July 14, 2013

Dear Gato,

I told you I’d relate the details of Mickey’s latest fiasco. I’m a man of my word. Here we go.

My friend Doe Kazu is shooting a sci-fi action movie in Torrance. She has time to kill, she tells me. Those FX clones she fights in the set pieces, her scripted “enemies and assassins””€”they may not exist in the real world, but their precursors, the ghosts of their future selves, take up more production time than the actors. Blue screen, green screen; you know the drill. She earns the big money by”€”she spends her day swinging precisely aimed kung fu kicks at pieces of air, at would-be “beings” that will be birthed only in the edit. She’s real, even if they’re not, and she still has to slay them. It’s hard work nailing an imaginary enemy that fights back and hits you with blows, too. (For that they use a stand-in whom they remove in the edit.)

Anyhow, the actors sit around avoiding the catered food scene not for the food or for their waists, but really for the “buffet people.” We’ve all seen them. Grazers. All-you-can-eaters. Free lunch loaders. Instead Doe is ordering in sushi and Asahi several times a day, as well as ordering in friends”€”or at least friends with time (FWTs). Many FWTs make their home in this town and I’m not afraid to be counted as such”€”not when a bored, seductive, and trapped actress is calling me.

As it happens, this week past I’ve been going backwards and forwards over my contract on the Onassis biopic. A project, it was clear, my producers were eager to”€”correction, they were in a downright hurry to”€”wrap up negotiations once and for all. They needed all rights, free and clear. Only no sooner was it signed, following a month of lawyer-manager negotiation”€”no sooner was it sealed than, the deal over, my talented producers appeared to work their hardest not to produce the movie at all. Total turnaround. Despite my suggesting a 35% participation by a luxury brand that is huge in Russia. Despite the old-legend movie star, too, he whose face sells T-shirts from Uruguay to the Uzbek. Like so many a project I created, it’s been consigned”€”for now”€”to the cabinet of “unrealized projects.” I used to term these “active projects.” I’ve learned, baby! I cornered the market in films “too good to make.” Is that a consolation?

“You have no idea how bored people get on movie sets.”

I had a victory nevertheless. I won the day over a competing Onassis project which might have had game, directed as it will be by Fernando Meirelles. Sadly for them, they chose an ancient Limey writer whose biggest hit was a gay tragedy from 1982 called, I think, Bent. Good title. Though the movie star passed on this old tradesman’s script and said yes to my baby. Which is poetic justice, in that the old writer’s repped by what was the UK’s finest talent agency”€”until my agent there fired me. After an unexplained six-month disappearance (another kidnapping?), she fired me gently. I was grateful for that. I wasn’t a cash cow so she passed me on”€”to a quicker, younger fella, who remains my agent to this day, Insha’Allah. Even though I can never get him excited about a hook and I keep disappointing him by not writing a sci-fi vehicle. And I know he’s right: I follow the weekend, the cumulative grosses. And he’s right. Why waste my time on true legends?

I wish the old man and his agent well, but it really is time the next generation moved up. While we’re fresh and because, as they wisely commented in Wedding Crashers, because “we’re not so young anymore [either].”

So the biopic’s in limbo. Why? I can only think, “tax dodge.” Why the hurry to speed up rewrites, only to deliver a final draft at mind-crushing speed and to fly across the Atlantic twice to get the contract signed? Why, if the plan is not to proceed?

I have faith in the producers”€”even if they’ve disappeared off the face of the planet for four months now. They’re good people. Perhaps they’re off the coast of Somalia? Week thirteen of a hijack situation kept out of the press? I’ll keep you updated, although I’m over it. Really.

Such were my thoughts, at any rate, when I got in the CLK and headed downhill and across town, all the way to the leafy neighborhood of Torrance, CA. Yet another part of LA I don’t know. This town’s infinite. I followed the signs for the movie’s title”€”its fake title, as is the form (to distract paparazzi). Doe had given me the password, warning me it was only to be passed on “orally.” That is to say: never texted, emailed, written, or saved in any form that can be searched, copied, or forwarded. Spoken over the phone or in person? Fine. Other communications, no go. It’s not a PRISM thing but really it’s the latest accessorizing of privacy, on a film set but not only. Watch this space. Privacy is now the hottest game in town, thanks to our government’s initiatives. Old school is cool again. Codes written on a piece of paper, to be read and memorized”€”then burned. This is the new way. Unlike cyber security, it’s free and sexier. These are 1970s conspiracy-movie moves. They’re back in fashion and it’s not just a summer fad. Privacy is back and it’s the new black.

I was waved into a parking space, one of five, reserved for Doe and entourage”€”and the moment I jumped out of the car, guess who? Doe herself jumped right on top of me, wrapping her legs around me like a circus performer. She was “sooooooooo pleased” to see me, she insisted. My general appeal notwithstanding, it quickly became apparent that there was a “situation” going on. And that’s really why she was so pleased to see me. I asked her to take a breath and tell me what the problem was.

“It’s Mickey,” she said. “It’s like he just”€”he just”€”doesn’t get it! You know?”

Mickey, I thought. Of course. Who else? He’d beaten me to it again. What’s new? No wonder she called me. I give Mick credit for wasting no time, but in the moment I wasn’t eager to assist him any more than I have over the years. Give me a break”€”

“…I keep telling him and telling him,” she went on. “He just doesn’t get it. It’s like he thinks everything is about him. And when he’s around everything, you know what? It is about him. And that’s OK. He’s a Scorpio, too; I get it. But when he’s around all the time, every second of the day, the night, the next day…and I’m trying to work, or maybe I’m trying to rest between shoots…and I can’t even get into my own damn trailer since he”€””

“You can’t get into your trailer?”

“No. And we’re doing night scenes all week. He’s destroying me. You gotta help me, Bombay. Help me! Please?”

Who could say no to body language like that? It was like she was encircling me with the tentacles of an octopus, sucking me in from eight angles, until she owned me”€”without even touching me. She’s got it. The magnetism of a real star. Mickey behaves like one but could not be further from it. And yet these two have hooked up?

The world’s full of amazing opportunities.

“How long?” I asked her, nodding at the giant shuttered trailer.

“Almost twenty-four hours he’s been in there…all on his own. I slept in the Prius. And I know no one’s come in or out; no girls, no weasels. I’ve been waiting like a night-watch guy. I have no idea what he’s doing in there. He’s your friend. Get him out of there! Get me back my trailer! And my life.”

I told her everything was going to be OK now. I’d smoke him out of there in a matter of minutes. Just let me do my work, I told her; I’d been here before. I was channeling a David Caruso vibe just to impress her. Like I was an emergency psychiatrist dealing with a roof-jumper. Let me do what I do, I told her: I’ll get you back into your trailer. I glimpsed an opportunity for myself all of a sudden. She did as instructed.

I stepped up to the door of the double-decker Airstream and rapped on it four times. Hard. Then again. Then again, all in short order. More a sheriff’s rap than a friend’s rap, so I thought. A rap of authority. I stepped down, giving him a moment to respond.

Nothing happened.

I repeated this process in the 36-degree Celsius July heat, growing increasingly hot, bothered, and embarrassed. You see, a small circle of onlookers now surrounded the trailer, taking Doe’s side in this standoff and expecting results. You have no idea how bored people get on movie sets. These people wanted results.

“Mickey!” I yelled. “I warned you. I warned you, bro, and you leave me no choice! You have ten seconds”€”then I’m coming in, you hear me? I’m coming for you!”

My grand threat was met by more silence. Glancing at my audience, I saw I had no choice. I made a gesture of looking”€”dangerously“€”at my watch hand. I wasn’t wearing a timepiece, as it happened, but from ten feet they wouldn’t know. I counted under my breath from five to ten…to twenty. Losing face big time, I yelled, “I warned you!” once more for luck”€”and the rest was a blur composed of countless TV-drama police raids mashed up into a personal home-assault technique. I ran at the door from several strides back”€”smashing the (surprisingly solid) metal with my good shoulder. I heard a gimp-type lock crunch. The door didn’t move so much.

I wasn’t going to look back. I gave it my best kick and it dented the door, weakening the hinges. I gave it one last power shove”€”still resistant”€”when I noticed the door clicker on the outside. It was busted. I pulled the lock back the wrong way”€”and some spring somewhere gave out. The door gave up the fight. A last elbow from me, and I was through. I heard the vague applause of three spectators behind.

I stepped inside the trailer’s darkness. I’ll take you through the rest of this step-by-step. If you don’t mind, it’s easier I give you the scene in screenplay format”€”from my POV, remember. Here we go:


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