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Other Voices

By Other Voices

Part Ten: 46… 47… 48… -30-

August 2, 1982

Redoing Nick’s side of the conversation on the phone to Elaine.

Walter’s lack of interest in certain kinds of inferiority, leads him to have characters repeat themselves.  Of course in the correctly woven fabric repetition can be sublime.

Walter friendlier again today.

When he lets an actor buddy come on for an extra days pay I tell him how nice a thing that was of him to do.

“I’m a nice guy” he says “despite what you think.”

“I never thought you were not a nice guy” I  practically scream.

“You’re sure you haven’t had enough of this abuse.”  He wonders

“It’s a question of whether you want someone around like me who inspires this much abuse.”

It’s the first day of the last week on studio sets.

We start out at the interior of Torchy’s which is now referred to as “The Country Western Bar.”

The set gets noisy as several other quick things have to be picked up.  Besides redoing Nick on the phone, there’s a brief scene of Eddie bidding Candy, the girl he met at Vroman’s, goodbye after spending the night with her.

Sozna asking for quiet: “Jokes later folks, News at eleven.”

We’re sitting waiting for them to finish lighting, Walter, Joel, and I.

A girl passes by and Joel mutters “She’s built like a glass shithouse.”

“It’s a brick shit house Joel” says Walter…

I ask Walter how it’s going.

“It’s going slow, we’re grinding,” he replies, then after a pause, “It always goes slow…anything worth doing is slow.  I hate movies.  How did I get into this.  It’s so slow,”  this all said in a  low comic pell mell rush as if  a wave were rolling over his head.

An actor named Peter-something who Walter will use as the bartender in the country western bar scene, comes to hang around the set a day before he works.

Peter tells of working with Orson Welles and can’t resist trying to imitate him.  He goes on to talk of his own past as a sloppy drunk.

“That was a different me,” he murmurs with quiet insistence.

“The old Peter,” Walter says, both supportively and maintaining a soupcon of doubt that there are any different selves or variegated persons within the self.

“I was a sloppy drunk, and some people didn’t care for me and I didn’t even know it, but then I was too drunk to see.”

Walter nods in agreement.

“Some of us were there, Peter,” Walter comments mildly, “We remember this.”

Overhearing Larry Gordon barking over the phone… “…It’s reached the point of stupidity…” He’s being kept on hold on a call to Sherry Lansing, who is a production executive over at Fox:  “Can’t get Sherry Lansing on the phone?  What, has she only got one line?”

August 4 , 1982

Eddie’s moment in the Country Western Bar scene.  This was the one thing he was excited about getting a chance to play the first day I met him.

Walter watches Eddie roust the rednecks at the bar.  He turns to Joel at the end and says of this “money” scene, simply, “I’m rich.”

Much of Eddie’s improvs are wonderful here.

Walter really warm today.  He senses that the strategy of waiting and keeping this scene till the end of the shoot when Eddie is a million times more confident has paid off.

“I gotta get busy and get this scene done so this kid can jack up his price.”

We go over to the editing room and see the scene between Eddie and the girl cut together.  He’s not satisfied.  I beg him not to think of cutting it.

He points to the boxes of film that sit over Freeman’s shoulder.

“What you don’t understand is, it’s not a theoretical decision. By the time the decision is made, if the scenes are out, you will want them out.  You don’t really make the film back on the set, you make it in here with those hundred or so white boxes. The film is in there in those boxes somewhere, and its gotta be what they tell ya it is.”

August 6 , 1982

(GROSS NOTE: Poltergeist And E.T. Have Dominated The Summer Box Office So At Times Doing A Police Thriller Has Seemed Irrelevant.)

Walter on Speilberg:  “Speilberg likes making films about kids and aliens, and ghosts, and I like to make ’em about men.  He’s probably the smart one.  Audiences seem to agree with him.”

“Victor makes films where boys are boys and men are boys.”

Walter and Joel both enthuse, “I love that we call him Victor.”

Ric Waite pretends doing a redneck teasing Debbie Love.

Last night after dailies  Walter sighs… “I’m done in boys.”

“Only half an hour more” Joel says.

Walter says to me “You’re supposed to stay watch these and learn.”

I say to Walter “I need a ride home more.”

Joel remarks, “He doesn’t want to learn what he learns from walking all the way home.”

Walter and I stop off and have a drink at the Improv.

August 8 , 1982

Watched on the Kem, bits of Vromans and the punchout in the alley between Nick and Eddie.

Later in the day, drinks with Eddie, Baird, Donald, Bairds friends, Baird’s wife at Eddie’s palatial estate.  It’s only with a bit of a shock that I realize how rich Eddie Murphy is when the kid’s only like twenty one or something.  It’s just not a bad life being a twenty one year old t.v. and movie star.

August 10, 1982

History is nothing but a dialogue with special cases.

Special cases reveal the nature of norms. Or perhaps norms are illusory and there exist only more and less emphatic instances of special cases.

August 12, 1982

Fourth night shooting in Chinatown.  Watching Nick attack Margot Rose on her way up to her place.  And then all the mechanics of finally killing Ganz.

Larry Gordon brings a lot of chinese food back for the crew to snack on after eating lunch at one of these places with Joel.  As typical, Joel’s eating habits come in for drollery.  There’s Larry’s eating to avoid a heart attack and Joel, from Larry’s point of view, overeating.

“The guy running never saw a check that big in the history of the restaurant…he just couldn’t get a load of Blutto over there…he was always coming over to us, going ‘Maw?  Maw?”

Later watching all the moves of Remar going around corners gunning for Nick and Eddie:  “Always remember.  You must improvise.”

At the beginning of the night before shooting starts, Walter presents me with a page of notes he’s prepared for a new script.  It will be the first in a series of adventures of an action hero he’s had it in his mind to create for a long time.  The character’s name is Tom Cody.  And Walter has it in his head to create a franchise about him…introducing him as The Stranger.

He asks me if I’m interested in writing the script with him…I ask him is the Pope Catholic?  Larry and Joel would be along on this ride.  Suits me.


Sexuality is that violence, and the escape from it, the force more powerful than violence–that violence is suppressive, rejecting yet produces fragments breaks things up.  The force that rejects violence, the force that overcomes violence, the force that transcends violence.

“You mustn’t stop.”  Mrs. Freud helping Siggie, a moving scene.  No matter unpleasant the discoveries you are making are you have to continue trying to make them.

As if the “whole way” was simple and straight forward.  As if only straight forward effort was required–as if the quantity of effort was identical with its result.

“The time comes when one must give up all ones fathers and stand alone.”

This is the key line of Freud’s played brilliantly byMontgomery Clift, living with the fear of his discoveries is forced by his discovery of the oedipal climax, to say.  I weep.  I think of my own reluctance to elude or escape or reject my own father, who I love so much.

You can see in this scene and throughout , traces of Sartre’s conceptions of authenticity and bad faith, in the drama of Freud’s evolution, he’s the person who did the first draft of the screenplay.



Stand alone in accepting something as well as rejecting something.

It gets later and later.  The time for my trip grows later and later.  The time to see these people.

When you know yourself.  The notion that outside forces “beyond our control” are forces within us–is ultimately a service to vanity rather than a rebuke to it.  Whatever widens our power over that which had hitherto been beyond control makes us greater.  The ego conserving Freud.

The other Freud is the student of our dispersal, the analyst of our self-misinterpretation, the way we misconstrue our identity,  the prophet of the fact that we can never be with ourselves…the story of Freud is the story of his differentness from his father-mentors and his children–patients…his “standing alone” is his non-identity with these groups, his being-himself is his not-being, someone to other.

August 18 , 1982

The last night–around twelve shooting days later than expected. Or originally scheduled.

The movie has had good luck throughout and continues too — dawn shot done at dawn, gets lucky darkness lasting long enough for six takes.  The freeway lights go on when needed

Joel responding to inquiries from me a  in a manner a little more hostile than usual: “Get outta the business — just go into another profession.”

The essence of Joel, is that he remains, at all times and all costs unconscious of his own aggression.

My friend  Corrine, who originally introduced me to Walter about seven months ago,  sends a “cookiegram” to the set, a fabulous giant cake–cookie, with Walter, Nick, Eddie, Larry, Joel and me depicted.  Corrine’s conception of the movie gives me a prominent place in it.  You know.  From her mouth to God’s ear.

Now we go to our last night:  The “tag” is what we’re shooting…Nick and Eddie coming away from the girl’s apartment and then discussing what they’re going to do with the money.

At lunch, the cast and crew picture.  I ask Larry Gordon how everything’s going.  He gives his stern indifferent look, “Everything’s normal.”

Katzenberg shows up to shake Walter, Nick and Eddie’s hand. Suddenly everyone wants to be Eddie’s friend.  That whole situation has turned around totally.  I ask Katzenberg what Paramount has coming up. He mentions An Officer and a Gentlemanwith Richard Gere which he describes as a coming of age story, “I’m very proud of it.”

As we’re preparing to do some of the last shots, I sit with Walter.

I comment on the fact that the studio is starting to seem more confident about the film.  That of course doesn’t reassure him in the slightest:

“I worry that this thing is gonna be called ‘two guys in search of a story.’  I know that barely worries you at all.”  Then he sighs.  “Six movies…it takes a lot out of ya.”

Sometimes during in this process Walter was irritated at me as at someone there to take things out on.  Sometimes he simply ignored me, because he was busy, tired or had more important things to do than explain whatever moves he was making to me.  Then he sometimes, out of left field, wanted to announce conviction about a scene.  There were still other times when he wanted, from me, a sort of gestalt view.  The whole of how I looked at things, since I had the luxury of not having to be on the line to make choices every six seconds.  Walter would, under these circumstances, lose interest in his superiority to me in movie politics or the detail of filmmaking and ask questions of a speculative kind — the arena in which we were more equals.  “Whaddya think” he would ask, and I wold start shooting my mouth off which is basically what I’m good at.

Of course we often talked about whichever girls he found attractive on the set, wondering aloud if I did as well.  We had talks about girls that were retrospective, speculative and competitive.

August 19 , 1982

People ask if this is my first film.

I explain it isn’t really “mine” — it’s been in development with Walter  in form or another since l973, the draft he did with Roger, was finished in l976…and that I was hired only three weeks prior to production commencing.

Will it be my first credit they ask?  I don’t even know if I’ll get credit.  The Writers Guild credit process is so screwed.  I’ve been gypped out of credit on a number of things I worked on that got made where I was sure I deserved it…the whole credit deal for rewriting scripts is just completely illogical.

Walter and I amidst our discussions of work on The Stranger, talked about credit.  He suggested, we identify ourselves as a writing team, Walter Hill & Larry Gross, that that would increase my chances of getting credit.

It was exceptionally generous of him.  As a first writer his sole credit was a lock…but by putting himself with me, he was risking his own position in the credits…this is all too arcane and weird to explain but I composed this letter a few nights ago to the Writer’s Guild.

This was the first draft of a letter I wrote to the Writer’s Guild asking for credit on the movie:

To Whom It May Concern:
I worked on the script of this film everyday from About April 25 through postproduction…it is hard to disentangle my contribution to the script from that of Walter Hill, since he revised, rewrote, and added to and improved everything I did.  Some of what he did, has become half mine.   Everything of mine is at least half his.  If any other writer other than Walter gets credit than I deserve to as well.  That’s a fact but I know facts never enter into these deliberation.

(GROSS NOTE: Eventually The Writer’s Guild Assigned Screenplay Credit To
Walter Hill, Roger Spottiswoode. Myself And Stephen De Souza.

In December Of 1982, The Film Opened To Generally Favorable Reviews And Decent Business That Hung On Through A Significant Part Of The Next Year. The Film Was Perceived To Be A Hit

In February Of 1983 Universal Bought The Script That Walter And I Had Begun In August, Now Entitled Streets Of Fire. With Joel And Larry We Were In Production By March Of 1983.
But That, As They Say, Is Another Story)

– Larry Gross
Written Contemporaneously… Published October 2, 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