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16 - Hurray for Hollywood



My Red Diamond books were optioned multiple times. Options, except for big name properties, are usually a small amount, a few thousand at best, but they give an aspiring producer the right to say they “own” the book. If they actually put together a project, it’s usually a step deal, with money increasing substantially every step of the way.


There was lots of hubbub over Red Diamond and I went to a meeting at Tri Star, pitching to a couple of execs. They said, “Let’s have Gary join us.” After a few minutes of warm up chit chat, they had me give the pitch. Gary, who was a couple years younger than me, said it was good, but proposed a completely different story. Instead of my angst-ridden middle-aged white male cabdriver stumbling through adventures, he suggested Whoopi Goldberg in sort of a Batman secret identity role. I was polite but dismissive, vaguely sensing the shock in the room. I mean, after all, this guy wasn’t even my age. Afterwards, I was harshly told that Gary Luchessi was an executive vice president who could have greenlighted the movie, and I had effectively scuttled the deal. I sometimes wonder what path my life would have taken if I had been better briefed to keep my big mouth shut.


I had other near misses. The producer of Space Camp optioned the book. Then Space Camp came out, a few months after the Challenger disaster, and the public trashed it as exploitative. Not realizing the movie had been in the works long before the disaster. Okay, it wasn’t a great movie, but it was the unfortunate casualty of bad timing.


And I had bad timing when I did a script for Bud Yorkin. The father of my Herald Examiner colleague, Nicole and a co-creator of TV hits like All in the Family, a successful director, and an executive producer on Blade Runner and other films. The script I wrote had been inspired by an idea Bud suggested to me, about a spoiler in a three-way political race. I handed in my political comedy on the day his movie, Deal of the Century, came out.


DOTC bombed and I remember The LA Times saying it would “sink faster than an iron thrown into a swimming pool.” Director William Friedkin, who did The Exorcist and To Live and Die In LA, was never known for his comedic touch. And star Chevy Chase was a decidedly mixed bag. It had other talent like Sigourney Weaver and Gregory Hines, and legendary screenwriter Robert Towne doing a revision. Coincidentally, the author of the book that inspired DOTC was Bernie Edelman. I didn’t know that until decades later.

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