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Other Voices

By Other Voices

Part Seven: Hotshots

June 25, 1982


“I stay awaked baffled by the problem of Ric Waite’s car”…this is a comic monologue byJoel Silver… “I keep turning it over in my mind.  The day he didn’t brings his car to location.  In Modesto.  In Modesto.  It was five weeks ago but it perplexes me to this day.  Sometimes I like awake and think about it.”

Nick, a few seats down, is talking about playing Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar.  Doing farcical plays, something he liked doing called Catch Me if You Can.

Talking to extras.

Shot on the worst LA street I’ve ever scene:  Tumorous necked dead eyed men, cracked eyes, cracked voice cracked skin and bones.  Humans blown around by trash. The weird darkness. Inconsolable

Benny Dobbins stages the car stunts with toy cars, for Walter and all the camera men and operators to see.  This is high splendor.

Remar’s hands are cut by the breaking glass during a take of the bus shooting.

The dilemma Walter faces and all director’s face: Making a film is so much more powerful a phenomenon than talking about it…and of course this aspect of things stifles to some degree the art element in a film…the force of the collective experience allows the filmmaker to imagine that speculative intelligence is unimportant.  Continuing to make films becomes its own self referring rationale.  Movies are capitalist individualism in system, you are a quality individual if you work the system to supply yourself with a steadily better place in the system — there is no “goal” of work beyond maximizing ones’ functional capacity to make work.

The work is its purpose in an essentially mechanical and not sublime sense.

We work till dawn.  All dawns are powerful.  Even tawdry LA streets are disclosed in their shade of hope and still at dawn.  At this withdrawing of darkness, tentative jibs and gestures of hope.

Night lights go out, protection against darkness relaxes, frazzled nerves of fear poke their heads up.

A week of night shooting everyone is turned around and dazed, from breaking glass, speeding along in the insert cars, playing bumper cars with stunt cars.

Walter remarks at one point: “I’m trying to turn you into an action director kid.”

The week of nights seems like a whole movie in itself with memories of what other nights were like seeming to be memories of weeks or even months ago.  When things actually happened in relation to each other is readily lost.

“Nights are tough” Walter says, “but on these thrillers you gotta have m”

How hard and dangerous things are.

I don’t sleep when I come back from these shoots the way I’d like to.  So I make up excuses not to sleep.

JUNE 27, 1982 – DAY OFF

Israel’s unbelievably arrogant cruelty.

The mobility of aggression and territoriality, the inability to map this phenomenon in an intellectually meaningful way.  The impossibility of the phenomenon shaking down to divisible opposable elements.  Pynchonian “in the zone” ness.

The absurdity of religious mysticism diminishes as all efforts at understanding come to appear absurd and mystical..

Legions, armies, of smartly dressed fags of a Sunday, tastefully consuming in West Hollywood  restaurants.

West African children mournfully starving under brutal suns, must all by their interest ignore what’s going on in Beirut.

Action disappears, crimes disappear by virtue of that endless diversity of the circumstances out of which their commission has arisen.

Our life is all about living the loss of original meaning and a lot of our urge for purity is the futile attempt to erase this defeat, this loss, by claiming that original meaning never existed in the first place.  Forgetting, a losing of grip occurs, and then a second stage, the act of forgetting accomplishes its own being forgotten.  First we forget.  Then we forget that we forgot.

Walter and I about Godard.  Walter attacks vehemently: “He lacks the craft to tell stories properly.”

I argue that what Godard relies on is the presence of  stories, and genres in the audience’s heads, and then he improvises from there, not unlike Altman.  The subject ofTout Va Bien, the film that Godard made with someone else that Walter hates, Jane Fonda.  The hollywood liberal  specimen at its most gaseous and odious.

“Godard and Jane Fonda, boy that truly was the marriage of Marx and Coca Cola.”

When Walter talks about the movie, what he continues to be not one hundred percent certain on is when he has narratively — emotionally — made the point he wants to make.  He believes correctly that implicitness is better, but some levels of implicitness leave the room open for wrong secondary implications.  Some times you want to state the meaning more explicitly in order to rule out others.

Went to Blade Runner that we’ve all been looking forward to for so long.

Ford, Cassidy, Snake

My favorite line, the dancer-replicant to Deckard:” You think I’d be working n a place like this if I could afford a real snake?”

There’s rich thematic possibility in juxtaposing, the sci-fi future with old fashioned film noir and making that duality, an analogy with the duality of human/inhuman.  It was Godard by the way who invented this future/self-consciously noir past juxtaposition, with Alphaville. Point Blank, Roeg’sPerformance, and Altman’s The Long Goodbye all played this game to a certain degree.  I wrote about this “genre” in Film Comment about eight or nine years ago.

But despite great moments and a surprisingly decent performance by Harrison Ford, the movie doesn’t quite work   There is too much obscurity for the movie’s fundamental simplicity.  There is too little emotional exposition.  Just one example:  We never see what Deckard would do or might want to do if he didn’t hunt replicants which makes his apparent disgust with his job somewhat incomprehensible. The treatment of the replicants just leaves out too much information.  Scott wants to be Kubrick and convey everything visually, but you have to know how to convey the things you leave out, and too much of fundamental importance is left out here.

I note Walter’s upsetness, at the end of today.

He said, “Sometimes it gets annoying, irritating answering so many questions.  You just get tired of dealing with the horseshit.”

The horseshit today included delaying with a practical location.   Lighting extremely tight space.  Nudity and the skittishness of the girls involved in it.

Walter to Sonny: “The hits aren’t in the bat.”

Remar and Sosna quarrel as Remar  gets revved up to run down the hallway from the gun battle.  Sosna yells.  Remar yells back.

Walter barks,.  “Just concentrate on the shot Jimmy do your job and let him do his.”  First time I’ve heard Walter raise his voice AND THE LAST TIME I WILL HEAR IT DURING THE ENTIRE SHOOTING

Remar instantly collapses and starts apologizing.

This morning is gunfire.  Producing ample smoke.  Headache making, now.  Killing two actors.  The two cop partners of Nick, Jonathan Banks and another actor, I can’t remember his name.

The camera crew (three) in green blankets and plastic faceguards like a gun-artillery emplacement or tech soldiers facing a huge attcking.  Remar and Sonny blasting the two cops.

Remarks overheard:

Camera operator Rick Neff:  My first two wives were skinny.  Now I’m goin for the meat.

Walter Hill:  “Send in a half apple.

David Sosna when I’m whispering to someone just before a take: “They whisper over at the Desilu studios. Here, they keep quiet.”

Joel comes in announcing that he has a new movie to do at MGM.

My brother lets me know he’s been fired from the literary agency where he works.  It happens to be the one that represents me, ICM.

JUNE 31, 1982

Tara King, Nick Nolte

Walter’s little blonde squeeze, her name is Tara, works today.  Doing the same part she did in The Driver.  Joel privately announces to me that her acting is shitty.  Her part is bigger than similar role of hotel desk clerk that she had in the other film. Here she actually has lines.

This morning dominated, unspokenly, by a single controversy.  Paramount wants to make selected going-over-budget-judgments for reshoots.  Walter refuses. He must receive his not-going-over-budget bonus first.  Then he will do the reshoots.  Berg tells Walter not to consider negotiating on this issue.  Katzenberg says that going along with Walter’s carte blanche demands that going “over” be approved is impossible. The situation was complicated by Larry’s agreement to something on this question with Eisner.  To get Walter to agree with the studio’s point of view on these issues — about this there is much hysteria this morning.  Joel, Larry, Walter and Berg all accusing and being accused of underrating and undermining the other.

Ultimately, Walter wins clearly.  Walter and Berg.  At a key moment, Berg beats up onMichael Eisner, President Katzenberg’s boss.

There is a place Berg gets to that is the essence of ruthlessness.  It is a straightforward cold eyed way of him saying I-am-in-the-sole-possession-of-the-facts.  It really makes you think this is what Lenin must have been like.  It is an insight into the vanity of the notion that power is personal.  Berg embodies the knowledge that power is intimately related to perception, specifically perception of context, i.e. there is no transcending or absolute reality of power.  Yoking this observation to EGO is tricky

My brother after telling me about his work problems announces that he is having marital problems too.   Shit.  A fucked day.

Meanwhile Walter has me invent a bunch of dialogue for Tara, aka Frizzy.

I get into a fight with 2ND AD Debbie Love about my being on the set when they were lighting.  She implied I didn’t have the brains to move out of the way of the crew moving equipment around.  I’m afraid she might be right.

Michael Sragow, a decent journalist/critic visits the set, representing Rolling Stone.  Has written some of the more intelligent sympathetic responses to Walter’s work.    Actually asks me a few questions.

At the end of a long day of shooting people being shot:

People don’t want to have conversations.  They want to have the burden of having a consciousness assuaged.

JULY 1, 1982

Jonathan Banks death scene.

Sosna calling for quiet on the set. “Guys  don’t talk about the next picture you’re gonna do — concentrate on this one”

JULY 2, 1982

First of the weekend.

Yesterday shoot out in the lobby.  Ton of gunfire.  We shot from 7: 30 AM toll l0:30 p.m.

Big disagreement with Walter about how many weapons the villains should have, how tied Nick’s hands should be.  Walter here plays up the big emotional moment as simple goodness of heart on Nick’s part.  Our roles get reversed, I think his approach to this scene is too sentimental whereas usually he rejects suggestions of mine as too sentimental.

Sosna does a good practical joke on me, has me convinced that the can of soda I picked out of a box in craft services is “bad.”  Calls to the crew doctor to discuss the likelihood I have food poisoning and will need to get my stomach.  He has me going.

Remar In The Bus

Remar cuts his hand catching a gun.  More real blood.  He, moping, after I console him says, “No one but the make up man consoles me.”

His eyes widen as they do in regular spasms.

“I don’t have to do this.”

Then he recounts how on Friedkin’s Cruising where he had a tough fight scene with Al Pacino, Pacino moped when he got a tiny bit hurt, and how solicitous Friedkin and the producer Jerry Weintraub were about his well being.  He and the danger he was in was ignored, he says.

Life is always a matter of injustice for Jimmy.

I point out to Walter that Jimmy’s suffering a bit and Walter ignores my remark.  Then he comments a little later:

“Jimmy’s a faker.”  He tells a story of a massive sprain Jimmy suffered on The Warriorsand how he cured himself miraculously when after shooting ended that night a crew softball game was announced.

Luca and I quarrel again, this because when I ask her where the trades I gave her  to read are. She says, “I don’t know. I’m working.”  I get insulted at this.

Baird Steptoe, a camera assistant, Don Thorin Jr. another camera assistant, and Luca, over drinks talk about what “this business” does to romantic relationships.

Girls pass by in the lobby of this building.  It’s owned and occupied by members of the Church Of Scientology.  Some of them stop and watch what we’re doing.

Walter casually glances at the watching girls, nudges me. “More scientological puss.”

JULY 6, 1982

Joel:  “You’re not following the law of STBP! And what is the law of SBTP? See The Big Picture.

Defending a plump famous screamer who runs Paramount t.v. Gary Nardino:  “He’s effective”

Effective for what, I ask in reply. What quality stuff is he defending, is he effective in?

“He’s in television, he’s not concerned with quality.”

Walter on the subject of Producer-studio squabbles: “You have to remember that ninety seven percent of the things that they’re concerned with are unimportant.”

Blue Thunder

I mention idly over the I had heard a rumor thatGordon Carroll, had produced the film that would be our main Christmas competition, Blue Thunder, has said the film isn’t very good.

“That’s okay” Walter says, “Gordon’s one of those producers who feel that they and the studio have started off on this wonderful adventure together, they have dreamed this noble dream – -now these so-so filmmakers have come along and screwed it up.”

This in turn causes Walter to remark about the notes we’d received from Simpson about our film before we started that he has mostly ignored.  I had turned to him at one point, holding a copy of those notes in my hand, and said, “They’re contemplating a Platonic kind of movie that resembles our script schematically, but which doesn’t have anything to do with our actual movie… It’s notes on the “type” of movie ours is, not the actual thing itself.”  The film the studio chiefs see in their head the perfect idea for a film that is unmuddied by specific choices, or the specific stylistic voice of the filmmakers.

Walter has a bad cold today. It’s the scene of Nick meeting Eddie for the first time at the jail.

Sosna barking at the crew: “Hold the work.””John you’re a good man, I’ll take you on all my big pictures soon as I get one.

Sound guy Jim Cutter back holding the door audibly mutters, “This could be your last.”

After a take fails: “Let’s go again.  Debbie picture up–picture now.”


Eddie, improving.   His rendition of Roxanne, by the Police, — super.

(GROSS NOTES: One Thing I Have To Take Credit For…Eddie Sang Roxanne As An Improv With No Discussion And Neither Walter Nor Joel Knew The Song. Walter Was Prepared Not To Print The Take… When I Jumped All Over Him And Insisted That The Song Had A Huge Level Of Recognition With The Audience. Walter Shrugged And Decided To Print It. Others Involved In Cutting The Film And Supervising The Music Confirmed My Opinion.)

LA is
The extra sad American dream
We all live.
The rapid impoverishment of absolutes.
Sudden senescence.
The rainbow turned into a turd.
I can’t get enough of these sudden stunning mistakes.
The way the human light is the ruination of the natural light.
The way the human work on the hill serves to wreck the hill.
The way hunger screams from the soil of scrappy attempts to keep busy.
The way thousands of dead hearts generate half alive fantasmic cheerful smiles.
The morally dead, the intrinsically dead, the overworked dead.
How to think this catastrophe LA, this energy gone awry–this massive truth consuming itself accomplishing the metamorphosis into angry error.

JULY 7, 1982

This morning, a long elaborate take of Nick and Eddie at the prison, Eddie in his armani suit for the first time in the film, Nick angrily pushing Eddie around, fluffing his lines a few times, Eddie much better still yelling at Nick.

Nick got very tense and frustrated, sluffing his lines, and oddly I think it’s because he’s reluctant to be as mean and aggressive as the scene requires him to be.  The odd thing is of course is he’s so good at it.  But I almost feel like it makes Nick feel guilty to be good at this kind of being rough and even vicious.  It’s like a part of him feels like these were the kinds of feelings he got into acting to avoid.  He’s such a gentle and not violent person.

To everyone’s despair — Walter’s, Joel’s and mine — the studio furnished us today with their list of alternative titles.  It is a long mimeographed sheet.  It makes us temporarily consider finding a loaded weapon and blowing our brains out, because we can see just how the movie is viewed by the studio when they send us these ideas.  The two ideas that we keep repeating in a depressed mantra are “hotshots” and

We just shake our heads and stare at each other gloomily, not saying but thinking, “congratulations pal, you’re working on a film called hotshots”…

– Larry Gross
Written Contemporaneously… Published July 17, 2008

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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