As you know, the only way I can understand current events is to do what eminent thumb-suckers like Frank Rich do, and that is to frame everything in a facile entertainment context so I can score cheap political points without having to do any, you know, heavy lifting.
So imagine the thrill I got last week when my agent took me to lunch at The Ivy on Robertson to break the news that she’s put me up for every one of the major sequel jobs floating around this town. I wolfed down my prime rib, picked up the check, and rushed back in the turbo-charged Prius to my palatial spread in Echo Park and immediately began getting my pitches together, which I’d like to share privately with you now. Don’t tell anybody!
Being There II. A mild-mannered, well-spoken homeless person with the improbable name of Barack Hussein Obama II (Denzel Washington) takes the country by storm after he’s discovered aimlessly wandering the streets of Chicago by a shady newsman named Jake Lingle (Robert Downey Jr.). Over a couple of beers, Lingle bets one of his former colleagues at the Chicago Tribune, David Axelrod (Dr. Phil, in his big-screen debut), that he can’t get “Bambi” — who can’t remember a thing about his past at Columbia and Harvard — elected dogcatcher. Thus challenged, the campaign consultant goes to town, rounding up a coalition of red-diaper babies, radicals, terrorists, gangsters and the Daley political machine — the dreaded “Outfit” — to turn Obama first into a state senator, then a U.S. senator, and, finally… president of the United States! Before you say it’s too far-fetched to be believable, remember — it could happen!
Gold Diggers of 2008. This screwball comedy’s got it all: singing, dancing, music, wisecracks! Facing hard times when the Bush economy collapses, a bevy of out-of-work showgirls plots to land rich husbands by seducing all the city’s major drama critics. Half Busby Berkeley musical, half The Front Page, this modern revival of the famous Warner Brothers’ Depression-era franchise takes you behind the scenes, blowing the lid off the back-stage deals, the alliances of convenience, the horse-trading and the sheer animal high spirits of New York, Washington, Chicago and Boston in the age of Barney Frank. Starring Barbra Streisand as the ingénue, Polly (Ruby Keeler in the original), Joanna Cassidy as Trixie (Aline MacMahon), Jennifer Lopez as Fay (Ginger Rogers), and Joan Blondell as Carol (Joan Blondell). With special cameo appearances by Dick Powell, Nancy Pelosi, Ned Sparks, Harry Reid, Warren William, Guy Kibbee, Billy Barty, and the Kentucky Hillbillies as themselves.
The Candidate II. Less a rewrite than an updating. Barry Soetoro (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a liberal lawyer/pretty boy/stateless person with no birth certificate and no background of accomplishment in anything except a speech he gave in 2004, falls under the spell of a brilliant campaign manager, David Axelrod (Craig T. Nelson), who grooms him for a presidential run. When the “unbeatable” front-runner for the nomination, Hillary Rodham (Meryl Streep), unexpectedly falls on her ample keister, Barry stumbles his way to victory over the senile John McCain (George W. Bush, in his big-screen debut), all the while smoking six politically incorrect packs of cigarettes a day and shouting “Show me the money!” at random intervals. We even keep the original ending when, after the victory, Cuba turns to Craig and says, “ACORN… what do we do now?”
Entourage II. Two brothers from Chicago, Rahm (Jeff Goldblum), and Ari (Jeremy Piven) Emanuel, realize they can rule the world if one of them runs for the House of Representatives and becomes the chairman of the Democratic caucus, while the other becomes a big-time Hollywood talent agent. Hilarity ensues when Rahm … well, let Elizabeth Bumiller tell you all about it in her New York Times report of June 15, 1997, from Little Rock: “It was there that Emanuel, then Clinton’s chief fund-raiser, repaired with George Stephanopoulos, Mandy Grunwaldm and other aides to Doe’s, the campaign hangout. Revenge was heavy in the air as the group discussed the enemies — Democrats, Republicans, members of the press — who wronged them during the 1992 campaign. Clifford Jackson, the ex-friend of the president and peddler of the Clinton draft-dodging stories, was high on the list. So was William Donald Schaefer, then the governor of Maryland and a Democrat who endorsed George Bush. Nathan Landow, the fundraiser who backed the candidacy of Paul Tsongas, made it, too.
“Suddenly Emanuel grabbed his steak knife and, as those who were there remember it, shouted out the name of another enemy, lifted the knife, then brought it down with full force into the table. ‘’Dead!’ he screamed… Today, Rahm Emanuel is, at 37, one of the most powerful people at the White House. He is also the middle brother of two similar tank commanders: Ariel Emanuel, 36, a relentless Hollywood television agent who left International Creative Management under cover of darkness to create a rival firm, and Ezekiel Emanuel, 39, an oncologist (with a doctorate in political theory) who is a nationally known medical ethicist at Harvard and a leading opponent of assisted suicide.”
Trouble strikes in 2002 when Endeavor is sued by one of its agents, Sandra Epstein (Debra Winger) for sexual harassment. That suit is settled out of court for $2.25 million, but when Lloyd’s of London cancels the agency’s employment-practices policy, a second lawsuit is triggered, in which, according to the New York Times on July 27, 2008: “Ms. Epstein and other Endeavor employees described office escapades that included rampant pot-smoking, obscene hazing at corporate retreats, sexual frolics on desks, and one agent demanding that his assistants book prostitutes for him. Mr. Emanuel, the filings said, allowed a friend to operate a pornographic Web site out of the agency’s quarters. Also, according to Ms. Epstein’s filings, Mr. Emanuel made antigay and racist remarks — accusations he disputed at the time. Ms. Epstein said Mr. Emanuel blocked her from sending a script about the Navy SEALS to the actor Wesley Snipes. ‘That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,’ the agent was reported in the papers to have said. “Everyone knows that blacks don’t swim.’ Endeavor’s partners said they were blocked by legal agreements from discussing the case.”
That suit was, according to Times reporter Michael Cieply, “ultimately settled under undisclosed terms.”
But when Rahm stumbles across a hitherto non-swimmer with the unlikely name of Barry Hussein Soetoro Jr., (Chris Rock), he and Ari decide to go for the gold. Better than an Oscar: POTUS!! Based on a true story.
The Player II. A lowly screenwriter, David Kahane (David Kahane), is murdered by a studio executive, Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins), who steals his roman-a-clef script about Hollywood and starts an affair with, and later marries, Kahane’s girlfriend, June Gudmundsdottir (Greta Scacchi). Based on the novel and screenplay by Michael Tolkin.
Still to come: The Manchurian Candidate III: This Time It’s Personal.
You can’t make this stuff up!
— David Kahane ([email protected]) is the nom de cyber of a writer in Hollywood. He has one more rewrite to go: John Frankenheimer and Jonathan Demme — call your agents!