So the news is that, over the weekend, I got a call from my agent from his ranch in Montana. “You got the gig,” he said. “Ronnie and Brian read the logline and flipped out: ‘Three Days of the Condor meets The Jerk.’ Sheer genius. Now get to work.” That’s the way good news come these days out here in Hollywood, the land of the instant yes and the interminable no. But when your subject is the CIA versus the Speaker of the House, well — some scripts just write themselves.
As is well known, thrillers are back. Now that the so-called “War on Terror” is officially over, we’re going to close the human-rights atrocity known as Gitmo, and it’s soon going to be payback time for the neo-con lickspittle lawyers who authorized such brutal “enhanced interrogation techniques” as speaking sternly to the holy warriors, we screenwriters have begun to breathe easier. You see, during the evil &*^&BUSH*&^! administration the studios were too afraid that an action picture featuring, you know, “Muslim terrorists” might provoke some enhanced film criticism and so we dug out everybody’s favorite all-purpose villains, neo-Nazi white supremacist Sarah Palin relatives, and did the best we could.
But now . . . well, we still can’t sell scripts about “Muslim terrorists,” but a celebrity death match between the Central Intelligence Agency and the person who stands second to the vice president in the line of succession to the White House should any, you know, unfortunate accident befall the leader of the free world, is right up our alley. Which is why I was first off the mark last week when Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi, the flower of Baltimore and the pride of San Francisco, accidentally pulled the pin on a live hand grenade in front of the fiercely independent Washington press corps and blew herself up.
She wasn’t trying to, of course. She was trying to explain to a bunch of less-than-enchanted media stenographers who would rather be covering Michelle Obama’s workout, or even Bo the dog’s breakfast, that the nasty, un-American CIA has deliberately “misled” her when discussing just precisely how they were going to insert bamboo shoots under the fingernails of a caterpillar that they would then waterboard and introduce into the cell of some totally innocent mujahedin caught up in the lawless Bush-Cheney dragnet during the hysteria that followed the inside job that was 9/11 and . . .
In the other corner we have the Central Intelligence Agency, which we in Tinseltown have been depicting for years as just about the most malevolent organization in the world, outside of the Catholic Church, the Club for Growth, and the Cheney family. In movie after movie, the shadowy CIA guy always wound up as the villain in the last reel. So imagine our surprise when, during the Bushitler interregnum, we discovered that the CIA is on our side, and has been for decades! Screwed up the whole Shah of Iran thing and opened the way for the mullahs? Check! Consistently overrated and then failed to forecast the sudden disintegration of the Soviet Union? Check!! Never did quite figure out what Osama bin Laden was up to? Check!!!
To top it all off, along came super-top-secret agent/Vanity Fair babe Valerie Plame and her dashing, Graydon-Carter-tressed hubby, Joe Wilson, running a sting operation against the hapless Bush White House, whipsawing the president and the veep with Joe’s unprovoked New York Times tale of sipping mint tea with Colonel Kurtz up the Congo and all of sudden there’s shouting about the “sixteen words” in Chimpy’s State of the Union address and Valerie is outed by Cheney flunky Scooter Libby — okay, by Colin Powell flunky Dick Armitage, same thing — and then Judy Miller goes to jail and . . .
You get the picture: In this duel of People We Like, we somehow want them both to lose. And that’s where I come in. So here’s the script that just made me a cool $1.5 mil plus five monkey points plus two first-class tickets to the premiere: Three Days of the Dodo Bird.
We open in Abu Ghraib prison, post-“Mission Accomplished,” where a SHADOWY CIA AGENT gets the bright idea to strike fear into the hearts of America’s “enemies” by photographing completely innocent prisoners in outrageous situations (piled naked on top of each other, led around on a dog leash by a woman, forced to wear panties on their heads) calculated to offend and inflame the sensibilities of the Religion of Peace. Now, you and I both know that these kinds of things happen every week at the right Hollywood parties, and they’re tons of fun, but for some weird cultural reason the photos are deemed offensive, the super-top-secret psy-war campaign winds up on the front page of the Times every day for a year, and the Shi’ites hit the fan.