The first movie I saw with my wife was “Secret Window,” a 2004 movie that nobody remembers and which is a thriller (supposedly) about Johnny Depp’s stringy hair and whether he plagiarized a mystery story from a southern hick. It was terrible. It ends with Johnny Depp biting into corn! Who in his right mind would have allowed this movie to be made?
It made me wonder how so many movies and plays were approved, from the good-but-weird to the just plain bad. Here are some dramatic re-creations of what I believe happened in those pitch meetings.
They may not be based on fact.
Andrew Lloyd Webber: I’ve written a musical based on a T.S. Eliot work.
Webber: None of those. My play is about a ragtag group called the Jellicles. They have all gotten together for the Jellicle Ball.
Producer: I don’t know …
Webber: The audience is introduced to all sorts of characters: Rumtum Tugger, Old Deuteronomy, Jennyanydots.
Producer: Those don’t sound like names. Have you been drinking?
Webber: A little. And it takes place in a junkyard. And at the end Old Deuteronomy takes someone up to the Heaviside layer.
Producer: You haven’t really told me much of the plot.
Webber: Well, it doesn’t really have a plot.
Producer: Get out of my office.
Webber: But I haven’t told you the best part …
Webber: Everyone in the play is a cat. The whole show is centered around cats.
Producer: Wait! Cats!? I love cats! Can we have them dressed in elaborate cat costumes?
Webber: Yes, we can!
Producer: When can we start?
Executive: I’m so glad to meet with you, Mr. Nolan. Your work on these Batman movies has been terrific.
Christopher Nolan: Well, I’ve been working on a new script.
Executive: That’s great! We would love to do another Batman movie.
Nolan: This one is not really a Batman movie. It’s about dreams.
Executive: Batman dreams?
Nolan: No. It’s about a man who goes into people’s dreams to extract information.
Executive: Information about Batman?
Nolan: Um … no. The main character is given a job to plant an idea inside the head of a businessman, which has never been done before.
Executive: I get it. So the businessman is Bruce Wayne, and Scarecrow is going to plant nightmares into his head.
Nolan: No! At the heart of the movie, it’s about a man struggling to deal with the suicide of his wife, which he believes is his fault. We deal with the notion of dreams and reality.
Executive: Is the Riddler in this one?
Nolan: (Sighs.) No. It’s called “Inception.” It’s not part of the Batman series.
Executive: Oh. I see. Well then … I don’t know if we can make this one happen. I mean, who have you been thinking about for these characters?
Nolan: I’m sure I could get Michael Caine to play …
Nolan: Um … yeah … definitely Alfred.
Executive: See, I knew you were just kidding with that “it’s not a Batman movie” idea. Let’s get started on “Batman: Inception” right away.
Don Rhymer: I crawled through the air ducts. I wanted to personally deliver the script to the new “Big Momma’s House” sequel.
Executive: No way in hell am I going to green-light another damn “Big Momma’s House”!
Rhymer: That’s why I brought a friend.
(Martin Lawrence suddenly appears behind the Executive. Lawrence appears disturbed, holding a gun and a piece of bacon.)
Executive: AAAH! Sweet Jesus!
Lawrence: I need this movie, man. I wasted all my Big Momma money on DVDs of “Martin” and that goat farm in Alaska. I didn’t know goats could freeze!
Executive: Why aren’t you wearing any pants?
Lawrence: I can’t afford pants. My family has been living in a dumpster behind Denny’s. My kids can’t live on scraps from Grand Slams anymore.
Rhymer: So, you will make my movie or I will have my friend here pay you another visit.
Executive: Fine. Just take him out of here.
Lawrence: (Poops in the corner.)
(Executive begins to chant. Rumble of thunder, followed by regal horns tooting in the background. The doors of the Executive’s office fly open. Smoke and fog fill the doorway.)
Voice: WHO DARES AWAKEN JAMES CAMERON FROM HIS SLUMBER!?
Executive: It is I, keeper of the Orb of “Titanic.”
Cameron: CURSED BE THAT ORB. WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Executive: We need a big movie, Almighty One. Hollywood’s been hurting recently.
Cameron: I SEE. SO YOU NEED ME TO BAIL YOU OUT.
Executive: Yes. If you would.
Cameron: FINE. LET’S SEE. I’VE GOT SOME “TERMINATOR” SCRIPTS.
Executive: Dear God, NO! I mean, let’s think outside of the “Terminator” series.
Cameron: I HAVE THE PERFECT SCRIPT. IT’S ABOUT THE NAVI, A RACE OF BLUE ALIENS …
Executive: Like the Smurfs?
Cameron: SILENCE! I SAID ALIENS. THE SMURFS ARE NOT ALIENS. THIS RACE OF ALIENS IS BEING ATTACKED BY AN EVIL CORPORATION WHO IS TRYING TO DESTROY THEIR FORESTED WORLD FOR PROFIT.
Executive: Isn’t that the plot to “FernGully”?
Cameron: SILENCE! ONCE AGAIN, I SAID ALIENS. “FERNGULLY” HAD FAIRIES. THIS IS ABOUT BLUE ALIENS. THESE BLUE ALIENS BEFRIEND A HUMAN WHOS MENTALLY LINKED TO A NAVI-HUMAN HYBRID CALLED AN AVATAR.
Executive: Aren’t “avatars” those things on video games, like a Mii? Does Nintendo know about your idea?
Cameron: SILENCE! BLUE ALIENS ARE NOT MIIS! LISTEN, YOU SUMMONED ME!
Executive: Sorry, almighty one.
Cameron: THERE WILL BE HUGE BATTLE SCENES, MYTHICAL ALIEN ANIMALS, TERMINATORS …
Executive: No terminators.
Cameron: FINE. BUT IT WILL BE ALL IN CGI AND I WILL NEED HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. I HAVE COMMANDED IT SO!
Executive: Deal. Thank you, sir.
Cameron: I AM PLEASED. BUT YOU MUST BE PUNISHED FOR YOUR INSOLENCE. I MEAN, REALLY … THE SMURFS.
Executive: What do you mean, “punished”?
Martin Lawrence: (Poops in the corner.)