Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny feels that a certain James McAvoy line in Wanted — “Six weeks ago, I was ordinary and pathetic, just like you” — indicates that screenwriters have contempt for their audience. “What is this bullshit?,” Kenny asks. “”Have screenwriters become so defensive /resentful on account of churning out quasi-nihilistic, faux-convoluted, graphic-novel-mytho-Babel tripe like this that they feel compelled to lash out at the audience that laps their nonsense up?” Uh, yeah…kinda.
A gaffe, as Michael Kinsley famously wrote, is when you blurt something out that everyone knows to be true (like Samantha Power calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”) but which you’re not allowed to publicly acknowledge. And in a way, Kenny seems to be saying, that Wanted line is a kind of screenwriter’s gaffe — a confession of loathing for the unwashed masses that kind of “slipped out” and wound up in the Wanted screenplay. (Which is attributed to Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan.)
The Hollywood elite, trust me, think very little of ticket-buyers in general. Once you’ve made it to a certain level in the film industry and have begun to run with the truly cool and connected and earn serious dough, you don’t relate to average stiffs. Big Talent tends to look upon regular moviegoers as prisoners of a sort, living in a comfortable penal colony that allows them to indulge in all kinds of perks but keeps them prisoners all the same. (You know…like the way things are in The Matrix.) I’m sorry if this sounds cruel.
Talk to talent on E.T. or Extra about the fans and they’ll go “we love ’em all!” — but that’s public relations. Remember John Lennon‘s lyric about how “you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see”? That was another “uh-oh…a celebrity just said what he should have kept quiet about.” The real truth about things only comes out when someone is tired or arrogant or involved in primal-scream therapy and the obiter dicta — the words in passing — just tumble out.
I was doing an interview in 1982 with actor Paul Land, who played the “Tommy Dee” character in Taylor Hackford‘s The Idolmaker. Land, whose people skills weren’t that great, was talking about his life before he became a successful actor, and he said at one point, “I was like you back then!” Me, he meant — a low-rent schlub, struggling to survive. I understood what Land was basically saying and I didn’t take offense, but the publicist in the room noticably stiffened and went “aaahh.”