*         *         *

Altered States wrapped, I returned to New York to finish my 2nd student film.  Bob liked this one, too, and asked if I had any ideas for a feature film.

 

I had been toying with a story based on my "deportation" at  fifteen to a school for miscreant kids run by a brilliant albeit lunatic headmaster who, as it turned out, saved my life.  A memory and some vague notes were all I had, but I sat down and tried to make sense of it.  A meeting was set.

 

I met my new agent for coffee a half hour before The Meeting.  She advised me to call it off and promise the first 30 pages of the screenplay — when I'd written them.  But I was too amped to turn back.

 

"Have a seat," he said, closing the doors by remote control as I sank into a sea of overstuffed pillows.  Bob's office was a relic from another era, vast and palatial, its dark wood paneled walls groaning with Hollywood memorabilia.  An 8x10 of Audrey Hepburn and Jack Warner grinned at me.   I figured there'd be some small talk so I could formulate a game plan, but he plopped down in his JFK rocker and said, "Let's hear it."  I glanced to my agent and swallowed.  "Well, it's about this kid . . ."

 

To this day I don't know what came out of my mouth for the ensuing five minutes.  But when I finished, the silence was deafening.  Then he turned to my agent.  "Call business affairs.  Thanks, guys."  We walked out.

 

"Oh, well," I said, crestfallen.

 

"Oh, well?" my agent exclaimed once we were out of earshot. "You got the deal!"

 

It seemed so easy.   It was like Budd Schulberg's classic fable of Hollywood, ’What Makes Sammy Run?'  Now I knew!   This was it!  The Big Time!

 

Hardly.  I didn't know it yet, but I had just punched my express ticket to Palookaville.   Next stop, the nightmarish Hollywood purgatory they call "Development Hell."

 

Summer 1980.  I write the first draft in a barn in Massachusetts where Nathaniel Hawthorne once lived.   Bob likes it and says to get to work on a second draft.  I move to L.A. and get a pad in Venice.

 

January 1981.  Bob likes the 2nd draft even more.  A story editor and VP become involved.  Casting is discussed.  I saw Alan Bates as the headmaster.  Bob suggests Gene Hackman.

 

Later that day I take a shot and phone producer Tony Bill, who I have admired from afar, and by coincidence, lives in the neighborhood.  He takes my call.  I ask if he'd like to read the script.  He says to drop it off and he'll phone me by nine the next morning with his reaction.  Privately, I scoff: Right.

 

Nine the next morning.  Tony calls.  He wants to produce it.  Bob is delighted.  I work on their notes for a third draft.  ("More funny!")

 

And the fourth. ("We're 70 percent!")

 

Summer 1983.  After floating around, I write and direct the Disney cable film Tiger Town, about an aging Detroit Tigers slugger, starring Roy Scheider.

 

December 1983. Bob leaves Warner Bros. for "indie prod".  That's what they say when they get fired.  The new regime isn't interested in the script (now titled Stonybrook).  After three years of work, Stonybrook is  put in "turnaround."  Industry speak for "In lieu of divine intervention, you are free to use your script as a door stop".

 

Just like that, the wind leaves my sails and I am set adrift.

 

January 1984.  The wind picks up: Tiger Town wins an Award for Cable Excellence (ACE) for best dramatic  film of the year.  Tony suggests we set up Stonybrook at Tri-Star, where he is now ensconced with a production deal.

 

March 1984.  Tri-Star‘s onboard.  Tony and I are teamed with former agent now executive, Gary Lucchesi.  Revisions ensue.  Lucchesi gives it to Gary Hendler, formerly Robert Redford's and Sydney Pollack's attorney and now the studio's production prez.

 

November 1984.  Lucchesi, Tony, and I convene in Hendler's office.  Hendler is cagey but agrees to go forward with Alan Bates if we can do it for $6.5 million.

 

I clear my throat. "You mean, like, make the movie?"  He nods.  Fortunately the inside of my head is not audible, because I'm screaming, "Oh my fucking God!"

 

December 1984. We prepare for open casting calls in Chicago, New York, and Boston.  Coincidentally, Bates is doing a play in L.A., so I go to meet him.

 

Christmas 1984. In Chicago, more than 3,500 teenagers turn out, nearly creating a riot at our downtown hotel.  In New York we see another 3,000 kids.  In Boston, tiring of mobs, legendary casting director Lynn Stalmaster has made appointments at the Copley Plaza.  I am head over heels for a 14-year-old unknown.  We tape her for the studio.  Her name is Jennifer Connelly.  Lynn brings in some sixteen-year-old guys.  Matt Damon.  Robert Downey, Jr.  And playwright Israel Horovitz's son, who's in a band.  His name is Adam Horovitz (Beastie Boys).  My gut says he’s it.

 

Between Horovitz and Connelly, I had my young leads.  The phone rings.  It's Tony calling from L.A.  "Can you shoot out Bates in four weeks instead of six?"  "Absolutely," I lie.  "Then we're green-lit."

 

California, the next day.  The airport cab drops me  at my apartment.  The phone is ringing as I push inside.  It's Tony.  Within the span of my Boston-L.A. flight, Bates has gotten cold feet and decided to pass.  I'm stunned.  "What do we do?" I ask Tony.  "You’re the director," he says.  ”Talk him back into it."

 

Somehow, I locate Bates at his mother's in Derbyshire, England.  We speak and I sense  he just needs reassurance.   By the end of our chat, he's on the fence, and leaning my way.  I ask when he'll be back in London: tomorrow. (As it happens, I'm familiar with Hampstead in north London, where he lives.)  "I'll meet you at the coffee shop on High Street at noon."  I persuade Tony and Lucchesi that if I can just sit with Bates in person tomorrow, I'll have it clinched.  Lucchesi gets me on  a British Airways flight leaving in a couple hours.  It gets in to Heathrow at eleven the next morning, which could conceivably get me to the coffee shop maybe twenty minutes late.  "Get moving," Lucchesi barks.

 

I race like a madman and screech up to the gate as they're closing the plane door.  But I make it.  Exhausted and out of breath, I sink into my seat.  A stewardess asks if I'd care for champagne.  First class rocks.

 

The pilot welcomes us over the P.A.  Just waiting for the jet bridge to pull back.  But I look out my window.  It's not pulling back.  Now knocking from outside the plane door.  It reopens to reveal a British Airways agent.

 

"Is there an Alan Shapiro on the flight?"  Confused, I raise my hand.   The agent raises her voice over the noise of the jets.  "A Mr. Bill called.  He said the reason for your trip has been obviated.  Do you still wish to travel?"  Passengers stare at me.  "Sir?"

 

I drain my champagne and leave the plane.

 

I call Tony. "What happened?  In eleven hours we’re having bangers and eggs on High Street."

 

"Bates is out.   Dustin Hoffman's doing the picture."

 

Then I remember — months ago, on a whim, I sent Dustin Hoffman the script at a P.O. box.  It was a total shot in the dark, comparable to “Santa Claus, North Pole.”  I never dreamed I'd get a response.  Tony tells me to grab the next flight to New York, where Hoffman is shooting Death of a Salesman.  He wants to meet me.

 

My despair gives way to "Holy crap, my first feature, Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Stonybrook!"

 

New York.  Tony and I arrive at Astoria Studios in Queens and find our way to Hoffman's dressing room.  There, swiveling around in his makeup chair, is Willy Loman.  I follow Hoffman to the set where we chat between takes.  He introduces me to the director, Volker Schlondorff, and gushes about my script.  "A part like this comes around once every ten years".  He wants me to watch him work, get to know him.  I spend the next few weeks at the set and his Upper West Side apartment, talking script, screening movies.  He wants to know every detail about the headmaster character, who I describe as Belushi-esque, explosive, hilarious, keeps kids guessing.  Primitive, but  endearing.  It becomes abundantly clear why Dustin took to this character -- it‘s him!

 

Memorable Moments: I'm standing in a circle on set with Dustin, Arthur Miller, and John Malkovich, who plays Biff.   Miller turns to me and asks if I've read the play.  Time stops.  It is as if God had taken a look at my life and, unimpressed,  conspired this exquisite moment of abject humiliation.  I had not.  I confess as much,  excuse myself, tiptoe to the bathroom, put my head in the toilet and flush.  Not really.  But that's what my sickened grin must have looked like.

 

Up at Dustin's with Elaine May, Warren Beatty, Murray Schisgal.  They're riffing about this funny movie they're going to do in Morocco.  May has to go.  She shakes my hands, says it was nice to meet me, and walks into a closet.   I liked her.

 

At the studio, Dustin gathers the entire crew to announce at the wrap of Salesman that his next picture will be Stonybrook and introduces me as the director.   Applause.

 

Two months later. Dustin phones with good news, bad news: He loves me.  He loves the script.  But would I possibly consider being a “co-director” with Schlondorff?   Without my blessing, he'll back out.

 

He's nervous I’m a first-timer.  Director, that is.  I explain that technically I’m not,  I just made a movie for Disney, albeit cable.  But he’s made up his mind.  I feel like throwing up.  This is my baby.  It's the life I lived and the story I slaved over.  And I only write so I can direct.

 

I ask Tony's advice, and he spoons out a dose of Hollywood realpolitik: the studio wants a Dustin Hoffman vehicle, and now it's got one.  If a little shit like me doesn't play ball, the studio may not get its Dustin Hoffman picture, but the script may never see the light of day.  I have two choices: give up directing and see my movie get made, or give up the whole thing.

 

It was a bleak moment indeed.   At this point I think, To hell with Dustin Hoffman, I'd be happy with Robert Goulet.

 

D-day at the studio.  Tony and our respective agents are led to the conference room where a gigantic table like the war room in Dr. Strangelove awaits us.   All eyes turn to me.  I have that sinking feeling of being sent to the principal's office.  The studio CEO pulls his chair closer.  If I agree to step aside, he offers, he'll give me a guaranteed "go movie" of my own to start when I please.   He‘ll also give me money.  Lots of money.  Enough to make winning the lottery redundant.  And if it somehow doesn't work out with Dustin, he guarantees I will be the director with the subsequent cast.

 

I thank him for the offer.  But this story's personal.  He sits back and folds his arms.  Awkward silence.  My mind swirls with flashes of being sent away at fifteen, writing about it in the barn in Massachusetts, the winding road from NYU film school to Warner Bros. to celebrating at the Copley Plaza to Dustin . . . and now, at long last, sitting before the head of the studio to find out what my pain is worth on the open market.

 

"Okay,” I smile.  He smiles.  The search for a new director begins.

 

Dustin and I go back and forth on directors, but my heart isn't in it.  A couple of months pass when we learn that Dustin is in Morocco "researching his next picture."  The studio decides they don't want Stonybrook to become the next "next" Dustin Hoffman picture.  I am informed that although I will forfeit the big payola, I am back on as director.  I am struck by the irony of being ecstatic that Dustin Hoffman isn't doing my movie.

 

The issue, as always, is cast.  I’m delighted to discover that practically every actor in town wants the part.  Kevin Costner, begs for it.  Like, literally, on his knees.  (Awkward.)  I meet with William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Jeff Bridges, Sidney Poitier, Dennis Hopper, Joe Mantegna, Richard Dreyfuss, and spend six months doing revisions with Burt Reynolds.  This post-Dustin phase drags on for a year before grinding to a halt.  Umpteen drafts and five years since I walked into Bob Shapiro's wall, Stonybrook is dead.

 

The following year, I write and direct a TV film for Disney and write a feature for Fox.  The producer Robert Cort and I cast an unknown, Courtney Cox, for the lead and Carole King for her mother.  We're good to go!   Then weeks from shooting, the project abruptly halts.  There's a Directors Guild strike.  This is becoming a pattern.

 

I am clearing out my office, commiserating with the production staff and telling them my Stonybrook tale of woe, when the phone rings.  It's Gary Lucchesi (remember, this is a year later).  He tells me an Israeli investor has the dough to make Stonybrook.  There's a meeting tomorrow with the guy, can I make it?

 

The next day.  I meet Israeli investor, Jacob Kotzky, who seems quite genuine.  And the studio has agreed to split the cost with Jacob.   Just like that, we're back on!  We wait a couple months for the Director's strike to end.  With Bates no longer available,  I suggest James Woods, who has expressed interest.

 

March 14, 1987.  I get word from Lucchesi: the studio won't approve Woods, but will approve Gene Hackman, whom I've always liked for the role.  We agree to talk to Hackman.

 

March 27, 1987.  Hackman's agent, Fred Specktor, supports the project for his client.  The only thing Specktor's waiting for is an offer.  But the studio says it must wait for Jacob's money to be placed in the bank.  And Jacob says it will all happen by next Monday.

 

Next Monday.  Nothing.  Tuesday.  Etc.  Nothing occurs in the next three months, except weekly phone calls from Jacob to assure me it will all happen next Monday.

 

July 4, 1987. Rejecting the insanity, I start on a new screenplay.

 

August 26, 1987.  Jacob Kotzky calls from Tel Aviv, where he explains in a thick Israeli accent, he is shooting Rambo III.  The following dialogue is guaranteed verbatim:

 

"Alan! Alan!  It is Jacob!  I can't stay on, but I wanted to tell you the good news.  The people I am working for read the script and love it passionately.  You hear me?  Passionately!  They told me, guaranteed, they finance the entire thing — if we can get Dustin Hoffman."

 

*          *          *

 

Alan Shapiro is a writer-director living in New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altered States wrapped, I returned to New York to finish my 2nd student film.  Bob liked this one, too, and asked if I had any ideas for a feature film.

 

I had been toying with a story based on my "deportation" at  fifteen to a school for miscreant kids run by a brilliant albeit lunatic headmaster who, as it turned out, saved my life.  A memory and some vague notes were all I had, but I sat down and tried to make sense of it.  A meeting was set.

 

I met my new agent for coffee a half hour before The Meeting.  She advised me to call it off and promise the first 30 pages of the screenplay — when I'd written them.  But I was too amped to turn back.

 

"Have a seat," he said, closing the doors by remote control as I sank into a sea of overstuffed pillows.  Bob's office was a relic from another era, vast and palatial, its dark wood paneled walls groaning with Hollywood memorabilia.  An 8x10 of Audrey Hepburn and Jack Warner grinned at me.   I figured there'd be some small talk so I could formulate a game plan, but he plopped down in his JFK rocker and said, "Let's hear it."  I glanced to my agent and swallowed.  "Well, it's about this kid . . ."

 

To this day I don't know what came out of my mouth for the ensuing five minutes.  But when I finished, the silence was deafening.  Then he turned to my agent.  "Call business affairs.  Thanks, guys."  We walked out.

 

"Oh, well," I said, crestfallen.

 

"Oh, well?" my agent exclaimed once we were out of earshot. "You got the deal!"

 

It seemed so easy.   It was like Budd Schulberg's classic fable of Hollywood, ’What Makes Sammy Run?'  Now I knew!   This was it!  The Big Time!

 

Hardly.  I didn't know it yet, but I had just punched my express ticket to Palookaville.   Next stop, the nightmarish Hollywood purgatory they call "Development Hell."

 

Summer 1980.  I write the first draft in a barn in Massachusetts where Nathaniel Hawthorne once lived.   Bob likes it and says to get to work on a second draft.  I move to L.A. and get a pad in Venice.

 

January 1981.  Bob likes the 2nd draft even more.  A story editor and VP become involved.  Casting is discussed.  I saw Alan Bates as the headmaster.  Bob suggests Gene Hackman.

 

Later that day I take a shot and phone producer Tony Bill, who I have admired from afar, and by coincidence, lives in the neighborhood.  He takes my call.  I ask if he'd like to read the script.  He says to drop it off and he'll phone me by nine the next morning with his reaction.  Privately, I scoff: Right.

 

Nine the next morning.  Tony calls.  He wants to produce it.  Bob is delighted.  I work on their notes for a third draft.  ("More funny!")

 

And the fourth. ("We're 70 percent!")

 

Summer 1983.  After floating around, I write and direct the Disney cable film Tiger Town, about an aging Detroit Tigers slugger, starring Roy Scheider.

 

December 1983. Bob leaves Warner Bros. for "indie prod".  That's what they say when they get fired.  The new regime isn't interested in the script (now titled Stonybrook).  After three years of work, Stonybrook is  put in "turnaround."  Industry speak for "In lieu of divine intervention, you are free to use your script as a door stop".

 

Just like that, the wind leaves my sails and I am set adrift.

 

January 1984.  The wind picks up: Tiger Town wins an Award for Cable Excellence (ACE) for best dramatic  film of the year.  Tony suggests we set up Stonybrook at Tri-Star, where he is now ensconced with a production deal.

 

March 1984.  Tri-Star‘s onboard.  Tony and I are teamed with former agent now executive, Gary Lucchesi.  Revisions ensue.  Lucchesi gives it to Gary Hendler, formerly Robert Redford's and Sydney Pollack's attorney and now the studio's production prez.

 

November 1984.  Lucchesi, Tony, and I convene in Hendler's office.  Hendler is cagey but agrees to go forward with Alan Bates if we can do it for $6.5 million.

 

I clear my throat. "You mean, like, make the movie?"  He nods.  Fortunately the inside of my head is not audible, because I'm screaming, "Oh my fucking God!"

 

December 1984. We prepare for open casting calls in Chicago, New York, and Boston.  Coincidentally, Bates is doing a play in L.A., so I go to meet him.

 

Christmas 1984. In Chicago, more than 3,500 teenagers turn out, nearly creating a riot at our downtown hotel.  In New York we see another 3,000 kids.  In Boston, tiring of mobs, legendary casting director Lynn Stalmaster has made appointments at the Copley Plaza.  I am head over heels for a 14-year-old unknown.  We tape her for the studio.  Her name is Jennifer Connelly.  Lynn brings in some sixteen-year-old guys.  Matt Damon.  Robert Downey, Jr.  And playwright Israel Horovitz's son, who's in a band.  His name is Adam Horovitz (Beastie Boys).  My gut says he’s it.

 

Between Horovitz and Connelly, I had my young leads.  The phone rings.  It's Tony calling from L.A.  "Can you shoot out Bates in four weeks instead of six?"  "Absolutely," I lie.  "Then we're green-lit."

 

California, the next day.  The airport cab drops me  at my apartment.  The phone is ringing as I push inside.  It's Tony.  Within the span of my Boston-L.A. flight, Bates has gotten cold feet and decided to pass.  I'm stunned.  "What do we do?" I ask Tony.  "You’re the director," he says.  ”Talk him back into it."

 

Somehow, I locate Bates at his mother's in Derbyshire, England.  We speak and I sense  he just needs reassurance.   By the end of our chat, he's on the fence, and leaning my way.  I ask when he'll be back in London: tomorrow. (As it happens, I'm familiar with Hampstead in north London, where he lives.)  "I'll meet you at the coffee shop on High Street at noon."  I persuade Tony and Lucchesi that if I can just sit with Bates in person tomorrow, I'll have it clinched.  Lucchesi gets me on  a British Airways flight leaving in a couple hours.  It gets in to Heathrow at eleven the next morning, which could conceivably get me to the coffee shop maybe twenty minutes late.  "Get moving," Lucchesi barks.

 

I race like a madman and screech up to the gate as they're closing the plane door.  But I make it.  Exhausted and out of breath, I sink into my seat.  A stewardess asks if I'd care for champagne.  First class rocks.

 

The pilot welcomes us over the P.A.  Just waiting for the jet bridge to pull back.  But I look out my window.  It's not pulling back.  Now knocking from outside the plane door.  It reopens to reveal a British Airways agent.

 

"Is there an Alan Shapiro on the flight?"  Confused, I raise my hand.   The agent raises her voice over the noise of the jets.  "A Mr. Bill called.  He said the reason for your trip has been obviated.  Do you still wish to travel?"  Passengers stare at me.  "Sir?"

 

I drain my champagne and leave the plane.

 

I call Tony. "What happened?  In eleven hours we’re having bangers and eggs on High Street."

 

"Bates is out.   Dustin Hoffman's doing the picture."

 

Then I remember — months ago, on a whim, I sent Dustin Hoffman the script at a P.O. box.  It was a total shot in the dark, comparable to “Santa Claus, North Pole.”  I never dreamed I'd get a response.  Tony tells me to grab the next flight to New York, where Hoffman is shooting Death of a Salesman.  He wants to meet me.

 

My despair gives way to "Holy crap, my first feature, Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Stonybrook!"

 

New York.  Tony and I arrive at Astoria Studios in Queens and find our way to Hoffman's dressing room.  There, swiveling around in his makeup chair, is Willy Loman.  I follow Hoffman to the set where we chat between takes.  He introduces me to the director, Volker Schlondorff, and gushes about my script.  "A part like this comes around once every ten years".  He wants me to watch him work, get to know him.  I spend the next few weeks at the set and his Upper West Side apartment, talking script, screening movies.  He wants to know every detail about the headmaster character, who I describe as Belushi-esque, explosive, hilarious, keeps kids guessing.  Primitive, but  endearing.  It becomes abundantly clear why Dustin took to this character -- it‘s him!

 

Memorable Moments: I'm standing in a circle on set with Dustin, Arthur Miller, and John Malkovich, who plays Biff.   Miller turns to me and asks if I've read the play.  Time stops.  It is as if God had taken a look at my life and, unimpressed,  conspired this exquisite moment of abject humiliation.  I had not.  I confess as much,  excuse myself, tiptoe to the bathroom, put my head in the toilet and flush.  Not really.  But that's what my sickened grin must have looked like.

 

Up at Dustin's with Elaine May, Warren Beatty, Murray Schisgal.  They're riffing about this funny movie they're going to do in Morocco.  May has to go.  She shakes my hands, says it was nice to meet me, and walks into a closet.   I liked her.

 

At the studio, Dustin gathers the entire crew to announce at the wrap of Salesman that his next picture will be Stonybrook and introduces me as the director.   Applause.

 

Two months later. Dustin phones with good news, bad news: He loves me.  He loves the script.  But would I possibly consider being a “co-director” with Schlondorff?   Without my blessing, he'll back out.

 

He's nervous I’m a first-timer.  Director, that is.  I explain that technically I’m not,  I just made a movie for Disney, albeit cable.  But he’s made up his mind.  I feel like throwing up.  This is my baby.  It's the life I lived and the story I slaved over.  And I only write so I can direct.

 

I ask Tony's advice, and he spoons out a dose of Hollywood realpolitik: the studio wants a Dustin Hoffman vehicle, and now it's got one.  If a little shit like me doesn't play ball, the studio may not get its Dustin Hoffman picture, but the script may never see the light of day.  I have two choices: give up directing and see my movie get made, or give up the whole thing.

 

It was a bleak moment indeed.   At this point I think, To hell with Dustin Hoffman, I'd be happy with Robert Goulet.

 

D-day at the studio.  Tony and our respective agents are led to the conference room where a gigantic table like the war room in Dr. Strangelove awaits us.   All eyes turn to me.  I have that sinking feeling of being sent to the principal's office.  The studio CEO pulls his chair closer.  If I agree to step aside, he offers, he'll give me a guaranteed "go movie" of my own to start when I please.   He‘ll also give me money.  Lots of money.  Enough to make winning the lottery redundant.  And if it somehow doesn't work out with Dustin, he guarantees I will be the director with the subsequent cast.

 

I thank him for the offer.  But this story's personal.  He sits back and folds his arms.  Awkward silence.  My mind swirls with flashes of being sent away at fifteen, writing about it in the barn in Massachusetts, the winding road from NYU film school to Warner Bros. to celebrating at the Copley Plaza to Dustin . . . and now, at long last, sitting before the head of the studio to find out what my pain is worth on the open market.

 

"Okay,” I smile.  He smiles.  The search for a new director begins.

 

Dustin and I go back and forth on directors, but my heart isn't in it.  A couple of months pass when we learn that Dustin is in Morocco "researching his next picture."  The studio decides they don't want Stonybrook to become the next "next" Dustin Hoffman picture.  I am informed that although I will forfeit the big payola, I am back on as director.  I am struck by the irony of being ecstatic that Dustin Hoffman isn't doing my movie.

 

The issue, as always, is cast.  I’m delighted to discover that practically every actor in town wants the part.  Kevin Costner, begs for it.  Like, literally, on his knees.  (Awkward.)  I meet with William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Jeff Bridges, Sidney Poitier, Dennis Hopper, Joe Mantegna, Richard Dreyfuss, and spend six months doing revisions with Burt Reynolds.  This post-Dustin phase drags on for a year before grinding to a halt.  Umpteen drafts and five years since I walked into Bob Shapiro's wall, Stonybrook is dead.

 

The following year, I write and direct a TV film for Disney and write a feature for Fox.  The producer Robert Cort and I cast an unknown, Courtney Cox, for the lead and Carole King for her mother.  We're good to go!   Then weeks from shooting, the project abruptly halts.  There's a Directors Guild strike.  This is becoming a pattern.

 

I am clearing out my office, commiserating with the production staff and telling them my Stonybrook tale of woe, when the phone rings.  It's Gary Lucchesi (remember, this is a year later).  He tells me an Israeli investor has the dough to make Stonybrook.  There's a meeting tomorrow with the guy, can I make it?

 

The next day.  I meet Israeli investor, Jacob Kotzky, who seems quite genuine.  And the studio has agreed to split the cost with Jacob.   Just like that, we're back on!  We wait a couple months for the Director's strike to end.  With Bates no longer available,  I suggest James Woods, who has expressed interest.

 

March 14, 1987.  I get word from Lucchesi: the studio won't approve Woods, but will approve Gene Hackman, whom I've always liked for the role.  We agree to talk to Hackman.

 

March 27, 1987.  Hackman's agent, Fred Specktor, supports the project for his client.  The only thing Specktor's waiting for is an offer.  But the studio says it must wait for Jacob's money to be placed in the bank.  And Jacob says it will all happen by next Monday.

 

Next Monday.  Nothing.  Tuesday.  Etc.  Nothing occurs in the next three months, except weekly phone calls from Jacob to assure me it will all happen next Monday.

 

July 4, 1987. Rejecting the insanity, I start on a new screenplay.

 

August 26, 1987.  Jacob Kotzky calls from Tel Aviv, where he explains in a thick Israeli accent, he is shooting Rambo III.  The following dialogue is guaranteed verbatim:

 

"Alan! Alan!  It is Jacob!  I can't stay on, but I wanted to tell you the good news.  The people I am working for read the script and love it passionately.  You hear me?  Passionately!  They told me, guaranteed, they finance the entire thing — if we can get Dustin Hoffman."

 

*          *          *

 

Alan Shapiro is a writer-director living in New York.