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Other Voices

By Other Voices

Part Eight: Lesbians, Lindsay & Leather

July 7, 1982

It’s the costumer Dan Moore’s birthday party thrown by the crew.  He’s a smart, thoroughly Irish guy, so I buy him some Irish whiskey. He got  a graduate degree in literature and did his thesis on Joyce!  The people who stumble into the movie business!  Also I keep pressing him if one day he could let me have one of the doubles for the hat Ganz wore in one shot, a brown felt hat I’m crazy about.

July 8, 1982

Dan Moore got his bottle of whiskey from me but he barely he had time to notice, because his crew mates doused him with meringue pie.

He retreated to one of the trailers to recuperate.

July 9, 1982

Celebrations at the studio continue:

Ric Waite’s birthday- The camera crew with Baird in command, gets him a chocolate cake.  Sculpted onto the cake, is a cinematographersetting up a shot in the jail.  Rick’s backlit shot of Nick and Eddie quarreling in the prison, was superb, his finest hour yet, three days ago.

Printed on the cake a statement attributed to Ric.

“Does it have to be this hard?  Yeah, so it can be this much fun?”

Denise Crosby (Bing’s granddaughter) and Margot Rose (a woman I briefly nearly dated more than two years ago) play the two girls Eddie and Nick question looking for Billy (Sonny.)  We refer to them as the two dykes.

Walter invents a bit for Denise to do with a baseball bat, hitting Eddy, that improves the scene.

When we get to the hit, Eddie is comically fearful.

“I’m not gonna hit you” Denise promises urgently.  “I’m not worried about you, it’s your arms holding the bat that worries me” Eddy moans.

Eddie for the fourth day in a row is quite good, about a thousand percent improved on the early scenes in San Francisco that worried the studio.  The proverbial chemistry between Nick and Eddie together in scenes has taken a mysterious quantum leap.  Basically they’ve gotten to like and trust each other in “real life” and it affects their scenes.  I don’t know who wouldn’t become a better actor opposite Nolte, and Eddie said the same thing.   He shook his head a couple of days ago and he said, “Nolte, man…he makes you act.”

But what exactly is the reason for the huge improvement?  There’s Nick, there’s Walter’s prodding, there’s the studio’s pressure… and there’s simply Eddie’s raw talent urging him forward.  You can see him get more into it moment by moment.  It reminds me that he’s a comedian and with comedians on stage, they sometimes hit a groove where they become confident of their rapport with the audience and suddenly the littlest thing they do works and is funny and extends their control of the audience.  Eddie’s at least glimpsed that groove, or else he’s hitting it.

Walter and Joel and Larry have started to completely change their tune about worrying about Eddie or what the studio thinks of him.  Whatever problems we face suddenly Eddie is ceasing to be one of them

Walter’s concentrated attention pays off.

Margot Rose turns to me and expresses amazement at Walter’s “guidance.”

Today on set a big moment for me.

Craig Raiche, the prop guy whose domain it is, had, for me, made a chair with brown leather backing and my name on it.  The absence of this had helped me appear and be treated as silly for some time.  Had made me the butt of countless jokes, plus snarls when I sat in people’s chair.

(Luca had been particularly annoyed at finding me in her chair.)  Not being involved in the Chinese laws of Court Etiquette I’d been slow to grasp the significance of people’s chairs.  But gradually I got the message.

So getting this is a big thing.

I had walked into being made to feel silly yesterday when Dan Moore got me the ganz hat I had been bugging him about.  Three days ago, when I asked him about it the last time, it was at a bad time in the middle of working to fix Nick up during a difficult long take.  Dan embarrassed me effectively by pretending he should stop what he was doing, postponing the doing of his job, because I was asking him to sluff purely for the purpose of dealing with my trivial request.

I wanted to cut my tongue out.  I did not make my request vehemently or harshly enough to quite merit the ripping Dan Moore gave me but I was insensitive to his ego about his job, I later realized.  I made it seem like I thought my trivial requests for a favor was more important than his job.

At Ric’s cake ceremony, Nolte shouts, “Bring on the transvestite!”

The other day, at Dan Moore’s more orgiastic birthday celebration, a stripper gave him a strip-o-gram.  Huge blow-ups of her, her huge tits and ass, were posted on the outer wall of the dykes apartment set.

There is much infantilism, obviously, among film people. It is the synthesis between razor sharp workaholism, the pressure of so much daily rigor, the need to escape all that, and claims of simple egocentric vanity.  These traverse and contradict each other’s claims to produce “antic disposition.”

Today Walter, Joel, and Larry lunch with President Katzenberg.  The gist of their discussion is, “if it’s necessary to spend a lot more money to make the ending spectacular, spend a lot more money.”

Hilariously, six weeks earlier I had been assigned the job of creating a cheaper ending, which moved it to the roof of the Dyke’s apartment.  Now that’s not considered elaborate enough.  Walter is emboldened.  The studio is hungry to spend more money.  They like what they see

Walter, today, unhappy with me.  Why?  No particular reason.  Some days Walter is happier with me than others.  Grim truth?  I’m less exciting news to him that I was.  My promise is no longer unlimited.  We know a bit more of each other’s frailties and vanities.  The moment Walter discerns a man’s weakness, limitation, he experiences a bit of disappointment.  Why not he’s only human.  Disillusioned idealist, a name for all directors I suspect.  I stress both sides.  The fantasy and the girl awareness of how the fantasy suffers perpetual defeat.


Got a chance to see Fassbinder’s In a Year of Thirteen Moons, a film he made apparently as a rapid response to the fact of his own lover committing suicide.  The central character is a transsexual who commits suicide at the end of the movie.

It’s a film which fuses an “abstract” and “personal” character study, where a soul is studied in its idiosyncratic and culturally typical forms, where every attempt at understanding are further examples of the cruelty which the story attempts to understand.

The sadomasochistic topic reveals itself formally in the aggressive or coercive relationship between the story and language.  Everything in Thirteen Moons is a blatant case of something being forced upon us, everything is bout the inner heterogeneity that constitutes it.  The relation of narrators, a nun, a mystic weird with candles, Elivira in the slaughterhouse to what is narrated is sadistic.

The slaughterhouse scenes takes out of the realm of psychological consistency into the realm where symbolic content manifests the violence of its distance to what it refers to.

The problem of authorial distance and point of view is emblem of a conception of disassociation, discontinuously and strangeness within the dimension of personal identify involved first with Elvira’s sexual doubleness and then related as well to the progressively  more inconclusive relationship between victim and victimizer.

Elvira’s distinction is that he undermines the extreme simplicity of the power set-up he never less can never cease to be the emblem of.

Thirteen Moons like Artaud speaks in egotistic voice to abolish a sense of the survival of ego, mixing an obsession with violence and purity  establishes an extreme disjunction between sound and image, present activity and past determination.

In thirteen moons everything has already happened before the movie’s action starts.  Elvira’s marriage has failed, his relationship with the guy who suggested he become a woman, has happened, and failed, and another relationship is ending…choices, catastrophes have already happened.  The chaos of discursive rationalization attempts to unify the bloody active past with the exhausted impotent  and incomplete present.  The present is nothing but its deteriorating crumbling complicity with the past violence that engendered it.

I saw this film last night for the second time, became further convinced it’s one of the great works of narrative cinema, of our time.

July 13, 1982

Today, visitors to the set, Tracy Tynan, an old friend of Walter’s, who is now going out with a director I know slightly named Jim McBride. I had met them awhile back through my friend Evelyn Purcell.  Another friend of Walter’s I knew vaguely, a woman namedBrooks Riley.  Like Audie Book, she does subtitles for foreign films.  I had once had a meeting with her in New York when she was working at Film Comment magazine.

Unformulated moments of social consciousness are more accurate than more clearly formulated intended ones.

A visitor to the set I am awed to be introduced to, the great English Director Lindsay Anderson.  (His This Sporting Life,  If, and Oh Lucky Man were among the first  films that  made me care about movies when I was a teenager.)

(GROSS NOTES: Years Earlier I’d Been Invited To A Screening Of A Short T.V. Film Anderson Had Directed And Had Come To Introduce…And I’d Noticed Walter Hill Was There. Subsequently Walter Had Quoted Lindsay’s Opinions On The Subject Of John Ford, Who Anderson Had Written A Book About.  Walter Had A Great Enthusiasm For That Book, Enjoyed Quoting It, And Felt It Was The Best Thing Written About Ford. And I’d Seen A Postcard From Anderson That Walter Kept On Prominent Display On His Desk. One Of The Many Surprising Terrific Things I Had By Now Learned About Walter Is That He Had Many Friends Among Quiet Intellectual Often Politically Left Wing Brits — The Fact That These Guys Liked His Films A Lot And Saw The Connection Between Walter And John Ford Meant A Great Deal To Walter. But Only A Short Time After Walter Introduced Me To Lindsay Anderson, I Could Tell They Had A Terrifically Sincere Closeness That Went Further Than Their Mutual Professional Respect.)

Lindsay Anderson watching Walter shoot, and I’m actually instructed by Walter to be his guide around the set and make sure he has someone to talk to.

I commit a horrible blunder by misnaming his newest film, Brittania Hospital, referring by mistake to the title of another smaller film on the same subject, The National Health…Anderson corrects me in an acidic tone of voice…it would be the same as if I insulted Walter by confusing The Warriors with The Wanderers.

Wrong, faux pas.

Lindsay Anderson

Anderson is a short egg shaped man round around the belly but not fat sensing because of the tautness of his eye and the sharpness of his long beak like nose.  The comfortable power of his glance makes the term “intense” misleading if inevitable to describe his way of looking his manner.  But he has none of the juvenility, none of the uncertainty that one usually equates with the term “intensity”.  His air of command is amused, credible.  One can see him up stepping up on the platform  of the crazed and maniacal given any adequate provocation, and certainly his reputation for acerbic vitriolic anger is somewhat legendary.  But today he’s mainly nothing but amused, curious, and intelligent.

We watch a scene where Eddie bursts into Billy’s room and confronts him, asking him to give up without a fight.  Billy refuses, pulls a knife and Eddie has to shoot him to death.  I watch Proval coaching.  Essentially it boils down to encouraging Eddie to view it like it’s an athletic event.  He’s telling him to bear down and  take a lot of deep breaths, a moment before they call action.

I explain basically to Anderson what the scene is about, and he squints.  “What is it like I wonder” he says quietly “having to shoot someone?”

The scene comes off pretty well.  Actually doing a physical action scene, is in fact a bit like doing a pole vault, or some type of performance on the parallel bars.  So Proval’s simplistic advice actually is pretty sound.

July 14, 1982

Followed Walter to editor Freeman Davies’ suite, saw Cut footage.

Reggie’s first appearance at the jail, leading to the beating up of Luther.

I am pleased by a sense of the “push” of the narrative.  I am nervous that in some scenes characters behave in emotional routines or attitudes that have not been sufficiently prepared for.  Never the less the “push” or “drive” I notice is more decisive.  The shades of emotional clarity I am referring to… the absence of them may have their noticability collapsed by narrative urgency.  (Hope.)

Joel’s birthday.  Larry Gordon’s cake for him has a massive erect penis and the words Happy Birthday You Putz, on them.

Another cake is a gargantuan imitation hamburger.  A third cake has a an icing depiction of Joel and a naked bimbo.  A massive striptease dancer follows the unveiling of the cake.

Yesterday had one of the best moments for me in the making of this film.  Lindsay Anderson and Walter Hill stretched out on the prop bed, musing about John Ford’s My Darling Clementine.

Who thought of the title?  What did the project mean to Ford?  Did he have to use Linda Darnell as Chiquita because she was banging Zanuck, the studio executive on the film.?

I flirt with Denise some more.  I would say I’m getting exactly nowhere.

First Through The Door

Nick blasts (!) through a glass window barrier, today.  This time, in that jacked up doing an athletic mode, he’s got a tremendous urgency to do it.  Quite stunning.

Also squibs exploding all over the dyke apartment.

Is yesterday’s revolutionary truth discredited because the world was not reformed along its precepts?  Today has not been the perfect tomorrow.  That was foreseen.  The Final Conflict, awaited and wished for (a consummation devoutly to be wished) has not arisen.

The “truth” disproven by today’s failure to live up to it may be revivified tomorrow.

The idea that change is actual view with the idea that no particular instance of change is decisive–

That charge is actual is what determines whether or not the perceptive modality is intelligent or not.  How someone evaluates it, how he wants to deny it after acknowledging it .  that’s anybody’s business as long as the reality of the phenomenon of change is acknowledged.

I got suddenly intoxicated thinking about Melville and the stupefying ingenious chutzpah of his desire to be Shakespeare.  The transparent wish to emulate him.

Then depressed considering Melville’s nerve.

A writer with writers block, that’s my topic.

July 16, 1982

Wrapping the dyke apartment, through the beginning of the final shootout.  Walter exclaims “There are so many fucking locations in this movie, god, will I be glad to be through with this one.”

Denise Crosby, this beautiful sort of Wagnerian Valkyrie type blonde screams and yells first at Remar than at Nick.

Crosby Attacks!

She has to be topless for this.

Elaborate joke for this with Joel.

Walter keeps insisting these girls are happy to strip till Joel talks to them, “explains” about it to them, at which point they all want to put back on their blouses.  Or quit the movie.

I have likened it to Bogart chiding nervous publicistEdmond O’Brien when they come to a little Spanish café to talk Ava Gardner into  making a movie in Hollywood.  Bogart tells their boss that this time O’Brien has “charmed the birds back into the trees.”

Anyway, Walter sends Denise to Joel to tell him that she had been all set to strip until she looked to Joel, Joel anguishedly repeats this, Walter chortles, Joel catches on that’s being joked on.

Joel yells for the rest afternoon:  “She fooled me, but you blew the joke W. Hill! You’re such a lousy actor, I was a convinced, but you blew it.  YOU!”

“Joel,” Walter responds, “you don’t understand.  I’m not an actor.  I prepare actors.  I don’t act myself.”

Rumor floats.  Getty Oil is purchasing MCA universal.  Rastar President McElwaine is replacing Frank Price.  Our publicist Rafe drops this in a conversation with an LA times arts reporter.  Deborah Caulfield.  She flabbergasts Price in a conversation about knowing this and Caulfield is so grateful to us for lending her to a scoop that she vows to do a Times article about our movie.

Walter and I go drinking after the days shooting.

Walter offers me this warning about craft and style in screenwriting.

“You gotta do things ten times and try different ways of sayin ’em.”

We talk about who among directors is macho and who is anti-macho.  How Ford and Hawks are sophisticated civilized men who can psychically afford to criticize machismo.

Peckinpah is difficult, Walter says

“Peckinpah you know, he really is Hal Needham… He’s smarter.  He’s warier.  He is worried about people knowing more than he does, and he has this incredible pure ability like a great athlete to direct, to go out and make shots.  But he hates and fears women.  Hates him. With a vengeance.  He wants to hang with the guys, hunt, drink, fuck whores.  Never read a book in his life.  Is so scared.  Finally he doesn’t believe machismo works but doesn’t have any belief in other values..”

The subject turns to working all the time or not.

“You know, every time you start one of these damn things, you’re scared you forgot how to do ’em.  A few days into it, you know that you do know how, but it’s a worry till then.”

He remarks how lucky he’s been to do a job he likes and get paid well for it, but insists things weren’t so bad before.

“When I was poor, I didn’t feel like I was missing so much…”

– Larry Gross
Written Contemporaneously… Published August 8, 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