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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Trafficking Syriana: Gaghan talks out of neo-con school

Syriana writer-director Stephen Gaghan riffs with LA Times’ Rachel Abramowtiz in her tick-tock about new political pics: “During his research… Seymour M. Hersh introduced Gaghan to Richard Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who is considered one of the neocon architects of the war in Iraq. It was weeks before the American invasion, and the screenwriter had just returned from Damascus, where he heard [predictions of] what a quagmire the war would be. “I’m in Perle’s kitchen. He’s passing out favors in the Bush administration. He’s dispensing wisdom and making me a cappuccino from this $3,000 cappuccino machine. He’s really smart, really clever, and I’m having a great time. I feel really lucky. I [say], ‘Mr. Perle, I have just one question. Who’s going to run Iraq?’ He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, we’re not going into that. Who says we’re going into Iraq?’ “I said, ‘Really, if we went in, who’s going to run the country?’ He said, ‘It’s a shame we haven’t done a better job of supporting Ahmad Chalabi…’ I said, ‘Listen, Chalabi hasn’t been in Iraq since 1959…. He lives in Paris. If he goes back there, they’re going to reject him like a bad organ transplant…. He looked at me like ‘Who let you in here?’ He stared daggers at me for about a minute.”… The doorbell rang. “He said, ‘Excellent. I’ll introduce you to Bibi on the way out.’
“It was Benjamin Netanyahu, dropping by with 9 Uzi-wielding Mossad agents.” As Perle ushered Gaghan out, Perle’s wheaten terrier puppy, Reagan, [jumped] around and, as Gaghan describes it, “pawing the crotch of Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu just stands there and shakes with rage. So I pulled the dog away from him and said, ‘Now, now, Reagan, not on former heads of state,’ and they just held the door open and let me out.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon