Wednesday, April 7, 2010

H&H - Part 9 A Brando story

Most of the time I spend off  hours is getting to know the locals, who, as I said before, are pretty excited about a TV series being done in their town. I've already made friends with several including Louise, who runs a coffee house near our motel and a couple who run an art gallery. 

As well, I talk to the rangers themselves who were leary at first about talking to us, but now enjoy telling us stories that are often quite disturbing. Like many rangers they feel a kindred spirit to the animals and the rivers and the mountains, very few want to leave once they've spent time here in the Rockies.

An issue, as always, is the subject of wolves.  And since we're doing a wolf script, I ask one of them about wolves. I learn a remarkable thing; that if one year is particularly bad in terms of finding food (mostly deer and caribou), that the following year, the female has a remarkable form of birth control that stops birth that could possibly not be fed. Biologists still don't quite understand this.

Rino had left a message at my hotel asking me to join him at the Peak tonight to listen to a blues band on tour. At least we still continue to get along. I just hope Kaplan isn't there, and I'm surprised at how his presence has affected me that much. The band turns out to be good and I meet someone from years before, with whom I worked at a TV station. One of those odd coincidences. He's looking for work. I give him Mahon's name but suggest my reference isn't particularly helpful.

Kaplan and Jonathan have a private meeting next morning, neither Rino or I were invited. More paranoia. Later Jonathan comes around and tells me there will be another meeting with all of us writers tomorrow. Normally, on good shows this isn't an issue, but on this show, with secret meetings and closed doors, it's not a healthy atmosphere.

After dinner I call one of my best friends, Phil Borsos, who passed away some years ago. It was he and I who were the only students who failed a summer film school. And it was he and I who were the only ones from that class who had a career in film and TV. our partnership produced an award-winning short film and established both of us as serious filmmakers.

Phil had made a feature film, The Grey Fox, about a train robber in the early 1900's, and the film won numerous awards in Canada and throughout the world. It launched his career in Hollywood where he went on to make features with major stars until his untimely death from leukemia at 41.

Phil had received an invitation from none other than Marlon Brando, he of Godfather movies and of course, Streetcar Named Desire, and On The Waterfront.

Brando, now in his eating years was massively overweight and eccentric, taken to odd behaviours, dealing with his children who were mostly trouble, and demanding outlandish sums of money from producers for any roles that were offered him.

Phil drove up to his home on Mulholland, got threatened by a vicious dog Brando kept,  and was left waiting in his living room while Brando and someone else argued in another part of the house. Finally the big man appeared. Nearly 300 pounds big.

Brando immediately began to quote dialog from Phil's movie, Grey Fox, and that in itself was worth a picture. Phil couldn't believe this legend had even heard of his movie. And it was only the beginning.

Brando wanted to make a western. And he wanted Phil to direct it. Brando shouted to some unseen person and food appeared, fruit and chocolates. While he ate, he described the story to Phil, who was in movie-fan heaven. Brando was ready to start. He'd have his people talk to Phil's people tomorrow.

Even though Brando was a little wacky, he was still worth his weight in gold in any movie. Even at 300 lbs. 

"What about the script", Phil asked. "Can I see it?" 

Brando produced several pages of paper. But it was just some dialog and notes. Certainly nowhere near a feature film script that would be at least 100 pages. Brando said there was nothing to worry, they would have a script.

Phil was totally in awe. He had been in Hollywood long enough to take everything with some suspicion and a lot of doubt. But yet he might direct a Brando movie. This was bigtime director territory and it would elevate his status.

As he left, Brando came out to guide him backwards to the road, yelling "left, left... right, slow, easy." An Academy Award winner who turned it down, now directing traffic. 

It was the last Phil heard from Brando. 

Later he heard that Brando had demanded $1 million to write the screenplay from some producer who thought he could get Brando at bargain-basement prices. But the script fee never materialized as most producers in this town knew that you couldn't always trust Brando.

Like so many stories in Hollywood.

An agent once greeted me this way: "chickie-sweetie-baby-don't you ever die."

I told him I would do my best.

(Fri: Kaplan backs off)