Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Michael Douglas helped us stick it to 20th

Everyone in Hollywood has great Hollywood stories. Thought today as I sit in Cincinnati I’d share one of mine.

My partner David Isaacs and I were hired by Michael Douglas to do a rewrite on JEWEL OF THE NILE, the sequel to the hugely successful ROMANCING THE STONE. One of the great movie star perks, especially when you’re hot, is being able to wield a little power. Michael did that on our behalf and I’m still grateful.

Two months before we were producing the notorious AfterMASH for 20th Century Fox. We had a great office on the lot in a building that looked like a Swiss Chalet. You’ve seen it in a million great shows and STARKSY & HUTCH.

The president of the TV division called us one morning with the tragic news the show had been canceled. We feigned the obligatory “No? CBS is crazy! Can’t they recognize quality?” all the while silently pumping our fists in the air. The prez then offered us an overall deal. We were part of the 20th family. We thanked him profusely but said this was kind of sudden, we needed a little time to see what we wanted to do next. He understood and reiterated that 20th would love to keep us in the fold.

An hour later we got a call from business affairs. They weren’t going to pay us for the backup script that CBS had ordered. We reminded them they had to and they said “tough”. So we called the Writers Guild and ten minutes later business affairs called back to say. okay, they’d pay us. But they wanted us out of the office in one hour. What happened to “we were part of the 20th family???”
We got an office and secretary as part of the rewrite deal. I noticed that our old one was still vacant. So I told the story to Michael and asked if we could have THAT office. He gleefully got on the phone. The facilities people freaked. That was a television division office, not features. It couldn’t be done! The answer to that of course is:

“Do you know how much money I’ve made for this Goddamn studio?”

Ten minutes later that same business affairs weasel had to sheepishly call us and welcome us back. It was a beautiful thing. We were thrown off the lot again when we finished the rewrite but still!

13 comments:

xjill said...

I've always been curious, when they "throw you of the lot" how does that work exactly. They take your credentials and tell security you don't have a drive-on anymore??

The post is hilarious, btw.

Anita Bonita said...

Michael Douglas has always struck me as having a little bit of "radio" in him. You've just confirmed it. Thanks for a great story.

gottacook said...

I saw Jewel of the Nile 25 years ago when it came out - and I'm still friends with my date that evening, even though the movie was more than a little disappointing. Didn't know you and David were once involved, but I'm forced to conclude (on the basis of my memories of seeing it then and not since) that little if any of your contribution could have survived.

WV: pumateti. I have no response to that.

Anonymous said...

That's hilarious. (!)

l.a.guy said...

Funny story-- reminds me of the famous quote (which of course I can't remember) Something like:

"Throw him off the lot and don't let him back on until we need him."

Chooch Slackenerny said...

Reminded me of Bryan Singer being thrown off the Fox lot after leaving the studio to direct Superman...except they forgot he also produced House, so they had to let him back on the next day.

Edd D. said...

Hey... I'm in Cincy too. I know folks have told you about Skyline, but if you want the best burger in town go to Zip's Cafe in Mt. Lookout. Or good Thai food, The Bangkok Bistro in Easy Hyde Park. And Johnny Bench's restaurant, The Precinct, is great.

But most of all... find yourself a Graeter's ice cream store. You won't regret it. Try chocolate chip (huge dark chocolate chips) or Raspberry Chip if you want... all are good. Do it Ken... treat yourself. I think there's even one downtown. Yep, just looked, 511 Walnut Street, on Fountain Sq.

And whatever you do, don't go to Herbie's Esoteric Lounge. If it even still exists.

Michael said...

Every time I see him, Michael Douglas looks more like his father. This story confirms for me that he is a lot like his father. I believe Kirk helped break the blacklist by using Dalton Trumbo as screenwriter on Spartacus, and had the habit of telling the studio much what his son told them.

Bill Peschel said...

Michael, just don't tell that to Otto Preminger. He hired Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay for "Exodus" before Kirk did for "Spartacus." Kirk got the credit and the awards, and (judging by the recent bio of Otto), that still pisses off his family.

Ref said...

Preminger also hired Pete Seeger to write "Old Devil Time" for the soundtrack on "David And Lisa."

Michael said...

Well, guys, I won't tell Otto's family, but from I hear, Otto was no bargain in his own right! That said, Kirk did stand up for what was right, so he deserves some credit, and I'm glad to see that Michael inherited some of that.

Sandy Koufax said...

You guys got to rewrite "Jewel of the NIle", but Michael got Catherine Zeta-Jones. I think he got the better end of the deal.

tb said...

Chooch Slackenerny?