THB: A Correction, Etc.
“And if it’s not right
You have to put it right."
Lyrics from Matilda The Musical, which I reviewed on Monday.
Then this morning (Wednesday), I linked on Twitter to the Washington Post piece commenting on all that was wonderful and horrible about Roald Dahl, a reminder that to err is human, to be racist or anti-Semitic is unacceptable, but that you can still be a genius with insights into the human condition.
But speaking to Matilda’s point, this brief newsletter is to apologize to Stan Zimmerman for leaving his name off the reference to his and James Berg’s screenplay for The Ruthie Ruddick Story, which I mentioned in yesterday’s column.
The script, which I ran into in the 1990s, is a favorite and, I think, built for a star turn by an actress of range and passion. I suggested Margot Robbie (who might have been in elementary school when I was trying to get it set up and may not have been born when it was written) for the lead, but others have thought Melissa McCarthy or Aubrey Plaza would be great choices. I really have no memory of who I thought it should be back when we were trying to free the script… maybe Rene Russo or if I had real vision, Sandra Bullock.
It turned out that the script was in development at Universal, where it got loaded down with money against it. When I tried to get it set up with a top producer, we were at Paramount… and the money against just stopped it in its tracks. Only a few women could attach and be so valuable that the money against wouldn’t block it.
As it turns out, Zimmerman and Berg are not only still working, but are just months away from the premiere of their new play, “Silver Foxes”: “Inspired by Gen Silent, a 2010 documentary about LGBT seniors, Silver Foxes is described as a gay version of "The Golden Girls." Benny and Chuck, two older gay men rescue their dear friend Cecil from a homophobic senior living facility and bring him to live with them in Palm Springs.”
There was a streamed reading of the play in the early days of COVID (2020) with George Takei, Daniel Davis, and Jim J. Bullock. And now, it’s due to launch in real life in March in Dallas.
So apologies to Stan… and my point in bringing it up, again, is that there are literally thousands of really worthy screenplays - loaded with great ideas that should not just be stolen - sitting in file cabinets (now in basements) that could make great movies, but have money against and are therefore simply abandoned.
As frustrating as hearing about something like Batgirl behind shelved, unfinished, is, recognize that from another perspective, it got that far. Hundreds of people (if not thousands, inc fx houses) got paid. The lead actress, Leslie Grace, got a ton of positive attention while not having to risk being in a poorly reviewed movie (if it would have been that). Adil & Bilall are still super hot action directors around town. The producer, Kristin Burr, is surely at work on Cruella 2 now, amongst others.
It’s not a fate that anyone making movies wants. But imagine working on a screenplay - or anything - for a couple of years or more and having people like it a lot and getting behind it and then, when it falls apart for any of the many reasons movies fall apart, it becomes a doorstop. Forever.
It doesn’t just happen to screenwriters. Many directors who seem to be “taking time off” have been working on a film or two that just almost got made… but didn’t. Sometimes, we end up hearing those stories years later when the movies finally get made and get a lot of positive attention or awards recognition. But most often, they simply represent lost years of work.
So apologies again to Stan. The newsletter has been corrected. I hope the new show is a big hit.
Shouldn’t. But if you send me an e-mail…
Link to script!