Three days ago ScriptShadow’s Carson Reeves posted a review of an “early draft” of Jez and John Butterworth‘s screenplay for Doug Liman‘s Fair Game, which will be playing in Cannes quite soon. Reeves says that the script doesn’t quite do one thing or the other, which I find intriguing. This sentence caught me especially: “It reminded me, in many ways, of Michael Mann‘s The Insider, which is another film that demands a lot from you.”
Here are the final three graphs:
“Whereas [the first] 60-70 pages [are] about the plot which led to the invasion of Iraq, the script [then] becomes this personal journey about how a CIA operative (Naomi Watts‘ Valerie Plame) lives with being outed. She has to go to all her friends and apologize for lying to them for 20 years. She has to explain to her kids why she’s being publicly shunned. Things like that. I suppose this won’t matter as much if the marketing for the film educates the public on Plame’s story, so that they anticipate this turn of events, but for me, someone who didn’t know anything about her, I was stuck going, ‘What kind of movie is this supposed to be?’
“Because if you think about it, this easily could’ve been four different movies. We start out with Valerie being a James Bond/Jason Bourne like super-agent, traveling the world and gaining access to top foreign leaders. Then the story shifts into this extensive procedural about the minutiae of how we gather information and the specifics that led up to the invasion of Iraq. Then the script shifts to the fallout of said invasion. And finally, it shifts to Valerie’s life after she was outed. Each one of those could’ve been explored as a full film. So having them all in the same film was a bit jarring for me.
“But those of you entrenched in the WMD scandal and in Plame’s story in particular to eat this up. It reminded me, in many ways, of Michael Mann’s The Insider, which is another film that demands a lot from you. So, if you enjoyed Russell Crowe‘s turn in that movie, you’ll want to check this out for sure. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention the great reveal/payoff at the end of the script. It’s truly terrifying, and will definitely make you think twice about what’s going on inside our government’s walls.
“If only this story would’ve been a little more straightforward, I may have enjoyed it. But my simple brain can’t handle all this zigging and zagging. Just wasn’t my thing.”
I’ve noted many times in this space that I understand the plight of Hollywood filmmakers who support Republican or conservative causes. I got into this when I wrote a big piece for Los Angeles magazine in early ’95 called “Right Face,” about how it was easier in the liberal Hollywood culture of the mid ’90s to say you’re gay than confess to being a rightie, which could put you on what Lionel Chetwynd called a “white list.”
So I knew right away what Patrick Goldstein was on about yesterday when he quoted mystery novelist and screenwriter Andrew Klavan, a leading conservative activist, to wit: “There’s a culture in Hollywood where if you’re a left-winger, you can talk very openly…. If you go in to sell something, you can make anti-American, anti-military, anti-religious remarks, but I’m the kind of guy who’s going to say, ‘No, I disagree.’ But that’s pretty much the end of my sale. Whereas, if you’re a conservative, especially if you’re a religious person, people like that meet in secret, talk in whispers. It’s a very disturbing kind of culture.”
Goldstein wrote that “being a Jew who grew up in the South, I sympathize with all oppressed minorities, but I think that conservatives need to get a grip here. Yes, Hollywood is lousy with liberals — they’re everywhere. That’s a given, okay, just like where my family comes from, there’s a Baptist church on every block. But where’s the evidence that conservatives are denied jobs because of their political beliefs? For all the vague charges being bandied about, I’ve never heard any specific examples of suppression in action. If you’re a conservative and can offer me chapter and verse, I will be happy to take up your cause.”
The way I heard it fifteen years ago, it’s not that right-wing actors fail to get hired for this or that film or TV show — that’s not the problem. It’s more in the realm of conservative-minded directors and screenwriters not getting hired to direct or write any sort of sensitive touchy-feeling material because leftie executives believe that righties are too militant and hard-assed to get this sort of thing. Which seems unfair. Really.
Of course, there is the Stephen Baldwin issue, which I got into on 4.22. I was dissed for being cavalier or two-faced, but I’m at least honest enough to admit that putting right-wingers under the economic lash for their beliefs is a delicious fantasy. If for no other reason than to rhapsodize about karma payback for all the liberals that their grandfathers put out of work during the blacklist days of the late ’40s and ’50s. I don’t actually advocate this, mind — the only way to go in this town is to work with the best people for the job, no matter who they are or what they believe — but…well, you know.
I mean, is there any other culture in America besides Hollywood where you can make righties suffer and get away with it? It is dead wrong to actually do this, obviously, but can you blame liberals for at least closing their eyes and indulging in a little day-dreaming? How is an ardent liberal supposed to respond, after all, to a group that’s committed to suppressing or ignoring green innovation, coddling the oil industry, goading the tea-baggers and the birthers, trying to block health care, defending Goldman Sachs piracy, praising reptiles like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, denying global warming, and spending much if not most of its time catering to the beliefs of the ugliest and stupidest block of voters in the U.S.? Really — how should liberals react to all this? By patting conservatives on the back, buying them a drink at the golf club, sending business their way and turning the other cheek?
Last night I scored a copy of the opening episode of Bill Condon and Cynthia Mort‘s Tilda — a recent draft with the words “Tilda_April” on the top left corner. The cat ran out of the bag eight days ago, of course, when Hollywood Reporter columnist Matthew Belloni ran a combination review and legal assessment piece based on a reading of a February first draft, so there’s nothing to say that’s strictly mine except to call it hugely entertaining and so on. I’ll elaborate in a sec.
(l. to r.) Nikki Finke, Diane Keaton, Patrick Goldstein
Tilda is a forthcoming HBO series about a Nikki Finke-ish Hollywood blogger that will star Diane Keaton and costar Ellen Page. An HBO spokesperson told Belloni that ‘”the script is a fictional composite and not based on any one person.” Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. The Tilda Watski character is Finke, Finke, Finke all the way. Belloni was spot-on when he said the show should be called Toldja! instead of Tilda.
There’s also a Los Angeles Times reporter called Brian Sheen. He’s Tilda’s chief competitor for Hollywood scoops and not above a little scheming and maneuvering to compromise Tilda where it hurts (i.e., by revealing her past and probing her personal weaknesses) or at least head her off at the pass. This guy, up and down and in every possible way save for living in Silver Lake rather than Brentwood and not having a Jewish last name, is L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein.
On 4.22 Goldstein wrote about what he’d heard about the project, although he hadn’t read the actual script.
My reactions after reading the Tilda script, tapped out before going to bed around 1 am:
“What a brilliant and hilarious high-calorie, action-packed half-hour! Seriously…fucking delicious! Okay, maybe I’m prejudiced because it takes place in my figurative back yard, but it’s obviously going to be hard to keep the quality at this level for show after show.
“Action- and plot-turn-wise this easily could have been an hour-long episode. There’s a certain tempo and breadth and breathing-space element to an hour-long show (like The Sopranos, say) , and Tilda is much faster and tighter, like a caffeinated Entourage. Condon and Mort have honed it down so that every line and every beat counts.
“Whatsername is going to be totally delighted with this. She’s depicted as J.J. Hunsecker, and this show is a helter-skelter Left Coast Sweet Smell of Success meets The Player meets The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
“I mean, my God…they’ve got her having sex with someone! Not to mention smoking pot and drinking wine.
“I hope or trust they’re developing a Sidney Falco– or Anne Baxter in All About Eve-type character. Someone who’s even more craven than Tilda, or someone who’s trying to secretly undermine her while pretending to be loyal, etc. Hungrier and more desperate. If they’re not, they should.
“What’s the rat metaphor about? I’m still mulling that one over.”
Belloni wondered if Finke might sue HBO for the sheer monetary pleasure of it. The way to avoid this, of course, would be for HBO to obtain Finke’s life rights. They did the same thing with Entourage‘s Ari Gold character by obtaining clearance from WME’s Ari Emanuel. And yet Belloni reports, bizarrely, that “the net says it isn’t working with Finke.”
Belloni remarked that Finke “has to be smart enough to realize that a TV show based at least in part on her would help expose her unique brand of journalism to a much wider audience, right?” Not necessarily. But then again, maybe.
A longstanding policy at a certain studio has been to provide certain producers and production companies with box-office tracking reports as a courtesy. No big deal, been happening for ages. This morning the following e-mail was received from studio management: “Due to the ongoing debate about the potential trading of Movie Futures, [studio name] has instituted a policy that no one without a studio e-mail address will be receiving tracking reports from this department. Thank you for your understanding.” Thank you , Cantor Fitzgerald LP!
Julie Bertucelli’s The Tree, a drama about grief recovery and spiritual family nourishment, will be shown in Cannes following the closing ceremony on Sunday, 5.23. The Australian-based film, costarring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Martin Csokas and Aden Young, is an adaptation of Judy Pascoe‘s Our Father Who Art in the Tree.