Thursday, 4 April 1996. London.
... Later I went to a play and dinner with Mike Nichols, who is in town performing Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner at the National Theatre. Shortly after we sat down to eat we were approached by a well-known American film critic and his girlfriend, and Nichols graciously invited them to join us. I’m deeply ambivalent about fraternising with critics, and tried my best to be courteous.
Friday, 24 May 1996. Los Angeles.
... Checked out of the Oakwood apartments, where Nathaniel West is alive and well, and checked into the Château Marmont, with Miramax footing the bill as per my Mimmic rewriter barter contract. This is one of the smarter things I’ve done, this barter deal. Instead of paying me with Money, I asked that they pay me in travel and living expenses. That’s what makes staying at the hotel feel so good – it’s a tangible result of the Work I did. Normally they give you a check and it goes to your account and you never see it; it’s an abstraction. But this way I get to see the results of my Work, even if it was shitty Work.
Saturday, 23 June 1996. Los Angeles.
... After the screening a dozen of us went to diner, including my friends David Foil, Greg Mottola, Susan Littenberg, and luminaries Stephen & Rebecca Schiff, Mike Nichols and Elaine May. I had a great time, drank way too much and stayed up way too late.
Thursday I got a fax from Scott Rudin. On Tuesday I had sent a brief note saying that I was in New York and we should sit down and see if we can sort this out one way or another. His reply was that Paramount’s lawyers had said it would be unwise for him to do so, until the legal situation is sorted out. What irks me is that they can’t even be honourable. They want to get rid of me and not even pay me, and have a gag order on me. By this point, my draft has been read by New Line (they would make it if the cost were right), UA (they’d make it right now) and Miramax (they’d also make it right now). Universal is supposed to read it this weekend. All of this is probably irrelevant except that it confirms Kramer’s and my belief that our draft works.
Saturday, 20 July 1996. Baton Rouge.
Eight A.M. I’m sitting at Midas Muffler, getting my car checked. Instead of writing last night I was supposed to, I bought a handful of CDs and a few magazines and fucked off for a few hours. Then I watched part one of Manufacturing Consent, which was fascinating. Like many white liberals, I have something of a Noam Chomsky fixation. I get all fired up after reading him and want to go out and protest shit and start voter-registration drives. Then, within minutes, Reality sets in and I start thinking about Work and women and stuff.
Thusrday, 3 October 1996. Los Angeles.
... I met with Howard Rodman and Brad Weston, a producer, about the Charlie Chan project. We spent a couple of hours discussing a possible story idea and came up with a foundation that seemed solid and interesting. I’ve instructed Miramax, however, not to announce my involvement until A Confederacy of Dunces is sorted out. To that end, I’m still trying to get a meeting with Sherry Lansing and/or Scott Rudin. Sherry Lansing has been, well, weird. At one point when I tried to explain what was happening, she stopped me by saying, I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t want to know. That about sums up her rold in this scenario.
[Scott] Rudin, after receiving a fax from me requesting a meeting, has called, but we keep missing each other. I have no idea what that call, should it take place, will be like. I literally dreamed about it all night last night, sequence after sequence, endless variations on what might occur, from good to bac to inconclusive. The huge success of The First Wives Club makes thing harder for Kramer and me, we think. After Monday’s Toots meetings and Paramount’s stonewalling and lack of interest, it’s pretty clear I’m a very small fish in this particular pond nowadays.
Of course, my impulse is to sit by the phone all day, but I can’t do that. I need to carry on doing what I need to do, which includes going to the Dodgers-Braves baseball game later this afternoon. I mean, one has to prioritise.
The legal angle of the A Confederacy of Dunces thing is frustrating, too. Two days ago, Kramer and I were talking to Pierce O’Donnell and his associate, Rex Reeves, and we asked if the total of both our fees on A Confederacy of Dunces would be enough to cover the cost of going to court, and they said No. Now I personally think $450,000 is a fair-sized chunk of change, and to hear someone say it’s not enough for them to take the thing to court is really disappointing. Maybe there are other lawyers who could do it for that, but they wouldn’t have the History with Paramount that Pierce has.
Wednesday, 9 October 1996. Los Angeles.
... Nothing on the A Confederacy of Dunces front. Scott Rudin doesn’t want to meet until the Kramer situation is straightened out, but neither Kramer nor I can figure what Kramer’s ‘termination’ and reinstatement have to do with my directing the film. It may be time to get the [DGA] involved. I invited Rudin to see Schizopolis at the Hamptoms Festival (believing, as always, in the Power of Art to transform), but I’m sure he won’t come.
Tuesday, 12 November 1996. Baton Rouge.
... Scott Kramer and I filed a lawsuit against Paramount for, among other things, Intent to Defraud and Breach of oral and written Agreements. We are hoping it will get attention, but one never knows. They are right bastards, as the Brits would say, and we’ve long since given up hope that they will be reasonable.
Monday, 18 November 1996. Baton Rouge.
Paramount is reportedly pissed at the lawsuit, which is satisfying on some level. That they are pretending to be shocked and hurt is laughable. The big issue now is whether Scott Kramer and I can somehow finance this lawsuit. It seems Paramount might really let this go to trial. It certainly would be interesting to get Sherry Lansing and Scott Rudin on the stand.
Saturday, 23 November 1996. Baton Rouge.
No movement on the A Confederacy of Dunces lawsuit except for sending the DGA a copy of the filing and my contract to see if they want to get involved.
Thursday, 12 December 1996. New York.
Spent the afternoon at Miramax, where Brad Weston, Howard Rodman and I pitched Bob Weinstein on Charlie Chan. Through the course of the two-hour meeting, we ended up altering the course of the story, and the result was something much better than what we showed up with. Bob’s sense of what works in the genre and his ability to spot Logic and Emotion potholes is quite good, and he was well supported by Cary Granat and Richard Potter. Howard will now start working on a treatment, which we would like to have in by the end of next week.
Tuesday, 14 January 1997. Baton Rouge.
... Finally took Richard Lester’s suggestion and read Dava Sobel’s Longitude, and fell completely in love with it. I called her on 30 December (she was listed) and she put me in touch with her agent. The agent was just closing a deal with Granada for the ‘dramatisation Rights’ and suggested I call them to see if my interest was of interest to them. Sensing that my interest alone wouldn’t mean much, I rang Mark Johnson and asked him to read it as a possible project for me at DreamWorks, where he has a producing deal. He read it, loved it and is trying to see if Granada will partner with DreamWorks. If I had read the book when Lester told me about it, I could’ve had it for myself. Dumbass.
Friday, 31 January 1997. Los Angeles.
As far as Out of Sight goes, I am now competing against Cameron Crowe and Mike Newell. Of course, coming right off Jerry Maguire and a DGA nomination, is obviously as cold as a blow torch, and I don’t have a chance if he says yes. Newell, I’m less concerned about, only because he just did a movie with criminals and I think will turn it down. Casey Silver and Marc Platt are trying to get me in to see Jersey Films and then Clooney, and I’m waiting by the phone.
Mark Johnson has read Human Nature and likes it a lot, and happens to have a second-book deal at Polygram, so he’s going to call Russell Schwartz and Co. and put in a good word.
The poster for Gray’s Anatomy is spectacularly great, which is a relief. The 19 March opening doesn’t seem very far away.
Great discussion with the new lawyers on the A Confederacy of Dunces lawsuit. They are aggressive and confident, and Scott Kramer and I feel lucky to have them. The only sad part is that it will cost me a lot of Money.
Thursday, 27 February 1997. Baton Rouge.
In-Denial Dept: I still haven’t called Miramax to tell them the Clooney movie has been pushed to the fall. I guess I’m hoping that they’re so happy about all the Oscar nominations for The English Patient that they’ll forget about little ol’ Steven and his Charlie Chan project. Yeah.
... Out of Sight was released in the US in June 1998. Despite receiving the best reviews of my career, the film never caught fire at the box office, topping out at $38 million. It would eventually gross about the same amount overseas but, with a budget of $48 million, this would not be enough to make the film profitable. Casey Silver, the head of the studio and a good friend, was fired in late November because none of Universal’s films had performed up to expectations. I am hoping that in his new role as a producer he can find something we can work together.
The lawsuit over A Confederacy of Dunces was settled before going to trial, but not before costing me a lot of dough. Scott Kramer and I have the Rights [i.e. Intellectual Rights] for a finite period of Time. We have yet to attain Financing.