The Exec, his job safe for another two hours, beamed as he turned to Axelrod, who said: “Peace, bread, and socialist-realist movies, that’s our motto here in Tinseltown. Mission to Moscow, The North Star, The Boy from Stalingrad, Reds —”
I could feel my excitement rising: “Red Dawn.”
The room fell silent for a moment. Axelrod glared at me; the Exec stared at his shoes. “Right,” he said. “What we’re interested in is a new kind of subliminal campaign film, one that uses the earlier pro-proletarian cinema classics — did I mention that my mother used to work for PM
in New York? — as the touchstones for a new theater of and for the common man —”
“Sorry, Jake,” I heard myself saying, “but no way am I rewriting Barton Fink
“Hear the man out, Kahane,” said the Exec. “We’re talking double your quote on this project, with a guaranteed rewrite whether we fire you or not.”
Axelrod continued: “Something that speaks to a new generation, born in this century, almost, with a knowledge of movies that stretches all the way back to just before the millennium. In other words, your usual target audience.”
“In short, a total rip-off,” said the Exec.
I thought for a moment, which is twice the usual amount of time I give to my pitches. And then I had it.
“I’ve got it,” said I.
“Awesome,” said the Exec. “What’s the hook?”
“We appear to tell the story backwards.”
“Like Merrily We Roll Along
!” said the Exec, the last Sondheim fan on earth, except for Frank Rich.
“Right,” I said, not wanting to blow my surprise twist just yet. “Exactly like Merrily
but without, you know, the music. A screenplay based on the book of a musical that was based on a play —”
!” exclaimed Axelrod, who certainly knows Chicago.
All I had to do now was ride the wave of excitement and — presto! — I’d sell it in the room.