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Authors: Art Linson

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BOOK: What Just Happened?
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Shortly after the movie was released, Bart often received as much or more attention than the rest of the cast. Norm MacDonald, on
Saturday Night Live
, said, while pointing to a large picture of Tony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin bravely trying to ward off the bear, ‘Bart the Bear delivered an outstanding performance and was paid in raw meat, bear whores, and cocaine.'

A brief scare did occur during filming. Hopkins, who was taking painkillers for a severe pinched nerve in his neck, went down with hypothermia after spending several hours in freezing water enacting the plane crash. Apparently, the painkillers were so deadening that he couldn't feel the harsh, icy conditions. While in the hospital for the hypothermia, the pain from his neck without painkillers became so acute that an immediate operation was necessary. This caused a shutdown of production for several days. As you might imagine, with all of the genuine concerns for our star, the real relief for the studio execs came when they were assured that the entire incident was covered by insurance. The calls to Tony were ‘Get well soon, big guy,' and the calls to us were ‘What's our deductible, what's our deductible?!' The English-knighted Hopkins, who had yet to become an American citizen, showed his valor by maintaining a ‘stiff upper lip' and soldiering on with a quiet smile.

One wrinkle, however, had a far-reaching and dampening effect on the morale of the whole shoot. The problem began ten days before principal photography – nothing so severe as careening off the side of a cliff at high speed, but still, for Lee and me, what was initially anticipated to be an idyllic summer-camp romp for grownups turned into a psychobabble set filled with hidden tensions.

Lee decided it would be a good idea to take one more look at the script. He called for a reading the following morning in the large conference facility that had been built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. A final script run-through would provide that last overview for the director to examine the material as a whole. There is an old showbiz maxim once shooting starts: From then on, making a movie is like eating an elephant with a teaspoon – one nibble at a time. One last look at the script can be a good idea. Since everyone in the room already had his or her respective job, these readings were usually relaxed and fun.

Tamahori, Elle Macpherson, who had landed the cameo of Hopkins's trophy wife, Harold Perrineau, the photographer's assistant, L.Q. Jones, the lodge owner, Don McAlpine, the cinematographer, the script girl, and I were seated around the conference table when Alec and Tony entered the room. For those working behind
the scenes, seeing two stars together for the first time can be heady stuff. After the first week of photography the exhilaration quickly turns to work and becomes old hat, but in those first few days, we are reduced to hopeless fans. And in an odd way, you can sense that the performers feel the same sense of awe for each other.

I had just arrived from New York and I hadn't seen Alec since that odd reading at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills several months before. Surprisingly, Alec was wearing a full beard. Not just your average beard; this beard had run amok. It looked as if he had entered a Grizzly Adams look-alike contest. I assumed he probably wanted to see what he was going to look like when he was stranded out in the wilds for several weeks. Like any diligent actor, particularly someone as intense as Alec, he was simply exploring the character. It had an interesting impact. Twenty pounds heavier than he had been at our lunch, and with the flowing gray beard, he had completely stripped himself of his leading-man looks. The effect made him look older than Hopkins. No longer the predatory good-looking lothario who was the character at the onset of the film, Alec looked like the beaten man who was to be bested by a bookworm out in the wilds. I thought, what a clever and effective way to explore the character by experiencing the end first.

As they started going through the script, Alec and Tony took the material to new heights. Even though Morse/Hopkins knows that Green/Baldwin has tried to kill him and steal his wife and money, toward the end of the sceenplay Morse still attempts to save the gravely wounded Green. The conference room was completely still:

: Don't die on me, Bob.

: … I … I don't feel, uh, uh, a hundred percent.

: Why don't you save your strength?

: What's the point of it, you see? I'm dying.

: Hold on, Bob. Hold on. I'll make a fire …

: … Now I'm your pet project … Is that it Charles? I'm your hobby farm.

: That's right, Bob.

: No. I know what it is … you never had a buddy. That's the thing, isn't it … ?

: … If you say so.

: Hey, why would you want to save a piece of shit like me?

: … Say it's a challenge.

When all is lost and it's clear that Green is not going to make it:

: Don't die … Bob.

: (
looking back with a smile
) Charles, don't tell me what to do.

Everyone applauded. Listening to these actors read Mamet's stuff was like watching butter melt. We briefly talked about some minor script changes to take up with Mamet, and the reading was adjourned.

As Lee and I walked to our cars, we reviewed the situation:

‘They're gonna be great, huh?' I said.


‘What's with the beard thing?'

‘Don't know.'

‘Did you tell him to shave?'


‘Lee, tell'm he can wear a beard at the end of the movie.'

‘I'm going to bring it up, but I haven't done it yet.'

‘If he doesn't shave, Fox will go nuts.'

‘We have a week. I'm sure he plans on shaving.'

‘I thought so when he walked in, y'know, sort of exploring the character blah blah, but after seeing him read, I sensed this is going to be his look.'

‘We got time.'

‘Lee, let me explain the Fox situation. They didn't really want to hire this guy in the first place. Rothman kept wailing that he's overpriced and Bill agreed. The guy cost five million dollars, for God's sake.'

‘Hey, that's your department.'

‘For that kind of money, they thought they'd at least bought a younger leading man to balance out Hopkins. If Mechanic thought Alec was going to enter this fight overweight, bearded, and old, his price would have been two free dinners at Spago and ten percent of the net.'

‘I'll tell Alec tomorrow he's got to shave.'

‘I got a bad feeling.'

‘He's probably just getting into character.'

‘Here's hopin', 'cause Fox's demographics for this movie will be limited to retirement villages in Boca Raton.'

‘I gotta go check on the mechanical bear.'

‘I can see the ad line now: “See Gabby Hayes run.”'

‘Don't worry, he'll shave.'

‘I hope so.'

It was a beautiful day in the Rockies. I decided to drive out to the lake to see how the construction of the lodge was progressing. I veered off Main Street, entered the highway next to the Bow Valley Trail, and drove directly into the mountains. As I turned on Canmore's oldies rock station, I fully expected Creedence's ‘Bad Moon Rising' to come blasting through the speakers, confirming my paranoia. Since Alec's relations with Lee and me were limited to occasional random, furtive glances, having to ask Alec, ‘That beard's quite a look, what are
going to do about that?' was, at the very least, unpleasant. I knew actors. My imagination for misery started to take on a life of its own. ‘If the son of a bitch doesn't shave, it's going to get ugly, it's going to be a shit storm' became the predominant head theme. I had to get a grip. Alec would surely realize that Green was supposed to go from slick New York fashion photographer to mountain man. Why was I obsessing about this? After all, we had more than a week before we burned some film, and there was no hard evidence that Alec was going to hold on to the Long Island Santa Claus look. At least not once he thought it through. This was much ado about nothing.

As I got closer to the lodge, the clean air and the exhilaration of the scenery overtook any darker thoughts. In fact, for a brief moment, I was consumed by the producer's ultimate movie perk.
To be in such a truly beautiful spot, watch a movie get made, and get paid for it was a sinful pleasure to be privately enjoyed. Don't get me wrong, being able to occasionally tell an agent or an executive, ‘I'm sorry, I'm going to have to pass, go fuck yourself,' was also a guilty pleasure that ranks high on the Hollywood ladder. But, the serenity of being in the middle of the majestic Rockies, on someone else's dime, was the brass ring.

‘Motherfucker. MOTHERFUCKER!'

‘But, Alec, if you—'

‘MOTHERFUCKING movie PRODUCER. I knew this was coming, the bullshit Hollywood mentality telling ME … MOTHERFUCKER!'

Alec calmly placed his leather jacket on an empty chair near the rear wall of the wardrobe trailer. The two girls who were fitting him were directly in the line of fire. They remained frozen. It had been three days and Lee was unable to pop the question, so I finally jumped in with my best version of ‘When's the beard gonna go?' I looked over at Lee, who was seated next to me at the fitting table trying to absorb the magnitude of the explosion. It wasn't quite the response for which we had hoped.

‘But … you get to grow the beard back once—'

‘No-talent, MOTHERFUCKING … How predictable to see that good old Hollywood INTEGRITY at work.' He walked over to the wardrobe stand, feinted a kick, and then decided to let one go. The fitting girls fled from the trailer.

‘Integrity! Producer, my ass!'

My first thought, of course, was to say, ‘You asshole! I'm one of the guys who does the floors and windows so a schmuck like you can get your picture taken outside Mr. Chow's. SO BLOW ME!' But for lack of courage or just my genetic propensity to protect the bottom line, I tried to restrain myself.

‘Alec, if you want to talk about integrity … let's talk about integrity. If YOU want to talk about INTEGRITY!' But, there I went. Up, up, and away. I couldn't help myself. I made the ultimate mistake. I began to take this personally. I led with my chin.
‘I'm willing to stack my last five pictures against your last five pictures. Let's go.'

He slowly walked toward us. He looked at me, avoided Lee, and smashed his first directly in the middle of the makeshift table. It started to buckle. ‘Motherfucker,' he whispered. Then with impeccable timing he turned and left the trailer.

Lee and I peered at each other, our faces knotted into twisted grins. Dignity was an affectation.

‘I don't think he expects to shave,' I said.

‘You can say that,' Lee added.

I felt for Lee. Both of us knew that directing this guy, under these conditions, wasn't going to be easy. I also felt for Alec. He had something in mind when he grew that beard. Even if we felt it was wrong, he was committed to it. Having to make a change like that becomes personal.

I called Mechanic to make him aware of the situation. He was unequivocal. If Alec didn't cut the beard, we would shut down until he was replaced. Mechanic recommended Bill Pullman, who had just had a large part in
Independence Day
. Bill suggested that Pullman would probably love to work with Mamet material and with Hopkins and, more important, would probably do it for no money. I could tell that Mechanic was getting revved up about the thought of saving millions of dollars. Unfortunately, this choice wasn't going to work for Lee or for me. With all of the impending horror, Alec was still a talented actor and we wanted him. Hell, his performance in the wardrobe trailer alone proved that he was perfect for the part.

Bill recommended that I draw the line in the sand with Alec's agent, John Burnham from the William Morris office. We were running out of time. It was Thursday. Monday morning we were supposed to start shooting.

‘You're kidding me.'

‘No, John, I'm not kidding.'

I could hear it in his voice, a slight death rattle. John, who was an experienced agent, knew what it meant to be the messenger of this kind of news. He had no choice. Alec was a mercurial
client, but Alec paid lots of commissions. For several seconds John remained silent. I sensed the mental machinery churning. He was mulling, ‘Oh, I see … now I have to call my crazed client, a man who has the same affection for agents as Hitler had for Jews, and tell him to lop off his beard or he will be fired by the studio and sued for millions of dollars … piece a cake.' It was Burnham who had convinced Alec to do the movie in the first place.

‘This can't be happening.'

‘It's definitely happening.'

‘Hey, let him wear his beard.'

‘Oh, I'm afraid we're way past that.'

‘Yesterday everything was fine, how did we get WAY PAST THAT in one day?'

‘Mechanic thought Alec was overpriced anyway; he wouldn't mind if Alec went south. Save some money.'

‘Have you told him about the shutting-down thing?'

‘No, John, he left before we had a chance.'

‘What about
? Did you mention the word

‘I didn't feel it was the right time.'

‘You mean I have to tell him?'


I could hear John's breathing getting heavier. He knew he had to put on the blindfold and get a cigarette. I didn't envy him.

‘Hey, that's why you get the big bucks,' I said, trying to lighten up the call.

‘I'll get back to you.'

BOOK: What Just Happened?
2.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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