he actually had the opportunity to see the finished product.

"I got a call from a policeman in South Carolina, who sent me a VHS copy of the movie which remained sealed in its original packaging until about a year or so ago," Jasper disclosed.

"I saw it on the big screen for the first time in December 2015 in a theater here in Los Angeles. I was very pleased with the final product. I thought the wrestling was good, and it showed the hard work wrestlers put into their sport."

"Harold Becker did such a great job," Jasper continued. "He wanted everything to be perfect. Before shooting a particular scene, he had me get my hair trimmed to make sure it matched what had been filmed four days earlier."

"I'm honored that he picked me for the part, and have made a point of thanking him for having that vote of confidence in me."

"'Vision Quest' the movie was part of a vision quest for me, personally," Jasper continued. "It made it possible for me to end up here in Los Angeles, involved in holistic health."

He also seems to marvel that the role he played over 30 years ago still resonates within the wrestling community.

"It was so cool to be at the Beat The Streets USA vs. Russia event at Times Square a few years ago," Jasper said. "Sat with Matthew Modine right at matside. What a great guy. Still with the same woman after all these years."

"It was an incredible experience and honor to be there and to have fans come up to us."

Frank Jasper with Scott Glabb
The opportunity for InterMat to interview Frank Jasper came courtesy of Scott Glabb, wrestling coach at Santa Ana High School outside Los Angeles who chronicled his experiences in the book "A Saint in the City: Coaching At-Risk Kids To Be Champions" which was the subject of an InterMat feature a few years ago. Jasper and Glabb were wrestling teammates at Eastern Washington University, and have remained friends over the years.

"I've been down to his school to hand out trophies," Jasper said. "This year, the wrestlers knew who I was because they got to see 'Vision Quest.'"

Jasper is planning to be a part of the 2016 World Cup wrestling event to take place at The Forum in Los Angeles in June. He told InterMat that he has two shirts in development featuring iconic images from "Vision Quest": Shute in a singlet, and carrying that log in the stadium stair climb. "I'm trying to support wrestling and generate interest in the event."

It's easy to imagine Frank Jasper won't have any trouble selling those T-shirts.

Comments

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American42 (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Great article Mr. Palmer, I live in Post Falls Idaho, just outside of Spokane, WA. where the movie was filmed. The film is still talked about regularly here in Spokane, with great fondness. My son who is 16, had to be educated about the classic, ( I bought it off Amazon and made him sit with me to watch it.) He now also loves the movie. It is also really cool to hear how Jasper has continued to be involved and promote wrestling. Thanks again, was a great read this morning.
conquistadors (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Mark, really nice article & interview. Thanks!
MLJ (1) about 1 and a half years ago
The call back to reshoot the weigh-in scene. Was that done by design? To have him yo-yo his weight in between shoots makes me wonder if they wanted him to have a bit cranky when filming the scene.
matwriter (1) about 1 year ago
We went straight to the source. Here's how Frank Jasper answered your question:

"Simple answer is that they had decided after watching the film that it needed the weigh in scene to complete that component (Matthew dropping 2 weight classes) and then again after viewing the film Harold [Decker] decided that a bathroom scene needed to be added where I confront Matthew directly, this would also add to the tension between the characters and build up to the ultimate wrestling match!

"The fact that I had to lose 25 lbs plus three times over the course of the filming absolutely did make me incredibly irritable and edgy! I was basically starving myself and my delts burned as my body searched for protein to break down for energy!"
Reid Appelo (1) about 1 year ago
Mr. Palmer this article was well written. Thank you for writing a very thorough piece. Please, should you have a moment, can you email Mr. Jasper and tell him an old friend from the athletic training program at Eastern Washington says hello. He certainly impacted my life.
matwriter (1) about 1 year ago
Reid -- Already alerted Frank Jasper to your post. He immediately recognized you. You can get in touch with him by using the "Contact Us" feature at the website for Osani Holistic Health Care. osaniholistichealthcare.com/contact/