April 11-17, 1983

Monday, April 11: DAY TWENTY-TWO

Finally made contact with the Customs people this afternoon.  Through Belinda, one of the women at the office (very friendly and helpful), we had to go through the manifest virtually item by item over the phone.  We were told they’d release it all Wednesday.  It remains to be seen.

Saw a partial cast list.  Jurgen Prochnow, the captain in Das Boot, is to play the Duke Leto.  That’s good.  Not so good is Kenneth MacMillan as the Baron – a good actor, but totally without a threatening presence.  Believe it or not, Sting was also on the list….

Spent some time watching Kyle and a guy named Judd Omen training for the fight between Paul and Jamis, guided by Kiyoshi Yamzaki (he also trained the actors in Conan).  Omen is a pushy know-it-all, far too aggressive.  Kyle turns out to be a very pleasant guy – friendly, interested in what we’re doing.

We ran into David in the hallway this morning.  He stopped for a brief chat – wanted to know again where we got our flight jackets (he’s going to order some, maybe – and get Dune patches for them?).  With him was the DGA trainee (Ian something) from New York, who’s rapidly pissing us off; his manners are lousy.  The first day we visited the set, instead of saying, “Hi, I’m …, who are you?” he came up to Fred and blatantly whispered behind his hand “who are these guys?”  Today, after our first encounter with David, he came back to try on my jacket.  I put it back on.  Then he said, take it off and leave it here so David can try it on.  Now, I’m happy to let David try it on – but this guy made it like an order and as if David wouldn’t have time to stop with us for a minute.  Then when David returned, we showed him the release forms we’re supposed to get signed (his response was good – he wouldn’t sign anything unless it said he’d get approval of what we use; that’s protection for us as well as him).  But while he was reading it over, this asshole Ian just piped up, “Can we sign this later?”  We? He obviously doesn’t understand our position in relation to David.  Indeed, he doesn’t seem to understand his position in relation to David.  This was an important point and one which David had to consider carefully.  If the guy acts the officious little prick with us again, he’ll definitely have to be put in his place.

Tuesday, April 12: DAY TWENTY-THREE

I feel good today.  For some reason, on some level, I seem to be developing new kinds of assurance.

I was on my own most of the day; Anatol had to move again – he seems to have found a satisfactory place, at least for the moment.

John Dykstra at Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City 1983

So I went around with John Dykstra and his crew most of the morning.  We met Dykstra yesterday – a big, beefy guy with a beard, a relaxed (yet oddly fast-paced) manner.  He toured the studio with Marty Kline, his number one man here, and Janice, his assistant.  Checking the sets where effects-related shooting is to be done.  Again, a lot of good material lost.  Marty has the action and camera moves locked in his head and he laid it out for Dykstra, who rapidly evaluated everything, checking the effects storyboards, and dictating to Janice how the shots were to be done.  He’s obviously an excellent technician, knows what he’s doing – but he also has a practical filmmaking sense, concerned that Stage 8, with its dune set, is going to become too familiar from the number of shots that have to be done there, working out ways to vary camera angles to disguise the set….

At least one major problem cropped up: a shot in the first worm sequence, in which the worm attacks the cliff where Paul and Jessica are clinging in a crack in the rock.  There’s a breakaway rock.  In order to get the matte, it has to be filmed in front of the blue screen.  But the full breakaway section is in the outdoor set on the backlot….

Fred had to shoot some simple animation this afternoon – some 16mm stuff, moving patterns which are to be front projected into someone’s eyes on stage.  He had to do it in a small room – and eleven other people squeezed in … this whole thing is ridiculously overmanned.

Among his many other credits, Bob did a spell as a writer of soaps.  Apparently, he may be doing some similar work down here in his spare time (a company is producing an English language soap for sale up north); he asked if I’d be interested.  I wasn’t.  But he’s got my name, the Manitoba address, and says he’ll keep me in mind in the future if anything turns up; he seems the kind who’d do it, too.

Through him I met a young Apogee employee named Greg Gubi who used to be a sports reporter, turned to script writing (apparently has someone backing a project to the tune of a hundred-thousand right now).  I’m meeting all kinds of people, making all kinds of contacts – and becoming known to them as a writer (everyone seems impressed with the story of how I got here).

Sean Young (Chani) at Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City 1983

I was just finishing lunch when Sean Young came into the commissary.  Not at all like Rachael.  She seems fairly tall, slim – and pale and dreamy.  I felt an initial disappointment, which sub- sequently faded away.  Neither Bob nor Greg knew who she was – but when I told them, their interest was suddenly piqued (both have seen Blade Runner and thought Rachael gorgeous).

So, coming out of Stage 2 this afternoon after our chat, we saw her sitting on a bench in the sun.  I was emboldened by their presence; and I have a legitimate position.  And, as Greg said, “You’d better make your move fast, ’cause she’s going to be snapped up.”  So I walked over to her and introduced myself, explaining who I am and what I’m doing here.  She shook hands, said thanks for introducing myself, asked my name again to make sure she’d got it.  I said, “You’ll be seeing a lot of us; I hope we’ll see a lot of you.”  And then was called to the van which was just leaving.  So I don’t know where she’s staying.

Wednesday, April 13: DAY TWENTY-FOUR

The equipment is supposed to be delivered at Churubusco at seven this evening.  If so – and if the tape arrives – and if nothing essential was left out – we should be going next week – maybe even Saturday – or Friday….

Introduced Anatol to Sean Young this morning.  She seems friendly.  When she came into the commissary at lunchtime, she smiled and waved.  She sat with Everett McGill (Stilgar – previously star of Quest For Fire).

On our way out, I introduced myself to McGill and said a few words to her, too.  A little later, as Anatol and I were standing around in the sun with the Apogee people, Sean appeared with a super-8 camera, shooting home movies for Mom and Dad – shooting everything, including a bunch of shots of us.

Finally introduced myself to Freddie Francis; he knew who we were already.  He’s a friendly, unassuming little man who walks around with a look of quiet amusement on his face.  Unlike Tony Masters, who’s tall and thin and strides around with sharp-eyed assurance.

Janice, Dykstra’s assistant, was carrying around a script which Dykstra is considering taking on: The Stars My Destination, from Bester’s novel – the best science fiction adventure ever written … my movie, dammit!

Thursday, April 14: DAY TWENTY-FIVE

I’m feeling really bad.  The tension came close to breaking point this afternoon.  The equipment didn’t arrive yesterday.  There was a power cut at the studio – so, with the darkness and the waiting, we joined a tequila party, finally coming back here with Kyle about eight-thirty.

Anatol and I walked around, looking for a place to eat.  He asked a couple of women on the street – and we wound up eating with them.  The older, manager of a nearby new-wave boutique, the younger, her assistant.  A weird evening, with Anatol acting a little crazy.  We walked back to the boutique afterwards to get their address and phone number.  A strange place, full of peculiar clothes, with Laura Mars-type pictures of dead women on the walls – punky, decadent; a superb set for bizarre stories….

After we left them, we walked around for a while before turning in.

Typical daily unit transportation schedule

The revised estimate was that the equipment would come at three this afternoon.  So we waited the day away again.  Greg and I discussed the possibilities of surrounding Sean Young.  I haven’t asked her out yet – no opportunity ever really presents itself, and you know me; I’ve never been able to create my own….

Anatol and I watched Fred shooting a second-unit scene.  We visited the first unit.  David looked a bit tired – not surprising; it must be a strain dealing with people who take at least twice the time necessary to do anything.

I visited the first unit again this afternoon; it was interesting, because I got to see Freddie Francis lighting a shot – a long, complicated business.  Another ego boost: Freddie noticed me, said hello, asked how it was going with the equipment….  These are really decent, friendly people (except for Raffaella, who looks right through me).

Sometime after five, we got the word: no equipment today.  Now it’s twelve noon tomorrow….  We aren’t even going to bother going in tomorrow morning.  We’ve developed into a kind of joke there – not vicious, but it’s becoming too much to take.

The tension hit me like a brick then – it made me feel almost physically sick.

The DGA trainee, Ian whatever, fucked up seriously; he didn’t tell anyone on the second unit that they were supposed to view the dailies yesterday – including David’s assistant, Leslie Werner, who’s now doing continuity.  Yesterday afternoon David started talking to her about the dailies and she didn’t have a clue (which was rough on her); and the second unit work this morning had to match some stuff previously shot by the first unit.  How can you do continuity if you don’t know what you’re continuing?

More bad news: the script for The Stars My Destination was written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. – renowned for such classics as De Laurentiis’ Ping Pong.  A hack who’s afraid to take fantasy seriously.  Dykstra says it’s a shallow, campy script.  It’s possible I’ll get to read it sometime in the next couple of weeks….

My mood has developed into a profound depression.  I walked over to Anatol’s hotel a while ago, called his room – he was crashing with a glass of brandy.  I saw Sean Young in the lobby of the Century across the street – white dress, bare feet.  She hurried out, went to the Royal around the corner.  I wound up sitting on a window ledge across from my hotel, watching the street.  I saw Bob Bealmear heading off, probably to dinner, with some woman.  I saw the two soundmen, Nelson and John, apparently heading back from dinner.  Raffaella arrived at the hotel.  I saw a few more faces I recognized from the studio.  About an hour after I saw her go into the Royal, I saw Sean and a tall bearded man going up the street, presumably in search of a restaurant.  She was still in white, with bare feet.  It appears that she’s down here with someone.

And all the time I couldn’t stop thinking how Anatol and I were turning into a joke, couldn’t shake the feeling that this is all turning sour on me – that it’s all gone badly wrong and I don’t know where or why.  And worst of all: there’s really no one here I can talk to, call when I need someone.  I’ve met a lot of people, but it’s the same old thing – there are really no friends here (or, rather, there’s one – but I can’t talk to him because he’s too deeply entangled with his own problems: David).

Friday, April 15: DAY TWENTY-SIX

I got up late today, about ten.  The phone had rung earlier, but I didn’t answer it.  I had a shower, then went over to Anatol’s hotel and called his room.  He’d tried to reach me, got no response – looked in here at the Amberes, saw my key wasn’t at the desk (indicating I was in).  He said he was worried I’d gone and killed myself.  He also said the studio had called and our stuff had arrived.  It turned out that the tape had arrived (minus a few cassettes).

So – another day of waiting around.  By five o’clock, I’d given up on it.  But Belinda called the shipper again; it’d be there in twenty-five minutes.  By six, I was suggesting we leave the studio – it wouldn’t be arriving until next week.  Well – it finally arrived about six-thirty.  In an old, beaten up, open truck (thank god it didn’t rain).  It was being treated like vegetables, this hundred-thousand dollar electronics package.  Everything had been opened and (in some cases) resealed.  It turned out that someone had poked into everything (in the camera case, a small circuit board had been removed from its plastic, transparent envelope and left loose – with god knows what finger marks all over it).

Tomorrow we really unpack it, check what’s there, and start setting up.  And if the camera hasn’t been thrown off completely by the rough handling, perhaps we’ll be able to shoot some tentative footage Monday.

I watched them setting up a shot on a Harkonnen ‘thopter this afternoon.  The machine is beautiful – the Harkonnen soldiers amazing; dressed in thick oily-looking space suits, they have bright red hair with a shaved patch on top in which there are scars (from brain surgery, I assume).  They look like big, hulking, mindless brutes.

Saturday, April 16: DAY TWENTY-SEVEN

First unit call sheet, April 16, 1983

A day of tension, mistakes, unpleasant clashes.

It started badly.  I was standing on the corner at seven-forty-five this morning, waiting for Anatol and the eight o’clock bus.  Suddenly the transport captain came over and said, “Do you want to ride with the director?”  I looked up and saw David’s car sitting in the middle of the intersection.  He was alone.  I said, “I’d better wait for Anatol.”  So I blew it.  A chance for half-an-hour alone with David.  I just wasn’t thinking.

As if I didn’t feel bad enough about it, Anatol kept harping on it during the bus ride – I’ve got to be thinking all the time, can’t afford these stupid mistakes….  So I got really depressed about it.  Then he said, “I don’t want to hear any more about it.”  Just don’t fuck up again.  But later, when things were getting tense, he laid into me about not making any more mistakes, like this morning with David….

I now see very clearly that it’s not going to be fun working with Anatol.  He gets all worked up – pushing things, pulling things, taking very little care (he kept forcing the tripod head because he wouldn’t pause to see how all the locks work) – I’m surprised he hasn’t broken anything yet.

We finally got the camera-recorder-player-monitor links set up, but we weren’t getting sound.  Bob was there watching, so I jokingly said, “Do you know anything about video?”  And Anatol snapped, “I’ve got the video.  It’s the sound that’s not working and that’s your department.”  By that time, I’d had enough.  If he wants to play the prima donna, fine.  I’d helped him rig the camera – now it’s suddenly my fault alone there’s no sound (actually there was – on the tape; it just doesn’t run direct from camera through to monitor).  So I walked out and got myself some tea, taking a break to calm down.

When I went back, “We’ve got to talk,” he said.  “Yes, we’ve got to talk,” I said.  And he went into a long spiel about how you don’t “walk off set,” no director would stand for it.  And once again, everything that doesn’t go smoothly is my fault – and I’m supposed to sit still for his attacks.  The thing is, I can’t argue back because when he gets worked up, it’s as if he switches off a circuit and he simply no longer understands English….

Eventually things smoothed out.  We took the camera out and shot a test cassette (twenty minutes).  It needs some minor adjustment, but the image is sharp.  I must admit I felt a little gratified that he quickly found the camera uncomfortably heavy.

But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to take six months of his bullshit (we work together until we hit a snag, then the problem is my fault).  As for working with him beyond this job … frankly, I don’t see it.

Fred was off sick this morning.  I ran into him about five.  I’d gone over to David’s hotel, El Presidente, hoping to catch him (partly because I wanted to apologize for this morning, partly because he and Anatol and I must get together soon to talk about this project) and was standing around outside.  Fred looks beat – and he’s got a heavy shooting schedule.  I don’t know how he holds up.

He said David would be back in an hour or so – he’d gone back to the studio from the garbage dump set (where Fred will be shooting Monday) to see the dailies.  So I’ll try to call in a little while.

On top of it all, I feel as if I’m coming down with something myself….

Anatol called; all smooth and decent again.

I just talked to David on the phone.  No problem about this morning – I mean, he wasn’t insulted or anything.  It doesn’t look as if we’ll ever really be able to get together for a chat, but he says he thinks we should just get out and shoot what we want to and it should be good.

Once again he said it’s great that “you guys” are down here.  I really think he likes us around for moral support.

More on the cast: we were wrong about Francesca Annis – she’s gorgeous.

Jose Ferrer as the Emperor; Freddie Jones as Thufir; Aldo Ray as Gurney; Dean Stockwell as Dr Yueh; Sting as Feyd; Jack Nance as Nefud; Max von Sydow as Dr Kynes; Silvana Mangano as the Reverend Mother Ramallo.  There’s one hell of a cast coming together for this film….

Sunday, April 17: DAY TWENTY-EIGHT

I slept in today, until some time after noon.  Took a shower, wrote a letter.  Then went out – partly to buy postcards, partly just to walk.  I walked around a couple of blocks, and spotted Dykstra crossing Amberes with what I thought was his crew.  Actually, it was Marty, Anatol and Raffaella – on their way up to the rooftop pool at the Royal.  I tagged along.  A relaxing afternoon, part of the clique.  Bob, Janis, Greg were there; Nelson and John, the sound crew arrived later.  Raffaella was talkative and outgoing (in English!).  Work only poked its way into the conversation occasionally (Dykstra seems to be having a few problems with the way the film is being shot, from the effects point of view).

The group gradually thinned out, planning to gather again later for supper.  Sean Young showed up – a wave and a smile.  Not long after that, Ian Woolf, the DGA trainee, also appeared.  I left soon after.

A pleasant evening.  I had supper with John Dykstra, Marty Kline, Janis, Ed George (Freddie F.’s assistant), and Nelson and John, the sound crew.  A decent seafood restaurant.  Lots of wine and easy conversation.  I could very easily become addicted to this social atmosphere (and at the same time do my best to develop these people as contacts – if I’m to have any kind of career …).

It’s funny – after just two weeks, I can run into far more people I know and who know me in this area of M.C. than I ever could in Winnipeg.

By the way – Ron Miller, the production illustrator, mentioned yesterday that there’s a small east coast publisher who’s interested in putting out an Eraserhead book.  He said he’d get the address for me….