Saturday, November 22, 2008

MANNEQUIN 2: exclusive background information!!

It's become a cult classic! Rarely does a decade go by without someone asking me about MANNEQUIN 2. So for all you MAN2 fans (that's what it's known as in film schools -- many graduate programs have courses devoted to it) here's how me and David Isaacs came to have our names on this cinematic classic.

We did an extensive rewrite on MANNEQUIN 1, working for a couple of swell guys – Bruce McNall (former owner of the LA KINGS who later was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison) and David Begelman (who as President of Columbia Pictures was caught forging bogus expense checks as Cliff Robertson).

They wanted to pay us in TV’s but our agent insisted on money. (What’s 10% of a television, the speakers?) We did the rewrite in two weeks, actually had fun with it, and did receive our payment in US currency. (It was on this rewrite that we instituted the “24 second logic clock”. We were not going to get bogged down discussing whether a mannequin would do this or that. 24 seconds of debate, we picked a course of action and just went with it.)

MANNEQUIN was a huge hit, enough to warrant MANNEQUIN 2. Again we got the call to rewrite it. “For luck” as Begelman said. We said fine but we’d like more “lucky bucks”. This time they were willing to throw in a VCR and camcorder but again we insisted on money.

This script was even worse than the first but did our best. We turned it in, ran immediately to the bank to cash our checks, and then forgot about it. Months later we received the shooting script (further revised from ours) and the proposed credits. To our horror the script was worse and the studio was giving us shared credit.

We called our agent. Did we even WANT credit on this stinkburger? Yes, he said, because we would then be entitled to royalties. Okay then.

Anytime there is more than the original writer listed on the proposed credits the matter automatically goes to a WGA arbitration. I’ve been involved on both sides of this aisle – petitioning and arbitrating. Each writer drafts a statement pleading his case. These are always long, impassioned, pleas – how the idea came from their own lives and suffering and if they lost it would be a miscarriage of justice on the scale of OJ. We certainly in good conscience couldn’t write something like that. So what we wrote instead was:

To Whom It May Concern:

According to the bylaws set forth by the WGA credits manual we believe the credit should stand as proposed. Thank you.

That’s it.

We WON.

When the movie finally was released (escaped) I was announcing for the Orioles. We were in Detroit. I went to see it on opening night. Big multiplex theatre. There were six people in the audience…counting me.

The movie went on to make nothing. McNall went to the federal pen. Begelman eventually killed himself. The film aired on a major network and has been showing for years on cable channels. Our agent was right. There were royalties we were entitled to.

We never saw a penny.

We should’ve taken the TV. At least we could sell it on ebay.

16 comments:

allynymo said...

There's a novel in that.

The Curmudgeon said...

Mr. Levine, I see you have your own version of "The Horn Blows at Midnight."

Joe said...

There is one absolutely foolproof way to make sure one gets the royalties one is entitled to receive -- frankly, I'm shocked more people haven't thought of it -- and that is: be the guy who cuts all the checks.

No, no need to thank me, your slavish fawning will suffice.

mrfandi said...

Never saw MAN2 (saw MAN1 and that was enough). But my verification word is "anthole" so I had to let the world know.

emily said...

Dear Mr. LaVyne,

Since my 401k became merely my 01k, your blog is the only entertainment I can afford. Thanks for making the world a better place.

Eric Curtis said...

I recorded the first "Mannequin" off of HBO and watched it over and over. Can't explain why. Okay, could have been the hormones of a thriteen-year-old, but I also thought it was funny.

The second one did have Kristy Swanson in it...and that's about all I can remember.

I laugh reading everyone or your posts. Please never stop. Thanks!

The Kenosha Kid said...

The movie was obviously subject to the Kristy Swanson Curse.

My verification word: duldness

benson said...

I'm guessing the word verification is randomly generated, but...

"dungema"

'nuff said.

Dan Coyle said...

A friend was working on South Street in Philly at the time Mannequin 2 was filmed. She had to keep the store she was working at open that night while they filmed a scene with the stars poking their head out of a limo sunroof.

She said Kristy Swanson COULD NOT hit her mark. She kept bungling the line over and over again. I think my friend finally got to go home around 3:30. To this day she tightens up whenever she sees Swanson on TV.

Joe said...

My WVW sounds like some sort of cross betwen a protection racket and an autobody shop:

wedentu

Either that or it was one of the minor Jedis.

Bob Summers said...

Two movies I checked out because I thought Kristy Swanson and Kim Catrall were hot. (Well, at the time.)

Buster said...

I don't have anything to say about this post. But I feel obligated to let everyone know that my verification word is the same as my last name, Hymin.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I never heard of this fine example of cinema, but it sounds like I need to.

Word Verification: presting. As in, I have a presting engagement with some gnats.

McMac said...

Never had the pleasure, but next deli I'm in I'm going to order this Word Verification sandwhich: Shnizate - on rye, extra pickle, hold the mayo.

radiodan said...

Having interviewed Ken over the summer I can honestly say I was probably most wanting to hear about this than anything else he's done. Kinda sad really.

Amanda By Night said...

Mannequin 2 is the best movie ever.

Seriously. I love it.