Thursday, June 02, 2016
"Regrets? I've had a few..."
Lyrics from a Sinatra song. Yes, I’m sure he had some regrets. There were still four women on the planet he didn’t sleep with.
But I was reminded of that lyric last night when I watched a YouTube interview with one of my writing heroes, William Goldman. Over the decades he’s turned down many projects. The interviewer asked which ones he regretted. Goldman said THE GODFATHER, THE GRADUATE, and SUPERMAN (he had reasons for passing on each).
So it got me thinking about my own ersatz career. Besides regretting that I wasn’t asked to play Superman, there really aren’t many projects I regret not taking. But for a long time there was – although I don’t regret it anymore.
David Isaacs and I were asked to write the original COSBY pilot. But at the time we were exclusive to 20th Century Fox and couldn’t do it. When the show became a mega-hit it gnawed at me – this was a series that was going to be in reruns forever. Yeah, well… how'd that work out? Now not being associated with Bill Cosby has its own rewards.
We were asked to write POLICE ACADEMY. We met with the producer who said he had this great idea for a movie. “Police Academy!” “Yeah?” we said, “And…?” “That’s it,” he beamed. “A funny police academy.” We moved on. In fairness, had we accepted that assignment and written a screenplay, I suspect we would have been fired and they would have thrown out our script. POLICE ACADEMY was a big hit, but that’s not the kind of comedy we write.
In 1996 we were offered the chance to write the Academy Awards, but we were showrunning ALMOST PERFECT and couldn’t abandon our own series. I hear it’s an assignment fraught with peril but still, it seems like for one year it would be worth the experience. (I’d have trouble reviewing myself however.)
Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with our choices. Some projects worked out better than others and some were more pleasant experiences than others, but that’s life (another Sinatra song).
But I think back to the words of my agent the day he offered that assignment. When we turned it down (immediately) he nodded, said he understood completely, but then added:
You guys would be twice as rich if you were twice as crazy.
I'm sure he's right. And now, if I may end with another Sinatra lyric… Excuse me, while I disappear.