April 25-May 1, 1983

Monday, April 25: DAY THIRTY-SIX (9 hrs)

It’ll be a very long day today.  A car to the studio at ten.  Shoot Judy Miller and the seamstresses.  Look at what we shot last week.  Maybe unpack the editing system.  Meet with Raffaella.  Supposedly meet with Anne Strick.  Go to the location and shoot all night….

Not such a long day after all.  We’ve been more or less designated the house video crew – home video for the producers.  The meeting with Raffaella was quite friendly, seemingly open.

No more of this so closely following David.  We’ll shoot the first unit when it’s starting on a new set or location, or when it’s shooting something particularly difficult or interesting.  Same with second unit.  And in between, we have to do all the other stuff – the various departments and shops.  Following a particular individual, shooting everything they do, everything that happens to them.  In Raffaella’s mind, I’m afraid we’re firmly linked with Anne Strick; we’re publicity.

Not what we came down here for.  But we can still work to put together our film – which they can accept or refuse at the end; at least we’ll have done it.  But there will be limits; working Sundays to film someone’s pool-side gathering doesn’t appeal to me – and if they seriously want it, I may push for overtime.

The whole thing has become a job.

As for Raffaella’s remark – “if you’re going to be here for six months …” – well, maybe she was just flexing her producer’s muscles.  But if not, if we get terminated early – what about this famous twenty-five thousand? they could easily pull a number on us – “you were just getting a thousand a week, good-bye.”

Yet we have been permitted Arturo’s services for a few hours a week for camera maintenance.  And they’ll give us an assistant for logging tapes and general office work – and duping and rough assembly.  (Not Doug though – and considering Anatol’s antipathy to him, that’s probably a good thing.)

And it’s been cleared up with Paul Sammon – he has a very low position and anything he wants done has to go through Raffaella.  (He wanted a copy of my article – he scanned it in the office (Doug had just returned it) and seemed highly appreciative; I mumbled negatively – I don’t want him ransacking it for his own stuff.)  (The article might serve me well here – judiciously circulated, it could raise me up by making David’s work more accessible to people working on the film – because very few people seem to have taken the time to sit down and examine his work in that much depth.)

Second unit call sheet, possibly mis-dated April 26, 1983

So – since we have four nights’ worth of footage from Aguilas Rojas, we didn’t have to go out there again tonight (for which I do not feel terribly sorry).  Tomorrow night, though, both first and second units will be there – something big, so we’ll go along.

But neither of us is terribly happy that we’re being moved somewhat away from the centre, from David.

As this becomes just a job, our thoughts are being drawn more and more to a project of our own – the Paris thing, which is shaping up as a fairly off-the-wall noir piece (Anatol says that in the page-and-a-half synopsis I capture a feel for Parisian strangeness quite remarkable for someone who’s never been there – also says that my Eraserhead article captures the feeling of what went on very faithfully, that reading it brings the whole experience back.  Maybe I do have some kind of talent after all.)  So maybe we can assuage our creative sides by developing that script (called “Café Universal”) while doing Raffaella de Laurentiis’ home movies over the next few months.

Meanwhile I’ve developed some kind of problem with my right leg.  I thought at first it was just because I was suddenly over-using muscles left idle a long time.  But instead of loosening up, it’s getting worse.  I walk with a limp and get extremely painful spasms in my thigh.  Guess I’ll have to see the doctor tomorrow – though from what I’ve heard, I don’t hold much faith….

Tuesday, April 26: DAY THIRTY-SEVEN (16 hrs)

Second unit call sheet, possibly mis-dated April 26, 1983

Didn’t sleep much last night.  Woke about five-thirty full of anxieties – I’m going to have to insist on having something in writing, some guarantee about this job.

The doctor – “Feelgood”, as everyone calls him – took me out to his car in the parking lot, and opened the trunk to reveal large plastic bags full of samples of prescription drugs.  He gave me some painkillers and muscle relaxants for the spasms in my leg (caused apparently by the way I brace myself when I’m holding the mic boom).

Meanwhile, the ideas for the script keep flowing.

Wednesday, April 27: DAY THIRTY-EIGHT (16 ½ hrs)

A long day yesterday, and deadly dull on the set (still at the Aguilas Rojas location – doing close-ups and reaction shots; lots of set-ups, but almost no movement).

Obviously there are still major communications problems.  Raffaella might have decided (with some prompting from Anne Strick) that we were spending too much time with the first unit, but when we got there yesterday evening we had a chance to chat with David and his first remark was “where the fuck were you guys last night?”  A friendly tone, but it’s apparent that he (like we) thought we came down to shoot a documentary of him making Dune – not that we came as a video PR unit.

Set construction memo, April 26, 1983

We’re supposed to shoot a little piece with him this evening, a substitute for Sammon’s convention piece.  None of us is too happy about it, but it’s been arranged with Raffaella.  David, reluctant to get into this kind of thing, said we’ll just do something ourselves, present it to them, and if they don’t like it that’s just too bad.  But there are likely to be dozens of people standing around watching….

But if the night was cinematically dull, it was still quite important for us.  We met Jack Leustig, Kyle’s agent.  His wife (who’s in casting) found Kyle – then got fired from the project because she tried to interfere with the lousy deal De Laurentiis offered him (a seven-year exclusive contract).  Jack took Kyle on to help him against the pressure.

He seems like a very decent guy, telling us a bit about how Raffaella works (a good thing because Anatol has this annoying tendency of wanting to tell her all our plans right now before we know anything about her – he’s already gone on a kick about getting her interested in the story we’re developing, maybe setting up a small production unit on the side – I’ve been able to discourage him so far, but Jack’s tales helped immensely to cool him off; she wouldn’t give a shit about our plans and I wouldn’t trust her with them – if we’re cooking up something viable, we should protect it carefully).

Jack is also a writer and actor, so he seems much more sympathetic to the underdogs of the business than the legendary Hollywood agent.  He talked at length with us about our Dune project and what kind of agreements we’ve got so far – and says he’ll research it for us to see what kind of legal position we’re in to protect our work.  He’ll be back here every five weeks for one week (Kyle needs the support) and next time he’s down he’ll try to have some information for us to help us finally negotiate a contract.

But on top of all this he’s been married for twelve years to a French woman who’s worked with biggies like Godard and who has good connections over there.  And he’s a little interested in getting into production.  And seemed a little intrigued by our idea of a small film in Paris with David in a role (even made a note to check on access to Depardieu, Lino Ventura, and the punk in sunglasses from Diva – all of whom we can see in parts that are shaping up in the story).  The whole thing is still a fairy tale, a dream – but we strangely keep running into pointers which keep us heading in this direction.  If we can develop a tight script, maybe the project really would be feasible.

He’s just played a part in the U.S. remake of Godard’s Breathless (as the cop killed by the main character – Richard Gere in the Belmondo role).  Which was directed by Jim McBride who did Glen and Randa, the lovely low-budget post-holocaust story of two teenagers searching a ravaged land for fabled Metropolis – which I’ve only seen once, about eleven years ago, in Newfoundland.

Anatol and I seem to be on some kind of streak – what we need keeps falling in our laps (he’s been saying for weeks that we need someone we can trust, who knows the business, to take a look at our deal and advise us).  In fact, it seems like too much.  All these things coming together, from this job on – there must be some kind of hidden catch.

Thursday, April 28: DAY THIRTY-NINE (9 hrs)

A very long day yesterday, with many an up-and-down.

First unit call sheet, April 28, 1983

We went to the studio at two-thirty.  The stunt co-ordinator, a guy named Richard Humphries, had requested Tuesday night that we shoot them preparing a stunt on the backlot in the afternoon (a huge rock breaking away and a man plummeting off it).  We said yes – because it does fall within the bounds of our job.  Even though the guy had subjected us to a “joke” a little earlier: while our backs were turned he took my mike and boom so he could watch the panic when we discovered it missing.  Ha. Ha.  Those people who saw it seemed pretty disgusted – Humphries thought it hilarious.

So we showed up a bit early, they weren’t there.  So we hurried away, not wanting to do it anyway.  They found us a little later, so we did it after all.  But Humphries came on the director.  He told Anatol exactly how he must shoot it, treated us like hired lackeys.  But in the end, it worked out for us.  When we returned to the office to show them the tape, we ran into Raffaella – our first big screening (even Kit West was there to see how the rock functioned).  And Raffaella seemed thoroughly pleased with it.

She now calls me George, she jokes with us, she pats our faces – the whole bit.  John Dykstra told us he overheard her telling someone that we’re doing a very good job.

Yesterday evening we were to shoot David for the promo piece.  All three of us were reluctant.  We spoke to him just after we got to the dump.  Agreed to do it later, after he was dirtied up.  Anne Strick was hanging around, wanting to be there to see it done.

Just before supper I went to speak with David again, to suggest that we do it at the end of the night so as not to interrupt a particularly heavy shooting schedule.  Raffaella was there.  She stepped in.  “No, no, no, George,” she said, stroking my face several times with both hands.  “He won’t do it then.  He’ll say he’s too tired.  We’ll do it right after dinner.”

So after we ate, we prepared to take our equipment up onto the rocks to shoot him far from everybody.  I went down into the ravine again to tell David we’d be ready in about fifteen minutes.  We talked about the thing, what it was for, what sort of thing was necessary.  Raffaella came over and jokingly said, “is this guy bothering you?  If he is, he can be taken care of.”  David turned to her and said, “He’s doing his job, and he’s doing it very well.”

We waited up on the rocks for a long time.  It was the first time we’d been up there – the view was spectacular.  We were climbing around like a couple of kids.  Both of us sort of hoping David wouldn’t come up.  But he did finally.

It went badly.  He was completely reluctant and we didn’t have the resources to draw him out.  The problem is, he doesn’t want to talk about Dune or his work.  We were there for more than half an hour as they set up the crane down below.  It was quite uncomfortable.  (When we looked at the tape this morning at the studio, I felt even worse; David is so horribly tense and unnatural.)  He said we’ll have to do it as an interview, come up with questions.  But since he doesn’t want to talk about Dune, what kind of questions am I supposed to ask?  This thing is for Dune promotion, after all.

Jack read my article during the evening.  His praise was fulsome, to say the least.  He couldn’t believe that I’d done it for almost nothing, for a small circulation magazine.  Said it should be released as a book.  While he’s looking into the situation with our contract, he says he’ll also check what my legal position is with the magazine.

Anatol jumped the gun again.  Trying to ease the tension with David before we shot, he blurted out what Jack had said (because David’s planning an Eraserhead picture book – the one Ron Miller told us about).  But David and Jack have been caught on two sides of the struggle between Kyle and De Laurentiis.  So I don’t know what chance there would be of getting me involved in the book.  Probably very little in the first place (I’m sure David wants it to be his book); now even less.

It was a long night, ending as the sky got light just after six.  The sequence went three days (nights) over schedule – and they’ll probably have all kinds of continuity problems because of the dust.

They’re still shooting nights (probably through next week – longer?), but at least we’re out of the dump.

Friday, April 29: DAY FORTY (15 hrs)

Stage 2, Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City 1983

A shorter day yesterday.  We went to the studio at six-thirty, cleaned the camera, shot a cassette on Stage 2 where Dykstra has his transmission bluescreen, finally met Jurgen Prochnow (whose English seems flawless).  After supper, everything moved to the backlot – Castle Caladan (the same scene as was shot in front of the bluescreen – different point of view).

Second unit call sheet, April 29, 1983

David spotted Anatol’s leather replica ’forties flight jacket – and is off on another jacket kick (it seems to be a kind of tension release – Kuki Lopez and Freddie joined in again, as they did for the other jackets; everything stopped for a few minutes and David wanted to radio Leslie, out at Aguilas Rojas with the second unit, to get her on it right away).

One of the first things Raffaella said was, why hasn’t she seen us following people around yet?  Apparently she wants us to work around the clock.  And she’d forgotten already that we did the bit with the stunt guys yesterday – still seems to think we’re having fun.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it’s just her producer’s manner, keeping people on edge all the time.

So, since they were only doing one scene last night and we’d already covered it – and we were tired anyway – we left earlier (two-thirty, three), so we could go back to the studio earlier this afternoon.  But we still feel a little as if we’re deserting David who really seems to appreciate us being around.

I suggested to Anatol that we make Raffaella our first subject – plant ourselves in her office and shoot her all day – whatever she does, whoever she sees, until she says enough, go back to David.  But of course she wouldn’t.

So we’ll probably spend a week or so, shooting shit around the studio, ending with a couple of hours on set in the evening each day.  Raffaella’s big point is that in six months we’ll accumulate a huge mass of boring stuff behind the camera.  Little realizing that no matter what you’re shooting, if you do it continuously for six months, you’ll wind up with a great boring mass.  So if we can quickly show her an accumulation of boring behind-the-scenes stuff, maybe she’ll ease off on this insistence that we spend most of our time away from the set.

Anatol’s insufficient grasp of English can be a nuisance.  Last night while chatting with David, we mentioned our problem with Anne Strick, that she wants to appropriate us to publicity.  I said, she doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of why we’re actually down here.  I started to add that Raffaella doesn’t either, but Anatol cut in to say that Raffaella has a very clear idea of why we’re here – leaving David with the impression that everything’s okay between us and Raffaella.  I thought he did it to prevent me saying anything negative about her in front of David.  But what he meant was that she has a very clear idea of her own about what we’re doing – i.e. boring house video.

He annoyed me more than once yesterday evening.  He’s gone off on a thing about Sean Young now; she’s interested in video, in being behind the camera – says if they paid her she’d like to stay on here after her role is done.  Now he’d like to whip off a video movie with her.  We were wandering about the dark backlot – a wonderfully eerie place – saying what a great location it is, and he said we should shoot something with Sean there and send it to the States for TV showing.  He was speaking as if it was something we could do over the next few weeks.  I said it’s not that easy to bang out a two-hour script.  He said it doesn’t have to be good (I’ve told him before I don’t like writing crap – at least not deliberately).  I said you still have to come up with an idea.  And he almost snapped back, “Well, that’s your problem and you’d better solve it.”  As if I have some massive flaw which is detrimental to him.  As if I’d better have the script ready by this weekend or the next at the latest.  Never mind that there’s very little time for writing – and I’m supposed to be working on the Paris thing.

The man has a problem thinking things through.  He’ll get an idea suddenly and he’ll want it fulfilled on the spur of the moment – and if you can’t do it for him, you’ve let him down.

Sunday, May 1: DAY FORTY-TWO (7 hrs)

Friday was a good day – long, but good.  We went to the studio in the afternoon.  Didn’t actually do much – but showed a pile of stuff to Anne Strick.  She liked it all, whatever it was, however dull.  Said she’d tell Gordon what a fine job we’re doing.

Friday night was the best session since we started shooting.  On the backlot, with huge fans, the rock wall, and a big crane dolly.  It was interesting to watch and the dust (which we expected to be dreadful – mixed with fine sand) wasn’t anything near as bad as at Aguilas Rojas; it was an open space, and the wind was more easily directed.  But I do wonder how the people in the residential area just over the wall felt about the lights, the dust, and the noise (the fans were equipped with old aircraft engines).

Back at the hotel about six yesterday morning.

Arturo had said he’d be going in Saturday to tune the camera.  I felt we should be there –  he’s a nice guy and he started helping us just out of friendship.  Anatol now seems to think of him just as an employee.

I called Anatol at one-thirty in the afternoon.  He was still asleep, uninterested in going to the studio.  For someone who claims to need little sleep, he seems to have more trouble than I do getting going.  I think he’s actually quite a drinker.

So I grabbed a cab and went alone.  Arturo was already there at work.  The place was deserted – it was an official day off – except for a fete on the lawns by the TV studio (Children’s Day).

We were there until almost nine.  A good thing I went (Anatol never did show up) because I got to see what the problems are (a number of them, though they can be dealt with) – and also got to see that Arturo really does know what he’s doing.

I got back here at nine-fifteen, after dropping Arturo off.  Called Anatol.  Called Fred.  No one home.  No messages.  Fuck him, I thought.  Read a while, went to bed.  I didn’t eat all day.

I got up at noon, went for a bad breakfast at Denny’s up the block.  I took my book up to the penthouse pool at the Royal and sat reading and drinking beer.  A few familiar faces out in the sun, but I kept to myself.  Raffaella showed up, said bon jour and asked where Anatol was.  I said I hadn’t seen him and she went away.

A while later he showed up.  “I’ve been worried.  Did you go to the studio?”  I’d told him when I called him Saturday afternoon that I was going.  He was so worried he didn’t even leave a message.  But before I could answer, he was off to chat with Raffaella (I got the impression he’d gone out with her among others yesterday evening).

When he came back, I told him what I’d learned yesterday.  And he said we’re invited up to Raffaella’s this evening – Strick is cooking dinner.  I figure if Raffaella can’t invite me when she speaks to me, but just adds me on when she asks him I can do without it.  I’m not some appendage who has to go along with Anatol….

Finished King’s Christine at last.  A bit better than Cujo, but not much.  A short story idea blown out of all proportion.  A poor book, which would obviously make a fairly good horror movie.

Arturo is an interesting character.  Wide experience as a news cameraman, stationed in Spain.  Learned to be a technician in the field.  When the economy collapsed here and Televisa couldn’t afford to keep its overseas office anymore, he and some other staff members formed their own company in Madrid.  Fifteen months ago, he married a Spanish woman.  He came back here a while ago to return his mother’s body for burial.  He and his wife hate Mexico City – but he stayed on here just to work on this film.  When it’s over, they’ll go back to Spain.

Kyle moved out of the Amberes this afternoon – got himself a house not far from the studio.  I helped load the Jeep with his stuff, but there wasn’t room to go along.  I might move up to his suite – will, if I can get it.  Third floor front – away from the air conditioner, and with more light.

It’s quite possible that I’ve made a big mistake, deciding not to go upstairs for supper.  But it would have been a bigger mistake to show up on the doorstep, saying hi Raffie, where’s the grub? if she only invited Anatol – which is quite possibly the case.

If she brings it up tomorrow, I’ll just point out that she didn’t invite me – and tell her to ask me herself next time instead of treating me like a subspecies of Anatol.

As it is, I went for a long walk – west along Reforma to a large war memorial park (crowded with people, mostly huge families with countless small children, with a large proportion of young couples necking, quite intensely), then back east, just past Insurgentes.  I cut back to Copenhagen, where I ran into Bob and his wife just sitting down to eat at a little outdoor café.  I was invited to join them, so I did – had a small, light meal, pleasant company.  And came back here only to see Strick, all dressed up, waiting at the elevator.  She almost saw me – but I escaped.  Came up and took a shower.  Now I’ll read a while (Orwell) and get to bed early.

Bob has been offered the job of line producer on a low-budget film in L.A., beginning mid-June, to last ten weeks (a youth/car picture, budgeted at one-and-a-half million).  He might take time off from Dune to do it – depending on which credit seems more important….

Nine-fifteen: someone knocked at the door, and a few seconds later the phone rang.  I ignored both, lying in bed reading.  Thinking: maybe I should have gone, considering Anatol’s habit of saying the wrong thing, or simply saying too much.  Maybe he shouldn’t be alone with Raffaella and Strick – he could get us both in a mess.

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