Forget doctors -- forget lawyers. How many lives could have been saved if only my screenplay had gotten into the right hands in a timely fashion?
A fellow writer and I were discussing our feelings of personal responsibility in light of the recent deaths of so many beloved performers. Is it insanity, hubris or wisdom to actually believe that the work we created with star players in mind might actually have altered their lives... if we had only known how to get to them? Obviously our own stalled careers might have shifted, but when you put your heart and soul into projects that really seem destined for a particular actor, isn't that a powerful calling?
I loved Joan Rivers and after seeing Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, I loved her even more. In the documentary she complained about not being offered substantial film roles, so I bit. I took the character of Brooklyn bagel mogul Morris Levy from McLevy's Ghost and rearranged the hormones. Ed Asner had suggested a strong interest in playing the role, but the film hadn't moved forward despite his great talents. Now with a tough talking Rivers as the conflicted capitalist who moves to Scotland to expand bagels and live in her own castle, it was a shoe in. A Lairdess with no lard! But how to get to her?
Eventually, a friend knew someone who knew someone and so forth and I sent the script out. Somewhere in transit, the reader didn't feel it was right for Ms. Rivers and passed. So me and the rest of the deprived world ever got to see how deftly she could have added her comic charms to this Highland romp? What a shame... the blonde mouth leading a dance of Hava Nagila with the Druids... perhaps she could have been filming in Perthshire this very Autumn, dealing with good Scottish medicine or not even needing a doctor because she was being creatively satisfied.
I went through a similar obsession with Heath Ledger for the very same project. As anthropologist Andrew McTavish, posing as a valet for reasons only he and the audience would know, Mr. Ledger could have used his knack with accents and physicality to great joy for him and us. And who could do copious amounts of drugs while working on a film set?
My therapist would call this guilt another delusion but I see it as something else... T.T.P.V, thwarted theatrical psychic vision. It is so much more than wish fulfillment. A writer spends years with a character and if not drawn from real life, is imagined with someone from the world, someone who could breathe life onto the page.
Show biz cynics would reject this theory out of hand and talk only box-office. I say fie on that! The writer is Dr. Frankenstein, giving new life to old bones... and when the fusion works, it's alchemy. A popular actor who doesn't fit the skin of the character might not be successful. But a role that fits like a glove or even a mitten... then at least you've got a good synthesis of type and character.
My writer friend spent years trying to get work to Richard Pryor. Someone else I share Groupons with tried to place the perfect song with the perfect voice... but the plane went down just when the connection was about to happen. It's reverse kismet.
Now, sadly it's too late for me to work with Ms. Rivers, Mr. Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman or Mr. Williams about a small play idea. But Scotland is hot what with elections and such so please, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin (Levy made younger, Al, don't worry), David Nighy and Judy Dench... hurry the hell up. This project just might be a life saver.