June 6-12, 1983

Monday, June 6: DAY SEVENTY-EIGHT

Didn’t go to work today.  Hardly slept all night – had the runs (mostly water).  In between shitting, vomiting violently (almost dry), and almost passing out, I finished outlining the Paris story.  A bit thin I’m afraid – but it can be fleshed out in the writing.  Talked to Jack up on the Royal yesterday afternoon – he seems quite seriously to think we can get the money we need in Texas (it’s gearing up for film production there).  “So are we going to make a deal for this movie?” he asked.  Maybe it will happen….

Saturday afternoon as we were getting drunk, Jack told us stories – he’s a great story-teller, even with Anatol interrupting with non sequiturs (he doesn’t have my habit of listening).  Family history and their connection with the Kennedy assassination.  And the tale of a Texas gangster who survived nine attempts on his life in the Forties before being blown up by a rural mailbox – “if there’s one film I want to make, this is the one,” Jack said.  He wanted to know if I liked it (I did) – and I realized that I’m getting to a position where my writing abilities are coming into demand (Anatol – Jack – maybe David with regard to Blue Velvet …).  A weird feeling.

Jack mentioned something else: a new angle on Ronnie Rocket (which he says is very perverse) – since the main character becomes a rock star, it offers the possibility of a soundtrack album.  And A&M are interested.  As with certain other movies, even if the film isn’t a success, the money can be recouped from record sales….

With these days off, I haven’t missed much.  We haven’t shot anything since last Wednesday.  Last week we were trying to clean spots off the tubes.  And Saturday, while Arturo was servicing the camera, a transistor burned out.  They got a replacement today.

Wednesday, June 8: DAY EIGHTY (8 ½ hrs, 8 hrs)

Crawled into work yesterday only to discover that the camera wasn’t operational.  Had a three-and-a-half hour lunch at the studio’s Mexican restaurant (vastly superior to the Dune place) – after which I recouped a lot of energy (I was thoroughly drained all morning).

Went out in the evening with Anatol and Marie – some drinks, a late supper (midnight), back here.  They stayed until two-thirty.

We missed quite a bit the last few days – they’re getting into Geidi Prime, lair of the Baron – a bizarre, slimy, pustular, decadent sort of place – gloriously perverse.  Today, with the camera operational, we caught a bit before being kicked off set by Freddie and Kuki.  Not only is the Baron covered with awful sores – Rabban eats the juice of a little rat-like creature, and the slaves have their ears sewn shut – and some of them their eyes (the females).

I made the mistake of joking with David about it – he didn’t get it, Anatol didn’t get it – I looked like a fool (I just said “this is getting weird, David, you’ve got no sense of proportion” – and truthfully I think it is so weird that it might outweigh the more normal worlds of the film).  David was, I think, offended – and I realized (with some prompting from Anatol) that I’m really not in a position to banter with him – he’s the director of Dune after all, a major figure, and even though he’s helped me out I still exist within certain formal bounds – we’re not “buddies” in other words.  I’ve got to cool it with the familiarity.

First unit call sheet, June 10, 1983

We caught another nice little bit with Aldo this afternoon.  He’s a wonderful character, and seems to like letting us in on things.

Anatol had an idea for raising extra money the night before last: we do twenty-five half-hour profiles on major (or just interesting) people on the production for sale to TV (at a thousand dollars a minute, it comes to three-quarters of a million).  It’ll mean extra work, but it’ll give us a focus when we do the interviews – and provide a sense of purpose more or less lacking up to now.  (I’ve sketched a brief proposal for the idea.)

The “script outline” arrived from Gordon yesterday.  A dreadful piece of rubbish, unsigned (but probably the work of Sammon – it starts with his Moses thing …).  But it’s on the stationary of Kaleidoscope Films Ltd – who or what the fuck that is, I’d like to know.

We’re going to have to straighten things out when Armstrong gets here in a couple of weeks – make sure he doesn’t leave without us having something in writing.

Sunday, June 12: DAY EIGHTY-FOUR (11 hrs, 11 hrs, 7 hrs)

An interesting evening yesterday.  Jack and I went for supper together (at the Bellinghausen), had a decent meal.  Then Jack suggested a cab ride, since it was still early.  We grabbed a VW taxi and went to the Zocalo, the main square – with the Presidential Palace, Cathedral, and National Pawn Shop.  It’s a whole other city.  Massive European architecture, cobbled streets.  We walked back into the streets – not the slightest taste of North America – a completely different culture.  Fascinating.

We were standing on a corner, looking at a big church.  A man came along, dropped his trousers across the street, facing the church, took a juicy shit, pulled up his trousers and continued on his way.  The children playing in front of the church took no notice.

We went inside the Cathedral.  Opulent, with people coming and going, crossing themselves – a little Indian girl scooped up some holy water in a plastic baggie.  A wedding was in progress.  Jack – baptized a Catholic – was very moved by the whole business.

Mexico City at dusk

We took a cab back to Zona Rosa and went for a couple of drinks at the Geneve (an old hotel in which, I was told, the Europeans and Americans took refuge during the revolution) and just talked.  Jack’s a fascinating character – I like him enormously.  Maybe I should do some detailed interviews with him and write something about him….

The job drags on.

Anatol loved the Paris outline, only had a couple of minor suggestions.

Kyle’s agent, Jack Leustig is back.  He read the outline – also likes it – also had some suggestions, valid ones; mostly to remove the suggestions of Diva, plus make a change in the ending to increase the dramatic impact.  He says he’s sounded out some people in France (through his French wife) and money is available for co-productions.

I’m inclined to trust Jack – so far he’s been very helpful in getting information for us and quite open about his intentions (so far it’s all free because he’s found it interesting – not just the Paris film, but the Dune documentary and the book – he’d like to be officially involved in the film and the book, but if we find another route it’s okay with him – if he is involved, of course, he’ll get his share).  Anatol however keeps making little negative remarks – he doesn’t trust the guy.  Because he’s being too helpful; what does he want?  Well, obviously he’s seen something promising and would like to be in on it – I find that reasonable and comprehensible – there’s no need to look for something ulterior.

Speaking of Anatol – I’m not sure our relationship will survive in the long run.  He can be too much of a pain in the ass.  There’s more friction than I’m comfortable with (even though it is only occasional).  He talks a lot about “we must do this, do that”, then gets annoyed when I try to move it because he doesn’t feel like doing it right now.  At the moment, he’s so bloody concerned with trying to get laid that he spends a lot of time on set hitting on women (Marie, the doctor …).  Yesterday some interesting stuff came up – the Geidi Prime cable car fouled up, holding up a shot which had to be got quickly (the extras were suffocating) and Kit West became active coordinating the situation.  Now, we’re supposed to be doing something on Kit but we’ve got very little material on him yet.  I pointed it out to Anatol.  He said sure, okay – and went back to talking to Marie.  Now I’m getting a little pissed off that I’m supposed to be assuming the responsibilities of a line producer – but have none of the authority.  Particularly because other people are now accepting me in that position; Kuki now always talks to me as if I can control what Anatol does – yet I can only suggest.  And yesterday Kuki was justifiably pissed off at all the spectators who wander onto the set.  So he came to me and asked who the hell Marie was (she was standing there checking her lottery numbers).  Because she comes in and Anatol talks to her for a long time, she becomes associated with the video crew; since I’m supposed to be line producer, in charge, Kuki holds me responsible for her presence; but since I have no authority I can’t do anything about it.  This whole business pissed me off.  I found my patience with Anatol flagging.  I spoke to him at one point in a fairly sharp tone (I’d asked a question – had he caught something? – so I could put it on the log sheet, and as too often happens, he didn’t answer the question but started saying something else; so I interrupted and repeated the question more pointedly) – he snapped my head off.

It’s all very well to be free and equal partners – but on the job we each have specific functions – and if the job is to be done we should fulfill those functions.  Yet he only listens to me when he feels like it.  He’s got a fairly unprofessional attitude.  The stuff we’ve got so far is almost all very general – we lack details, inserts, cutaways.  Yet every time I bring it up, he says that’s all just boring industrial video – and he doesn’t want to do it.  The same with interviews: I know a full interview is boring to watch – but it’s just raw material – you cut out expressions and use the voice with other material.  It has to be done.  He now agrees.  But every time I push for an interview, he drags – and I have to push harder.

In the end we’ll have a mess of material, most of which won’t be much use for anything.

For myself, at this point I’ve virtually given up on the thing altogether.  Just hang on until the end of the shoot, then forget about it – I don’t even want to be involved in the editing.  If Armstrong takes it away, I’ll be happy.

I am both furious and disgusted.  I arranged a meeting with Jack Leustig for this afternoon – with Anatol and myself – to talk about the information he’s obtained on the “making of …” project.  I called Anatol at ten-thirty this morning – sure, he’d join us.  But he didn’t bother to show up.

Jack has invested time and money in checking this out.  And Anatol doesn’t have the decency to at least talk to him.  I was thoroughly embarrassed.  And for the first time I spewed out all my negative feelings about Anatol to someone else (what I wrote above – in spades).  Because I’m tied to the man, I’m going to go down with this project if he won’t pull himself together.  Sucking up to Armstrong (even if he is a decent guy) will kill us – you don’t get respect for kissing ass (which is why Strick keeps pushing harder and harder – Anatol let her in).  We’ll never get a decent deal out of Armstrong because Anatol is going to agree to whatever he says.

All I can do is hope to get out alive.

As for the Paris film – Jack is going to continue looking into financing possibilities – but, he says (and I can only agree with him), he’ll never be able to work with Anatol (and frankly, seeing the way Anatol works, I don’t have any faith in his ability to direct – he has no sense of responsibility to the job he’s being paid to do) – so if Jack puts something together and produces my script (he likes the outline and thinks it has great possibilities), it’ll have to be with another director.  I can’t argue with that.

This whole afternoon (I was with Jack for two-and-a-half hours) I got nothing but good feelings for him – I trust him.  And I’m glad to say we seem to have established a positive relationship despite the present situation.  At least he’s still interested in the script and in the Eraserhead book.  But as for the documentary – he says he could never work for us on that now because of Anatol’s attitude – I can’t blame him.

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