Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Well, I’m back in New York now. The chainsaw’s put away and it’s time to face the jungle of reality barehanded. Delirious is miraculously still playing in one theater here and has opened somewhere in Brooklyn. People continue to write in and say they’ve seen the film, which is truly astonishing considering the only advertising is a small ad in the NY Times on Friday and an even smaller one on Sunday. In my new mode of calm professionalism I sent an email to my friends at Gestation politely suggesting they take out a minimal ad mid-week. I know this is stupid but it struck me that making it known the film is actually still playing might have some effect on attendance.
I sent the email 5 days ago. No response. Man, these guys play rough. They don’t respond to my reasoned requests and when I get a little emphatic they accuse me of being “inflammatory.” Hef was right. The only thing people respond to in this business is Power. And when someone gets Power they feel compelled to shit on everyone beneath them. It’s only natural. Every child molester was molested as a child. And so it goes in the movie business; abuse begets abuse and the cycle is perpetuated for eternity.
Not for me though. I’m breaking the cycle; even if I have to beat the shit out of somebody.
I miss Hef. I know there is some suspicion parts of Blog 27: Confession were fabricated. Some were; some weren’t. I was never in The Grotto but even though imaginary Hefner’s words of support and encouragement meant a lot to me. And Hef did like the film—he’s going to include a semi-nude still of Alison Lohman and Michael Pitt in Playboy’s annual “Sex In Cinema” feature. Oh, and Emberly did send me her screenplay about three sisters who die in a rollerblading accident and come back to life as Navy Seals who sneak into Pakistan and kill Osama bin Laden.
So, as the distribution road unwinds ahead of us let’s look backwards again, knowing there is all likelihood another cinderblock will come crashing through the windshield the moment our heads are turned.
I had mentioned there was a second main idea that went into the screenplay of Delirious; Stardom. The idea hit me one day when I was flipping through the channels and I stumbled upon a Reality TV Show about 12 teenagers living in a 5-story firehouse in NYC. A girl named Krystynn was crying and yelling at a guy named Corey because he was wearing a pair of her socks. They showed a brief segment of the two fighting then cut quickly to Krystynn confessing her deepest feelings directly to the camera:
“I just felt so violated. You know, like so like raped almost. They were my favorite socks. My sister gave them to me and I always, always wear them with these jeans. I like so hate Corey right now!”
The first thing I so like wondered right then was jeezus fucking christ who the hell watches this shit! We’ve turned into a country of morons. No wonder we elected one for president. But then I thought, “These kids have become minor celebrities just for splashing around in this televised diarrhea. Is that what Stardom has become today? And if so, is there a difference between Stardom and Fame?” For example, Paris Hilton is famous but she is not a star–though that could change now that she’s playing a younger version of herself in the upcoming movie of her prison ordeal directed by Sean Penn called Someone Used My Toothbrush!
What makes somebody a Star? Is it just luck and accident or are there really some humans among us that possess a quality that truly mesmerizes us when we watch them on screen? I thought of Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In The Sun. Her close-ups are so intense they almost slam you to the back of the theater. The same with Brando in Streetcar, and with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voigt in Midnight Cowboy. What is this quality? To me, it’s an absolute openness; a clarity and transparency that allows us to see directly into these people’s souls. And by granting us this rarified glimpse we simultaneously see into our own souls.
I think going to the movies—whether it’s to see The Wizard of Oz, The Seventh Seal or Caddy Shack—is really a spiritual experience. This gathering of human beings in a darkened room to stare in wonder at flickering reflections of themselves is actually a religious phenomenon; a necessary and rejuvenating one because it comes without the tedious threat of sin, guilt and eternal damnation like “real” religion. The greatest Stars show us the greatest truths about ourselves.
No matter how jaded and phony the world becomes it seems to me when someone appears who possesses this unexplained truthfulness we eagerly recognize and embrace them. The history of cinema is filled with stories of these discoveries; in fact a whole Myth has been built around it—the birth of the Star. The thought struck me then, what if I created a character that had this quality? A young kid with a natural openness and vulnerability that perhaps he didn’t even know he had. He would be the opposite of my damaged and bitter paparazzo Les Galantine. The two could meet and then, half by accident and half by design the kid could stumble into Stardom.
The fact is you can’t survive on innocence alone. The world will destroy you. Besides being boring and useless dramatically, it goes completely against human nature. Every human being possesses an instinctive and selfish will to survive. I decided to try and work that reality into the kid’s character. I made him a casual manipulator; a gentle taker. I built a protagonist who, if he finds himself in a position where shifting two inches to the right will help him, he will shift but always with a smile and a ‘thank you, ma’am’ so you almost don’t even know he’s doing it.
But, I gave him something that was absolutely genuine; the ability to absorb the blows of life’s disappointments and to move on without giving up. I made him from a destructive family just like Les but I gave him a spirit that refuses to let it cripple him, to let it stop him, to let it keep him from always hoping.
And so, Toby Grace was born.
I could blather at more depth about the development of the screenplay and the writing process in general. Anybody innarested?