In light of my discussion on living with writing boxoffice flops, a few of you have asked for more details on our MANNEQUIN 2 triumph. Here's a repost from a few years on just that prickly subject.
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.
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.