TALKING ON THE PHONE WITH ANNE HECHE
I promised to tell you about how my first screenplay "BRUTAL PATTERN" was optioned by actor/producer Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H).
It was 1998. I had written a gritty cop drama about two detectives (male/female) who are (straight/gay). They're hunting a serial rapist in New York City. I submiited it to Mike Farrell's producing partner Marvin Minoff and he liked it. After he gave it to Mike Farrell to read, they contacted me. They suggested a few changes. At the time I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm a native New Yorker (born and raised in the Bronx, yes, like Jennifer Lopez). I attended high school and college in upstate New York. In the mid-90s, I picked up and moved to Arizona to try the southwestern life and get into broadcast news (which I did at a small family-owned station KTVK -- a great experience, great friends!).
Mike Farrell and Marvin Minoff called me with revisions and I happily made them. Soon after, I returned to New York (for a job in television in NYC). While in NY, Mike and Marvin called and said they really liked the script and would see what they could do with it (as a feature film). I was beyond excited.
At the same time, the actress Anne Heche was red hot popular in Hollywood. She had done "Wag the Dog" and "Return to Paradise" with Vince Vaughn and other "in" movies and was the new best thing. While at work one day, I was watching ABC's show "The View" and Anne Heche was a guest. She casually mentioned something about "wanting to do an action movie" or a cop-like movie. I called Marvin Minoff and told him what Anne Heche said on TV. He said "Let me see if I can get the script to her people."
I'm in NY thinking "Yeah right" like that's gonna happen! This is Anne Heche. She just made a movie with Harrison Ford "Six Days, Six Nights". She's dating Ellen DeGeneres! Like she's going to take time to read my script... some unknown writer in NY???!!
Well, Marvin calls several weeks later and says "Anne's attached". I almost faint. They sent her agent the script (he was on vacation) and a junior agent read it, loved it and told Anne to read it. She asked what it was about. He said something like "two cops and a rapist in NYC". She didn't want to read anything about a rapist. He convinced her to read it. She did. She loved it and called the producers to discuss it. They set up a lunch date. They had lunch and discussed it. Anne Heche tells them "I want to talk to the writer." What? Who cares about the writer? The director is usually the next key player. THE WRITER?!
Marvin calls and tells me they want to option my script. Get a lawyer. I ask my colleagues in TV "Who knows a good entertainment lawyer?" I got several suggestions. I picked one guy Egon Dumler in NY. A seasoned, older man who once represented Judy Garland (he tells me in his office when we meet). He's a kind, no-nonsense, a New York Jewish lawyer and I immediately love him. He will protect me, I sense. He draws up the legal papers, I sign and get my check. It won't make me rich (the option fee) but $2500. isn't bad. Except for writing and selling one-liners to Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield (another post to come detailing that!), it's the most money I've made on writing.
Marvin calls and tells me to stay home that Anne Heche will call this evening. Again, to myself, I'm like "Yeah sure, I'll sit by the phone". I did! My mother (whom was ill and has since passed away, who I miss beyond words) sat with me. The phone rings! A familiar female voice (a movie star voice!) says "Hi, this is Anne Heche." And we're off into a forty-five minute conversation about the script, her life, her childhood, both of our fathers dying when we were only 13, her volunteerism within the LA homeless community, gay life, her reaction to the script and how she didn't think she'd want to do it initially, how I'm a good writer and write with such "humanity". Okay, is this for real?! Do I hear Ellen (whom Anne calls El") doing dishes or something in the background? Anne tells me "El read it and liked it a lot" but had one suggestion for a line change. Okay. El was right. The line really didn't work. We chat a little more. Anne says "I can't wait for the table reading" and we say goodbye, but not before I say "Tell Ellen I'm a big fan of her work". She says she wil...l and we hang up.
My mother can't believe I was just having a long conversation with Anne Heche! I can't believe it either! We jump around! We're excited, elated, thrilled. Marvin sends me an article from Variety. Our movie is mentioned (and me as writer) in the Jan. 13, 1999 edition of Army Archerd's daily column. It's official. The movie will be made! It's in Variety for pete's sake!
To be continued on next post...