I’ve just heard from Telluride Film Festival honcho Tom Luddy, who was a producer on Barfly (’87), the Barbet Schroeder-directed film with Mickey Rourke. He explains that the generic, much-passed-around story about Schroeder, the late Menahem Golan and the electric chainsaw, which I repeated in my Golan obit piece, is incorrect. I’ve also heard from Mr. Schroeder himself.
Luddy: “Jeff — Very nice post on Menachem. [Note: most people spell the late mogul’s first name as Menahem but Luddy prefers the alternate spelling] But part of your text is not quite accurate.
“As I think Barbet will confirm, he went to the office of Alan Abrams, one of the Cannon lawyers, with his Black and Decker saw, not to Menachem’s office. And it was not to demand that they greenlight the film, but to demand that they give us back the film in turnaround, with no onerous ‘turnaround fee’.
“In the midst of pre-production, after our budget and fees were all approved, Cannon told us that we must cut the budget and our fees drastically. We said no and that we’d prefer to have the film back and go elsewhere.
“Barbet got Alan Abrams to give us back the film on reasonable terms within an hour. We then shopped it around town with the film set to go with our cast and crew, with a really low budget, and no one wanted wanted it, so we had to go back to Cannon with our tail between our legs, and agree to the fee cuts. But Barbet was serious about cutting of part of his finger. He had novocaine with him for the pain.
“When Barbet and I saw Menachem in NYC at the time of the Cannon Films Canon series at Lincoln Center, Menachem regaled one and all with the story of Barbet coming into his office with a ‘HUGE KNIFE’. I think he was actually not even in town at the time [of Barbet’s chainsaw visit]. He also had a completely invented story about why Barbet took this action. We had a good laugh and a good time with Menachem at dinner.
“When Menachem was down and out and trying to make films with his company 21st Century Films, Barbet and I called him up and took him to lunch to thank him for making Barfly. We were sincere. We liked Menachem.”
Schroeder: “Tom is right, Jeff. I had the tiny Black and Decker with me as I entered Abrams’ office but I never had to use it.They had just decided to go ahead with the production.What I remember is that they had finally agreed to do the movie because the cost of the weeks we had spent negotiating added to the pay-or-play deal of Mickey Rourke. This resulted in a situation where making the movie was for Cannon as expensive as not making it. I did not take any cuts in my salary either. It was already at the DGA minimum. I believe the producers did as I was one of them. For more than 10 years I refused to talk about this story, [and this] may have helped to create all those crazy versions.
“Some more on this here: http://www.barbetschroeder.com/movies/barfly-1987/.”