This is a true story, although, if after hearing it you decide not to believe me, I would not blame you.
This afternoon I had a meeting with a very rich and powerful Hollywood executive. I was as surprised as you, probably, that he arranged to see me on a Saturday, but over the phone he told me, ” I didn’t get rich and powerful by taking weekends off.”
So there you go.
His office was on a famous studio lot in Hollywood. When I got there the security guard at the drive-on gate seemed to be expecting me. He smiled as if I was somebody important and called me by my last name. “Good afternoon, Mr. Starving. You’re here to see Mr. X?”
Yes, I told him, thank you very much (I have to remember to treat the little people well on my way up. Don’t want to let success and money to change me, after all). After the gate ceremoniously allowed me entrance into the golden confines of the studio I drove a sinuous route, pass the warehouse-sized sound stages and fake facades of old buildings, my eyes relishing the magic. Eventually I found his building in the deep recess of the lot. I admit, I was nervous. Not only could this change my life, if my movie got made, it could change the world! I straightened my tie in the mirror, put lip balm on my lips, and wished myself luck in the mirror. This was it, I thought, my big break! You have to be smooth, Art.
When I reached his office I was nonplussed to discover there wasn’t a secretary — excuse me, assistant — there to greet me. I knocked on the door and heard a booming voice answer. “Is that you, Art? Come on in. You’re two minutes late!” I looked at my watch and it read 4:00 on the dot. I moved it ahead two minutes and wiped the sweat from my brow.
I must confess, at this point I wanted to turn around and run. I had never had a meeting with such a high-profile figure before, and this particular mover-and-shaker was known for not pulling any punches. With a deep breath in my lungs I pushed the door open and entered his office.
The strangeness overwhelmed me. That’s all I could say about it. One wall was entirely devoted to photographs of him with famous people. He was standing next to Angelina and Brad grinning like a boy scout. Then he was on a ski slope with Barack Obama, his face burned the color of an electric stove on High (his, not the president’s). In another, he was kneeling down next to Stephen Hawking, giving the thumbs-up sign. There was one that featured him riding on a camel with Farrah Fawcett’s arms wrapped around him. And in black and white, he was holding a monkey on his lap and Liza Minnelli was behind him wearing a fedora and kicking her leg up in the air like a Rockette.
He told me to take off my shoes and I obliged. I was speechless, taking in my new surroundings, feeling like I had entered some dreamscape. On the wall behind him, water cascaded Zen-like. Black stone sculptures of naked, copulating couples littered the room. A palm fan oscillated overhead, Apocalypse Now style. He sat behind a desk that was as large as some Eastern Seaboard states.
There was a bear skin on the floor. It was a polar bear. I wanted to lecture him on global warming and the certain extinction of this elegant animal but it was so deliciously soft on my bare feet that I couldn’t come up with the words.
Mr. X’s handshake was just like I imagined it would be: firm and copious. I sat down in the brown, full-grain leather chair opposite him and it released a farting sound. He watched my reaction and I could only think that this was intentional; that he had those chairs built specifically to simulate flatulence: this would cause his visitor uneasiness, putting himself at an advantage, and at the same time allow him to judge their ability to remain cool under pressure. So diabolical it was genius. My admiration for the man blossomed. I was already a nervous wreck so I figured it probably wouldn’t hurt to joke. “Excuse me. I stopped at a Chipotle on the way.” I weakly giggled to convey I was being humorous.
He smiled but didn’t so much as emit a faint chuckle. I realized on the spot he must have heard that joke a million times already. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, but fortunately he spoke up so I wouldn’t have to, “So, I hear you have a pretty good idea,” he said. “What is it? And hurry up! As they say: Time is Money. And although I have plenty of money, I don’t have a lot of time. So you’ll pardon me if we skip the fake bullshit about getting to know each other.”
“Well, sir. That’s fine. Let me tell you, this is a great idea. A big idea. It’s perfect for our times,” I bragged as I reached into my worn briefcase. “As you see, it’s so current that I can illustrate the idea using the LA Times from just today and this week’s Time.” I handed him the paper and the magazine and leaned back in my chair, expecting him to look at them, but he didn’t even so much as glance, instead he merely drop them on his mammoth desk and glared at me like I’d cut him off on the 405.
“Go on,” he beckoned. “I’m waiting.”
“If you look at Time, there’s an awful story about the plight of an Afghan female with her nose blown off. The whole article is about the catastrophe in the Middle East. It’s a horrible tale of Oppression, War, and Death. Terrible!” I shook my head to express just how awful I felt about this human tragedy. “And if you open up the paper, you’ll see a picture of Lindsey Lohan. As you probably know, she’s headed back to jail for failing her drug test.”
He opened the paper and studied the picture of the disgraced starlet. “It’s a shame. She looks terrible! She used to be so cute. I hate to see a fine piece of ass get ruined like that; but really, what do they have to do with one another?”
“Just wait, this is where it gets good. As you know, Lindsey Lohan starred in the movie Freaky Friday, where she and her mother, played by the dependable Jamie Lee Curtis, traded bodies and lives and all sorts of hijinks ensued; well, what I’m proposing is an updated version to reflect our current global predicament, if you will.”
I swear to you, his eyebrows raised so high they nearly joined forces with his hairline. He leaned forward and nodded interestedly. With his elbows planted on a pile of scripts, he freed his throat of mucous and commanded, “I’m listening.”
“In our version, the real-life Lindsey trades places with one of those Afghan refugees, wakes up in some cave with a dozen Taliban carrying machine guns surrounding her, shouting at her in Arabic, fully clothed in a Burka, with no idea what’s going on; and the poor Afghan girl, likewise, finds herself being huddled into a jail with a dozen paparazzi snapping her photo and shouting at her, decked out in Gucci and Pravda and whatever. As they say, hijinks ensue. It’ll be a comedy, but smart and dark and poignant. I’m telling you, this could be big. Huge! Just to be sure, though, in our movie Lindsey will keep her nose. She probably paid good money for it, it’ll be unfair to take it from her,” I joked.
Mr. X looked at me for a long time. The seconds ticked by. With one word he could change my career forever. He could make that little ranch house up by San Luis Obispo possible. Together we could make a movie that not only makes people laugh, but really makes them think!
The ridiculousness of our celebrity-obsessed culture. The self-discovery of a privileged actress. The heart warming tale of a third world girl treated to Beverly Hills luxury — ala’ Pretty Woman, but without the prostitution. It’s not just one fish out of water. It’s two fish out of water!!! And in the end, when the two female leads meet each other, and they realize they have so much in common despite their world of differences, well, I doubt there would be a dry eye in the house.
Finally he spoke. I was on the edge of my seat, ready for him to make my dreams come true. “It’s a good idea. It really is,” he confessed, showing his perfectly polished teeth for the first time since I entered his office.
My joy was uncontainable. I blurted out, “You really think so? That’s great.”
He nodded, but his face turned stoic. “Yeah, except Paramount is already in production on it.”