Sunday, September 04, 2011

MANNEQUIN 2: Exclusive Background Info!!!

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.

That’s it.


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.


Unknown said...

Who would want to buy a TV without speakers?


Mike Botula said...

Ken, that's an INCREDIBLE story. But having worked in Hollywood during that era, it is absolutely BELIEVABLE.

(Personal note: I once played a reporter on a TV "true crime" movie. Years later I got a check from SAG for $1.29 from some Saudi Arabian cable channel.Nobody even offered me a TV set).

I really enjoy your blog. It reminds me that the world is really like this. Now, I'm going to go pop a "Big Lebowsky" in my DVD player and waste my Sunday morning.

Raj Unvereep said...

Someone should have been convicted of MAN2 for that thing! But not you guys, of course...nice story. At least now it is.

Phillip B said...

Have you ever taken an Alan Smithee credit?

Nathan said...

I've been in a position to receive residuals on exactly one of the movies I've worked on. So far, I've collected a whopping $37.42! That retirement home just keeps getting more and more luxurious.

Mike said...

I'm changing my name to Alan Smithee to get the royalties.

Richard Y said...

Well you almost had a hit on your hands at least according to the box office. You did a whole lot better that the 1986 'Clan of the Cave Bear' starring Darryl Hannah. That movie only brought in $25,000 its first week.

cshel said...

Sounds like you were lucky to have escaped with your freedom and your life. : )

HogsAteMySister said...

Why didn't you ask to be paid in mannequins. Because I've been told...

BigTed said...

I certainly hope you were responsible for the subtitle, "Mannequin Two: ON THE MOVE." That selling point was probably responsible for at least one of the six opening-night audience members.

Mike said...

Reading your letter to the WGA, I literally spit water out of my nose. Thanks for the chuckle.

At least Mannequin 2 finally got a laugh somewhere.

Sorry the joke was just sitting there and I'm no professional so don't know well enough to ignore it. I actually have enjoyed the original Mannequin greatly and probably even Mannequin 2 once or twice (pot smoking in college probably helped) -- because, seriously, if you are a gay of a certain age -- currently 34-37, I think* -- you have to appreciate the camp value.

* Anybody older would be offended and anybody younger wouldn't get it.

Michael Zand said...

Did you ever ask those geniuses, if they were so happy with your rewrite, why the fuck didn't they come to you guys to write the second film to begin with? Stupid question, I know. The answer is obviously,"Because that would make sense."

Rebecca in Seattle said...

Hi Ken,

Love your blog and so happy that you will be back with Mariners this season!

I'm writing to say thanks for making some great movie! I rented Mannequin and Mannequin II and watched them over the weekend, it's been 20 years since I saw either but they are just as spot-on funny today as they were then.

Add in the nostalgia factor and the cool retro clothes/hair and it beats anything opeining at the box office this weekend.

I just got a note from my DVD provider that I can buy the set a discounted price rather than sending them back, i think I'll be adding these to my personal collection.

Thanks for the memories and the laughs!