Monday, February 20, 2006

I Dream of Gina

The Sunday LA Times CALENDAR section ran a big article on the lack of great parts for women in features. It maintains that studios are reluctant to cast women in romantic comedy parts that shoulder the burden of comedy or make them appear unlikable. I can speak first hand that this is unfortunately true. A few years ago I thought it would be fun to write a balls-out R-rated comedy where the woman was the star. It’s always a man. Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Robin Williams, Rob Schneider (God help me). Why can’t a beautiful actress like Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, even Julia Roberts be the comic star? So I wrote the movie, I DREAM OF GINA, about an agoraphobic (Jimmy Fallon type) with a million neuroses who worships this goddess from afar, only to meet her and discover she is the wildest, raunchiest, most out-there girl on the planet. She winds up dragging him to Paris where adventures and hilarity ensues.

The screenplay was very well received. Several major producers wanted to be attached. I hooked up with one, developed it further with him, and when it was submitted to the studios they all passed saying, “we can’t cast it” and “she’s not likeable.”

With Lucy and Carole Lombard as my witnesses, I swear there’s no reason why women shouldn’t be given the chance to prove they’re just as funny or funnier than men.

******

Below is a sample of I DREAM OF GINA if you’re curious. Gina has just coaxed Hank (who has a fear of heights) to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

*****
EXT. EIFFEL TOWER - DAY

The elevator rises to the top platform.

EXT. EIFFEL TOWER - OBSERVATION DECK - MOMENTS LATER

The elevator door opens and a throng of PEOPLE disembark, Gina first. Last off is a rather green Hank.

GINA
Atta boy. You were very brave. Mama's gonna give you a hummer. (then) So let's check out Paree. Would love to hock a loogie off this thing.

She crosses to the railing and spits through the fence.

GINA
(calling)
That's for the six cylinder Peugot!

Hank takes baby steps to join her. He peers over the side.
The entire city appears to be in miniature.

HANK
Oh God.

Hank gets a real blast of vertigo. He clutches the railing for support then begins sliding to the ground.

GINA
Y'know, I'm guessing you're one of those "therapy is for other people" kind of guys.

HANK
(covering)
It's okay. I'm fine. Just a little dehydrated. I could use some water.

GINA
You got it.

She quickly crosses to a French SECURITY GUARD.

GINA
Excuse me, is there a drinking fountain up here?

The guard gestures that he doesn't understand.

GINA
What? You don't speak English? (he looks at her blankly)
How could you not speak English? Who do you think comes to the top of the fucking Eiffel Tower?

HANK
(from the railing)
Uh...Gina. That's okay.

GINA
(to guard)
How many people from Hooterville do you think speak French? This man needs Perrier.

HANK
Not anymore. Really.

GINA
(to guard)
Here's two English words you better learn --(enunciating slowly)Ep-cot Cen-ter. (then) 'Cause that's where we'll all be motherfucker.

Hank tries to get up but just can't.

HANK
Don't need the water. See? Look. I'm great.

The security guard calls for assistance.

GINA
What, you're going to call for help? Over this? God, that is so France. Well fine. I don't give a shit. Call your whole fucking army.

Two more SECURITY GUARDS join him.

GINA
You don't scare me. (taunting) ACHTUNG!

They begin shouting in French. She responds with a torrent of profanity.

HANK
Remember when I said my fantasy girl in Paris was Audrey Hepburn? Audrey Hepburn never said motherfucker.

Gina is really into it now. A SMALL CROWD begins to gather. The shouting escalates. Finally:

SECURITY GUARD
That is it! We workers are now on strike! Stop the elevator!

HANK
WHAT?!

GINA
Hah! See I told you. You can speak English!

******

Sarah Silverman was born to play this role!!!

26 comments:

Jutratest said...

Man, you are so forthcoming and cool about sharing your history and stories, and material.

It must be your radio experience. You aren't shy about putting yourself out there.

Very cool. Thank you!

VP19 said...

Carole Lombard (whose vocabulary was known to include a few of those choice words you used) just read that excerpt and wants to come back.

Seriously, this would have been great for Tea Leoni a few years ago, or even Kate Hudson if she lost her inhibitions. Of course, neither are sure-fire bankable as comedic leads (as opposed to supporting the male lead), and I can't see Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon wanting to do this type of vehicle.

rick james said...

just found your blog.. its fantastic.

randomness and sarcasm from a sports person's point of view

i like your script concept, it could be done and its long overdue in fact... i've written a character very similar in the movie we just finished...

BTW... i just grabbed some famous "Rickey Henderson" quotes from another site.... classic stuff.

Curious if you had any Rickey Henderson stories or quotes??

VP19 said...

Here's a link to that "Calendar" story you mentioned -- quite illuminating:

http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/cl-ca-women19feb19,0,445879.story?coll=cl-movies

Whaledawg said...

Actually Ken, Cameron Diaz did do that movie and it was called The Sweetest Thing.

And there was also Along Came Poly and Dirty Love.

I think the problem is that women don't generaly like to see women be rude and crude. Crude humor is much more entertaining to men. But women are the core audience of a romantic comedy.

Also Ken it's my understanding that studios in general have a fear of the R rated comedy. Or at least they did before Wedding Crashers. If you wrote this a few years ago maybe you should try putting it out again under a different name?

Whaledawg said...

Oh jeez Ken that article was bullshit. She was obviously pushing an agenda and would cite any facts that supported it.

And she called "Scary Movie" a horror film. That lack of research discredits anything else she might say.

Tom Quigley said...

Jenny McCarthy must have been tied up (probably literally) when you were passing this one around. Quick -- have your people call her people -- I'm sure she'd be interested (assuming she'll want her people to untie her)...

Juancho said...

Ken: "ACHTUNG" and "Audrey Hepburn never said motherfucker"...I pretty much did a spit take.

Although I haven't seen them, I was going to comment that SWEETEST THING and ALONG CAME POLLY. With what I've read about it, I think the latter's success can be attributed to Ben Stiller and a good supporting cast, with Aniston along for the ride. And I know many people were surprised by how poorly SWEETEST THING performed.

As for McCarthy...well, looks like making a movie with your husband can ruin your marriage.

Joshua said...

I have such a crush on Sarah Silverman . . .

Bill Cunningham said...

Eva Mendes.

I'm just sayin...

Ken Levine said...

The SWEETEST THING and ALONG CAME POLLY were bad movies (and came out after I had written my spec). It's not fair to lay all the blame on the actresses or to say because of those movies you shouldn't try again. In mine I do redeem the character and Hank becomes a better, healthier, and happier person as a result of her. But comedy is subversive. Comedy is edgy. Sometimes even abrasive. And it's all about perception. You could say Vince Vaughn was hilarious in WEDDING CRASHERS or that he was a giant asshole. (I personally thought he gave one of the great comic performances of recent times).

Maybe it's not my movie but I still believe that if given the right vehicle, the right woman can be a breakout COMEDY star. Move over Will Ferrell.

Stephen Benson said...

dying is easy, comedy is hard. . . sarah silverman would totally rock . . .so much so that now i can't even think of anyone else. . .which might be the whole problem with women's roles.

roger norum said...

Ken –

This is genius – great writing – and I agree Sarah Silverman would be perfect for the role. She could completely play the loogie-hocking type with a vengance and all those suitors out there will attest that she can well fit into the shoes of the Worship Me goddess.

I'd gander that she's definitely looking for a more mainstream vehicle after Jesus is Magic. I say send get the script to her agent. Studios may argue the role is too hard to cast, but if you have someone like her behind it – now that she's much more established than she was a few years ago – you might have better luck with the studio heads.

Best of luck,
Roger

Jason Elias said...

"Along Came Polly" wasn't anything like the dialogue from "I Dream of Gina." And as much as I'd like to blame Jennifer Aniston, that movie was just ass bad.

I actually saw Cameron Diaz as I was reading the dialogue, but I think mannerism is in a lot of her work now. Of course Sarah Silverman is hilarious and can say or do anything and get away with it, she's be great...

Ken Levine said...

Thanks for all the nice comments on Gina. I always loved this script and it was great fun to just write a flat out comedy. Who knows? Someday it still might happen.

Scott the Reader said...

"Something Wild" seems to be a good example of a movie that tried something like this and worked, even though most of it was more darker/dramatic than a balls-out comedy.

Hell, with Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Fallon you could probably make it for $15 million. Hard to believe someone wouldn't take a flier on it.

emily blake said...

It all goes back to what men want to see in their women, I suppose. I'm not a man, but Jenny Macarthy makes me uncomfortable.

I think there's a similar problem with women in action roles. Studios keep trying to churn out stories about angry badass women, but that's just not what men want to see. Ripley was badass in Alien, but she was also scared shitless. Catwoman, Elektra, Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet - they're all just really pissed off and not much else. Men just don't like women who scare them.

1031 said...

HANK
Remember when I said my fantasy girl in Paris was Audrey Hepburn? Audrey Hepburn never said motherfucker.


That cracked me up. Good stuff. I would totally go see this movie.

Whaledawg said...

Emily what are you talking about?

Men are fine seeing women being comedic and nasty. It's women who don't like that sort of thing(and your post supports that)


Catwoman, Elektra, Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet - they're all just really pissed off and not much else. Men just don't like women who scare them.


Buffy, River, Trinity, Nancy Callahan and Miho, Selene, The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, Jiao Long, and pretty much every anime ever. Men love action movies with really ass kicking girls because they combine our two favorite things. Excessive violence and hot chicks in leather.

The characters you all mentioned were from terrible movies, but even allowing that most of the people who saw them were male(check imdb)

Julie O. said...

Hm... A hypothesis is coming to me...

Guys dig hot girls regardless of their facility with sailor slang.

Got it.

However...

I postulate that on a gut level, most men can not accept a love interest that they wouldn't be comfortable bringing home to Mom. (Ergo, you practice on Jenny McCarthy. You marry Meg Ryan.)

Audrey Hepburn never said motherfucker and Mom loved her.

See?

;)

Tod Hunter said...

Damn you are a funny man.

I don't like Sarah Silverman for this because she already has a rep as a pottymouth, and there's a kind of knowingness about her that doesn't make a contrast between the sedate look and the uninhibited reality. You said yourself that you wanted Carole Lombard, not Eve Arden.

I think Jennifer Aniston would be perfect for this. Imagine that cute face saying "Mama's gonna give you a hummer." And she could be credibly straight-laced in the early part where the curtain is closed and the Wild Side is hidden.

I'm willing to send a $10 check to buy a ticket if you think that would help.

--tod

M. said...

I agree that you want somebody against type, not Silverman. My pick for Hollywood's best untapped sexy comedienne? Sarah Michelle Gellar. And she's ready to break. This is the script she needs. Love this blog, by the way.

Ken Levine said...

My initial idea was to play against type...assuming that the actress can pull off the comedy. My feeling is someone like Julia Roberts would either think this would be a hoot to play or NO WAY. Sarah Silverman is still unknown enough by the general public that she could suck the audience in early on to think she's an ethereal goddess. But she has the chops to pull off the comedy. Unlike Angelina Jolie who just can't play funny.

I don't think Jennifer Aniston has the edge needed but I wouldn't "kick her out of bed" as the saying goes.

Whaledawg said...

I think it would be better with a lesser known actress. Like Judy Greer or Amy Poehler. Both those chicks are hilarious.

emily blake said...

I agree, whaledawg. Many of those women are good examples of chaacter. They're also not pent up balls of rage. That was my point. The women nobody wants to see are angry. A good female action character is more than that.

Peter said...

This sounds like a fun idea, but it's still has a man in the leading role.

Obviously the action is driven by Gina, but the guy is the protagonist, not her.

However, your larger point is true - women aren't allowed to play this kind of part and are usually relegated to the cute, supporting roles.

Though Isla Fisher in "Wedding Crashers" was a step in the right direction