When last we left our intrepid hero, his bank account was frozen because he’d defaulted on his student loans ( used to get through a year and a half at NYU Graduate Film School).
He’s spent two years doing menial film work and at the same time he’s been writing screenplays. The latest screenplay, Uncle Lou is being peddled around Hollywood by an agent.
And now he’s on his way back from Citibank, to the railroad flat he shares with his roommate Peter who looks like Errol Flynn and does nothing but read the sports pages of all the New York papers.
How he pays for his side of the apartment, I never did find out. But there’s an armchair in the living room which divides my side of the apartment from his (my bedroom looks out on east seventh street) and no matter where I’ve been, or how long I’ve been away or what time it is when I walk into the apartment, Peter is in the armchair reading the back pages of the paper.
I enter the apartment and Peter waves a telegram at me without taking his eyes from the paper.
The telegram is from my agent on the West Coast. It says that the screenplay (Uncle Lou) written by me and Les has gotten a green light. The deal that the agent had been talking about has gone through and Sam Fuller (The Big Red One and a film auteur) will direct… Lee Marvin will play the aging detective – Uncle Lou; Deborah Harry (Blondie) will be the femme fatale, and I could be wrong but I think the Karate Kid had been signed, or was close to being signed.
So after months of having the script go up to the top of some studio, and then be rejected and riding this thing like a wave; and now with my bank account frozen and no money coming in; here is the big telegram that should change my life.
In fact, with this telegram I am able to borrow money from my dad – who can see that all this will finally pay off – and I am able to wave it around in a few places I eat and get credit; and things are looking up for exactly four days. On the fourth day, I walk into the house, and Peter is looking at the back-pages so that I see the front headline of the paper: Lee Marvin dead!
Now I was telling this story yesterday to my sister and father as we sat in a diner and we were all laughing so hard – especially when my sister said – that’s what you should call your memoirs: Me and Lee Marvin…
Because after that, Sam Fuller pulled out of the project since he was only going to do it if he could be with his buddy Lee. And without Fuller or Lee, no one else was interested.
But that’s not the end of it because the would-be producer came back and told me that some other big-shots were interested. The only problem was that they thought that Uncle Lou was too old. Of course that was the whole point of the movie. And that if he were given a love-interest and could be in his fifties, it would be a much more sellable project. And – that they would pay for $10,000 to write the screenplay again with these changes.
So after three plus years with the script, I came to this next canyon of a decision and said no. I wouldn’t work on it anymore. I wouldn’t write anymore scripts. I never wanted to write a script again. Period. Done. And you know what – I’m finished with the movie business.
And I was.
Why this was so funny – I don’t know – but if I do ever meet you and tell you the story in person, I’m certain that it will strike you as comical. The more pained I am as I tell it, the funnier it will be. But it was another turning of the screw which was my life at the time, and considering the lifestyle of Lee Marvin (uhm, drinking to excess) – it was amazing that he lasted long enough to read my first and last green-lighted screenplay.
[An obvious question: well, whatever did happen to the Uncle Lou screenplay? Was it ever made? Not to my knowledge. And I sold the rights for all-time, and there was a phrase that said, In All Known Universes, in case you’re reading this in another universe.
I used my share of the sale to buy my first computer, a Kaypro, this was before the IBM PC and that was what lead me into the world of computers… but that is for another day]