“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” (W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. iii

In His Own Words
Later that night, Ryan steps out onto the balcony that overlooks an empty pool and sees Jackie leaning on the rail, smoking a cigarette. Can’t sleep? Ryan asks him. Nope, Jackie breathes through the tendrils of smoke wrapping around his head. Who’s your friend, he asks, only half interested. Just some local girl, he assures him. They turn their attention back to the pool. Surprisingly, Jackie breaks the silence. He tells Ryan, there comes a time in a man’s life when he needs to tell his story in his own words. If Ryan was willing to listen, he has something to say. Ryan reaches for Jackie’s cigarettes lying on the railing. He lights one up, takes a long drag and blows it out, then says, Ok, go ahead. Jackie lights another before he begins.
                This town ain’t no good for you kid, he starts. What Delta? Ryan asks. No, smart ass… Hollywood. It’s where dreams go to die. Nice, can I use that JC? He asks his boss. Sure kid, whatever, now shut up and listen, Jackie tells him. You’re catching me on the rebound. I really used to be something, you know? At least I thought I was. In Hollywood you’re usually less than you think you are. Jackie is looking down at his hand rolling the lit cigarette between his thumb and forefinger as he talks only occasionally putting it to his mouth and sucking it down.
                I had a pretty good run in the eighties, three best director Oscars, two consecutively. Man, I thought I had it all. Like they say, the more you have, the more you have to lose. 1988- that was when it started. I met this beautiful, young actress, Cristina Monreal. She could have been one of the greats. She worked on the last film I ever finished, my last best director winner. She just missed winning best actress that year. We had a thing, I thought it was more than that but… anyway, we had this wrap party when we finished filming at Victor De Cristo’s mansion or villa or whatever the hell. That must be Bobby’s dad, huh? Ryan interrupts. Yeah, he took over from his pops when Vic kicked the bucket, Jackie says. So I introduced Cristina to Vic at this wrap party and he offered to show her around his palace. I had already taken the tour and was looking for something to drink so they went off arm in arm without me. I guess she saw her opportunity to move up a station or two. Less than an hour later I saw her leaving the party with Victor. I was already a functioning alcoholic, but I made the seamless transition to non-functioning, starting that night. The coke didn’t help much either, that shit was everywhere in those days.
He lit another cigarette before continuing, offering the pack to Ryan, who reluctantly takes one. I was a total mess by the time the awards rolled around. When they called my name as winner I had to be nudged awake to go and accept. I tripped going up the stairs and the only thing people could understand of my speech was when I thanked that “whore of an actress.” I was rushed off stage and ushered out of the building into a cab. That “whore” was now Victor’s wife. Vic and I were pretty close once. We used to go pheasant hunting together; I helped him build his studios. His studio was nearly bankrupt before I started making movies for him. Anger rises in his voice and he is taking more puffs of his cigarette now. Ryan sees he was more hurt by Victor than Cristina. Well they didn’t last long anyway. Cristina must have realized she wasn’t going to get much from Vic. The way I heard it, she left him while they were on vacation in Mexico. There were some whispers that he killed her or had her killed. He knew she was sleeping around. Hell, everyone knew. Whatever the story, he came back alone and she was never seen or heard from again.
At that time I was shooting another film for De Cristo studios, one I would never finish, until now. Ryan chokes on half exhaled smoke at this bit of news. This script is that old? He coughs. A great script is timeless, Jackie says. Remember that, kid. Ryan shakes his head in acknowledgement. Someone, I assume Victor, he never said, and I never asked got me into some fancy rehab place in New Mexico. I spent nearly a year there and got myself straightened out. When I walked out of the door, Victor was there, waiting with a limo. He offered me a job as a special consultant for his studios, helping his stable of new, young, hot shot directors make movies. I lived in his house, I drove his cars and he gave me executive producer credit on every movie I worked on. Up until he died, that is.
After that everything changed again. The rights to his estate were contested by Cristina’s sister, who claimed that she was still alive and would be coming back to take over the studio and the home she was entitled to. Bobby, who came out of a previous marriage, fought back but it took a while before a judge told Cristina’s sister that if she did not show up in his courtroom at the next hearing date, everything would go to Bobby. In the meantime, no work was being done at the studios and I had to find work wherever I could. I helped friends- what few I had left, on their movies and they tossed me some scratch. I even got a real job for a spell, working as a paralegal for some Hollywood agent, that didn’t end well.
Finally after about two years of legal wrangling, Bobby took over De Cristo studios. He cleaned house and started all over, hiring new execs and secretaries, everything. He was going through some boxes one day and found this script. Bobby was always a good kid, he used to hang around with us all the time, asking questions and trying to give us advice for relating to the new generation. He remembered being there when Vic and I were first discussing the movie and he got caught up in how excited we were about it. So when he found it, he got in touch with me and offered me the opportunity to finish what I started. That Bobby, he was always a good kid, he repeated.
What he doesn’t know and I hope he doesn’t find out (he glances at Ryan) is that I’m done after this, I’m walking away. I tucked away some of that money Vic was paying me. I’m moving to New Mexico and buying some land. Maybe start a horse ranch, get a few cows and maybe some sheep, live out my cowboy fantasy. As for you kid, you gotta get outta here, go back to New York, be a writer, it’s better for your health. After you help me with this, of course, (he looks at Ryan again.) Yeah, sure JC, I hear ya. The men each smoke another cigarette in silence before Jackie says goodnight kid, flinging his butt over the railing and into the pool and ducking back into his room. Ryan steps back inside to see Sammy occupying nearly every inch of his bed. He sits at the small desk, flips on the lamp and starts writing in a notebook.

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