Author, Screenwriter, Creative Consultant
“Boscutti’s Don Simpson” (Novel)
Outrageous real life Hollywood super producer Don Simpson wants to do something good with his life.
But all the hookers and drug dealers and movie stars just keep getting in the way. Simpson teamed with Jerry Bruckheimer to create the high concept blockbuster that changed the film business for ever. Now he wants to change himself.
“Boscutti’s Don Simpson” is a truly wild Hollywood novel. It’s based on an award-winning screenplay. A brilliant, freewheeling look at a life in free fall.
Will the notorious Simpson overcome his demons and finally make a film he is proud of?
‘In a town of bastards, Don Simpson was the bastard king. An outrageous Hollywood super producer who didn’t know where to draw the line. Unless it was with cocaine. A man who loved drugs almost as much as he loved prostitutes. What drives a man like Simpson? I guess that’s what I wanted to find out.’ Stefano Boscutti
‘Don Simpson symbolized the kind of extravagant, excessive, larger-than-life figure who is drawn to Hollywood, one whose personal demons grow hand in hand with successes and personal fortunes.’ New York Times
‘Simpson’s uneven temperament inspired fear in underlings and awe among some of the biggest names in Hollywood.’ Los Angeles Times
‘The average Hollywood tycoon prefers to be discreet about such plunder. But Don Simpson was an animal, and the suave masters in silk suits were tickled that he was so naked, so acting out with it.’ The Independent
‘Blistering fuel-injected no-holes-barred look at everything that went wrong with Hollywood.’ Patricia Walden
‘Part lurid celebrity potboiler, part industry insider and seldom less than engrossing.’ Dan Suraci
‘Blackly hilarious, beautifully written novel that blends fact into a new form of fiction.’ Mike Fabus
‘Enthralling, terrifying and grimly compelling portrait of a true Hollywood psychopath.’ Stephen McCoy
“Boscutti’s Don Simpson” is based on Stefano Boscutti’s award-winning screenplay of the same name.
Rated R / ISBN 9780980712520 /54,000 words / 216 minutes of uncompromising reading pleasure / Buy Amazon / Buy Barnes & Noble / Buy Smashwords
Prefer to read free online? Scroll on to read the whole novel.
‘Like Elvis, Don Simpson died in the bathroom for our sins.’ Lynda Obst
BOSCUTTI’S DON SIMPSON
BASED ON THE SCREENPLAY BY STEFANO BOSCUTTI
Copyright 2015 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved ISBN 9780980712520
Discover new stories, screenplays, novels and more by Stefano Boscutti at boscutti.com
PROLOGUE: COME ACROSS TO ME
Fade up live version of JIMI HENDRIX’S psychedelic “Are You Experienced?” under flashes of “Dangerous Minds” movie poster with MICHELLE PFEIFFER in a thin black leather jacket, arms crossed, staring down the lens.
Guitar chords slip and slide in reverse as Hendrix calls to join him through space and time.
Flashes of “Bad Boys” movie poster with WILL SMITH and MARTIN LAWRENCE walking away from a black Porsche 964, wearing police-issue bulletproof vests, guns in hand, standing down a suspect.
Drums loop in reverse as Hendrix repeats the jangling chorus.
Flashes of “Top Gun” movie with TOM CRUISE wearing a leather bomber jacket, KELLY McGILLIS posed on his shoulder, stars and stripes behind them. Fighter jets tear the sky.
Hendrix pleads for an answer.
Flashes of “Beverly Hills Cop” movie poster with EDDIE MURPHY sitting wryly on the hood of a Mercedes red coupe, gun in hand, smirk on face.
Music rises and crashes through as Hendrix sings on.
Flashes of “Flashdance” movie poster with an almost pubescent JENNIFER BEALS, wearing a torn sweatshirt and red high heels, lost in the lens. Music comes crashing through.
Music begins to shimmer and fade. Hendrix’s voice fades away.
Fade to black.
CHAPTER 1: WHO AM I?
This is how it ends?
DON SIMPSON is slumped on the upstairs toilet, his bloated body wedged hard against the black marbled wall. He’s in a black silk robe, head down into his chest with both eyes closed.
Smudged reading glasses perch on the end of his nose. Greasy hair pulled back in a limp ponytail. He looks like an older, taller, bearded and overweight Tom Cruise.
A new hardcover book rests in his dead right hand. It’s opened on page 267. Nothing moves, not even the air.
On a fucking freeze-frame? Are you fucking kidding me?
First light of the day moves against his body. It’s a soft Los Angeles sunrise. It’s Friday, January 19, 1996. The notorious Hollywood producer turned fifty-two three months earlier. It was the worst birthday of his life.
The book slowly slides down out of his hand and falls onto the black tiled floor.
Thank Christ for that! You never open a movie on a freeze frame, right? Not even on a shot of a dead man.
Reading glasses slide off his nose, tumble down his body and land on the book. It’s a copy of the new OLIVER STONE biography. The title reads “Stone: The Controversies, Excesses, and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker.” There’s a black and white photo of a worried Oliver Stone on the cover.
Corner of Stone’s lips animate into a sly smile.
Jesus, aren’t you supposed to see your life flash before your eyes when you die? Isn’t that the deal?
Glide out of the toilet towards the master bedroom.
Afraid of dying? Who? Me? Are you fucking kidding me? I was never afraid of dying, of getting old. I was afraid of getting fat.
Master bedroom of Simpson’s Bel-Air mansion is enormous.
Glide past a wall of floor-to-ceiling closets. Some are open. The first is closed, locked. This is the bedroom of a man with too much money. It’s dark. The heavy black king size bed is unmade, black silk sheets spill off. Lit by static hissing from a massive black Zenith television.
Oh fuck, can we defer the immediate cause of death? No? Really? A coroner?
Glide past the black nightstand one side of the bed. Piled high with discarded film scripts, empty Mills Pond peanut butter jar, empty Narcan ampules, empty bottle of 1991 Siduri Pinot Noir and a half-empty wine glass. All piled up like the Paramount logo. All that’s missing is the halo of stars. To one side is a black AT&T speakerphone and answering machine. The small green indicator light is not flashing. The drawer underneath is closed.
I’m not fucking stupid. I mean, I know what killed me.
Move towards the black nightstand on the other side of the bed. Two foils of tablets lie unopened.
Librium and Diazepam. They’re detoxification drugs. They stabilize your heart, they keep your blood pressure down and they ease you through withdrawal. Without them you can suffer a fucking stroke or a fucking heart attack or fucking both.
In front of the tablets is a small mound of crushed cocaine and an open single-blade Swiss Army Knife. Tip of the blade is edged with fine white powder. Top drawer is open.
The drugs didn’t kill me. So we don’t need an autopsy, right? We don’t want to start cutting?
Peer into the top drawer to reveal a black leather Bible embossed with gold lettering and gold cross, a shiny gold vibrator and a postcard of a wooden signpost with signs pointing to cities around the world. The postcard is stamped with the words Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska in gold.
What are my chances of getting a woman coroner? On the youngish side? Good looking? Big tits? Smart? I got to have smart. Got to have somebody I can talk to.
A breath of air rustles the curtains. Crushed cocaine flits and flickers down into the drawer.
Who am I? Fuck, I’m Don Simpson. I’m an original. A true American original.
Close on postcard as cocaine flutters down like gentle snow.
That’s what Mankiewicz wanted to call “Citizen Kane” -- “The American.” It’s a good title. Mankiewicz? Joseph Mankiewicz? Manks? He was the original writer. You know where he wrote the screenplay?
More cocaine flutters down the postcard.
CHAPTER 2: FUCKING ICE FOG
Snow blows over the real wooden signpost in the port town of Anchorage, over the signs pointing to cities all over the globe.
Wrote it up in three weeks while drying out in the Statewell sanatorium. Welles wanted to call the movie “John Q.” John Q? Are you fucking kidding me?
It was RKO studio chief George Schaefer who forced the title onto him. So what the fuck does a director know, right?
Under the word Anchorage it reads Air Crossroads of the World. It’s 1943 and it’s cold.
Schaefer came from Anchorage, Alaska. Captain James Cook discovered the place after he discovered Australia and before he was eaten alive by natives in Tonga or some fucking island in the middle of the Pacific.
Sounds of jet ripping through the sky.
About the only interesting thing that ever happened in Anchorage was Mount Spurr erupting for the first time in recorded history on the day I was born.
Anchorage. What a shithole. Cold, freezing fuckhole. Alaska was no better. Only fifty-five miles to Russia. Closer to Russia than the lower forty-eights.
In the middle of winter there’d be this fucking ice fog. You couldn’t even breathe. This dense winter fog of suspended ice particles would sort of sparkle all around you. So thick not even the sun could shine through.
Every winter everyone would go mad with cabin fever. That’s when Alaskans start bouncing off the walls. That’s when the Spenard Divorces would start. I now pronounce you Smith and Wesson.
Everyone had a gun. Only place in the world with more bears than people. Point three-five-sevens. Forty-four magnums. Twelve-gauge shotguns. Pump action. Think of it as insurance.
You don’t want to fuck with bears. Grizzly, black, polar. Grizzly weighs in at eight hundred pounds, nine feet tall. Fast as all fuck too. Or a brown bear. Fucker is fourteen hundred pounds, eleven feet tall. Tear your face off soon as look at you.
Sure I saw a lot of bears. Saw a white wolf once. I know how rare it is. No one else I knew had ever seen one. In the moonlight. By itself.
Sometimes you wouldn’t see the fucking sun for days. You’d see the sundog, the circle of light around it so you knew it must be there. But you couldn’t feel it.
Then the ice and snow would finally start to break up and melt away. You’d hear it shifting and cracking. Slosh everywhere for weeks so you knew winter was over. You knew the tourist season was next.
Man, all I ever wanted to do was leave that fucking place.
CHAPTER 3: AS LONG AS YOU BELIEVE
It’s 1948 and the Lake Spenard Baptist Church car park is full. PASTOR CULLEY’S damning voice rises from the plain, wooden building and rolls over the perfectly parked cars.
‘The cowardly, the unbelievers, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, in the everlasting flames of hell.’
Light wind ripples the lake and takes Pastor Culley’s voice further.
‘You cannot save yourself. You are born in sin and you will die in sin and only Jesus Christ the Lord can save you. Pray this prayer, and mean it with all your heart.’
717 jet shears a white vapor trail through the clear blue sky like a line of creamy, flaked cocaine.
Listen, the way you keep people in line is to scare the shit out of them and then tell them the only way they’re going to escape that fucking fear is to believe in whatever you’re preaching. I knew religion was full of shit. Even as a kid I knew.
We are all born evil, nasty, dirty people. Except if we hang on long enough in this life, God will give it all back to us in the next. What sort of deal is that? Who writes this shit?
The literal words of God? You’re kidding me, right? You can’t question the Bible, you can’t give notes? I don’t want to sound like a prick but have you read it?
Not exactly a great page-turner. And you can drive a freight train through the holes in the story, the contradictions, the factual errors.
If there is a God, why would he write a book? Why wouldn’t he make a movie? Seriously, you’re omnipotent and you write a fucking book. Who the fuck reads books? What are you? Retarded?
Look, I get it. The whole baptism and rebirth thing. Death, burial, resurrection. It’s a good story. I get it. I just didn’t need it shoved down my throat as a kid.
The whole give your life to Jesus? That was never going to fucking happen.
‘John, fourteen-two. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’
A lot of those folks believed Jesus was coming back just for them. Believed with all their hearts that Jesus was coming back to this earth to literally take them back to heaven with him. Just them.
Guess that’s one way you don’t have to do much in this life. Because it’s all coming to you in the next as long as you believe. It fucks with your brain, that’s for sure.
It fucks with your sense of self. I went through so many changes as a kid, I didn’t know who I was. I remember being locked in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, and repeating my own name over and over until it became gibberish.
I remember telling myself to stop this shit, because I felt I had the power to destroy myself. Wipe myself out. Cease to exist.
In church I’d stare up at the steel cross and will myself to disappear.
CHAPTER 4: WHAT SORT OF LIFE IS THAT?
A steel cross looms high inside the Anchorage Lake Spenard Baptist Church.
Don Simpson is five years old, kneeling in a tight-fitting jacket with his hands squished together and eyes shut tight. He’s a pudgy child. He’s crying scared.
Pastor Culley is down on one knee, with his worn Bible held high. He makes a prayer seem like eternal damnation.
‘Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and unless you save me I am lost forever. I come to you now, Lord, the best way I know, and ask you to save me. I receive you as my Savior. In Jesus Christ, Amen.’
Asked to be saved? Fuck that, I’m not asking anyone for anything.
Repent? I was a kid, what was I supposed to repent for? What mortal sins had I committed?
You know why you were supposed to be saved? Because the end of the world was coming. It’s right there in the Bible, so it must be true.
The Second Coming will see God judge and divide between the saved and the lost. When the chosen fly to heaven and Jesus Christ is sent down to earth to rule for a thousand years or some shit.
‘Thessalonians four-fifteen. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’
They call it the Rapture. I call it the great mind fuck.
Simpson is sobbing. His MOM kneels next to him. His DAD kneels next to her and glares at him. He tightens his right hand into a fist. She whispers down to him.
‘Donald, you know Lord Jesus don’t like little boys crying.’
I know, I get it. They’re simple people. They’re scared. The more the world turns, the more they want to it turn it back. Back to a simpler way, a simpler life. Where they don’t have to think. Believe that Baptist shit and you really don’t have to think again. All the thinking is done for you.
A vengeful, hateful, spiteful God. Every woman a sinner, every child born in sin.
Nothing like pain and suffering to keep people down and under control, especially when you lie to them about how good it is for their souls.
But all that pain and suffering and trauma causes your soul to fragment and you fail to reach your full potential. Your beliefs hold you back.
My dad never had a cigarette or a drink his whole life. Had a huge temper, though. Kicked the shit out of me whenever he got angry.
I never saw him happy. What sort of life is that? That’s no life. An unhappy life is not a life. It’s a waste of fucking air. His mom whispers again.
‘If you stop crying I’ll get you that new sweater you want.’
My mom was the smart one.
‘Or how about I take you to see the circus?’
Simpson looks up at the steel cross and swallows his tears.
CHAPTER 5: DONALD, IT’S JUST A MOVIE
It’s 1952. Neon sizzles on a large vertical sign rising above the Anchorage Denali art deco movie theater marquee.
Don Simpson is nine years old, staring up at the sign and tipping a packet of crystalline Rock Candy into his mouth. His mom is clutching his hand, striding towards the open front glass doors. Simpson frantically looks around.
‘But this ain’t where the circus is?’
His mom yanks him inside. Past one sheet posters and insert cards for CECIL B. DeMILLE’S “The Greatest Show On Earth.” Past lobby cards, window cards and stills of the Technicolor spectacle of life behind the scenes of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. DeMille’s voice narrating the opening of the movie reaches out from inside the auditorium.
‘We bring you the circus, pied piper whose magic tunes greet children of all ages, from six to sixty, into a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of blaring and daring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars. But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline and motion and speed. A mechanized army on wheels, that rolls over any obstacle in its path, that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling. A place where disaster and tragedy stalk the big top, haunt the backyard, and ride the circus train. Where death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear. A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds. That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the big tops, and of the men and women who fight to make it “The Greatest Show on Earth.”’
Simpson sits on the edge of his seat on the front row, gazing up at the giant screen with eyes and mouth wide open.
DeMille produced and directed and even did the narration. I always liked DeMille. A man’s man. Sam Goldwyn, Harry Cohn. Renegades, lone wolves. My kind of guys.
DeMille convinced Paramount to do some tests using VistaVision. It was a new process that ran 35mm film horizontally through the frame, exposing two standard frames to give you 70mm footage. Twice the resolution, twice the color. It was supposed to save the movie industry. Good in theory but it just gave him one technical headache after the other.
Tried it on some special effects but it was too much of a hassle. So he went back to standard 35mm film three-strip Technicolor, which had its own problems.
On the screen two shady men lurk in an open top coupe by the side of the rail tracks. It’s late at night and they’ve lit a fire in the center of the tracks to force the approaching circus train to a stop.
One of the special effects shots produced a green halo around Gloria Grahame and Betty Hutton in the Grand Parade scene. To reset and re-shoot would have cost a small fortune so DeMille cut in a shot of green floodlights turning on above them. Pretty smart. Pretty clean.
On the screen the two men cover their faces with bandanas and mount the red box office carriage and steal the takings at gunpoint. They flee in the car.
It did pretty well at the box office. Fuck, who doesn’t want to go to the circus. Picked up a best picture Oscar too. Everyone says it only won because so many members of the Academy were scared to vote for “High Noon.” Senator McCarthy, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Hollywood blacklist and all that shit.
On the screen the second half of the circus train powers through the night. One of the men turns the coupe around and races headlong towards the oncoming train, frantically waving and yelling to avoid disaster. But it’s too late and the train plows into the car and then into the stationary carriages, buckling one after the other after the other.
Oh yeah, Carl Foreman was robbed. Fred Zinnemann was robbed. Stanley Kramer was robbed. All robbed. Fuck them, they were probably all communists anyway.
On the screen is the aftermath of the greatest train wreck on earth, JAMES STEWART is out of his clown costume but still wearing his clown face. He nods down to CHARLTON HESTON -- whose life he’s just saved -- and moves to join the arriving crowd but is stopped by Henry Wilcoxon.
Simpson has never been more shocked in his short life.
On the screen Wilcoxon glumly shakes Stewart’s hand before slipping on the handcuffs and arresting him.
Simpson screams at the screen. His Mom shooshes him.
No, no, no, no, no, no.
I mean, shit, how could they arrest the clown? How could they arrest Jimmy Stewart for killing his wife?
Patrons inside the movie theater shift uncomfortably in their seats, annoyed at Simpson’s antics.
Mothers sniff, fathers light up cigarettes. Grandparents shake their heads. Children start grizzling.
Simpson becomes hysterical. Patrons begin to leave before the movie’s finished, peeved.
On the screen, BETTY HUTTON in trapeze costume sings out the theme song while swinging from a makeshift trapeze and leading thousands of townsfolk to an impromptu show. The sideshow barker’s voice rings out.
‘That’s all, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all. Come again to the greatest show on earth. Bring the children. Bring the old folks. You can shake the sawdust off your feet, but you can’t shake it outta your heart. Come again, folks. The Greatest Show on Earth. Come again.’
As the theme song plays out, the star-studded Paramount Pictures logo fades up and away.
Heavy red velvet curtains close over the screen as house lights fade up to an empty movie theater save for the petulant Simpson and his mom.
‘Stop right this instant, Donald Simpson.’
His mom stands to leave. Simpson crosses his arms together.
‘I ain’t going home till you change the ending.’
‘Donald, it’s just a movie.’
‘Not to me it ain’t.--’
Simpson kicks his heels against his seat and starts screaming.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. It was my little Rosebud moment. I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. If a movie could have this kind of effect on me, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be in the movies.
His mom drags him out of the seat.
“The Greatest Show on Earth” was the first movie Steven Spielberg ever saw. He was four years old. You know, his dad took him to the theater. Maybe if my dad had taken me it would have all worked out differently.
His mom drags the screaming boy out of the movie theater, out along the sidewalk.
CHAPTER 6: IN THE DARK YOU THINK OF ALL SORTS OF SHIT
His mom drags the screaming Simpson along the sidewalk outside their small two-bedroom timber house. She drags him up the path to the front door.
He tries to pull away as she drags him inside, down the hall towards an old timber closet. Simpson starts squirming. She tightens her grip and opens the closet door. He starts whimpering. It’s dark inside. Very dark.
‘I’m sorry, mommy. I’m sorry --’
Simpson looks petrified as his mom pushes him into the darkness and slams the door shut.
Shit, I wasn’t sorry. I refused to go to school for two days.
Simpson is alone in the darkness.
My mom and dad never let me have a dog. So I had an imaginary one. I didn’t have imaginary friends. I had an imaginary husky. Vulu. Who would protect me. Keep me warm, watch over me.
We’d go into the wild. On arctic training missions. Vulu was my best friend.
Isaiah five-twenty. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
In the dark you think of all sorts of shit.
CHAPTER 7: IT’S A GODSEND
It’s 1996. Glide from the first locked black closet doors in Simpson’s Bel-Air bedroom towards the television screen hissing static.
I wasn’t stupid. I knew the drinking had been getting out of hand. But you can’t just stop. I mean, I could if I wanted to, but it’s medically dangerous. You’ve got to ease yourself off. Sure Librium and Diazepam help with the anxiety, but Narcan is amazing. It’s a Godsend.
It’s not approved by the FDA for treatment of alcohol addiction. But it should be. It kills the craving to get drunk. Take out the ampule, load up the syringe, pop it under your skin and the taste evaporates. Just like that. You don’t even feel like a drink.
It’s a lifesaver. Man’s best friend when it comes to opiates too.
CHAPTER 8: WHERE DO I GET MY IDEAS FROM?
It’s 1956. Black and white television set in the corner of Simpson’s boyhood living room is switched off. Glass screen reflects Simpson, thirteen, lying on the floor eating Peter Pan Peanut Butter straight from the glass jar.
He rolls on his back, surrounded by “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos” comics. Starts swooshing a model jet fighter through the air.
His mom’s voice calls out from the kitchen.
‘It’s snowing outside.’
‘I don’t want to play outside. Sleds are for babies.’
He is still plump. His hair is neatly combed.
Simpson rolls over and swooshes the model jet fighter over a garish comic cover with a snarling SGT. FURY on the cover, unleashing his machine gun at TWO HITLERS in an underground bunker.
Sgt. Fury’s iron-jawed face with a lick of hair over the forehead and a cigar clenched between his teeth morphs into Simpson’s young face.
Machine gun fires to life as the scene animates with COMMANDOS bursting through doors, SS TROOPERS firing back and both Hitlers scurrying away like rats.
Simpson grins from ear to ear. He looks up at the television and screams out to his mom.
‘Why can’t I watch the damn TV?’
He hears his mom’s voice from the kitchen.
‘Donald, don’t you dare use that word in this house.’
Simpson mouths his mom’s words.
‘You know Lord Jesus hears every word you say.’
‘Why the hell not?’
His mom steps into the living room, both hands on her hips. She shakes her head at Simpson. He speaks before she can say a word.
‘It’s not even a swear word.’
His mom steps back into the hall. Simpson stands up, hands by his side.
His mom steps to the closet, opens the door and stands to one side.
Where do I get my ideas from? It’s pretty simple. I lived and breathed TV and comic books when I was growing up. Hey, fuck you. I know what you’re thinking -- no wonder his movies are the way they are. But I wouldn’t have them any other way.
Simpson steps into the hall, head down. Forlorn.
He stops at the closet, looks into the darkness. He closes his eyes and steps in. Swallowed by the shadows. Sounds of closet door slamming shut.
Who is more foolish? The child afraid of the dark, or the man afraid of the light?
I always wanted to have x-ray vision. You know, the power to see through things. The power to see what was behind a door. Friend or foe.
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
CHAPTER 9: IT’S MY INSURANCE POLICY
It’s 1996. Glide from the second open black closet doors in Simpson’s Bel-Air bedroom.
Two black Jenn-Air built-in bar refrigerators sit side by side. On top of one is a framed black and white 8x10 glossy of Simpson looking buff. It was taken when he was in his early 40s. It’s autographed.
Glide towards Simpson’s glossy. In the photograph he stands backlit, three-quarter pose, all smiles.
Narcan also reverses the effects of opiates like heroin, oxycontin, methadone, dilaudid, morphine, vicodin, percocet. You hit them a little too hard and Narcan will save your ass. It’ll reverse the effects of any overdose.
God’s gift is what it is. Pull you back from the edge every time. Shit, it’s pulled me back even after I’ve slipped off. You end up a little dizzy and weak. But at least you don’t end up dead.
Comes in 10ml and 20ml ampules with little orange labels. Always good to keep a steady supply on hand.
I always have a syringe nearby already loaded and ready to go.
It’s my insurance policy.
CHAPTER 10: MY COCK IN ONE HAND AND THE BIBLE IN THE OTHER
It’s 1960. Black and white headshot of Simpson, seventeen, in the Anchorage South High School Year Book. Underneath his name it reads Best Dressed Prize.
Move back to reveal his mom proudly holding the yearbook open on the page. She’s chatting with MRS. PRESTON in the Lake Spenard Baptist Church parking lot.
Mrs. Preston looks like a demure JAYNE MANSFIELD. Her lips are very red, very glossy.
Simpson stands next to them in a suit and tie. Hair neatly parted, holding a Bible and trying not to look at her lips. He’s slimmed a little but still a little pudgy. His mom leans back to look at him.
‘Can you imagine? Voted best dressed? My Donald?’
‘Mom, don’t call me Donald. I ain’t a duck.
‘Well, I do believe you still waddle like one.’
Mrs. Preston leans over to straighten his tie with a smile. So close he can smell her Joy perfume.
‘Well, I do believe you are one very handsome young duck.’
Simpson blushes as he looks away, biting his bottom lip. All proud and embarrassed at the same time.
Walking around with my cock in one hand and the Bible in the other. It was a lot of fun. Go to church five times a week, get on your knees on a concrete floor and thank God for the fact he didn’t kill you that day.
But hey, there was always tomorrow.
CHAPTER 11: THAT’S WHEN I DECIDED TO GET LAID
A teenage Simpson is kneeling down at the altar of the Lake Spenard Baptist Church, shadowed by the large steel cross.
Pastor Culley is standing on the altar frowning down at him. Simpson touches his tie.
‘I have these thoughts, these feelings about Mrs. Preston.’
Simpson blushes. Pastor Culley leans down on one knee, cocks an ear towards Simpson. His voice drops.
Pastor Culley bows his head. Simpson whispers in his ear.
Pastor Culley opens his eyes in horror. Simpson keeps whispering. Pastor Culley puts his hand up, motioning Simpson to stop. Simpson keeps whispering.
‘Our almighty God knows every one of your thoughts, Donald Simpson. Why would you provoke his everlasting wrath with such evil, wicked, sinful, lustful thoughts? With such unclean desires?’
‘But I ain’t finished.’
‘Renounce your lust -- the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye. Do not give in to unbridled temptations, Donald Simpson.’
Simpson straightens his tie. Pastor Culley tries to stare him down.
‘If you think about it beyond this moment, you will live in hell forever. And if you do anything about it, you will live in hell forever.’
Simpson thinks twice.
Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t. That’s when I decided to get laid.
Pastor Culley drops to his other knee, clasps his hands together in rigid prayer. Simpson looks up at the steel cross.
‘Put yourself right before God.’
Simpson gets up, pats the dust off his knees and turns away from Pastor Culley.
‘You cannot save yourself. You are born in sin and you will die in sin and only Jesus Christ the Lord can save you.’
Simpson turns and walks away. Pastor Culley calls out to him.
‘Pray this prayer, Donald Simpson, and mean it with all your heart.’
Pastor Culley’s voice fades away as Simpson walks out the door.
‘Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and unless you save me I am lost forever...’
CHAPTER 12: YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST HOOKER
Fade up Jimi Hendrix’s slinking “Red House” as a teenage Simpson anxiously prowls up and down the sidewalk in front of a well-loved timber house in Chester Flats.
Night is falling and there’s a small electric lamp on in the bedroom window. The front door is open. The neat timber porch has no furniture.
The timber steps step down to a concrete path. Mountain ash grows low where the path meets the sidewalk.
Faint sounds of two cats fighting.
Simpson keeps glancing up at the bedroom window, rubbing his palms on his trousers and breathing deep. Whoever is inside drapes a red silk scarf over the lamp. The cold light becomes warm, inviting.
He spins around in mid-step and hurries towards the path. Two cats leap out of the shrubs, hissing and spitting and rolling and fighting. One black, one white.
Simpson tries to step over the spitting cats but lands on one by accident and tumbles over. It flees, screeching into the night.
Simpson picks himself up, brushes himself off and heads down the path.
I lost my virginity down at Chester Flats, at the black end of town. You never forget your first hooker.
Simpson doesn’t pause as he leaps the steps and bounds into the brothel.
Yeah, and I got to admit I ran a little wild after that, stealing cars and shit. Rebel without a cause? More like rebel without a fucking clue.
A lonely car drives past.
Never did figure out how to hot-wire a car. Could only ever steal cars with the keys still in the ignition.
CHAPTER 13: IT REALLY DID STRAIGHTEN ME OUT
Timber paneled station wagon is parked at the end of a dirt road in the Denali wildlife reserve. Lit by flashing red and blue lights of a parked Anchorage Police motorcycle.
In Anchorage, it meant stealing a lot of station wagons.
Next to the driver’s side door stands the teenage Simpson in white T-shirt and freshly pressed jeans. His hair artfully tousled, arms behind his back.
Burly MOTORCYCLE COP in black leathers and peaked leather cap handcuffs Simpson. He ratchets them tight. Simpson winces. Motorcycle Cop leans into Simpson’s back, pressing him against the car. Slides out his black baton.
Looks into the front seat. Spots a copy of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher In The Rye.”
Yeah, I stole the book too. Wasn’t proud of that.
Motorcycle Cop takes a step back. Slaps the baton into his palm.
‘Turn around, son.’
Simpson slowly turns around. Motorcycle Cop looks him up and down. Simpson looks down at the ground. Motorcycle Cop spits where Simpson is looking.
‘Son, I’m going to make this real simple.’
Motorcycle Cop pushes baton down on Simpson’s shoulders, forcing him to his knees.
‘You’re going to do a little something for me. And when you’re done, you’re gonna drive outta here and you’re gonna turn left or you’re gonna turn right.’
Reflect Simpson being forced to his knees in the glossy black patent leather bill of the Motorcycle Cop’s leather cap.
‘You’re either going to be the most fucked guy in San Quentin or you’re going to have a life you like.’
All things considered, that really did straighten me out.
Sounds of zipper opening.
I went straight to San Francisco.
CHAPTER 14: IT’S NOT A CRIME
It’s 1996. Glide past the third closet in Simpson’s bedroom.
Hanging off a hook is a black leather cap with glossy patent leather bill reflecting black thigh-high leather boots in various sizes, dog collars with metal studs, large and small strap-on dildos, handcuffs, gags, masks with zippers over the eyes and mouths, rubber skirts, nipple clamps, paddles, whips, belts and caps. Lots of caps, every size imaginable. Black leather caps with glossy patent leather bills.
So I like S&M sex. So what? I like paying for rough sex. Personal preference between consenting adults. It’s not a crime.
Glide out to first closet with the door locked.
Truth is I don’t like making love. I love fucking.
CHAPTER 15: ADULT CINEMAS WERE EVERYWHERE
Evening Standard newspaper headline reads Erotic Film Festival.
October 2, 1970. It was bound to happen. The First International Erotic Film Festival is slated for Dec 1-6 in San Francisco. From news releases issued by the sponsoring groups, this is a serious effort. Competition is open to all filmmakers, and all films -- in 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film. Jurors include Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press and filmmaker Bruce Conner. According to one festival official, “We feel that through the festival we will encourage independent filmmakers to make sensually exciting films . . . it’s important to provide a setting where the whole range of human expression, including sexuality, can be realistically presented on the screen.” New releases from the festival do not attempt to define their concept of “erotic,” or to differentiate between erotic or pornographic. So, apparently anything goes.
After college I got a job in San Francisco doing press and publicity for the Jack Woodell Agency. Got to choose between the First International Erotic Film Festival and some Jesus Rock act.
Remember the Jesus Rock movement in the early seventies? How fucking lame was that?
Simpson is pacing up and down under the marquee of the rose pink Presidio Theater on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. Black plastic letters on the marquee spell out FIRST INTERNATIONAL EROTIC FILM FESTIVAL.
I loved the Presidio. All class.
He wears a fringed suede jacket, and hands out festival handbills. Black framed handbills with two golden torsos pressed against a purple background.
Two men dressed as Santa Claus roll past. One of them stops and takes a handbill. Simpson beams.
Man, there were a lot of movie houses in those days. Guild. Roxy. Imperial. Warfield. Coronet. Lumiere. Castro. Fillmore. Saint Francis. Admission was eighty-five cents before six. A buck after six.
Market Street? Remember the Market Street Cinema? Everyone said it was haunted. Swore they saw a silhouette of a woman in the back rooms long after everyone had gone.
Empire. Crest. Embassy. Crown. Lots of movie theaters.
Pussycat was a lot of fun. Adult cinemas were everywhere. Endless sexumentaries from Sweden. Never in sync.
Great drive-ins too. Terrace. Burlingame. Geneva. 49er.
White screens towering into the night, into the stars. Fucking amazing. Saw a Clint Eastwood triple feature twice at Marysville.
Did a lot of Warner Bros. work for the agency. Wasn’t too long before that’s all I was doing. It became my account and my job was to make Joe Hyams at Warners happy.
Must have worked because one day Joe told me to stop wasting my time in San Francisco and get my ass down to La-La Land.
Got me a studio publicity job on the lot at Warners.
I was going to Hollywood, man.
CHAPTER 16: WARNER BROS.
Shit, I had a real business card and everything.
It’s a year later and Simpson is rolling joints in the large mirrored concession stand in the beaux arts lobby of the cavernous Warners Downtown theater on Seventh and Hill Street in Los Angeles. It’s about million times grander than the Presidio.
Simpson is wearing pressed jeans and T-shirt. Narrow waisted, all chest. Tearing small squares off his Warner Bros. business card, rolling them between his thumb and forefinger, and filtering them into the tip of each joint.
He looks happy amongst the Milk Duds, Twizzlers and Reese’s Pieces. Muffled sounds of a movie drawing to a close behind the heavy auditorium doors. TWO WARNER BROS. EXECUTIVES in tight suits and tight smiles stand near the exit door.
First they put me on a promotion tour for “Billy Jack.” What the fuck was that film about?
“Easy Rider” made so much money that every studio wanted to be in the hippie business. “Billy Jack” went through three studios before Warners picked it up for release.
Warners had done a bunch of different ad campaigns. They were all shit. I came up with the best poster line.
Billy Jack Is: A bike riding, karate chopping, hip shooting, messenger of peace.
Tom Laughlin hated it. Tom Laughlin? He played Billy Jack. He also wrote and produced and directed it. Total filmmaker? Total asshole. Ended up suing Warners for thirty-four million dollars for improperly publicizing his movie.
Fuck him. What an ungrateful prick. Sure we ran it through B houses and drive-ins. That’s where the teenagers were. That’s where the young audience was.
That’s where the money was.
“Billy Jack” did great business. So I became the hot happening young guy at Warners. If you were under four hundred years old, you came to me. A lot of the old guys were just swept away by our generation. We didn’t want to watch their shitful musicals or whatever the fuck they were making.
Warners was so old school. All the producers had executive offices over from the drugstore. They also had rooms over the courtyard next door. These rooms had bathrooms, showers and Murphy beds. So they’d check out of their offices at lunch, walk across the street and get a grilled cheese sandwich to go, then walk upstairs and fuck some starlet who’d been waiting for forty-five minutes.
While they were banging starlets, I was running press screenings in town.
Loved the Warner Bros. Downtown Theater. Monster of a place. Everyone called it the Warren. Shit acoustics. But really, who cares.
Simpson strikes a match and lights up a joint. He glances over at the WB crest in burnished gold over the main auditorium door as it bursts open and film critics of every variety tumble into the lobby.
Through the doorway, closing credits of DONALD CAMMELL and NICOLAS ROEG’S “Performance” roll on the screen. JACK NITZSCHE’S dark theme music seeps out.
Film critics head to the concession stand, babbling amongst themselves. A man in black pants and a white shirt looks this way. Simpson starts handing out joints and candy.
You always got to have a good ending. The better the ending, the better the film.
Film Critics light up, smiling and laughing.
Can you believe Warners fired me for buying weed?
Simpson tells a film critic a joke.
Shit, I didn’t even put it in for expenses.
Film critic bursts out laughing.
I used to love weed. The transcendental experience. That’s what movies are. Movies are a drug. You keep coming back for more. You’re addicted.
I loved movies. I loved Hollywood. What choice did I have?
CHAPTER 17: IT WOULD HAVE SAVED A LOT OF PAIN
I decided to become a fucking movie star.
Fly down past the bright white letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign against Mount Lee at night.
Fuck Warners. Fuck making everyone else famous. Why couldn’t I be famous?
Acting? You have to be seriously fucked up to do it well. To spend more time being someone other than yourself? It’s not right.
It’s cool. But it’s not right.
All that rejection for what? For fame? Fucked up it is what it is.
Swoop behind the landmark sign to reveal the timber frames holding up each letter. To the base of the fifty-foot high letter H. A workman’s ladder is propped against it, leaning to the top. Move up the ladder.
Sitting around bitching about what a drag it is to be famous? Fuck that.
Move up the ladder to the top where the lights of Los Angeles give way below.
It leads to a lot of suicides. Peg Entwistle was twenty-four when she climbed to the top of the sign and leapt off. She was trying to be an actress.
Plunge to the rocky grass below.
Jumped to her death.
Tumble and rash into the rocks, looking back up at the HOLLYWOOD sign.
Thirty feet wide and fifty feet tall and originally lit by four thousand light bulbs. Bright lights and empty dreams. You want a metaphor? There’s your fucking metaphor.
Her body lay in the one hundred foot ravine below until it was found two days later.
Her mother died. Her father died. Pretty sad, really. Came out from New York. Pretty little face. Sweet blonde hair. Loved gardenia perfume. Fucked six ways from Sunday.
She left a suicide note in her handbag.
‘I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.’
Ever see “Earthquake”? In Sensurround and shit? Remember the Hollywood letters shaking and toppling down Mount Lee? Everybody fleeing and dying? Story of my fucking life.
The whole acting thing? That wasn’t working for me. Nothing was working for me. I was out of work for three years.
Rise above the Hollywood sign. From the sky it snakes the hillside. Supine twists and turns.
What was I going to do? Kill myself?
CHAPTER 18: FUCKING DOUBLE OR NOTHING, RIGHT?
Overhead on the white edge of a tennis net dividing a clay court in Plummer Park in West Hollywood.
Simpson is thirty-two and pissing on the net. He’s wearing white tennis shoes, white tennis socks, white tennis shorts and the loudest Hawaiian shirt you have ever seen.
He’s puffing and sweating. He’s out of shape and carrying extra weight.
Other TENNIS PLAYERS are rolling their eyes.
I hustled money. I’m not proud of it. Pick-up tennis games for a hundred dollars a pop.
Simpson hasn’t shaved for a day or two. Hair on the longer side.
I fucking hate losing. What I lacked in skill I made up with desire. If you can’t be good, be fast.
Simpson zips up and sizes up the tennis players.
‘Fucking double or nothing, right?’
Tennis Players shake their heads.
The only good thing that happened in three years was meeting Jerry.
CHAPTER 19: PEOPLE WEREN’T COMING FOR THE DIALOGUE
It’s 1973. It’s the premiere of “The Harder They Come” at the low rent Beverly Cinema on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. MIXED CROWD is lolling about under the marquee and inside the lobby on a late winter evening.
Reggae pulses in the background. The air is tinged with marijuana smoke and excitement. Don Simpson is on the edge of the crowd, biting his fingernails.
I’d gone to meet a girl. What was her name? Shelly, Shirley? Shit, can’t remember. Anyway, great set of tits. Complete no show.
STEVE TISCH walks up to Simpson with a young JERRY BRUCKHEIMER by his side and does the introductions.
I ended up meeting somebody else. Small guy, clean cut, kind of nervous and calm at the same time. Pretty wired for someone who didn’t like drugs too much.
Tisch spots a woman and leaves the two men alone. They look like the odd couple, Simpson all stocky and tanned, Bruckheimer skinny and pale. They start talking film.
Shit, he almost knew more about movies than I did.
“The Harder They Come” was a low budget movie written, produced and directed by Perry Henzell. Jamaica’s first feature film. Reggae star Jimmy Cliff plays a country boy who heads to Kingston, seeking fame and fortune as a singer. Sound familiar? Gets ripped off by a record producer, turns to a life of crime dealing marijuana and winds up a cop-killing folk hero, whose notoriety sends his record to the top of the Jamaican charts.
They don’t even call it marijuana in the film. Or dope. Or weed. They just call it the trade.
Chris Blackwell put up most of the money. Roger Corman bought the rights for, I don’t know, twenty cents. Movie ran a hundred-and-twenty minutes. Had about seventeen different endings. Needed subtitles because you couldn’t understand a fucking word.
Didn’t do much business until it was picked up for midnight shows in college towns. Then it took off. Ran seven years at the Orson Welles Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
People weren’t coming for the dialogue. They were coming to smoke ganja and listen to reggae. That movie gave the rest of America a taste for weed.
Chris Blackwell released the soundtrack on his own Island Records label. Four songs by Cliff, along with songs by Toots and The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and a few others.
Blackwell made a lot more money on the soundtrack than the movie. Jerry told me the movie was just a giant two-hour commercial for the soundtrack.
He’d know. He’d made a lot of commercials in Chicago and New York. He’d come to Hollywood to make movies. He was working on a few projects when I met him. He was also in the middle of a divorce with nowhere to live.
I was living in a big place in Laurel Canyon. Across the street from Spielberg. Someone moved out, Jerry moved in.
We got on pretty famously. We looked out for each other. He knew everything about film, and everything about menswear.
Lent me the jacket off his back one time when I had to play an assistant district attorney.
One hundred and twenty-stitch count, four working buttons on the sleeve, button-down flap on the left inside pocket.
Details? Jerry loved details. I was more the big picture guy.
CHAPTER 20: BLINK AND YOU’D MISS ME
DAVID CARRADINE is at the wheel of a red 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am tearing down a flat country road.
I wrote the script for “Cannonball” in a weekend.
Carradine wears a red bandana around his neck, open shirt and tight black gloves. He looks up and adjusts the rear view mirror above the windscreen, uneasy.
He’s playing an ex-con-turned-race car driver who signs up for an illegal coast-to-coast road race that starts at the Santa Monica Pier and ends in a garage in the lower west side of New York City.
BILL McKINNEY is behind the wheel of a dropped black 1968 Dodge Charger closing in on Carradine’s car. He’s drinking beer and laughing like a maniac.
Point was to break the speed limit at every turn without getting caught by the police. Based it on the real-life outlaw cross-country Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Threw in some psychos, some babes. Sylvester Stallone played a Mafia tough guy, so did Martin Scorsese. Todd McCarthy -- yeah, the Todd McCarthy who became the film critic for “Variety” - played a sniveling reporter.
Country singer GERRIT GRAHAM is looking nervous in the passenger seat of McKinney’s car, arms wrapped around his guitar. So is his mama in the backseat.
Wrote a part for myself as the assistant district attorney. Blink and you’d miss me. Shit, even if you didn’t blink you’d probably still miss me. Roger Corman played the district attorney.
Carradine looks in the rear view mirror, worried. He accelerates as his very good-looking parole officer VERONICA HAMEL looks over her shoulder at the fast approaching black car.
Roger Corman distributed it. Paul Bartel directed it. God knows who fucking paid for it. Tak Fujimoto shot it. Robert Towne helped with the script. Although he won’t admit it now.
Graham strums a chord as McKinney rams into the back of Carradine’s car. Carradine and Hamel lurch forward.
Blew up my first car. Man, that was fun. Straight off an overpass and baboom!! Faaaantastic.
McKinney accelerates harder and rams into Carradine’s car again. Graham and his mama try to brace themselves.
At the end of the film we crashed every car we could get our hands on at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. More twisted metal than a bombed-out steel mill. It was fucking great!
McKinney rams into Carradine’s car again. Carradine over steers. Hamel screams.
It was a perfect teen movie, perfect for drive-ins. All muscle car, all go go go. You got to love that Roger Corman. Never lost a fucking dime.
Carradine’s car slides off the road and spins and plows into the dirt embankment.
That sports jacket Jerry lent me? That became my lucky jacket. Wore it to a job interview at Paramount Pictures.
McKinney’s car speeds past, low to the road.
You’ll never guess what happened.
CHAPTER 21: YOU GOT TO LOVE HOLLYWOOD
I was hired.
The ornate arched wrought-iron gates of Paramount Pictures at the 5555 Melrose Avenue swing open.
Paramount. Fucking Paramount. Can you believe it?
Cream-colored twin columns twist up either side of the famed gates. The El Pueblo deco archway topped with terra cotta tiles. Paramount Pictures written in script.
Steve Tisch introduced me to the new vice president of production Richard Sylbert. Tisch always came through. Well groomed and well connected. There’s a lot to be said for personal grooming.
A security guard at the gates hangs up the phone.
Sylbert hired me as a development assistant. The first day I drove through those gates. Man, as the shadow passed over my car, it was like I was swiped into the most exclusive club in the world.
I was in heaven.
Paramount began as a three-way with Adolph Zukor, Jesse Lasky, W.W. Hodkinson. Two Jews and a Scottish accountant.
Zukor was an early investor in nickelodeons. Small, storefront theaters that played one-reelers continuously. Five cents got you in the door. Popular with the working class.
But Zukor wanted to move up in the world. Wanted something for the middle class who had more time and more money. Wanted to give them feature-length films with class. Signed up the leading theater actors of the day. Famous Players in Famous Plays. Figured the longer he could make the films, the more he could charge. By nineteen-thirteen he’d made five features and changed the business forever.
In the same year Lasky opened his Lasky Feature Play Company with money borrowed from his brother-in-law. His first employee was a cocksure stage director with no film experience, Cecil B. DeMille. Shot his first silent film in a horse barn in Hollywood.
A year later they were both releasing their films through Hodkinson’s Paramount distribution company. Hodkinson was a fucking genius. He was the first guy to roll out national distribution. Before him movies were sold on a state-by-state basis. Hodkinson changed all that.
He made the exhibitors front money for exclusive screening rights. He basically had the exhibitors fund the movies for which Paramount took a thirty-five percent fee. How clean is that.
Didn’t take long for Lasky and Zukor to join in and become Paramount Pictures.
Zukor believed in stars. He signed them, he made them. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper. With so many stars under contract Paramount could force block booking. Any exhibitor who wanted a particular star’s films had to buy a year’s worth of other Paramount product.
Guaranteed income and guaranteed to keep other films off the screens. Unload all the crap on the back of an A-pic. What a system. It gave Paramount a leading position in the nineteen-twenties and thirties. Antitrust? Illegal? For sure. But it took the government twenty years to outlaw it.
Zukor was the man behind Paramount’s rise. Built a fucking huge theatrical chain of nearly two thousand theaters, ran two production studios, owned half of Columbia Broadcasting System. Columbia Broadcasting System? You probably know it better as CBS.
Lasky just picked up his checks. Died of a heart attack in Beverly Hills. Buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, right next door to Paramount studios.
DeMille shot pickups for “The Greatest Show on Earth” on the Paramount lot. For the aftermath of the train wreck he had scores of wild monkeys released to scamper around the roaming lions, tigers, and leopards. They freaked and fled, leaping the studio walls into the cemetery. Stomping all over the graves, throwing shit at tombstones.
You got to love Hollywood. Even when you’re dead they’re still throwing shit at you.
All those old movie stars’ dressing rooms and bungalows have been turned into production offices now.
Up past Avenue H you’ll find New York City wrapped up in a five-acre lot. Brooklyn. Wall Street. Greenwich Village. Washington Square. SoHo. Lower East Side. Upper East Side.
You’ve seen them so many times on television you can’t tell them from the real thing anymore.
Sometimes when you’re shooting back towards Washington Square you can still see the buildings named after Zukor, DeMille, Schulberg.
And who were the titans at Paramount when I arrived? The dwarf brigade -- Diller, Eisner, Katzenberg.
CHAPTER 22: THE GAYEST STUDIO ON EARTH
It’s 1976. BARRY DILLER, forty, nods his head. He sits behind his large chairman’s desk in his Paramount office suite wearing a heavy dark suit, crisp rose shirt and soft gold tie.
He’s bald and looks like a younger, bullish Bruce Willis. He loves the sound of his own voice.
‘Everything we do ends up on television where the American public tunes in every night hoping to see --’
‘Our stuff --’
MICHAL EISNER cuts in. Diller looks him down.
‘Two people fucking --’
Diller repeats the point.
‘Two people screwing --’
JEFFREY KATZENBERG chips in.
‘Every night --’
Eisner is thirty-four and looks like a straight executive in a flat gray suit. He’s trying to balance a stack of screenplays. The top one slides off and falls.
Simpson catches the falling script in mid-air. He’s thirty-three.
Shit, what did they know? They were just television guys. All they could do was interrupt each other.
‘Obviously we can’t have people fucking on television but let’s always keep it in mind, shall we.’
Eisner wasn’t going to interrupt Diller again. Eisner was Park Avenue. He had manners. Grew up wearing a jacket and tie to family dinners. Started as a page at NBC and CBS, made his mark at ABC as senior vice president of programming and development. Took ABC from third place to first with shows like “Happy Days,” “Welcome Back Kotter,” “Starsky and Hutch.”
Diller made him president and CEO at Paramount Pictures. I always thought he was a little slow. Reminded me of a giant gummy bear.
Eisner looks at Katzenberg. Short, wiry and looking for a Diet Coke. Katzenberg is twenty-six and wears the same grey suit as Eisner. He’s Diller’s assistant.
Katzenberg was a pretty good guy. He was my assistant for a while. Everyone called him Squirt. Alec Baldwin called him the eighth dwarf -- Greedy.
Tenacious little prick. I taught him everything he knows. Except how to do coke. Greedy? He was more like Sneezy. You know that scene in “Annie Hall” where Woody Allen sneezes at a party and blows all the blow off the table? That was Katzenberg. Couldn’t do coke to save himself. He was allergic to it. Do a line and then sneeze all over the table. Then his voice would go all high-pitched like a fucking chipmunk. It was kind of cute and stupid at the same time.
Television? Who gives a fuck? It’s just a toaster with pictures, right?
Simpson looks out the window and sees an army of cavalry and foot soldiers passing by like a terrible mob towards Stage 9.
It was a fucking fodder factory. Nobody knew what they were doing. I moved fast, I talked fast and I didn’t worry about the consequences. Within a year I was named vice president of creative affairs.
The cavalry spurs their horses and the infantry breaks into a dogtrot until they disappear behind half a Mississippi steamboat.
Paramount was the gayest studio on earth. We made “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease.” The whole disco thing. We made it straight. Made it play, made it pay.
Growing up I’d been taught that homosexuality was beyond evil. Southern Baptists? They don’t look too kindly on two men sucking each other’s dicks.
Me? Shit, what do I care? I love anal sex. Flip them over, fuck the shit out of them. Love it. Fucking love it.
And lesbians? Man, I fucking love lesbians.
I may be a lot of things, but a hypocrite ain’t one of them.
Plus this is Hollywood. It’s not about sex. It’s about money.
You don’t come to Hollywood to get married and raise a family. You come here to work. I’d hire a gay guy over a straight man any day. They may bitch behind my back but they get it done. They work hard. No kids. No distractions.
What? Are you homophobic or just stupid?
Gay men have been picking your movie stars since the dawn of time. And your fucking dramatic leads, and your comedy stars, and your romantic leads, and your detective series stars, and your music stars, and your zany neighbors on your favorite sitcoms, and your cats who sell you kitty litter during the commercial breaks.
Gay men have been telling you what to watch, read, wear, listen to and do all your life.
CHAPTER 23: ALL THAT BUFFED UP MAN-MEAT
Premier of “Rocky” at the plush Century Theater at 5115 Hollywood Boulevard.
Lobby is flooded with INDUSTRY GUESTS after the screening. Smattering of CELEBRITIES and PHOTOGRAPHERS.
Giant posters of a bruised and bloodied SYLVESTER STALLONE in a boxing ring hang from the ceiling. Gloved hand raised high. Sweat running down his clenched face, down his muscled chest and torso.
All that buffed up man-meat. The whole jock thing, half-naked men slapping each other on the ass. What the fuck’s that about?
Simpson meets Columbia TriStar chairman MARK CANTON for the first time. He reaches out and feels the lapel on his suit jacket, impressed. Asks him where he bought it.
Everyone accuses me of ripping off gay culture and repackaging it for straight audiences. Fashion, movies, disco, advertising -- images and sounds. Got into an argument once with some screenwriter who told me I was appropriating homoerotic signifiers and motifs in my movies. Fuck off. Who do you think you are -- Noam Fucking Chomsky?
It’s nothing but business. It’s the next thing. It’s what you do.
CHAPTER 24: THERE WILL BE NO MORE MAYBES
It’s 1978. Simpson sits at a big white desk in his big new office at Paramount, snowed under with screenplays.
He is working his way through the screenplays, reading the coverage notes attached to each one. He looks annoyed.
The center pile is the largest by far. Simpson tosses a screenplay on top.
A year after I started at Paramount I was promoted to vice president of production. I took Sylbert’s job. He hired me. I fired him. That’s how it works.
Production? What the fuck did I know about production? Whenever I’d get in over my head I’d call Jerry.
Jerry knew the nuts and bolts. He’d been making commercials for years. Fuck, Jerry even knew about lenses and shit. Who knows that crap? Knew the best foley studios in town. Fucking knew everything about everything. He even subscribed to “American Cinematographer.” Okay, everyone subscribes to “American Cinematographer.” But he actually read every issue.
Simpson tosses another screenplay on top of the center pile.
HARRY rushes in. He nervously adjusts his reading glasses. At fifty-three he has no fashion sense. He never will.
Simpson tosses another screenplay on top of the center pile. He keeps reading coverage notes and doesn’t look up.
‘You’re a fucking reader, right? You’re supposed to give me coverage on every script, right?’
Harry gulps. Simpson tosses another screenplay on top of the center pile. He continues reading coverage notes without looking up.
‘But all you’re giving me is maybes. I can’t live on fucking maybes.’
Simpson picks up a pen and a new screenplay with a blank reader’s coverage note attached. It’s the standard form with star-studded Paramount logo and three boxed choices that read Recommend, Maybe and Don’t Recommend.
‘Because I’m a kind man, because I’m a wise man, I’m going to make this really easy for you and really hard.’
Simpson clicks the pen and furiously scrawls out the boxed choice that reads Maybe.
Simpson looks up at Harry and smiles. He throws the new screenplay at his head.
‘From here on you either Recommend or Don’t Recommend. There will be no more Maybes. I don’t have fucking time for fucking Maybes.’
Diller? Diller didn’t give a shit about movies. Told everyone he came up with the Movie of the Week idea when he was at ABC. But that was only to package more commercial breaks to sell to advertisers.
He had his pets and his favorites. He loved to play with Beatty and Redford.
But he never got movies. He used to tell me he hated the movie business, thought it was disgusting. Which explains why he’s now running the Home Shopping Network, selling dresses.
Eisner? Eisner wouldn’t know a good picture if it fucked him in the ass. Katzenberg was never creative. He was a businessman. He was about commerce, and product, and shelf life, and crap like that.
All they ever talked about was audience share.
CHAPTER 25: WHAT THE FUCK DOES KINETIC MEAN?
It’s 1979. Simpson rushes down the hallway of Paramount’s executive offices, harried. Biting a nail.
Another year and I was made senior vice president of production.
Diller walks the opposite way and stops him in his tracks. He holds out a slip of paper like a parking ticket.
‘Simpson, I’m aware you don’t read memos but I do want you to read this one.’
‘Can’t you just tell me, Barry?’
Diller hands him the slip of paper.
‘It’s not true until it’s written down.’
Simpson takes it. Diller continues on his way.
Simpson checks his watch. Then peers at the tiny print, clears his throat and reads the memo out loud.
‘It is so often assumed that Paramount likes to keep its pictures at a running time of one hundred minutes because we want to maximize turnover by having as many shows as possible in any given night. That’s simply not the case. It comes down to pleasing the audience. At one hundred minutes, people’s minds begin to wander. They start worrying about whether or not the dog has been fed. Whether or not they’re on their second hour of parking.’
PARAMOUNT STAFF peer out of their office at Simpson who keeps reading the memo out loud.
‘They start worrying about everything except what’s in the movie. That’s why in today’s kinetic world, we feel it wise to keep our movies at one hundred minutes.’
Simpson looks up at the staff.
‘Kinetic? What the fuck does kinetic mean?’
And that’s how it was. Keep them short, keep them light. And keep them coming.
Used to be that when you had a flop the attitude was that’s too bad, but it’s still a good picture. Then it became that if you made a film that wasn’t a hit, you were under indictment. You were a fucking criminal.
Everyone started hedging their bets, reducing their exposure. The question was no longer how good a movie can we make, but how much can we lose.
We started splitting rights, started joint productions where we’d keep domestic rights and parcel off everything else. Which meant a lot more producers. And a lot more headaches for me.
We split distribution rights with Disney for “Popeye.” Shelley Duvall? I mean, who in their right mind would want to fuck Shelley Duvall?
Robert Evans was the lead producer. For a major pussy hound, you’d think he’d know better.
“Popeye” was shot on the island of Malta for tax credits. Built the whole town of Sweethaven in the middle of the fucking Mediterranean. Director Robert Altman wanted a real town, not just sets. What a pompous, pretentious asshole. We shipped in logs from Holland, wooden shingles from Canada. Built a real schoolhouse, general store, post office, church, tavern and the rest of it. Even built Harry Nilsson his own recording studio to score the soundtrack.
Evans was calling me every day complaining that the producers at Disney were giving him a hard time. In one scene Robin Williams jumps in the water and says shit. Some Disney producer starts reaming Evans out about how no Disney film has ever had the word shit in it and no Disney film will ever have the word shit in it.
Fuck me. For a hound that Evans could be a major fucking drama queen. Evans used to be the head of production at Paramount. Told everyone he saved the studio with “The Godfather” and “Chinatown.” And he never let me forget it. Got a sweetheart producer deal when Charlie Bluhdorn tossed out Yablans in favor of Diller.
There were a lot of drugs going around. Everybody was shipping stuff in. Weeks behind schedule. Evans flew out to the location. He called me at home at three in morning.
- Don, I’m in Malta. I got a problem, I need your help.
- Bob, can’t we talk about this tomorrow.
- No, we can’t.
- Why not?
- Because they lost my bags.
I wanted to remind him that I was vice president of production. I was not in charge of bags.
- Bob, I’m really fucking sorry but --
- You don’t understand. They lost my bags and --
- And --
- And everything in them.
I didn’t even reply.
- Don, I had things in them. Don, a lot of things, because I was helping Altman out, too. This is for the film.
This is not what I wanted to hear.
- You got to get on the phone and call Henry.
- Kissinger. Get hold of Mary Ellen at my office and she’ll give you his number in D.C.
The next day Evans got his luggage. But he wasn’t out of the loop yet. A month later he was indicted on fifteen felony counts for a coke buy he swore his brother made. Thirty-five pounds.
That’s a lot of coke. Good coke, too. That’s the thing about Evans. Always had good coke.
They used to ask does it work? Is it a good movie? But that started to sound stupid and old fashioned. Instead we all started asking what sort of demos are we going to get? Does it skew towards women? Is it going to work with kids?
Everything was test-screened. Everything was market researched.
It wasn’t about making a good movie. It was about getting asses in seats. That’s all that counted.
Don’t act so shocked. You lined up. You paid your money like everyone else.
CHAPTER 26: JAWS IN OUTER SPACE
Simpson sits at a bigger white desk in a bigger whiter office at Paramount. The walls are white, the furniture is white.
There are only three screenplays on his desk. His secretary, LAURA, 45, takes dictation. Simpson leans back in his plush chair, excited.
‘Okay, capital letters at the top of the page. Bold type.’
Simpson parts his hands like curtains unveiling the screen in a movie theater. Announces the title.
‘Paramount Corporate Philosophy.’
Simpson drops his hands down a notch.
Simpson doesn’t draw breath as his consciousness streams out.
‘The pursuit of making money is the only reason to make movies. We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. Our obligation is to make money. And in order to make money, we must always make entertaining movies. A powerful idea is the heart of any successful movie. The creative premise is what first attracts people to the product. A good idea is one that seems imaginative, original. Seems in some way new and unique. The power of the biggest blockbusters is that they come from out of nowhere and break new ground. In many cases a compelling idea may not be strictly original. But it will seem different and exciting for its time. The most distinctive quality of a strong concept is that it does not seem familiar. The appropriate star or cast is important. As are the contributions of the movie’s writer and director. But they are all secondary to the concept. The success of a movie is unlikely if the basic concept lacks a spark of uniqueness.’
Laura’s hand almost shakes from trying to keep up.
Simpson draws a deep breath then points at Laura’s notebook.
‘And a sympathetic protagonist who goes through a transforming experience the audience can relate to.’
In the seventies, the U.S. domestic market accounted for around eighty-five percent of the business. You had a hunch, you took a shot. You only ever had two or three million on the line. Virtually nothing in releasing costs because it was pay as you go. The theaters paid for the ads. You opened it in one or two theaters in each of the major cities, saw how it went. You nursed it along.
That all changed with blockbusters and nationwide releases. Everyone started chasing bigger and bigger box office. The economics started to drive film distribution towards two thousand prints, big-ass national media buys and launch costs of ten, twelve, fifteen million dollars.
You weren’t flying by the seat of your pants anymore. You were shitting your pants. Everyone was freaking out. The only thing that made sense was precedent and analogy. That’s what the eighties brought.
Everyone started asking what the model was. Not as in what model was in it or what model were you going to fuck. But as in what other successful movie was it modeled on.
“Jaws” in outer space. “Jaws” the sequel. “Jaws” on ice.
The money just fucked everything up.
There was no going back.
CHAPTER 27: AMERICAN GIGOLO
It’s 1980. Simpson is being fitted for a tuxedo at the new Giorgio Armani boutique at 436 Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
We told everyone we offered Christopher Reeve a million dollars to do “American Gigolo.” That was bullshit.
TWO MATCHING SALES ASSISTANTS and a TAILOR are fussing around. Soft lighting.
That was just to get a bit of press. Nothing like having Superman play a super man. And we wanted to set a price for the lead role.
Travolta turned down the lead because he wanted final cut. Paul Schrader told him to go fuck himself. Never ever give final cut to your lead actor.
Simpson looks at the headless mannequins clad in matching Armani signature unstructured suits. Muted, hushed tones.
We offered the female lead to Meryl Streep but she told us she didn’t like the tone of the movie, turned us down. What a slut. I mean, what the fuck. It’s a movie about a male prostitute in love with himself.
A murder thriller where one of his clients falls in love with him. Story of my life.
It was Jerry who suggested Richard Gere. All slick and ready to fuck. The role made him.
The film was written and directed by Paul Schrader. Man, could that guy write a movie. Wrote “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Wrote and directed “Blue Collar” and “Hardcore.” Made “Mishima” about the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. Shit, now there’s a film. I don’t even know what the fuck it was about but I couldn’t stop watching it.
Pretty sure he was fucking Pauline Kael. Drank like a motherfucker.
Raised in Michigan by deranged Calvinists and didn’t even see a movie until he was eighteen years old, poor prick. When he was a child his mother would stick pins in his hands if he disobeyed her. Tell him that hell was like that, only every second, and on every inch of your body.
My mom used to throw a bucket of ice water in my face whenever I was acting up. Worked a charm. But stabbing your son’s hands with pins -- that’s extreme.
Schrader told me he took the final shot and final line of dialogue from “Pickpocket.” The nineteen-fifty-nine film by Robert Bresson. Great film.
Gere’s nude scene was the first full frontal in Hollywood. First time you saw a cock outside of an XXX theater. Great dialogue too.
Simpson’s acts out a Richard Gere line from “American Gigolo”.
‘I’ll do fag tricks. I’ll do kink. I’ll do anything you want me to do.’
It was my first film with Jerry Bruckheimer. Totally knew what he was doing. All those television commercials. Fast, fast, fast. Cut, cut, cut.
We’d been talking about doing a movie together forever. But with this it really clicked. I could trust him. He could trust me.
And this in a town where you can trust no one.
Remember Gere studying his artist’s palette of shirts, ties, jackets. Gere cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway in his black convertible, Blondie’s “Call Me” pumping on the soundtrack.
Movie moments. That’s what we called them.
Pure movie moments.
CHAPTER 28: YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE TO DO AT FOUR O’CLOCK, ED?
Biggest whitest desk in the biggest whitest office at Paramount. White walls with white linen easy chairs and couches. Gleams all the brighter because the desk is topped by a single sheet of thick white glass.
By nineteen eighty-one I was president of production. Nobody could fuck with me.
Framed business cards chronicling Simpson’s rise from the bottom to the top of the Paramount executive ranks line one wall. On the wall behind his desk are white shelves neatly stacked with Mead black marble notebooks.
Simpson’s new secretary, LAURA, 25, steps in. She looks like his older secretary’s daughter. She leads in a young reporter, ED GREENE.
Greene fidgets with his small beige wire-bound notebook.
Simpson emerges from the bathroom at the back of the office. All smiles.
‘You’re that new reporter from “The Los Angeles Times,” right?’
‘What time is it?’
Greene checks his watch.
‘You know what I like to do at four o’clock, Ed?’
Simpson clicks the outside line on his speakerphone, leans in.
‘Laura, be a darling and get me that screenwriter who pitched me this morning.’
Simpson pours himself a glass of Stolichnaya Elit Vodka from a crystal decanter. Offers a glass to Greene, who politely refuses.
Simpson smiles and takes out a folded packet of cocaine. Empties the powder on the glass-topped desk. Takes out a single-blade Swiss Army Knife.
Simpson flicks open the knife and dices the coke.
Deftly slices it into six lines. Takes out a $100 bill and rolls it into a tight straw with one hand. Offers it to Greene, who again politely refuses.
Simpson smirks and snorts one, two, three, four, five, six lines. Takes a deep gulp of vodka.
Laura’s voice sparks through the speakerphone.
‘Mister Simpson, your screenwriter is on line seven.’
Simpson snatches the handset off the cradle. Snarls his voice down the line.
‘You’re the stupidest son of a bitch in Hollywood, you asshole.’
Simpson downs his vodka and grins at Greene.
‘You’re a talentless piece of shit. No one respects you. Everyone knows you’re a fucking idiot. You’re nothing but a stupid cocksucker.’
Simpson is enjoying himself.
‘You’re an embarrassment to your parents. You’re an embarrassment to yourself.’
Greene doesn’t know where to look. Simpson continues his tirade down the line.
‘You don’t get it, do you? You don’t belong here. Why do you even fucking bother? You’re just wasting everyone’s time. You’re wasting your time. The sooner we get rid of people like you, the better the business is going to be.’
Simpson shakes his head.
‘You’ve got no idea for the first act. There’s no fucking second act. There’s no fucking third act. Which means there’s no fucking movie. There’s no idea. There’s no concept. There’s fucking nothing. You’re fucking nothing. You have no fucking future in this business.’
Simpson slams down the handset. Smiles at Greene. Sniffs.
Wasn’t just screenwriters either. I’d let reporters have it too. You fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you. I’ll tear your fucking head off.
But I’d always make up for it the next day. Send a note of apology or a gift basket with a little present inside. Fucking journalists. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.
Greene is biting his bottom lip. Simpson sizes him up.
‘So, let’s talk about my slate of movies.’
Greene flips open his wire-bound notebook, clicks his pen. Tries to look like he isn’t fazed. Coughs to clear his throat.
‘So, what stars have you lined up, Mister Simpson?’
‘Stars? Are you talking astrological or meteorological? I’m a triple Scorpio, you know.’
‘Movie stars? Who the fuck needs movie stars? You only need movie stars when you don’t have any ideas.’
Simpson leans forward.
‘And I’ve got plenty of ideas.’
Simpson thumbs the shelf of notebooks behind him.
‘See those? Do you know what they are?’
Greene shakes his head.
‘My ideas books. Every one of them is filled with ideas for movies. Hundreds of ideas. Thousands of ideas for movies.’
CHAPTER 29: WORK, WORK, WORK
It’s late and Simpson is in his Paramount office, writing quickly in a notebook.
‘Title -- “Zone Of Silence.” Location -- New Mexico. Premise -- Brilliant but maverick scientist uncovers a government UFO conspiracy when he unearths a meteorite in the middle of the desert containing crystalline structures that far outdates the solar system. Where did it come from? Why?’
He flips the page and keeps writing.
‘Plot -- Pit scientist against an unbelieving scientific community and a secretive, covert military force that knows the truth. That’s great, that’s great.’
That’s always been my rule. If I want to see it we make it.
He keeps writing.
And if I don’t want to see it we don’t make it. Simple, right?
Simpson pulls out a blank notebook, opens the cover, creases it with his palm and starts writing.
That’s me. Work, work, work.
Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.
CHAPTER 30: AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN
Faders across a custom-made 128 channel mixing desk rise and fall as if blown by the wind.
Everyone thought “An Officer and a Gentleman” was going to be a bomb. During the sound mix they were laying bets on how low the box office would be.
Jack Nitzsche sits behind the mixing desk at Gold Star Recording Studios as the faders slip and slid. The studios are at 6252 Santa Monica Boulevard near the corner of Vine Street in Hollywood.
Nitzsche is wearing sunglasses and leaning back, large headphones over his ears. The pair of multitrack reel-to-reel recorders by his side are rolling, dark brown tape waving through the heads.
Even the writer Douglas Day Stewart was badmouthing it before it was finished. He wanted to direct it. All writers want to direct. Fuck, just because they can string a few words together they think they can push a camera around, push an actor around.
WILL JENNINGS hunches over in the corner near a rack of audio equipment, writing and rewriting lyrics on a scrap of paper.
Director Taylor Hackford knew what he was doing. Convinced me to go with Richard Gere in the lead. Had to pay him more this time. Had to pay him points.
JENNIFER WARNES sips a cup of tea and lemon.
Offered the female lead to Kristy McNichol, Brooke Shields. Both turned us down. Went to Debra Winger in the end.
She negotiated her own contract before we gave her the final script. Then she freaked out when found out she had to do a nude scene. But since she hadn’t asked for a no-nudity clause, she had to do it. I mean, it didn’t help. She still wasn’t fuckable enough.
There was a lot of drama on the set. Robert Loggia kept complaining we were cutting his scenes. He played Gere’s dad. At the graduation ceremony when Gere says he’s going to get his first salute, he is referring to his father. We shot a scene where his father salutes him. It was paying off an earlier scene where his father said he’d never salute him. I burned the footage.
Nitzsche slides down the master fader, and slips off the headphones. JOE COCKER steps into the recording studio. Nitzsche points him to the vocal booth. Cocker steps through and heads to the microphones. Warnes follows him in.
Wish I could have burned that fucking song. Piece of shit. Wasn’t even my idea. I wanted the song cut from the movie. It wasn’t a good song. It wasn’t a hit. I don’t give a shit if it got to number one on the charts. I don’t give a shit if it won an Oscar. It’s still a shit song.
Nitzsche rewinds and plays the multitrack reel-to-reel recorders. Loops of the opening string arrangements for “Up Where We Belong” lick the air.
CHAPTER 31: WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? JACK NICHOLSON?
Fade up Jimi Hendrix’s mesmerizing “You’ve Got Me Floating.”
It’s 1982. A party is in full swing on a moonless night at Simpson’s compound at 685 Stone Canyon Road in Bel-Air. Simpson has just turned thirty-nine.
Even when I was partying I was working.
A shrilling starlet is hurled into the pool. Splaaaash. Simpson lopes past, scrawling notes into one of his notebooks.
Revelers are downing alcohol, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, and talking and laughing over each other. Only Simpson hears the scream of a young woman from the garage.
Sounds of party are muffled inside the garage.
An older DRUG DEALER spinning out on crystal meth is hitting a younger TIFFANY with a Callaway golf club. Other Callaway golf clubs are scattered across the cement floor. Empty Callaway golf club bag has been cast aside. Golf balls are rolling away.
Tiffany is twenty-four. Cowering on the floor, trying to protect her slim face. Matted blonde hair.
‘What the fuck are you doing with my golf clubs?’
Drug Dealer whips around to see Simpson step into the garage.
‘Fucking bitch owes me money.’
Simpson leans down to pick up a golf ball. He sees Tiffany is bleeding from a gash in her forehead.
‘Did you do that?’
Drug Dealer moves to strike her again. Tiffany flinches.
‘She’s just a fucking whore, man.’
‘Who the fuck are you? Jack Nicholson?’
‘No, you fuck off! This is my fucking house!!’
Drug Dealer swings back the golf club and is about to rush Simpson.
Drug Dealer blinks and Simpson hurls the golf ball into his eye. Drug Dealer stumbles back, dropping the golf club and clutching his bleeding eye.
‘Fuck! Fuck!! I’m fucking blind!!!’
Drug Dealer scrambles out of the garage and down the driveway. Simpson crouches down to Tiffany who is crying. His voice is soft.
‘Hey, it’s okay. He’s gone.’
Simpson looks at the gash on her forehead.
‘It’s not too deep, honey.’
Simpson tears a page out of his notebook and presses it lightly against the wound. Tiffany flinches. Simpson presses a little harder.
‘Ssshhhh, sssshhhh. It’ll stop the bleeding.’
CHAPTER 32: CLOSER TO GOD, I GUESS
White Porsche 911 tears into the parking lot outside the executive building at Paramount. Tires shriek as it turns on a dime and almost slams into the back of a parked stretch limousine.
It’s a big limousine. Cadillac and black. Inside a uniformed CHAUFFEUR sits calmly behind the steering wheel, window open. His cap is embroidered with a Gulf + Western logo.
Porsche grumbles, growls and spits. Horn blasts the air for a full ten seconds.
Staff comes to the windows to see what’s happening. Porsche driver’s door slowly opens and Simpson steps out. He calmly strides up to the limousine.
Chauffeur’s electric window closes. Simpson smiles as he looks over the limousine.
‘Will you look at this fucking boat? It looks like a fucking tuna boat.’
Simpson looks around.
‘And I’m going to teach the tuna boat captain not to park in my fucking car space.’
Simpson steps over to the rose garden and looks at the heavy cast-metal post bearing the Paramount logo that is stuck in the ground.
Jeffrey Katzenberg flies out of the front doors of the executive building, arms waving furiously.
‘Don, stop! Stop!!’
Simpson yanks the cast-metal logo post out of the ground. Holds it up high above his head as the sun gleam off the stars, the spangled stars that ring the mountain.
The logo originally had twenty-four stars as a tribute to actors under contract. In 1974 the logo was simplified for television and the number of stars dropped to twenty-two.
Katzenberg screams at Simpson.
‘It’s Bluhdorn’s limo!!!’
Simpson swings the cast-metal logo post hard into the windscreen, plowing the Paramount logo into the shattered glass.
Yes, Charlie Bluhdorn owned the studio. Got it in some debt for equity swap. Every called him the Mad Austrian of Wall Street. The guy was fucking crazy, certifiably insane.
Bludhorn was like the worst Jew in Hollywood. Told everyone he met he wasn’t Jewish. Born liar.
Didn’t know the first thing about making a movie.
Bluhdorn was just a financier. Used to sit around the table screaming that he had made more money in sugar in the half hour since the meeting started than Paramount had made all year.
I never wanted to know where he got his money from, his financing from. He was a bad man. Had a sharp stick he’d just poke you with until you bled to death, unless you told him to fuck off. Clearly had a chemical imbalance.
Had no problem breaking the law. He was a criminal. He was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission every second week.
Prick owned the Miss Universe pageant. It was part of the deal when he bought Pacific Mills. The company had invented the pageant in nineteen fifty-two to sell its Catalina brand of swimsuits. It was Bluhdorn who moved it to the Dominican Republic.
Why? Because he owned half the island. Just kept buying sugar plantations until he owned all of them. Diller convinced him to built this massive resort down there called Casa de Campo. Probably to get him the fuck away from Los Angeles. Had some Paramount production designers go down there and build him a Mediterranean village on a cliff for fuck’s sake.
Had me down there once. These black slaves in white linen uniforms with gold braids serving him drinks, wanting to slit his throat.
He died of a heart attack on his private jet while flying back from his resort.
Closer to God, I guess.
CHAPTER 33: ONE BAD HEADLINE AFTER ANOTHER
SENIOR EXECUTIVES are sitting down for lunch in the executive dining room at Paramount. They’re all wearing suits and ties, except Simpson who’s in tight blue Levi’s and a white collarless shirt. He looks tired.
Executives are discussing the menu as soup is served. Hushed tones, very serious. They look and sound like funeral directors.
Simpson closes his eye and faints head first into his soup. Splasssh. Executives don’t skip a beat.
Man, what can I tell you? I was tired. I’d put twenty projects into development in about as many days.
One EXECUTIVE motions another EXECUTIVE to pass the salt.
I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I just worked and worked and worked.
Hollywood was under threat of strikes by both the writers’ and directors’ guilds. We needed enough movies to carry us through in case the strikes happened.
“White Dog” was one of seven productions we fast-tracked. Based on a novel by Romain Gary. It was about a racist dog trainer. Who the fuck makes a film about a racist dog trainer.
Eisner was pushing for it because of its social message that hate is learned. And that if hate is learned, it can be unlearned.
Everyone was pushing back. We had Curtis Hanson rework the script, downplay the racial elements. Word started to get out that we were softening the material. Someone leaked a memo to the press.
I thought we were going for “Jaws” with paws until we signed Fuller on to direct. Fuller? Samuel Fuller? Samuel ‘Fuck You’ Fuller?
Hard-drinking, hard-living, hard-fucking Samuel Fuller. “Pickup on South Street.” “The Naked Kiss.” “Shock Corridor.” The man was a fucking legend.
We only had forty-five days and seven million dollars. Who else could shoot that fast with so little money.
Fuller knew the novel and wanted to re-conceptualize the movie to have the conflict in the book occur within the dog rather than the people. Told “Variety” that viewers would see a dog slowly go insane and then come back to sanity.
Even before filming began we started to have protestors outside the gates. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said it would spur racial violence. Black Anti-Defamation Coalition said it would spark race riots. No such thing as bad publicity?
“The L.A. Times” ran one story after the other calling it a racist production with racist themes and racist characters. Racist themes? Racist characters? What are you, a fucking idiot? Don’t you realize that in order to make an anti-racist movie you need to start with racist characters that transform by the end.
Pressure groups started threatening boycotts. One bad headline after another.
Then Gary blew his brains out after his wife committed suicide.
Who the fuck needs the bad publicity, the bad press.
I decided to shelve the movie. Fuller? He was so pissed off he moved to France and never directed another American film again.
CHAPTER 34: BETTER THAN A FUCKING HOLIDAY
Empty Muzak thins the air.
Simpson looks a little frazzled, a little unsteady as he makes his way through the admissions lobby of the Betty Ford Center at 39000 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage.
The lobby looks like a three-star hotel with soft yellow walls, flat carpet, uncomfortable seats and too many indoor plants.
To the left is the gift shop where you can buy a gold-rimmed Betty Ford ashtray for three dollars. To the right is the internal courtyard that doesn’t receive enough sunlight.
Simpson heads to the gray semi-circular admissions desk. He is wearing a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses with darker than usual lenses, carrying a black leather Louis Vuitton overnight bag.
ADMISSION NURSE looks up. Smiles warmly.
‘Welcome back, Mister Simpson.’
Everyone says the Family Week program at Betty Ford is amazing. But the last people I want to see in rehab is my fucking family.
You’re supposed to have a roommate as part of the program. But you can have your doctor or psychiatrist write and recommend that sharing a room would impede treatment. You have to pay a little more but at least you don’t have to bunk down with some loser.
The rooms overlooking the pond are best. Just don’t go out there. The geese crap on everything.
The pool? No one ever uses the pool. The only person I’ve ever seen there is the pool guy dressed in white, scooping off the leaves.
No one plays games in the games room because all the pieces are missing. People grab the pieces and carry them around like a good luck charm. Carry around a Plinko chip or that little boot from the Monopoly game all day long.
The best place to hang out is in the Serenity Room. Best air-conditioning ever. You look out to a fern garden with a waterfall. You can see the mountains. Had some of my best ideas there.
The program? It’s built around the twelve steps, with a side order of family.
The location is great. Way out in Palm Springs. No phone calls or faxes. No couriers. All that desert air clears your mind.
Better than a fucking holiday. You’re cleaned up, back on the streets, ready for battle.
Ready for war.
CHAPTER 35: I’M A SENSITIVE GUY
Fade up Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ romantic “Up Where We Belong” through the house speakers at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Simpson looks up at speakers and blanches. He looks unwell with his arm draped over a particularly well-endowed TERRI. The young woman is smiling hard.
God, I hated going to ShoWest. Meeting and greeting movie theater owners from all over the country who were only interested in coming to Vegas for fucking and gambling.
SHOWEST ATTENDEES spill out of the Jubilee Theatre onto the main casino floor lined with traditional arm pull slot machines. The machines chug and whirr and every so often expel a torrent of coins. Sounds of excited CASINO GUESTS whooping and laughing.
Vegas is one fucked up place. It’s like pussy paradise. I don’t think I ever met a woman who wasn’t a hooker in that town. It’s all that neon. All that phosphorous. Does something to a woman. Lights her up from the inside.
Simpson looks bilious as he takes in the crowd.
CORNELIUS T. HALL, 50, sidles up to him. He looks like a fat John Goodman with wavy hair and a Macallan Scotch on ice in his hand. He’s wearing a nauseous tie and staring at Terri’s cleavage.
‘Yes sir, I am the biggest theater owner in all the tri-state area.’
Simpson swallows hard.
‘There ain’t none bigger.’
Simpson tightens his lips. Hall laughs and swigs his scotch without taking his eyes off Terri’s cleavage.
‘Richard Gere tells me you’re the man who made him do the picture.’
Simpson clamps his thumb and forefinger over his lips. Hall smiles wide.
‘Here’s to you.’
Hall tips his glass and is about to down another swig of his scotch when Simpson heaves and throws up all over him.
Not my greatest moment. Probably the seafood. I’m not good with seafood. Too much mercury. I have a very delicate stomach.
I’m a sensitive guy.
CHAPTER 36: I’M THE LAST HONEST MAN IN HOLLYWOOD
Eisner sits calmly behind his mahogany desk in his office at Paramount, looking at the sunlight sliding across the polished surface. For the chief executive, there’s a remarkable lack of paper. Not even a pen, or pencil. But there are three phones.
Simpson looks at him with dismay and disbelief.
‘A morals charge? You’re firing me on a fucking morals charge? You’ve got some dickwads from the board fucking boys up the ass in the back of their limos in the fucking parking lot and you’re firing me on a fucking morals charge?’
Eisner smiles to himself.
‘We’re not firing you, Don. We’re giving you a deal, a producer’s deal. It’s less corporate.’
Simpson glares at him. Eisner shakes his head.
‘You’re not a corporate kind of guy, Don.’
Eisner looks out the window.
‘You and Bruckheimer can team up and make movies without all the politics.’
‘We’ll let you have an office on the lot. We’ll even throw in some staff if you like.’
Simpson lowers his voice almost to a whisper.
‘Will you let me make “Zone Of Silence?”’
‘Will you let me make “Zone Of Silence?”’
Eisner has no idea what Simpson is talking about.
‘My UFO conspiracy movie.’
Eisner looks blank. Simpson looks disappointed.
‘Don’t tell me you didn’t read the coverage.’
‘This isn’t about me, Don.’
‘I thought the point of the deal is I get to make the movies I want.’
Eisner smiles, opens a drawer, takes out a screenplay and places it in front of Simpson.
‘Since it’s Paramount’s money, it’ll be the movies Paramount wants you to make.’
Simpson looks at the screenplay. The title reads “Flashdance.” He pushes it back to Eisner who pushes it back to him.
‘It’s got a girl in it.’
Simpson reluctantly picks it up and flips through the pages.
Fuck, it was awful. I’d already rejected it twice. Peter Guber had sat on it for God knows how many years. Fucked it right up. Guber’s a nice guy. That’s his downfall. Couldn’t keep it up with Sony. Signed on for that massive deal. And then fell apart.
Guber told everyone I was pissing on the script to make it my own. Fuck that. I wouldn’t piss on it if it was on fire. Pile of shit. Soap opera of sex, alcohol and stupidity. I only kept the title and the idea of the girl who becomes a dancer.
Even her name stunk. Raven? I changed it to Alex. I came up with a seventeen-page outline and hired some writers to work it up.
One of the early drafts had a gay man as her best friend. Director Adrian Lyne loved the angle. No one had ever shown a straight woman having a close friendship with a gay man. But it would never fly with the execs. So we cut it.
Simpson closes the cover and sighs.
Paramount gave Katzenberg my job. Blamed my leaving on the monumental fuck-up that was “Grease 2.” A movie I never ever wanted to make. Let alone fucking see.
Sure, Eisner pulled the trigger. But Diller loaded the fucking gun. He wanted me out of there because I didn’t suck his dick. You know, not literally. I’m talking metaphorically.
I’m talking corporate dick. I guess I wasn’t really cut out to be an executive. All the niceties, all the dinner parties, all the backstabbing. I just wanted to get on with the work.
Don’t get me wrong, it still hurt. To go from the inside to the outside.
I know what they say about me. That I’m a wild man. That I’m reckless. That I’m vulgar. That I’m loud. Well, fuck you Jack. It’s all true.
That I’m arrogant. That I’m insulting. That I’m a fucked up, selfish egomaniac.
Who gives a fuck.
You know what I am. I’m the last honest man in Hollywood, that’s what I am.
And that unsettles some people.
CHAPTER 37: JUST PICK OUT THE GIRL YOU’D MOST LIKE TO FUCK
It’s 1983. Simpson is running screen tests for the lead for “Flashdance” in a small screening room at Paramount.
He shepherds in a dozen JANITORS. They look a little bewildered as they take their seats in front of the small screen.
We never had any executives at our screen tests. We brought in janitors straight from the lot.
Jerry Bruckheimer is in the background, in the shadows. Stroking his light beard. Simpson hands out bottles of cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to the Janitors.
Actors? Dime a dozen, man. They’re just chimpanzees dancing for pennies.
Janitors start drinking their beers, settling into their seats. Simpson nods to the PROJECTIONIST up in the projection booth. Film projector sparks and whirs to life.
When you’re casting for an actress you’re casting for fuckability. No question about it. You can do all the research you like. But it boils down to one thing.
Light dims. Simpson smiles at the Janitors.
‘Just pick out the girl you’d most like to fuck.’
Janitors snicker amongst themselves. Even the Mexican Janitors understand.
Shafts of light slither into the room from the film projector. Simpson looks up at the screen.
They never picked Demi Moore.
CHAPTER 38: A NAKED MAN WITH NO BRAINS AND NO BALLS
Thunderous applause as the 56th Academy Awards draws to a close in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at 135 North Grand Avenue in Los Angeles.
I wanted the role of Alex in “Flashdance” to go to Melanie Griffith. She was nineteen and had a body so tight you could bounce quarters off it.
Host Johnny Carson in white bow tie and shirt and tuxedo is still delivering his closing lines as winners and nominees and guests start to stand and leave. It’s been another marathon.
We gave the role to Jennifer Beals. She tested best. Pretty sure she wasn’t wearing any panties when she first auditioned. I can tell.
The cavernous pavilion is a sea of men in tuxedos and women in every shade of evening gown. JENNIFER BEALS in slinky black satin leaves with her mother.
She sure was fuckable. But she couldn’t dance for shit. Had to get a body double for all the dancing scenes. You know when she leaps through the air in the audition scene. Had to pull a favor from a professional gymnast I knew.
VAL KILMER strides past with CHER in gold dripping off his arm.
We paid Beals scale. We had to keep the budget tight because Paramount kept hassling us over money. One thing Jerry knows how to do is screw a budget.
STEVEN SPIELBERG sours past. AMY IRVING clutches onto him dressed like a pioneer woman.
Brian De Palma was all set to direct and then two weeks into preproduction he drop us to do “Scarface.” That’s when we decided on Adrian Lyne. English, had done a ton of commercials, couldn’t understand a fucking word he said.
ROBERT DUVAL grins past holding his Oscar.
He wanted to push the gay man best friend angle. We said no. He wanted a backstory about Alex being molested as a child. We said no fucking way.
MEL GIBSON escorts SISSY SPACEK in a floral outfit.
Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas had to beat the script into submission. There were a lot of rewrites. We were still rewriting it as we were shooting it.
MERYL STREEP in a white dress that’s too tight looks for her husband.
Everyone thought “Flashdance” was going to be a total disaster. Everyone was saying Paramount had given me a piece of shit in the hopes it would fail and my career would be ruined. Man, they had so little faith in it they sold off twenty-five percent just days before it opened.
GLENN CLOSE looks like the black widow, hair back and empty smile.
Critics hated it. New Yorker called it a series of rock videos. Guardian called it a preposterous success. Fuck them.
JACK NICHOLSON wearing dark Ray-Bans and a smirk drops his Oscar statuette. ANJELICA HUSTON in tight velvet laughs and picks it up.
Audiences loved it. You know why? Because audiences loves a Cinderella story. Hookers, dancers, lesbians, doesn’t matter. Wrap it in a Cinderella story and everyone will line up to pay and watch.
We took four million dollars on the first weekend. Everyone thought it was over but the movie kept on growing until it played its way to ninety-three million dollars domestically.
Can you believe Paramount sold off twenty-five percent. Fucking idiots.
They even tried to kill it by releasing it on VHS while it was still in theaters. But just the opposite happened. It drove more business.
There was no stopping it. Man, it was a fucking gold mine.
“Flashdance” was nominated for Academy Awards for cinematography, editing and music. Up against “Terms of Endearment” which was up for everything. It was another Paramount picture Diller was pushing hard behind the scenes.
“Flashdance” won an Oscar for best music. Giorgio Moroder wrote the track, Irene Cara wrote the lyrics while driving to the recording studio to record the song. Fuck, who would have thought. Must have been all those old disco fags on the Academy.
The Oscars. They’re a fucking joke.
The Academy Awards were started by MGM’s Louis Mayer as a way to consolidate the power of the studios, and give away a trinket or two instead of paying stars more money. He created the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science. He ordered the members to vote only for MGM contract players. Keep it in the family.
The first Academy Awards took place in the Blossom Room of Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel in nineteen twenty-nine. There were candy replicas of the Oscar statuette on each table. So if you didn’t get one, you could still eat one.
Each Academy Award has been broadcast. First on radio, then television. They used to give the list of winners to newspapers beforehand. So everyone knew who was going to win.
It’s the greatest promotion scheme any industry has ever devised for itself. It’s nothing but a fuckfest.
George C. Scott refused his best actor Oscar in nineteen-seventy. Said the whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. Said he didn’t want any part of it.
Marlon Brando had someone else do the talking for him when he refused his best actor Oscar two years later. He sent Sacheen Littlefeather to read out a fifteen-page speech in protest of the mistreatment of Native Americans by the industry.
She wasn’t even a Native American. She was a fucking actress.
I mean, who gives a fuck. Except the press. They eat this shit up.
All this attention for an Oscar statuette. A naked man with no brains and no balls. Golden.
CHAPTER 39: NOW THERE’S A BUSINESS PLAN
It’s 1984. Don Simpson is standing in the polished Beverly Hills Porsche showroom at 8425 Wilshire Boulevard.
“Risky Business” was Steve Tisch’s first movie after he left Columbia and went out on his own. Had David Geffen pony up the money. It was Tom Cruise’s first lead role.
A salesman in an expensive suit and tie is showing Simpson the range of available colors in swatches of metal, explaining how the paint is baked on.
Making money from hookers. Now there’s a business plan.
Timothy Hutton was the first choice for the role of Joel, but the dickhead turned it down. Thought the role was too young.
Simpson crouches down next to a basalt black Porsche 928 coupe. Glides his hand over the metal, a man in love.
Tisch had his personal trainer work on Cruise to make him look more like a teenager. Had him working out seven days a week to lose ten pounds. Then put him on a diet of fatty foods to add a layer of baby fat. To give him that fresh-faced teenage look.
Cruise is a weird little fuck. Always tense, always on.
Someone told me he was walking around on set complaining to anyone who was listening how he wasn’t gay, how he was glad there were no gay people there, how he couldn’t eat gay ice cream. What the fuck is that about.
Couldn’t drive for shit either. Production went through half a dozen Porsche 928s. Had to dub the exhaust and engine sound from another model to really get it to rumble.
“Risky Business” was written and directed by Paul Brickman. It was his first feature and he had a completely different ending in. He had Cruise being denied admission to Princeton and he and the hooker with an ass of gold sitting on the roof of a building overlooking the city pondering his future and hers, and for once Lana lets her guard down.
The studio wasn’t so sure. They wanted a feel good ending. So both versions were shot and shown to a test audience in Anaheim.
You don’t need to watch the movie again to know which ending they voted for.
CHAPTER 40: IT STARTED GROWING FROM THERE
It’s Christmas on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Lights, flowers and fake snow shining under the California sun.
How many times have you seen “Beverly Hills Cop?” Come on, tell the truth.
Doors of the Tiffany boutique swing wide open and Simpson steps out onto the sidewalk. His secretary follows him out, armed with stylish shopping bags from half a dozen boutiques as well as Tiffany.
You know it was originally written for Sylvester Stallone. Two weeks before filming is to start, Stallone pulls out like a twenty dollar hooker. What a cunt. And not in a good way.
Doors of the Cartier boutique part open and Simpson strides out. His secretary hurries after him, laden with shopping bags from more boutiques including Cartier.
All that orange juice must have softened his brain. Stallone loved orange juice. Drank gallons of the stuff. Not just fresh orange juice, but freshly squeezed orange juice at every meeting. Demanded that fresh oranges be sliced and juiced in front of him.
Doors of the Harry Winston boutique open and Simpson hurries out onto the sidewalk. His secretary scuttles behind, shopping bags piled high with three from Harry Winston on top.
Sylvester Stallone. What fucking kind of name is that. Sylvester? It’s not even a man’s name. It’s a cat’s name.
We pulled in Eddie Murphy at the last minute. A new shooting script was literally pasted together from half dozen or so scripts. I stuck it together with my own Scotch tape.
You know when Police Chief Hubbard walks into his first scene carrying some rolled-up sheets of paper? It’s the fucking script, man.
Everyone claimed credit for the premise, for the whole idea of being an outsider in Beverly Hills.
Eisner says it happened to him. Katzenberg says it happened to him. Even Jerry says it happened to him. They all tell the story of being pulled over by some cop in Beverly Hills merely because they don’t look like they belong there.
Truth is it happened to me. But I ain’t a credit hog.
Remember the hotel scene with Axel?
- Don’t you think I realize what’s going on here, miss? Who do you think I am, huh? Don’t you think I know that if I was some hotshot from out of town that pulled inside here and you guys made a reservation mistake, I’d be the first one to get a room and I’d be upstairs relaxing right now. But I’m not some hotshot from out of town, I’m a small reporter from “Rolling Stone” magazine that’s in town to do an exclusive interview with Michael Jackson that’s gonna be picked up by every major magazine in the country. I was gonna call the article “Michael Jackson Is Sitting On Top of the World,” but now I think I might as well just call it “Michael Jackson Can Sit On Top of the World Just As Long As He Doesn’t Sit in the Beverly Palm Hotel ‘Cause There’s No Niggers Allowed in There!”
Replace nigger with Alaskan and you get the idea.
I knew we had a hit when we screened it to the executives at Paramount.
- Tell Victor that Ramon -- the fella he met about a week ago? -- tell him that Ramon went to the clinic today, and I found out that I have, um, herpes simplex ten, and I think Victor should go check himself out with his physician to make sure everything is fine before things start falling off on the man.
That was one funny scene. Everyone at the studio screening cracked up. Except Diller. He didn’t smile one bit.
We opened on two thousand screens across America. Fuck if that didn’t give us some solid opening numbers. It started growing from there.
It became the highest grossing R rated film in America ever. Ever. You hear that? Fucking ever.
CHAPTER 41: THEY JUST KEPT ON COMING
It’s 1985. Shimmering light refracts off a small single-sided mirror topped with cocaine. Single-blade Swiss Army Knife is furiously dicing the fresh powder in time to the sounds of hammers hammering and saws sawing.
The mirror teeters on the handrail of the timber deck of Simpson’s Red Mountain residence. CARPENTERS are furiously extending the timber deck as Simpson, forty-two, is furiously cutting the powder with one hand and holding the mirror in place with the other.
Slices up three thick lines. Snaps the knife shut.
Rolls a note into a tight straw. Thrusts it up one nostril. Lifts his hand off the mirror to block his other nostril.
Leans down to snort the first line just as a power saw rips into one end of the hand rail, vibrating the timber and shivering the mirror over the edge.
Simpson watches the cocaine fall into the mountain of snow below.
Simpson’s expletive echoes down into the valley.
It was our first Aspen party and I wanted to get it right. It was like my coming out party.
Carpenters continue working more quietly. Simpson looks out at the alpine vista, taken aback by the imperial beauty.
In that moment of grace an idea comes to mind.
He takes out a folded packet of cocaine, opens the top of it, flicks open his knife, scoops some powder on the tip, holds it under his nose and snorts it straight up.
A smile crashes across his face, his eyes gleam.
Simpson standing in the same place on the enlarged timber deck as darkness falls and GUESTS mill about in a blur.
Simpson is the only one in focus. He looks incessantly happy. Behind him is the dramatic home with its soaring ceiling and walls of glass.
Jesus, I was so anxious I must have snorted a gram of coke before each person arrived. And man, did they arrive. They just kept on coming.
More GUESTS swirl about.
Inside the living room later that night Simpson is still the only one in focus as more GUESTS whirl about. Everything is draped in white muslin. Dozens of small white Christmas trees are decorated with tiny white lights.
All the VIPs came -- Ted Turner, Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, Goldie Hawn, Barbara Walters, Bob Kerry, Ivan Reitman, Paul Simon, Jim Cameron. Jane Fonda when she had decent tits.
Still later Simpson is still the only one in focus as GUESTS twirl past. A log fire roars in the colossal fireplace behind him.
More than two hundred guests.
We even had a bunch of Kennedy cousins who came to the door and demanded to be let in.
Past Simpson into the log fire raging in the fireplace.
I put the ski town on the map. I did that. I ruined Aspen. Just ruined it.
Match dissolve as flames die down as red and orange embers glimmer and glow.
CHAPTER 42: JERRY AND I WERE FUCKING HEROES
Red and orange lights flash to life atop a new range of electronic slot and video poker machines on the main floor of Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Sounds of coins tumbling and tumbling over dizzying sound effects.
It’s 1986. SHOWEST ATTENDEES spill out of the Jubilee Theatre. It’s so overlit that the middle of the night feels like high noon.
Everyone thought “Flashdance” was going to tank. They all thought it was the anchor around my neck that was going to take me down to the bottom of the fucking sea. And what did it do?
Simpson looks happy with his arm slung around PAMMI, 26. She is wearing an outrageous yellow jumpsuit that she’s almost leaping out of.
Ninety-five million domestic. Paramount’s second highest grossing movie for the year.
Sounds of coins being slipped into a slot machine.
And it was made for a fucking dime.
“Beverly Hills Cop.” Again we made it for next to nothing. Again everyone slammed it. But we slammed that fucker out of the fucking park. It took in an astronomical two-hundred-and-thirty-five million at the box office.
And it gave birth to a new genre.
Action-comedy. Guns and gags. It’s not every day you invent a new genre in Hollywood. It’s not every day you strike a gold mine.
Simpson looks out at the Attendees.
Jerry and I were fucking heroes. We were ShoWest’s Producers of the Year. Which made going kind of bearable. As did Pammi.
Attendees part like the Red Sea to reveal a blustering Cornelius T. Hall, 53, swathing through towards Simpson. He’s packed on a few more pounds since last time. And his tie is even more squeamish.
He doesn’t look at Pammi’s cleavage. He looks Simpson straight in the eye. Simpson flinches as he remembers the last time he met Hall. But Hall is all smiles.
‘You keep making that kind of box office, son, and you can throw up on me any time you like.’
CHAPTER 43: IT IS A NICE CHAIR, YES
Simpson sits in a new chair behind a new desk in a production bungalow on the Paramount lot. He’s in a story conference with French screenwriter FRANCOIS FERRAND, 45. TWO JUNIOR ASSISTANTS are scribbling down notes.
The desk is like an aircraft carrier, top scattered with screenplays ready for takeoff.
Ferrand is pitching fast. Simpson is thinking faster.
You know, the director ain’t the auteur any more. It’s the producer who’s the man.
Simpson gets up all excited. Ferrand keeps throwing out ideas. Simpson catches them and throws them back.
Once the budget passes ten million it’s the producer who has the vision.
Simpson starts pacing.
‘It doesn’t matter what movie you’re making, you want to make a hit movie. And to make a hit movie the central character must triumph.’
Ferrand starts pacing. Simpson thinks on.
‘And before the central character triumphs he must first be reduced, psychologically, and almost be destroyed before the final comeback. He’s got to live down in the pits.’
Simpson turns to Ferrand.
‘Then the picture’s got to end on an incredibly high upbeat note.’
Ferrand stops next to Simpson’s new chair, hunches his shoulders.
‘But what is more up than the scientist boarding the UFO and soaring into the heavens?’
Ferrand’s all out of ideas. He flops down on Simpson’s new chair.
The room goes silent. Assistants look at Simpson.
‘Excuse me, but what the fuck are you doing sitting in my fucking chair?’
‘It is a nice chair, yes.’
Simpson counts a beat.
Simpson turns and storms out, voice trailing behind him.
‘You want to talk to me, you call me at home from now on.’
CHAPTER 44: COME ON, I WANT TO SHOW YOU THE CONCEPT
It’s 1986. Screenwriter JAMES LEE BARTLOW, 35, strides past the high metal gates into Simpson’s Bel-Air estate as irate screenwriter JOE GILLIS, 35, skulks out.
‘Wear a bulletproof vest.’
Bartlow looks confused until he spots Simpson at the top of the driveway in front of the Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion built in the 1970s. Two stories, six thousand, five hundred square feet with a large pool. Painted metal struts hold up an oversize chimney.
Simpson is naked save for tight leopard skin underwear, mirrored Aviator sunglasses and peaked leather police cap.
He’s also waving an Uzi submachine gun with a laser scope at a petrified ROOF TILER trying not to lose his balance on top of his terra cotta roof. Simpson is screaming at him at the top of his voice.
‘You’re freaking me out, get the fuck down. It’s not fucking safe.’
Bartlow steps up and snibs a switch on the side of the Uzi, just above the grip.
‘You might want to keep the safety on.’
‘Hey, you’re the new writer, right? Let me tell you, script is king with me.’
‘I love writers. Roof tilers I can live without.’
Simpson heads indoors.
‘Come on, I want to show you the concept.’
Bartlow follows him inside into the living room. The only art on the wall is a framed check.
Simpson shows Bartlow a torn-out page from a California magazine article with a photo of two guys in leather jackets and sunglasses standing in front of the biggest, fastest jet fighter you’ve ever fucking seen.
Simpson takes a step back, proud.
‘There it is!’
Simpson looks at Bartlow as if he’s retarded.
‘They’re wearing leather jackets.’
Bartlow looks at Simpson as if he’s retarded.
‘It’s not a concept. It’s just a picture of two guys standing in front of a fighter jet.’
‘They’re pilots from the Top Gun Naval Flying School.’
‘That still doesn’t make it a concept.’
Simpson looks askew. Bartlow still looks puzzled.
‘What’s the idea, what’s the story?’
Simpson is almost dumbfounded.
‘The only one -- stick to your dreams, overcome incredible odds, outlive your mentor, get the girl. Shit, you’re the writer. You know the drill.’
Simpson gets up and heads to the bathroom.
‘Open with a sunrise -- end with a freeze frame. First draft Monday.’
Simpson calls out without turning around.
‘And make the central character a young loner, a maverick.’
Simpson calls out from the bathroom.
‘You know I can read upside down.’
Bartlow doesn’t believe a word of it.
‘A Mossad agent taught me. From Herzliya, in Israel.’
‘You’ve been to Israel?’
‘No, that’s where the agent came from.’
Simpson comes out of the bathroom, holding a mirror lined with cocaine and shaking his head.
‘Try and keep up with the fucking story.’
Simpson offers up the coke.
‘Want some blow?’
‘Candy cane. Nose candy. Cocaine. Jesus, what are you? Illiterate?’
‘It’s eleven o’clock in the morning.’
‘It’s the best coke in L.A.’
‘I look after my writers. Nothing but the best. What about Häagen-Dazs? You like Häagen-Dazs? Peaches and Cream? Mayan Chocolate? Strawberry Cheesecake? I’ll order some in.’
Simpson picks up the phone.
‘I’ve got Jerry’s on speed dial. What kind of pizzas do you like? You like the four-cheese pizza? It’s fucking amazing. I’ll get sky highs too. Some triple deckers.’
Simpson starts ordering. Bartlow gulps as he realizes he’s in for the long haul.
I didn’t always eat shit food. I loved pre-wrapped tuna sandwiches. I could eat them by the handful. I could swallow them whole. Tuna, it’s seafood, right. It’s good for you.
Simpson smiles at Bartlow.
I always loved to steer projects from the ground up, dragging writers through hell to get the right script before the cameras started rolling.
Rewrite after rewrite after fucking rewrite until we got it right. “Beverly Hills Cop” went through thirty-seven drafts. “Top Gun?” You don’t want to know.
CHAPTER 45: A GAY RECRUITING POSTER FOR THE NAVY
Jesus, we had so many writers on “Top Gun” I don’t even know who ended up with writing credits. Who gives a fuck anyway, right.
Cars rush past the Mann National Theater at 10925 Lindbrook Drive in Westwood. A massive poster for “Top Gun” outside the softly rounded theater. It’s the size of a giant billboard.
The story of a maverick fighter pilot who attends the top flight school in the country and falls in love with his instructor.
Ascend the grand staircase to the upstairs lobby, ablaze with light from modern custom-made chandeliers. At the head of the staircase is a twenty-six foot high antique bronze mirror. Sounds of power saw slicing through timber.
The theater entrance is trimmed in anodized gold with bronze glass. Carrara marble covers the ground floor. This is where Hollywood goes to the movies.
Everyone had a go at it. Dawn Steel hated the love story. The Navy wanted changes or they wouldn’t give us access. Shit, we made so many changes the Navy ended up giving us an entire F-14 fighter squadron.
The large curved concession counter leads to an enormous orange-colored auditorium with more than a thousand seats and a screen so large it takes your breath away. Rumble of the soundtrack and audience from the other side of the antique Spanish oak doors. Sounds of hammers hammering rapidly away.
Jerry had me meet the top brass and bullshit them about fighter pilots being the only true American heroes. They lapped that shit up.
YOUNG MEN in neatly pressed grey jumpsuits are piecing together a stand opposite the auditorium doors. They’re working double time, not saying a word. Focused.
We wanted Matthew Modine to star but he wanted to go make “Full Metal Jacket” with Stanley Kubrick.
The young men drape the front of the stand with a printed American flag. Then unfurl a large poster with three U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat jets shooting straight up into the sky above the clouds with the headline AIM HIGH. At the bottom of the poster are the words FLY NAVY.
Sean Penn and Tom Hanks turned down the role. Sean Penn. Fuck, what an over-actor. And Tom Hanks. Who the fuck wants to see a movie with Tom Hanks in it. You know what I’m saying. Box office poison.
TWO NAVY RECRUITMENT OFFICERS approach the newly-made stand. The young men snap to attention, salute. The officers are in sharp navy uniforms. Insignia on the collar, ranking on the sleeve. Brass name tags pinned above their hearts. Clipboards in one hand, recruiting pamphlets in the other promising not just a job but an adventure.
Steve Tisch kept badgering me to test Tom Cruise.
The officers take their positions beside the recruiting stand, waiting for the audience to fly out of the auditorium.
Cruise had dyslexia. Carried a dictionary with him everywhere. Always pushing to better himself. Kind of hated himself in a weird way. Maybe it was because he was short. At five seven he was an inch too short to be a Navy pilot in real life.
He’d be in makeup, yelling at his reflection in the mirror. Cutting himself down.
Hated his father. That shit about his character and his dead father in the movie, that was me. I wrote that.
It helped that Cruise’s real life dad had died of cancer a year or two earlier. They had never reconciled. The prick had never seen any of his son’s movies.
It always helps when the actors don’t have to act.
We asked Tatum O’Neal, Jodie Foster, Daryl Hannah, Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Linda Hamilton, Carrie Fisher. They all turned us down. Brooke Shields said she’d rather study French Literature at Princeton.
We picked Kelly McGillis because she made Cruise look good.
We considered but rejected Steven Spielberg to direct. For a smart Jew he’s as white bread as they come. We signed Tony Scott even though he wanted to change the script. Wanted to make McGillis look whorish. You know we based her role on a real woman I knew with a degree in astrophysics and an ass to die for.
Fucking directors. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.
We tried to get the rights to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” No way. Tried to get “Only the Strong Survive” on the soundtrack but Bryan Adams refused because he said the movie would glorify war. Fuck him.
All the way through the movie, Cruise kept changing his fucking watch. Sent the continuity girl insane.
That’s when he started getting into Scientology.
It’s tailor-made for actors. Doubt? Fear? Rejection? It’s not you, it’s everybody else who’s holding you back.
It’s a vocabulary incorporated in California in 1954. It ain’t a fucking religion.
It’s a bad sci-fi story written by L. Ron Hubbard. Half of Hollywood has been through the Celebrity Center. All that fresh-squeezed orange juice.
I tried it. Everyone tries it. The E-meters, the audits, the whole thing. Could have gone clear but I had something better to blow twenty-five thousand grand on.
It’s supposed to cure everything. Asthma. Depression. Dyslexia. Homosexuality. It doesn’t cure jack shit.
It’s a scam. I tried to tell Cruise.
Intensives. Rundowns. Engrams. Outflowing False Data. I get it. The reactive mind, the subconscious id. Hubbard stole it from Freud. Rewrote it into a sci-fi story.
And everyone bought it.
You know what a Scientologist thinks you are?
A Wog. A Meatball. A Spectator. You don’t even count. And if you disagree, you count even less.
They believe in The Final Flash That Will Extinguish this Planet.
And only the Scientologists will be saved. Fuck, where have I heard that before.
They loved to Capitalize Every Word Coming Out Of Their Fucking Mouths. Fundamentals Of Thought. Staying On Source. Infinite Power. Can you believe one guy wrote all this.
Hubbard told his agent if you want to make a little money, write a book. If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.
And that’s what he did.
Dressed it up as a science, and everyone bought it. They had these stupid charts that showed how your personality improved, how your intelligence increased after an auditing session. Like I said, actor bait.
You’re spending all your time playing somebody else, back-to-back movies pretending to be someone else. Pretending to be anything other than yourself.
Shit, you’ve come from Nowhereville to become the biggest star in the world and nothing makes any sense anymore. When nothing makes sense, Scientology can start to make a lot of sense.
They take away your secrets, your fears, your past indiscretions. And then they take away your soul.
OT7. OT8. Guess I’m OT9 now.
I read all the books. There’s a lot of books but they all say the same thing.
You know one thing they don’t say, one word you won’t find in any of Hubbard’s writings?
You’ve got to have love. We had to go back and shoot the love scene in the elevator between Cruise and McGillis. Between the dwarf and the lesbian. McGillis had already cut and dyed her hair for her next movie. So we had her wear a military cap. Fucking test audiences.
That shot of Cruise strutting out to his Kawasaki GPZ 900. Worn Levis, white T-shirt and dusted leather jackets. Teardrop sunglasses, teardrop smirk.
Riding off into the sunset, into the American ideal.
We all need to become our own hero. Even if it’s only for a hundred and ten minutes.
In Los Angeles we opened “Top Gun” at the National Theater in Westwood. It was Paramount’s premiere theater. Lines ‘round the block. Biggest screen in the city. Six track stereophonic sound. Great sightlines.
The movie tore through everyone’s consciousness. McGillis became a sensation. Cruise became a superstar.
Made more money than any other movie that year. By a long shot. It became the best-selling videocassette in history on pre-orders alone.
Critics panned it.
Pauline Kael in The New Yorker said it redefined masculinity and how a young man looks with his clothes half off. Called it a gay recruiting poster for the Navy.
Which it was. But fuck, you don’t have to tell everybody.
CHAPTER 46: ANY FANTASY WAS MINE
It’s 1987. Swan Lake suite at the Hotel Bel-Air at 701 Stone Canyon Road. The lavish hotel hidden within lush gardens is just down the road from Simpson’s mansion. It’s a Hollywood institution.
Exquisite furnishings, luxurious Italian linens. LISA, 23, lies naked on the king bed. Tiffany, 29, blonde and statuesque, is naked too.
She no longer looks like the frightened young woman Simpson first saved in his garage. She kisses Lisa. Simpson’s voice caresses them.
‘Lisa, you lick Tiffany there.’
‘No, no, a little lower.’
Sounds of Simpson taking a shot with a Polaroid camera.
‘Yeah, that’s great. That’s great.’
Lisa licks deeper.
Someone once asked me to explain my weakness for prostitutes.
Man, it’s not a weakness. It’s an interest. It’s my entertainment for fuck’s sake.
Sounds of Polaroid camera taking more shots.
And they’re not really prostitutes. They’re MAWs -- model, actress, whatever. They’re like half-hookers.
Simpson tosses the last Polaroid shot onto a pile of shots of Lisa and Tiffany.
It’s nothing that unusual.
Girls having sex with each other. Girls pissing on each other. Girls beating each other up. You know, stuff like that.
Nothing weird or sick. Man, what do you take me for?
Simpson is naked except for a fighter pilot leather jacket and mirrored teardrop sunglasses.
He picks up his open single-blade Swiss Army Knife from the side table. Smiles at Lisa and Tiffany. Picks up an open packet of cocaine, scoops some powder on the tip, holds it under his nose and snorts it straight up.
Why two girls? Jesus, man, which bit of ‘twice as fucking good’ don’t you understand?
Simpson rips off the leather jacket and joins in.
The whole dating ritual? What a pain in the ass. It was a lot easier to just pay for the main deal, the main attraction.
For three thousand dollars a night no fantasy is out of your grasp.
CHAPTER 47: IT’S COOL. I FUCKED HER IN HAWAII
Seat 1A in first class on an American Airlines 727 flying through dusk.
Simpson flips through the latest copy of “Penthouse” magazine. He’s a little drunk on champagne.
A Gulfstream brochure sits on top of copies of “Daily Variety” magazine on the vacant seat next to him. Simpson unfurls the centerfold and tilts his head to take in the view of that month’s Penthouse Pet.
AIRLINE STEWARD’S voice from one side.
‘Sir, I’m going to have to ask to put that away.’
‘It’s cool. I fucked her in Hawaii. Five thousand. And worth every fucking penny.’
‘Sir, either put it away or I’m going to have to take it away.’
‘Are you fucking kidding me?’
Airline Steward doesn’t blink. Simpson growls.
‘This is America. It’s my fucking constitutional right.’
‘Pornography is not a constitutional right, sir.’
‘Hey, you’re just pissed because it’s a pair of tits and a cunt.’
Simpson gets up and heads to the bathroom.
‘If it was a stroke mag with a nice cut cock you wouldn’t be complaining.’
CHAPTER 48: IT WAS FUCKING BEEEAUTIFUL!
Simpson heads to the Tudor style Rainbow Bar and Grill at 9015 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood as night falls.
He checks his watch and looks up the sidewalk. ROCKER PATRONS are arriving in tight jeans and studded belts and teased out hair.
HOMELESS MAN wearing a heavy, stained overcoat almost bumps into him. Hands cupped in front of him. Simpson recoils from the smell of piss and sweat and God knows what.
‘Sir, spare a dime?’
Simpson drops a $100 bill in his hands. Homeless Man clutches Simpson’s hand.
‘Thank you, sir. Thank you.’
Simpson yanks his hand free in disgust and heads to the dining room.
‘Get a fucking job, man.’
Simpson glances back at the Homeless Man on the curb with a wry smile.
Want to see how it was done?
Rewind and replay.
Slow motion Simpson checking his watch and looking up Sunset Boulevard. More Excited Patrons arriving. Homeless Man almost bumping into him.
Slow motion Simpson recoiling from the smell of piss and sweat and God knows what as the Homeless Man pleads for change.
Frank the homeless guy carried all the inventory and was never searched by any policeman.
Freeze. X-ray vision reveals dozens of small folded packets of cocaine in various sizes stashed in various parts of his coat.
Quarter grams, half grams and grams. Size of the deal depended on what you handed him.
Slow motion Simpson dropping a $100 bill in his hands.
Twenty-five dollars for a quarter of a gram. Fifty for half a gram. And a hundred for a gram.
Slow motion Homeless Man reaching for Simpson’s hand. Zoom in Homeless Man slipping him a gram packet of cocaine and giving thanks.
Slow motion Simpson pulling his hand free in disgust and heading back into the dining room.
Slow motion Simpson glancing back at the Homeless Man on the curb with a wry smile before stepping in.
It was fucking beeeautiful!
Slow motion as Homeless Man squats on the curb, lost in his own world.
Frank the homeless guy was an actor from New York. You know, method type. Took his role very seriously. Never bathed, never washed his hair or clothing. And before starting work each night he’d piss on himself to get into character. Man, you got to love that kind of dedication.
Freeze on Homeless Man. X-ray vision reveals a Screen Actors Guild membership card in top left pocket of his shirt, above his heart.
You know, they don’t call it a hit for nothing. It’s a drug. A good movie is like a drug.
It lights up the same pleasure centers in the brain. It’s a narcotic in light and sound.
And we’re the dealers.
CHAPTER 49: THE FURTHER AWAY THE MORE YOU SEE
Too much of a good thing? Fuck that.
Simpson is at the beverage bar just off the main dining room of Canyon Ranch in Tucson at 8600 East Rockcliff Road. He’s burly, barrel-chested and badly overweight, wearing cotton slippers and swathed in a thick cotton robe.
There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.
Simpson is ordering a fresh juice, telling the STAFF MEMBER to put more strawberries in the blender.
You know when I’m making a movie I go for the sensations, the thrills. I guess I don’t really make them. I generate them. I generate the sensations.
The set pieces, the character moments. I know how to hit your pleasure centers. I know which bits to twist, which bits to pull. Which buttons to push.
Simpson gets the Staff Member to put in more raspberries.
I had a tendency to gain weight after each movie. So I made it a habit to book into Canyon Ranch Spa to knock off a dozen pounds, get back into shape.
Told everyone I had to shed a few pounds. Truth was I was badly overweight. Blew up like a motherfucker.
Simpson gets the Staff Member to put in more blueberries.
Canyon Ranch has got to be the best spa resort in the country. Staff ratio of three to one. Your own doctor, psychologist and nutritionist. Dozens of different fitness classes and programs every day. For your body and your spirit.
Simpson points out a kiwi fruit. Staff Member isn’t so sure. Simpson nods and Staff Member cuts off the skin and plops it into the blender. Simpson smiles as Staff Member lids the blender and flicks the switch.
Low fat, high fiber food that actually tastes great. You’ve got to try the homemade ice cream with nonfat hot fudge sauce. It’s fantastic.
There’s a strict no alcohol policy so they make these healthy mocktails. Couldn’t get enough of them.
Staff Member pours out the mocktail into a tall glass, pops in two straws and hands it to Simpson who heads to his suite.
Simpson walks past the fitness centre, mocktail in hand. Like the rest of the resort it’s in the low Southwest style, peaceful. The secluded grounds are immaculate. The desert air calm.
I tipped the scales at over two hundred pounds. It’s not where I wanted to be. Worse was my body-fat analysis. You know, what proportion of my weight was muscle and what was fat.
Simpson enters the accommodation wing.
Thirty-one percent was fat. I freaked out. I didn’t realize I was so out of shape. I booked an extra week.
Simpson walks into his luxury suite with stunning views beyond the manicured lawn to the Santa Catalina foothills. Cloudsoft feather bed, Mascioni luxury Italian lines, pale earth tones.
I took a couple of hikes. You’re given a backpack with snacks, water and towel. Their vans take you directly to the trailhead, so you’re not wasting time walking to your hike.
Simpson takes in the view, and gulps a mouthful of mocktail. Opens the small built-in refrigerator, reaches into the freezer and pulls out a chilled bottle of vodka. Twists open the lid and tops up his mocktail.
Getting out of Los Angeles was a life-saver.
You’ve got to get distance. You’ve got to see the big picture. Getting away from the meetings, the offices, the assistants, the bullshit, gives you clarity. Gives you a better sense of purpose.
Simpson is staring out into the desert.
Use a fresh, rested mind to think deeper. What are your goals for the next quarter, what are your next steps in your career, what should you do about those problems that won’t go way.
Desert birds flit through the bright air.
You don’t have problems? We all have problems. The more subtle the problem, the more helpful it is to tackle it with a quiet mind. You need distance from a problem. When you’re too close to it, either by knowing too much or having an agenda or experiencing strong emotions, you can’t see it completely. The further away the more you see.
Simpson is lost in thought.
Think of a mountain. If you are a foot away you see only grass and shrubs. Twenty feet away you see a slope. A hundred feet away you see the contours. A thousand feet away you see that it’s the biggest mountain there. Even further you see the way the mountain creates the weather.
The further away from an idea, the less details you hold in mind, and the more context you can perceive. Seeing the big picture lets you see the connections between information, the insights.
Simpson is lost in an idea for a film.
Getting away from everything brings you closer to yourself.
It may be your only chance to see the mountain you’re on, to decide if you’re taking the right path.
Or even if it’s the right mountain to be climbing at all.
CHAPTER 50: THE REAL DEAL
It’s 1988. Simpson is in a doctor’s office on the third floor of the West Olympic Medical Center in downtown in Los Angeles. The walls are white, the furniture clinical.
There’s a framed medical degree from the University of Oregon.
DR. STEPHEN AMMERMAN sits at the desk, writing out a prescription for Simpson’s medication. Ammerman’s hair is thinning.
‘Next time you get anxious, I want you to take two of these, okay?’
Simpson sits on the other side of the desk. Dr. Ammerman keeps writing and doesn’t look up.
‘You know, what I really want to do is write.’
‘Yeah, I can see that.’
Dr. Ammerman signs off.
‘Oh no, not this. I want to be a real writer, a scriptwriter.’
Simpson looks at his pen.
Dr. Ammerman hands the signed prescription to Simpson who takes it.
‘I just have to work a bit more on my dialogue.’
Simpson looks at the prescription and smiles.
Doctor Stephen Ammerman was a man of many talents. He dabbled in plastic surgery and psychiatry. Could have played football for Harvard if he’d wanted to.
He was a true genius when it came to pharmacology. Not one of those quacks who was a B student and got a degree and thinks he knows something. He’s a real original thinker about medicine and the body.
Simpson takes Doctor Ammerman’s pen and modifies the prescription.
He gets these new growth hormones from Germany. No one else can get them. They’re the real deal.
Simpson looks at his watch.
As you get older you need all the hormones you can get.
CHAPTER 51: THAT’S SHOWBIZ, RIGHT
EXECUTIVES sit around a conference table in a large conference room at Paramount Studios. There’s an expensive Comdial speakerphone in the center of the table.
Each Executive has a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions notebook and pencil placed in front of them. One Executive keeps doodling penises.
TALL EXECUTIVE leans over, adjusting the volume on the speakerphone. Through the speakerphone, Simpson sounds like he’s having trouble breathing.
‘-- so how are all my little Jews doing today?’
Angry Executive looks around.
‘What did he frigging call me?’
Older Executive smiles.
‘Relax, it’s just Don. He’s kidding.’
‘Little? I’m six foot.’
Tall Executive doesn’t bother looking up.
Jerry Bruckheimer watches the Executives from the back of the room. He opens a small bottle of Perrier mineral water.
Speakerphone hisses. It’s a bad line. Older Executive leans in, raises his voice as if speaking to a child. One syllable at a time.
‘Can you hear us, Don?’
‘-- ye --’
Speakerphone crackles. Simpson sounds like he’s heaving.
‘--oh yeah, ye --’
Tall Executive looks up.
‘Sounds like he’s having a heart attack.’
Older Executive looks concerned.
‘Are you all right, Don?’
Speakerphone fizzes. Simpson sounds strangely strangled. Executives lean forward, trying to make out what he’s saying.
‘-- yeah, ye --’
Speakerphone beeps as the line goes dead. Angry Executive shakes his head.
‘Why can’t he take a frigging meeting on the lot like everybody else?’
Bruckheimer sips his mineral water. Angry Executive shakes his head.
‘What could he be doing that’s so frigging important?’
‘-- ah -- yeah --’
The AT&T speakerphone on Simpson’s desk in the study of his Bel-Air mansion beeps. There’s a small mound of crushed cocaine next to it.
Simpson is leaning back on his leather chair. Head back, eyes closed. Smiling away.
‘-- yeah -- yeah --’
Tiffany is on her knees between his legs, naked. She’s deep-throating him all the way.
Simpson comes and comes.
Tiffany was the first one I let into my house. Let into my life.
Tiffany looks up. Pushes her hair back with the back of her hand.
Did I love her? It’s a good question.
Simpson reaches over and presses a button on the speakerphone. Beeping cuts off.
But you know, love is not something I really understand. She’s a cockhound. That’s always a good thing.
Simpson picks up his single-blade Swiss Army Knife, scoops some cocaine on the tip and snorts it straight up. Tiffany looks up at him, smiles.
‘You’re a handsome man, you know that?’
Simpson smiles back.
‘You’re just saying that because I’m paying you a thousand bucks to fuck me.’
Tiffany laughs. Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographic portrait “Lisa Lyons, 1981’ hangs framed on the wall. It’s a black and white gelatin-silver nude of female bodybuilder Lisa Lyons, both arms raised above her head. Nice and tight.
‘You know I called Alex and asked for you.’
‘Am I worth it?’
‘You’re special. But your tits are too small.’
Simpson scrawls something on a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions notepad, rips out the page and hands it to Tiffany.
‘Call this doctor.’
Tiffany takes the page.
‘It’s covered. I’ll pay. They always want girls with big tits.’
‘It’s day surgery, nothing to worry about.’
Simpson notices an eyelash on Tiffany’s cheek. He reaches down and gently lifts it off.
Move to Robert Mapplethorpe’s ‘Lisa Lyons, 1981.’
Tiffany was never jealous. I guess I loved that about her.
Robert Mapplethorpe’s ‘Lisa Lyons, 1981’ comes to life as the nude bodybuilder flexes her muscles even tighter.
I love centerfolds, ‘Penthouse’ Pets. Big hair, big thighs, big tits. Muscled, sculpted.
Lisa Lyons relaxes her pose.
The way I look at it is if you wake up and you’re ugly, you know what real pain is. That ain’t fun.
Lisa Lyons poses to one side.
I don’t want to hear how difficult it is to be good-looking and be taken seriously. Give me a fucking break. Truth is, the more attractive you are the easier life is.
Lisa Lyons poses her biceps.
But I ain’t attracted to them just because they’re good looking. They got to be extremely smart, extremely funny, extremely ambitious.
Lisa Lyons poses her triceps.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I don’t cross the street to meet a woman just because she’s got a nice personality. I can’t fuck a nice personality.
Lisa Lyons poses her back, looking down over her shoulder.
It cuts both ways. If I ain’t got a nice ass, they don’t want to meet me either. That’s showbiz, right?
CHAPTER 52: NO ONE IS CLAPPING
What did you think of “Die Hard?”
OFFICE WORKERS file into the faceted 34-story Fox Plaza office building at 2121 Avenue of the Stars in Century City. The landmark building is clad in red granite and gray glass.
You know the Nakatomi Tower in the movie is actually the Fox Plaza. It’s 20th Century Fox’s corporate headquarters. Rupert Murdoch had bought the studio from Marvin Davis in the most complicated real estate deal ever. Sold the back lot back to Davis to develop into Century City on the proviso 20th Century Fox becomes the lead tenant in the new skyscraper.
Still building it when they started shooting. The movie was based on a novel by Roderick Thorp. Jeb Stuart and Steven de Souza did most of the work on the screenplay. It’s the same old dick love story.
I’d been trying to get Bruce Willis for a project forever. I knew he had crossover potential. I knew he could carry it to the big screen.
The original McClane character was some kind of super cop. I convinced John McTiernan to pull back on all that shit. McTiernan? He was the director.
Audiences want to see flawed characters who overcome their flaws. They want to see characters change. That’s why they line up and buy a ticket. It’s easier than changing themselves.
Bruce Willis was the fifth choice for the lead. It first went to Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Sylvester Stallone, then Burt Reynolds, then Richard Gere before Willis got it.
Murdoch personally approved Willis’ five million dollar fee. No major actor had ever been paid five million dollars before. After that they wouldn’t work for less. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.
It’s clean. Keep all the action in one location. Drop your protagonist in the middle of it. Ratchet up the drama. Keep ratcheting it up.
Down air conditioning ducts, up elevator shafts, under escalators. Have him tread barefoot over broken glass to save the woman he loves.
It’s not a perfect movie. There’s some errors. There always are.
No one ever gets the C-4 right. Real one-point-two-five pound blocks of C-4 explosives are wrapped in green plastic. With yellow markings down the side.
Mistakes, we all make them.
Look at the office party scene when Takagi gives a short speech and the staff erupts into loud applause. Great scene.
Look again. No one is clapping.
CHAPTER 53: SECRETARY-BOSS FLAP
It’s 1989. Front-page story in the LA Times newspaper. Headline reads Secretary-Boss Flap: A Hollywood Courtroom Story
The byline reads: Michael Cieply, Times Staff Writer
Depending on whom you believe, movie producer Don Simpson of “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop” fame may be a nightmare boss who used cocaine in the office, forced his secretary to make his dates with prostitutes, and screamed at the secretary for the least misstep, real or imagined.
Or Monica Harmon, the secretary in question, may simply be a vengeful ex-employee who rifled her boss’s files, then spread “false and malicious” gossip to squeeze money from Simpson and his partner Jerry Bruckheimer.
Simpson clears his throat.
It wasn’t a fucking sexual harassment suit. The stupid bitch was suing for wrongful dismissal and emotional distress. Seeking five million dollars in damages.
This is a fucking receptionist we’re talking about here.
Five million dollars. It’s not like I asked her to suck my dick, fuck.
You want to know what she alleged? That Simpson left a pile of cocaine in his office and in his office bathroom and ordered Harmon to clean it up. That Simpson maintained lists of girls he used as prostitutes and required Harmon to keep and update the lists. That Simpson required Harmon to schedule his appointments with some of the prostitutes. That Simpson played pornographic videocassettes in the office. That Simpson regularly called Harmon things like dumb shit, garbage brain and stupid bitch.
Okay, the last bit. That’s true. How stupid was she?
Stupid enough to rope in some lawyer she was probably fucking to try and roll me for money. What a fucking stupid bitch.
You don’t fuck with me. No one fucks with me.
My lawyer is Bert Fields. Some people think he’s the best lawyer in Hollywood. He’s not. He’s the best lawyer in the whole fucking world?
He’s the most influential lawyer in the business. He’s never lost a trial.
Never raises his voice, always the gentleman. He has this whole English gentleman thing down pat. Chauffeur driven Bentley, Savile Row suits, handmade shoes.
Represented clients from Edward G. Robinson to Tom Cruise, from Michael Jackson to Madonna, from Mike Todd to Brian Grazer. Litigate? Oh, he’ll litigate like a motherfucker.
Shares his Malibu home with his third wife, Barbara Guggenheim. It’s totally white, from the down-filled sofas to the yapping West Highland terriers.
Bert has written two mystery novels, and is working on a book about the real identity of William Shakespeare. Told me he always wanted to write the definitive biography of Elizabeth I.
I introduced Bert to Anthony Pellicano. When you needed dirt, Anthony was your man. He dug up stuff no one else could. Always chewing on Chiclets, pockets rattling whenever he was around.
If anyone ever gave me any shit, Anthony promised he’d make them remember why they were afraid of the dark.
I used to call him the Sin Eater, because he could make your sins disappear. Why ask for forgiveness when you had Anthony around. The man was a saint.
He came up with so much stuff on Harmon that Bert just killed her in court. Just tore strips off her, piece by piece. One revelation after the other until the judge dismissed the case. Threw it out of court.
Paramount bought up Harmon’s right to appeal for just twenty-five hundred dollars.
Twenty-five hundred? That’s a night with a half decent hooker and a couple grams of coke.
Life’s funny like that.
CHAPTER 54: BIG? SMALL? REALLY BIG?
It’s late. Fade up live version of Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding’s frenetic ‘Satisfaction’ pumping through the sound system of Miss Kitty Strip Club down in the City of Industry.
DRUNKEN MEN and WOMEN are whooping it up around the mirrored stage bar while energetic STRIPPERS lose their clothes piece by piece. It’s more strip than tease.
Spirits soar. Music pumps into the raised VIP Room at the back of the club.
Simpson sits by himself in the plush back booth, nursing a vodka on the rocks.
French screenwriter PAUL JAVAL, 39, bounds up to Simpson.
‘Where did your partner go?’
He picked up at the bar. He’s probably getting a blowjob in the back of the limo right now.
‘So why are not you chasing any women?’
Simpson sips his vodka.
‘It’s not how it works.’
‘My partner will ask nine women to sleep with him and nine women will turn him down in a row. The tenth woman says yes, and he goes home with her.’
Simpson gulps his vodka.
‘Me, I ask one woman to go out with me and she says no, and I want to go home and put my head in the fucking oven and blow my brains out.’
Simpson drains his vodka.
‘I’m no good at subtlety between men and women. I don’t understand the subtext.’
Simpson whips out his platinum American Express card.
‘What I understand is American Express. With this I can fuck any girl I like any time I like. I love this card more than life itself.’
‘Do not leave home without it?’
‘Man, I don’t leave the bedroom without it.’
Simpson takes out a Motorola MicroTAC cellular phone, flips it open and starts dialing. Looks up at Javal.
‘Let me call Alex and she can send over some girls.’
Simpson waits for his call to be answered.
‘What color do you like?’
Simpson cups his other hand in front of his chest.
‘Big? Small? Really big?’
CHAPTER 55: IT’S NOT PERSONAL, IT’S BUSINESS
Christophe Salon at 348 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills.
Simpson is in a black leather chair in front of a well-lit mirror, getting his hair cut and his nails manicured.
Jerry and I were fucking bulletproof. That’s how this town works. That’s how you know there is no God. Because how could a fair and just God let us win every single fucking time.
Our movies made money. A lot of money. “Flashdance.” “Beverly Hills Cop.” “Top Gun.” They cost less than twenty-five million dollars apiece and grossed one-point-four billion dollars worldwide.
Then count in your ancillaries and you’re talking real money. Shit, if it wasn’t for Jerry and me there wouldn’t even be a Paramount. We made that studio.
We made them spend six million dollars a year to fund our production company, which included the biggest office on the lot.
Black was our signature color. Black leather furniture, black leather jackets for the crew. I wore new black Levi’s 501s every day. Jerry and I had matching black Ferraris. A little gay, but in a good way.
We made blockbusters. Explosive incident, impending crisis, triumphant resolution.
We changed the movie business forever. You may think you’re above our movies, but you ain’t. You’ll line up like everyone else for a taste.
I know what you’re thinking. That all our movies are the same.
Simpson has the big ideas. Bruckheimer executes them. Our movies start with a sunrise, implying a new beginning, and end with a freeze-frame, implying permanence. Fuck you, you try and make a movie and then talk to me.
It’s not personal, it’s business.
Make enough money and people can forgive anything.
I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor. Rich is better. Way better.
Three thousand dollars a night buys you any fantasy you want. Nothing is out of bounds.
CHAPTER 56: WE ALL CALLED HER ALEX
Madam Adams’ cream and Wedgwood blue ranch-style house-cum-brothel high in the Hollywood Hills.
The infamous madam sits propped up in an enormous Dutch antique bed, working four telephones. She is 52. A short, lumpy widow.
For a time there Elizabeth Adams was Hollywood’s top madam. We all called her Alex.
Madam Adams is surrounded by a dozen of her favorite cats -- DALI, PICASSO, GEORGE, GEORGINA, CHAGAL, MIRO, COCTEAU, FATIMA, LEGER, MATISSE, BRAQUE, GIACOMETTI.
Her place was just up the road from mine. She called it “Casa de Pussy” on account of all the fucking cats.
Madam Adams is also working her two-gram-a-day habit from a gilded rococo mirror resting on a plump pillow.
Man, the place reeked of cat piss.
FILIPINO MAIDS in uniform are cleaning up after all the cats.
Cats and cash. On any given night, twenty to twenty-five girls on duty earning a thousand to two thousand per client per session. Higher for clients with special interests.
Madam Adams snickers into the phone.
She worked the girls exclusively in Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and Brentwood. Young, fit and willing girls.
Each nightstand on either side of the bed is laden with a huge bouquet of white Calla lilies.
See those flowers? I sent those. I was her top client. Minimum five girls a week. She used to call me “Beverly Hills Cock.”
Filipino Maid picks up a cat clawing the bedspread. Cat hisses and spits.
I don’t date. I fuck. I don’t make love. I fuck.
Madam Adams cackles into the phone.
And in Los Angeles, prostitution is just another service business. Like photocopying, or catering.
Cat lashes out at the Filipino Maid, scratching the back of her hand. She drops the cat.
Hiring a girl is just a lot easier than trying to pick one up. There’s no complications and you’re not wasting any time. Plus they’re professionals.
Filipino Maid sucks the back of her bleeding hand.
And I like professionals. I love the ones that take pride in their work. The ones who can act like they’re not just doing it for the money.
Madam Adams shoos away the Filipino Maid.
I mean, sure, I could fuck starlets. But between you and me, they can’t fuck for shit.
Madam Adams taps the pillow next to her and the cat slinks towards her.
Hey, you can ask some girl out and she can say no. Or she can say yes and then not want to go to the restaurant you want. She can even say she doesn’t want to sleep with you.
Cat sidles up next to Madam Adams who pats it.
This way, you get everything you want. They go out where you want, they take their clothes off when you want, they fuck you when you want and then they leave when you want.
Madam Adams taps the cat away.
That’s the deal. You don’t pay them to come, you pay them to leave.
Madam Adams hangs up the phone and reaches for more cocaine.
You don’t pay them to fuck. You pay them to fuck off.
Madam Adams’ face is reflected in the mirror as she dips her head to snort another line. Her eyes come into focus.
CHAPTER 57: JESUS, IT’S JUST SEX
Simpson’s eyes widen, pupils dilate. He’s tearing down Stone Canyon in his new basalt black Porsche 911.
Sounds of police motorcycle siren whipping the air. Simpson bites his tongue.
Simpson’s eyes are reflected in the rear view mirror as he speeds down the road. He can see a MOTORCYCLE OFFICER behind motioning him to pull over.
Simpson pulls over and sees the Motorcycle Officer pull up behind and dismount. It’s a tall policewoman in beige leathers, mirrored sunglasses and helmet.
Simpson smiles. Touches up his hair in the rear view mirror. Opens the window.
Motorcycle Officer steps up to the window.
‘Are you aware this is a residential zone, sir?’
‘Yeah, I live just down the road.’
‘Any reason why you were speeding, sir?’
‘May I see your license, sir?’
Simpson checks his pockets for his license without luck. He blushes again.
‘I’m Don Simpson. I make movies.’
Motorcycle Officer steps back to her motorcycle, opens a pouch and takes out what looks like a form.
She starts writing.
Simpson looks in the rear view mirror. Rolls his eyes.
Motorcycle Officer steps up to Simpson and hands him a black and white 8x10 glossy of her in a bikini. She’s written a telephone number in the bottom right-hand corner.
‘That’s my home number.’
Jesus, it’s just sex. I don’t like vanilla sex. I like hard sex. I like rough sex.
I like S&M sex. I like paying for S&M sex. Hell, is that a crime?
CHAPTER 58: FUCK THEM ALL!!
Simpson is in the study of his Bel-Air mansion. Dressed in black, surrounded by walls of black Sony audio and video equipment.
He’s coked out of his mind and watching the new security monitors. One surveillance camera is trained over the high driveway gate, second surveillance camera over the driveway parking area, third surveillance camera over the front door.
There’s cocaine all over his desk. There’s an uncashed check from Paramount Pictures for two million dollars on top of a slew of glossy magazines.
Another day, another Paramount check for “Beverly Hills Cop.”
Simpson picks up the check, rolls it up into a tight straw and snorts a hefty line of coke.
Action comedy? That’s me. I made the fucking genre. I made Eddie Murphy. I made Mel Gibson. I made Bruce Willis. All those jive talking dickwads. That’s me. I made them.
Simpson wipes cocaine off the top of his desk with his finger.
Do you know how much they get paid now? Twenty million a pop, thirty million a pop, forty million a pop plus points.
Simpson rubs his cocaine-laced finger across his top gum.
Prostitutes. They’re all prostitutes. Except you don’t fuck them. They fuck you.
I invented Tom Cruise. Before me he was just a stupid little Scientologist with shitty teeth. Now he’s an Operating Thetan at twenty million pay or play.
Simpson looks at the glossy magazine with Tom Cruise on the cover looking determined.
Fuck, why didn’t I become an actor! I could have been an actor. I could have been a great actor.
Cut on glossy cover of Tom Cruise. Sounds of coke being diced up.
Fuck him! Fuck Nicole! Fuck them all!
Cut closer on glossy cover of a determined Tom Cruise.
Fuck the whole fucking Screen Actors Guild!!
CHAPTER 59: HOW HARD COULD THAT BE?
Simpson looks like he’s reading through a lengthy film script.
Hollywood was drowning in money by the end of eighties. Lawrence Gordon set up his own production company with a one-hundred-million investment from JVC. Peter Guber and Jon Peters were lured off the Warner lot when Sony offered to buy their production company for two-hundred-million dollars and let them run Columbia Pictures with compensation packages and expense accounts to burn.
Simpson is reading every word. A paperback of Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” lies to one side.
Wild money. Jerry and I were offered pools of five-hundred-million dollars to six-hundred-million dollars by three different Wall Street consortiums to set up a new production company. It’s hard to say no to that kind of money. But we’re not business guys, we’re movie guys.
Simpson turns to the last page.
Better the devil you know. So we made the deal to end all deals with Paramount. Five-hundred-million dollars and the freedom to make any five movies we want, without seeking studio approval.
Simpson picks up his black Montblanc Meisterstück 149 fountain pen.
You think that’s good? I went even further. Stipulated in the contract that Jerry and I had the right to direct three of the movies, and if I wanted to, I could act in them too. We could make any movie any way we wanted to.
Simpson unscrews the cap from his fountain pen.
They put up the money, we put up the talent and we meet at the theater. We don’t have to consult with any executives. We don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. We just get on with the job. And deliver the hits. Clean.
Simpson signs the last page.
Look at that contract. It’s more than two hundred pages. It’s longer than a fucking script.
It’s a visionary alliance. That was the headline in the ads. We took out full page ads in the trades, in “Variety” and “The Hollywood Reporter” trumpeting the deal. Even took out full pages in “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “The Washington Post,” “The Los Angeles Times.” A new era of producing and directing.
Paramount was desperate for a summer blockbuster. I figured we’d do “Days of Thunder” with Tom Cruise and then go and make real films.
The business was shifting, taste was moving. Audiences were looking for more character-oriented pictures.
“Driving Miss Daisy” had picked up four Academy Awards. Jesus, my grandmother and some black guy driving her. And I don’t mean driving her.
Yeah, change was coming. I was preparing for it. I decided to put myself in “Days of Thunder.” You know, as an actor. Play one of Cruise’s racing rivals. How hard could that be?
Producer and actor. How hard could that be?
CHAPTER 60: IF IT’S CLEAN, WE KNOW IT’S RIGHT
It’s 1990. Dawn rises over the “Days of Thunder” FILM CREW and equipment on location at Daytona International Speedway. More than a hundred people from all departments are skimming about.
Simpson is sitting in a Gold Medal director’s chair, confiding in LA Times staff writer ELAINE DUTKA sitting next to him.
‘Cruise? Cruise is the Audie Murphy of the nineties.’
Dutka laughs and jots it down in her reporter’s notebook.
‘Don’t write that down. I’m just kidding. Write Tom Cruise has always dreamt of winning the NASCAR championship.’
‘It’s not true until it’s written down.’
Dutka writes it down. Simpson smiles.
‘Okay, so ask me anything you want.’
‘How do you pull together a big movie like this?’
‘Jerry is brilliant at detail and follow-through. If we were painting by numbers, I’d look at the big frame while Jerry filled in all the blanks. At the outset, I was the verbal one. Jerry was the look. But we’ve cross-pollinated. We have a common appreciation for a certain aesthetic.’
‘How would you describe that aesthetic?’
‘We’ve developed our own particular argot, our own language. We don’t have to talk. We look and ask if it’s clean. This applies to art, a jacket, a shot in a movie, even a girl. It means it works. It means the design works. If it’s clean, we know it’s right.’
‘Is there a central thread running through all of your movies?’
‘They’re generally about people confronting the reality of daily life in a headlong fashion, vanquishing their internal and external demons.’
‘On the face of it, you’re drawn to the popular rather than the esoteric --’
‘Personally, I’m drawn to the esoteric. I read philosophy and enjoy tackling abstractions. But in choosing a film, I never start out intellectually. I commit to my instincts. It’s gut to heart to mind to mouth. “Beverly Hills Cop” isn’t Dostoevsky, but it does have a theme. It’s the story of an inner-city cop who goes on a mission of value into a bastion of excess and privilege.’
Simpson’s on a roll. Dutka is trying to keep up, scrawling notes.
‘People assume there’s an inverse ratio between success and aesthetic quality. That’s the problem with critics. You can’t apply the same parameters to a “Top Gun” as you do to a “Room With a View.” You have to assess the original intention.’
‘What about critics who claim that “Top Gun” was your only hit developed from scratch? That “Flashdance” and “Beverly Hills Cop” were handed to you?’
‘“Beverly Hills Cop” was my idea at Paramount. Michael Eisner claimed credit, but all the original memos have my name on it.’
Dutka underlines her notes. Simpson clears his throat.
‘Michael is the single most creative executive alive, but he’s also given to hyperbole. It pains me if he forgets what happened. Hollywood can be exceedingly painful sometimes.’
‘Was there a bidding war when your contract expired?’
‘Our deal with Paramount fell apart three times. We had better offers from two other studios -- they found out the parameters of the deal and told us we could have everything plus. Also an offer of a billion dollars from a consortium of bankers and lawyers. But Paramount made us partners in ancillary areas, giving us unprecedented opportunity and control across the board. It’s fucking great.’
‘I mean, we’re not going to go off the deep end. We’re not going to go off and do a picture about a lesbian nunnery in Rhodesia, although I’d watch it. Of course the points at first dollar gross are important. But the significance of our deal is not the money, it’s the freedom. We’re essentially a studio within a studio.’
‘Honestly? It’s their post-production, distribution, marketing. If you give them the horses, the guys at Paramount ride them better than anyone in town. They take them farther faster. They win more races. The fact we make them obviously helps.’
‘What about the snickering in Hollywood over those full-page newspaper ads publicizing your deal? Any second thoughts? Regrets?’
‘Are you fucking kidding me? The ads weren’t even our idea. The studio wanted a way to express the historical nature of our financial and creative partnership and that was an adjunct.’
‘As in anything else, your friends think it’s great. Your enemies think it’s shit.’
‘Was the suit filed against you by your former secretary a drain on your energy?’
‘Haven’t given it a second thought. It’s beyond insanity. Last week Eddie Murphy was sued twice. If you have a modicum of success, if you’re a well-known player in the game, there are jackals. There are envious, weak, frankly sick people out there who make you a target. They focus on you and blame you for their own failure. You pay people to handle it.’
‘Has the success you’ve achieved diminished your hunger, your drive?’
‘In my case, ambition has been a function of knowledge -- not a desire to get fame and money. If you’re a conscious human being, you’re ambitious about improving yourself spiritually and philosophically.’
Simpson lets Dutka in on a secret.
‘Contrary to what you’ve been told, money doesn’t bring you more headaches. That’s a lie told to those without power. In fact, money frees you from worrying about the light bill, the rent. Money enables you to go head to head with who you are every day.’
‘I heard you’re playing a featured role in this film?’
‘I began as an actor. I love acting. It’s an important part of the equation. I like dealing with actors more than anything. It’s magical to me. I grew up with no magic in my life. All I wanted to be was a magician. With movies Jerry and I get to make magic every day.’
‘And if the magic runs out?’
‘If we blow three films in a row, we deserve to be thrown out. If the next three pictures are dogs, Paramount would have every right to tear up the contract. It wouldn’t be legal, of course. But it would be understandable.’
‘How’s the magic so far?’
‘No problems. We’re a few days behind schedule. Nothing unusual. We’ll catch up.’
Simpson smiles wide.
You know what I wanted to tell her? I wanted to tell her that Cruise was giving me the shits. Hanging out with his Scientology posse. Skydiving with Scientology leader David Miscavige.
The little shit. Does he have any idea what jumping out of a plane does for your insurance overages?
And Miscavige. Do you know what the little prick told me? That I was on the threshold of my next trillion years. That I could lie in shivering, agonizing darkness or live triumphantly in the light. The choice was mine.
You know what I told him?
I told him to fuck off.
CHAPTER 61: WE WERE DOING EVERYTHING WE COULD
Tom Cruise wears dark racing leathers and helmet. He looks determined behind the wheel of a souped-up, 700+ horsepower Winston Cup NASCAR race car, staring out at the Daytona International Speedway track ahead. Rev revving.
“Days of Thunder” started with a budget of forty million that blew out to seventy million. Hey, it didn’t all go up my nose.
WRANGLERS sprinkle birdseed over the speedway track.
The studio was screaming for a summer movie. We knew the script wasn’t ready. Towne was writing new dialogue every night.
CAMERA CREW stand by on the bank of the speedway track in front of the birdseed. Gulls flutter down, happily pecking at the birdseed. FOCUS PULLER focuses on Cruise.
But we had a window on Tom Cruise. So we had to roll with it.
FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR screams into his headset.
‘Action! Action!! Action!!!’
Cruise’s racecar rockets forward and runs over dozens of gulls. Splat, splat, splat.
‘Cut! Cut!! Cut!!!’
Cruise’s racecar grumbles and spits to a stop, a dead gull splattered on the windscreen.
It was a fucking mess.
Cruise leaps out of the racecar.
The racecars kept breaking down. That meant delays, that meant money.
Cruise unclips his helmet and hurls it onto the track.
And when they weren’t in the shop, they were spinning out of control and slamming into banks of cameras.
Cruise storms off the set.
We wrecked thirty-five fucking race cars at a hundred grand a pop.
It was taking forever and we weren’t getting anything. It was becoming a fucking disaster movie.
First Assistant Director hurries after Cruise.
We had weather problems. Shit, at one stage it rained for six days straight.
SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR hurries after First Assistant Director.
The studio was locked into the release date. The cost of flying in hookers was the least of it.
We had three crews shooting simultaneously. We had four teams of editors working. We were doing everything we could.
THIRD ASSISTANT DIRECTOR hurries after Second Assistant Director.
Tom Cruise wanted to make a racecar movie so we had to make a racecar movie.
And why did the dipshit want to make a racecar movie? Because Paul fucking Newman took him round a track once at one-hundred-and-eighty-miles per hour. Fuck me.
Why couldn’t the guy stick to salad dressing?
Wranglers hose dead gulls off the speedway track.
CHAPTER 62: AND THIS IS HOW HE THANKS ME?
Simpson plays the part of veteran racecar driver ALDO BENNEDETTI at Daytona International Speedway. He wears tailor-made blindingly white racing leathers with a bright red stitched panel advertising Goody’s headache powders.
He stands in front of a matching red Chevrolet Lumina NASCAR racecar being interviewed by an ESPN REPORTER.
He looks good. He acts fine. He smiles as he delivers his line.
‘I’m glad he’s well enough to come back, and I hope I beat him, at the same time.’
I worked hard for the part of Aldo Bennedetti. Worked out every day. Got down to a lean, muscled one-hundred-and-seventy pounds.
Match dissolve blindingly white racing leathers into pitch black racing leathers with a bright red stitched panel advertising Goody’s headache powders.
Had collagen injections in my chin and cheeks to give me better definition, better angle. Had a forehead lift and eyebrow restructuring for a sterner, sharper look.
Simpson as Bennedetti starts to dissolve away.
Cruise cut me out because he didn’t want anything to take away from his performance.
Simpson as Bennedetti disappears altogether.
I fight tooth and nail to get that little cocksucker the seven million and points he wants to do the movie and this is how he thanks me?
Fucks me up the ass behind my back.
CHAPTER 63: IT WAS GETTING SO I COULDN’T THINK
Simpson is trapped in a post-production suite at Daytona Beach.
Dim light as a FILM EDITOR at a Steenbeck spools forward through the dailies. Simpson has his head in his hands, miserable.
‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’
Simpson looks up then drops his head in hands again.
‘We’re fucking fucked.’
Simpson looks up at the Steenbeck screen as images whirr past.
‘There’s no story here. We barely have a first act, and then we have nothing.’
Film Editor stops on a frame of NICOLE KIDMAN delivering a line.
‘And this stupid redhead from Australia that Tom’s fucking, I can’t understand a fucking word she’s saying.’
‘She’s got two dialogue coaches.’
‘She needs a fucking speech therapist.’
The movie was going from bad to worse. I had Paramount executives phoning me every ten fucking minutes. I had Jerry freaking out.
The director started fucking one of my girlfriends.
It was getting so I couldn’t think.
CHAPTER 64: CASTING COUCH?
PRETTY GIRLS are lined up outside Simpson’s suite at The Shores Hotel at 2637 South Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach. They’re local girls, young and impressionable. Gushing and giggling.
I had this special hormone flown in from Germany. Inject it straight into my penis and it would keep me hard for twelve hours at a stretch.
Simpson’s Personal Assistant, MARILYN APPLEBY, has seen it all before. She stands at the head of the line, pen in hand with a clipboard cradled in her arm. Slightly bored.
I could fuck my brains out for half a day before my dick needed a break.
Simpson steps out of his suite in a bathrobe, combing his wet hair. Marilyn looks up.
‘How was the last one?’
‘Not bad. Next!’
NEXT GIRL steps into Simpson’s suite.
Casting couch? It’s a fucking myth. It’s such horseshit Jerry and I used to laugh about it all the time.
Simpson steps in behind the Next Girl. Marilyn closes the door.
Anybody who thinks they can fuck their way into this business is a fucking idiot.
CHAPTER 65: IT’S FUCKING GREAT COKE
Men’s bathroom at the Wreck Riverfront Bar & Grill at 115 Main Street in Daytona Beach.
RACE NEWMAN opens a cubicle door on Simpson sniffing coke.
‘Oh shit, dude, I’m sorry.’
Newman is all of twenty-six. Simpson is all smiles.
‘Ain’t nothing to be sorry about.’
Simpson holds up his folded packet of cocaine. It’s open at the top.
‘Want some coke?’
Newman looks around.
‘If you’re a cop, you do know this is entrapment? No right of entry, no secondary exit, no --’
Simpson dangles his folded packet of cocaine.
‘I’m Don Simpson. I make movies.’
Newman smiles, puts out the back of his hand.
‘I’m Race Newman. I love movies.’
Simpson taps some coke out of the folded packet onto the back of Newman’s hand. Newman sniffs it up in a heartbeat.
Newman reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a small Ziploc bag packed with flaked coke. There’s about seven grams inside.
He dangles the Ziploc bag with a smile. Simpson smiles, puts out the back of his hand.
‘And I love coke.’
Newman opens the Ziploc bag and taps some coke out onto the back of Simpson’s hand. Simpson sniffs it up in a heartbeat. It kicks straight in.
‘Especially coke like that.’
Newman tips some more coke onto the back of Simpson’s hand. Simpson sniffs it straight up.
‘You know you shouldn’t be buying by the gram.’
Simpson takes a deep breath. Newman smiles.
‘Buy an eighth of an ounce at a time and you know what you’re getting.’
‘Especially from me.’
Simpson smiles, synapses rattling.
‘It’s fucking great coke. Where’s it from?’
Newman dips the tip of his finger in the cocaine and draws the structural formula of cocaine in mid-air like pixie dust.
/ / \
CH2 N-CH3 CH-O
\ / / \
CH2 ------CH2 C=O
Simpson is awestruck as the formula glows white before dissolving away in sprinkles of light.
‘How did you do that, Race?’
Newman smiles wide.
‘I’m a coke dealer, Don. I can do anything.’
CHAPTER 66: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT
Simpson stares vacantly at TEENAGE BOYS and TEENAGE GIRLS sprawled out on the sand on the Daytona foreshore. Music from a local radio station thumps out of a car parked in the parking lot, doors open.
All my movies are rock’n’roll movies. “Flashdance” is rock’n’roll in a steel mill. “Top Gun” is rock’n’roll in a fighter jet. “Days of Thunder” is rock’n’roll in a racecar.
All you got to do is find a good song, cut a three-minute clip and run it on MTV. It becomes a three-minute commercial you don’t have to pay for. When you launch the movie, the clip goes on high rotation -- which makes the song a hit which makes the movie a hit which makes -- well, you get the picture.
You want to know a funny thing? It doesn’t really matter what the song is. As long as it’s got a catchy title and a catchy hook, they’re caught.
SLIM EXECUTIVE and POLISHED EXECUTIVE approach. They’re from Paramount. They’re wearing suits. They mean business.
Slim Executive smiles at Simpson.
‘Don, we see what you’re doing.’
Simpson doesn’t look at them.
Polished Executive nods to the teenagers.
‘You’re trying to get into their heads to figure out what they want to see.’
‘You’ve got it ass around. They don’t tell me what they want to see. I tell them.’
Simpson smiles at the teenagers.
‘And I’ll let you in on a secret.’
‘They all want to see the same thing.’
‘You want to tell us what it is?’
‘You give me twenty-two million dollars and I’ll show you.’
‘We already have.’
‘And then some.’
‘What is this? Good cop, bad cop?’
Both executives smile. Slim Executive steps closer.
‘Don, we have to go through the budget again before we fly back.’
Simpson rolls his eyes.
‘What the fuck do you want Jerry and me to do? We’re killing ourselves out here.’
Simpson is serious.
‘There are no five-star luxury hotels here in Daytona Beach. There are no four-star hotels. We may as well be staying in a fucking Holiday Inn.’
Polished Executive cuts in.
‘Don, we’re concerned about the picture --’
‘What the fuck do you know about making a movie?’
‘Don, I do have an MBA.’
‘I wouldn’t piss on your MBA.’
Polished Executive adjusts the cuff on his shirt. Simpson glares at them.
‘You guys are all the same. You wouldn’t know how to make a movie if your fucking life depended on it. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You never know what you’re talking about. So fuck you.’
Simpson heads back to The Shores Hotel.
‘Fuck all of you.’
CHAPTER 67: IT’S YOUR JOB TO DEAL WITH IT
Simpson’s suite at The Shores Hotel on Daytona Beach is bathed in golden light. Shimmering picture postcard view of soft waves ebbing into the distant sun.
Hotel chair rolls and tumbles in slow motion towards the setting sun. It stops in midflight and bounces off. Simpson screams.
Simpson grabs the chair in both hands, strides forward and slams it into the panoramic window with all his force. The window explodes, showering glass everywhere.
Marilyn Appleby flinches, cupping a hand to protect her face. Simpson screams at her.
‘Now look what you made me do!’
Marilyn looks at the floor.
‘Didn’t I fucking ask you for a suite with windows that opened?’
A shard of glass dangles from the top of the window frame. Simpson is still holding onto the chair. Marilyn’s voice is barely audible.
‘None of the suites have windows that open.’
‘So fucking what? You’re my personal assistant.’
Dangling shard of glass slips from the window frame and shatters on the floor.
‘It’s your job to deal with it.’
Simpson plants the chair on the floor by the smashed window, sits down and looks out to the fallen sun.
CHAPTER 68: HEY DARLING, CHECK THESE BABIES OUT
Tiffany is naked, stroking a tiny kitten and peering inside the fourth closet in the bedroom in Simpson’s Bel-Air mansion. She shakes her head.
‘That is so sick.’
Reveal inside the closet. It’s stacked floor to ceiling with pairs of new black Levi’s jeans.
Simpson sits hunched over on the other side of the bed, naked with his back to Tiffany. He tugs at something, grunting.
Hey, I purchase them in bulk, wear them once and then discard them.
Tiffany kiss kisses the kitten’s head.
I’m a legitimate twenty-nine/thirty-two. But they shrink about half an inch when washed -- which makes them about half an inch wrong.
And they fade just that little bit. The black loses its blackness.
‘Hey darling, check these babies out.’
Simpson clomps around the bed to Tiffany. He’s wearing new cowboy boots with the price tag still swinging from the top.
They’re snakeskin with a fanged cobra head on each foot.
Tiffany drops to one knee for a closer look. Her tiny kitten bristles, bares its teeth and lashes out at the dead reptiles.
Simpson topples back, almost loses his footing.
‘Jesus, Tiffany, you know I’ve got a thing about fucking cats.’
Tiffany soothes the kitten.
‘It’s not a cat, my little Eskimo. It’s a kitten.’
Tiffany coyly offers up the kitten to Simpson.
‘Kissy, kissy, kissy.’
Simpson pulls back, arches his fingers and hisses back at the tiny feline.
CHAPTER 69: SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN A HIT
Simpson shifts down and accelerates his Porsche 911 4S along Angelo Drive in Bel-Air. Wind buffets the rear Euro wing.
Car radio fades over the next song. It’s Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ duet “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Simpson looks at the radio with disgust.
Simpson kicks in the radio with the heel of his cowboy boot.
‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’
Simpson keeps kicking in the radio until it spills out wires like tangled spaghetti.
Should never have been a hit.
I didn’t even want the song in the fucking movie but the director threatened to take his name off because he was fucking the stupid bitch doing the vocals.
Song keeps playing out.
Number one for fifteen weeks in a row. Fuck! Fifteen fucking weeks.
Simpson kicks out more wires as the speeding Porsche takes a corner too tightly. He double spins the steering wheel but the Porsche spins out of control, mounts the curb, crashes through a white picket fence and plows into a charming cottage.
Porsche door opens and Simpson and staggers out. Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ duet “Up Where We Belong” keeps playing out of the disemboweled car radio.
Bit and pieces of the suspension litter the freshly mowed front yard.
Simpson flips open his cell phone and auto dials.
‘Yeah, I need another one. No, not that shit basalt black. Real black.’
Orange rear indicator light on the crashed Porsche blinks.
CHAPTER 70: LET’S GO TO A TITTY BAR
Orange sun beats down on the hiking trail behind the Canyon Ranch in Tucson. Sound of Simpson snorting coke.
HIKING GUIDE wearing khaki stands with his fists on his hips. Simpson stumbles out from behind a silvery-gray Coyote Bush, wiping away cocaine from under his nose. Sweat on his brow.
‘Mister Simpson, you cannot snort cocaine on the hiking trail!’
‘Because this is a health resort, Mister Simpson, not a rehab facility.’
Simpson looks around with a happy smile.
‘It’s not the same.’
‘No, Mister Simpson it’s not the same.’
‘Shit, I just thought you guys had better views.’
Hiking Guide sighs. Simpson looks out over the infinite horizon.
‘Hey, let’s go to a titty bar.’
Hiking Guide is taken aback.
‘You’re the guide. There’s got to be a titty bar around here some place.’
Hiking Guide cannot believe his ears.
‘Jesus, it’s not like we’re in fucking Pentecostal City.’
Simpson smiles, and nods.
‘I need tits and beer.’
CHAPTER 71: BEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE!
Fade up live version of Jimi Hendrix’s rapturous “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Fade over a SCHOOL MARCHING BAND playing “Star-Spangled Banner,” loudly and proudly on the South Anchorage High School football field. Buffeted by pulsing winds as a Bell 206 L3 Helicopter descends from a night sky littered with too many stars.
I was a complete fucking nerd when I was in high school. A fat little kid with his nose always stuck in some book.
Never mind getting any pussy, I couldn’t even get a date. I took a lot of shit from a lot of kids.
Cut to me as a big time star Hollywood producer and it’s time for my twentieth high school reunion.
Simpson slides open the helicopter door and steps out, resplendent in a white suit and coked out of his mind. He’s got a bottle of Flying Dog beer in one hand.
I looked fucking sensational. I hadn’t eaten any solid food for three weeks.
Simpson looks up at a huge vinyl sign draped over the entrance to the auditorium lashed by the wash of the helicopter propellers. It reads WELCOME TO SOUTH ANCHORAGE HIGH SCHOOL REUNION.
FORMER STUDENTS spill out of the auditorium to see what all the commotion is about. Simpson throws down his beer and tosses the empty bottle over his shoulder.
Two spectacularly-endowed Penthouse Pets step out of the helicopter. They’re TINA and GINA, 28. And they’re twins.
Man, their fucking jaws dropped. I mean, they shit themselves.
Simpson takes one in each arm and saunters towards the auditorium. They teeter on their stilettos. The mouths of one or two Former Students actually drop open as Simpson sails past.
Inside the auditorium, the COVER BAND plays Jimi Hendrix’s version of “Cocaine.’
Simpson circuits the auditorium with the voluptuous Tina and Gina, greeting old friends along the way.
Cover Band stops playing as Former Students stop dancing to take in Simpson and his girls. Everyone in the auditorium tries to catch a glimpse.
Simpson sweeps out of the auditorium. Strides to the helicopter in the middle of the football field. Helps each girl step in first. Waves at everyone now gathered at the auditorium entrance.
He looks up into the night. A light snow begins to fall.
He steps into the helicopter and slides the door shut.
Best moment of my life!
Slow motion from underneath the helicopter as it spirals into the heavens above.
CHAPTER 72: AND THEN I WENT AND FUCKING LOST IT
Test screening of “Days of Thunder” at the Cinemapolis Multiplex at 5635 East La Palma Avenue in Anaheim Hills.
Simpson stands nervously at the back of the theater, popping pills like candy.
TEST AUDIENCE shifts uncomfortably.
I made all these successful movies because I had this great rapport with the audience -- and then I went and fucking lost it.
Test Audience laughs inappropriately.
And since I don’t know what the fuck it is or how I got it in the first place, I had no idea how to get it back.
Paramount Executives from earlier scenes are huddled together near the exit door like funeral directors.
Man, they love to see you fail. Because then they can feel better about themselves without having to do shit.
They don’t have to rise up. They can just push you down.
CHAPTER 73: I’M A CHILD OF MY TIMES
Simpson is in the gym of his Bel-Air mansion, under a tanning bed.
Surrounded by half a dozen Tom Cruise promotional cardboard standees from “Days of Thunder.” In racing leathers, arms folded and the thousand yard stare.
A year earlier, we’d been labeled perfectionists. Now with “Days of Thunder” we were out of control. Hey, we obsess. It’s not a crime.
But in Hollywood, it’s either I love it or I hate it. It’s either the best script ever, or it’s toilet paper. He’s a great guy, he’s a total schmuck. There’s no moderation. No in-betweens.
People in this business are driven and mono-maniacal. Well-rounded individuals live in Dubuque, Iowa.
In this town there’s a tremendous need for self-inflation and promotion. It’s respected, too. But the same time, it’s considered garish and tasteless. It’s a fine line.
A facade of humility is considered the appropriate response to success. People use humility as a self-glorification technique. The people who survive are those who are congenitally innocuous, who say nothing but seem to be saying something.
That wasn’t me.
I gave a lot of interviews. Paramount wanted to saddle us with every fucking problem under the sun. Fuck that.
I like to hear words and phrases collide in midair -- even if they explode in my face or come back to haunt me. I gave as good as I got.
You know what they say about not believing your own hype. Well, I didn’t pay much attention to that.
My legend started taking on a life of its own.
Every second question was about all the plastic surgery I was supposed to have had. It’s just jealousy. I’ve never had a nip or tuck. But I will.
I see nothing wrong with striving to look as good as you can. Shit, Hollywood is a walking advertisement for plastic surgery.
Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Excess is success. I’m a child of my times. There’s very little I haven’t done.
And I’m sorry for none of it.
CHAPTER 74: THE THINGS PEOPLE DO TO SAVE A LITTLE FACE
Simpson sits on the toilet of his Bel-Air mansion at night, reading Janet Maslin’s film review from “The New York Times’ out loud.
‘Mister Scott, who also directed Mister Cruise in “Top Gun,” does his utmost to pump up the audience’s adrenaline at all times, which means that the film’s big moments -- the races, the crashes, the news that someone needs brain surgery -- don’t seem that different from the small ones. Most of “Days of Thunder” plays like a commercial for an unnamed product, a commercial replete with waving flags, cheering fans, picturesque rural Americana, filtered blue light and other nice-looking touches.’
Simpson holds the newspaper closer, reads the last line.
‘Another of Mister Scott’s trademarks is the use of enough upbeat soundtrack music to generate toe-tapping in the dead.’
He scans the review in disbelief. Then rips it out and wipes his ass with it.
A movie is like a parachute.
He flushes the toilet.
If it doesn’t open on that first weekend, you’re fucking dead.
It makes eighteen million on that first weekend and everyone calls it a bomb. Because in this town if it’s not a hit, it’s a miss.
Officially “Days of Thunder” cost sixty-two million to make, about twelve million more than the supposed original budget. Original budget? What original budget?
Paramount chairman Frank Mancuso kept calling me, grousing that the movie was going over budget. What fucking budget?
It was made without a commitment to a number. It was always a ballpark.
Mancuso told everyone that the only budgetary variance came from content changes due to rewrites. Fuck him. Without the fucking rewrites there wouldn’t be a fucking movie.
There were a lot of accusations flying about. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Frank lost his temper, and I lost mine.
I asked Mancuso for a bonus for Towne. Not just any bonus, not just monkey points. Something substantial. We’re talking Robert Towne here, the best writer in the business.
Mancuso started dicking around, stonewalling. So Jerry and I paid Towne out of our own pockets.
Frank never forgave me for that. His position was that I hurt him in the eyes of the artist. He and Robert were great friends. Okay, I did hurt him, but not intentionally. I wish he’d just paid the fucking bonus.
What a royal fuck-up.
You ask Mancuso and he’ll deny he ever had the conversation with me. The things people do to save a little face.
There was talk of Jerry and me splitting up. There always was. Now it was becoming louder than usual.
Even the press started reporting it. Started saying the relationship had run out of juice. It started getting personal.
I don’t know about you, but I always thought the press should draw a line between public and private lives. Fuck, I wasn’t running for public office.
But in this country the Hollywood hierarchy is the equivalent of the royal family and suffers the same slings and arrows. I know it comes with the territory.
You wouldn’t think I’d care what they said about me. But I did.
CHAPTER 75: YOU THINK IT’S CHEAP TO BLOW UP HELICOPTERS IN MID AIR?
It’s 1991. A copy of the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper spins to a stop on the front-page story.
2 of Paramount’s Costliest Top Guns Lose Their Jobs.
That was the headline in the “Los Angeles Times.” Everyone fucking loved that. Man, they’ll dance on your fucking grave in this town. From hero to zero.
Our visionary alliance was history. Overnight we became the scapegoat for Hollywood’s free-spending ways. Jerry and I became the fall guys for every mistake Paramount Pictures ever made.
We were as devastated as anyone over “Days of Thunder.” But that didn’t stop Mancuso from demanding a nine million dollar refund from our percentage of the box office.
The movie took the heat for a drop in the studio’s pretax operating profit.
We were damaged goods. Do you know how I know that? Because in the trades every second executive was saying that we weren’t.
Financial sobriety, reigning in costs, new era of fiscal responsibility, blah blah fucking blah. Yes, I’ll tell you what it meant.
Character-driven movies. You know what character-driven movies are? Movies without bombs or missiles or explosions or fucking anything but actors talking.
And do you know why studios like them? Because they’re fucking cheap to make.
You think it’s cheap to blow up helicopters in mid air?
CHAPTER 76: FUCK US? NO, FUCK YOU
Simpson sits behind his desk in the study of his Bel-Air mansion, absentmindedly watching an amateur VHS videotape he filmed. Dominatrix Video Tape #01.
He mashes the remote control six frames forward and six frames back so it looks like the bodies on the Sony television screen are fucking. Simpson presses the play button and the VHS videotape plays on.
On the screen we can see he shot the video in his bedroom.
A naked PATRICIA, 31, stares down the camera. Very black, very built. 180 pounds of pure muscle, wearing a black strap-on dildo. On the screen a naked Tiffany has her hands on her hips, declaring she ain’t anyone’s bitch. Naked redhead MONICA, 27, looks dazed and confused on the bed.
On the screen Patricia mounts Monica from behind and goes through the motions of fucking her. Simpson screams at Patricia to fuck her properly. Tiffany paddles her ass.
What happens when you’re the one who raised the bar? You have to keep raising the fucking thing. Hey, I ain’t complaining. But in what other business does grossing eighty two million dollars spell disaster?
On the screen Simpson sounds increasingly bored. He yells that it’s all bullshit. He wants somebody to turn Monica out. He discards the camera, saying he’s going downstairs to watch a movie. He yells at Tiffany to find him a fucking freak, find him someone who’s fun.
Jerry and I shut down our communications with pretty much everybody. Paramount were being complete pricks. Fuck us? No, fuck you.
Did I give a fuck that everyone wanted to see us fail? No fucking way.
CHAPTER 77: I’M A LOYAL GUY
Tiffany frantically searches through cupboards in the kitchen of Simpson’s Bel-Air mansion.
‘What have you done with him?’
Simpson ambles past in a bathrobe, morosely eating Häagen-Dazs Peaches and Cream ice cream straight from the tub.
He answers with a mouthful of ice cream.
‘Kitty? Kitty? Where’s Kitty? What have you done with Kitty?’
He spoons more ice cream into his mouth and answers in undecipherable blobs.
‘-- nth -- rate -- or --’
Simpson swallows and points with the spoon.
‘In the refrigerator.’
Tiffany whisks the large Jenn-Air refrigerator door open and rifles through the contents, knocking over jars and bowls. Checks in the dairy compartment. Checks in the fruit and vegetable compartment.
She slowly looks up at the freezer door. She slowly opens it.
Kitty is inside, shivering in the freezing air. Tiny icicles have formed at the end of her tiny whiskers. She lets out a tiny frozen meow.
Tiffany is in shock. She delicately picks up her frozen kitten as chilled air licks out. Tears well in her eyes.
‘How could you do something like that?’
Simpson is eating another mouthful of ice cream.
‘-- arc -- tit --’
Tiffany starts crying.
‘Why would you do something like that?’
Simpson is still mouthing ice cream.
‘-- arc -- tit -- ing --’
Tiffany rushes out, clutching her kitten. Tears streaming down her face. Simpson calls out after her.
Simpson scoops another spoonful from the tub. He screams out after her.
‘Hey, I come from Alaska! One day that cat will thank me!’
Simpson gulps down the ice cream. Winces. Brain freeze.
You know, people had tried to split Jerry and me up before. But I’m a loyal guy.
And so is he.
CHAPTER 78: THE ONE LOVE OF MY LIFE
Simpson sits on the edge of the massive bed in the bedroom of his Bel-Air mansion. He holds something behind his back, looking sheepish.
Tiffany closes her eyes and extends both palms to him, excited.
He pulls out a small Tiffany Blue Box. It’s been tied with a simple white ribbon bow. He gently places it in Tiffany’s hands.
She slowly opens her eyes wider and wider when she sees what it is. She gently pulls on the bow that unravels itself and cascades away.
She slowly lifts off the lid. Then parts the pure white-tissue paper to reveal a small Tiffany Silver Spoon on a 16” silver necklace. The handle is encrusted with tiny diamonds. It’s the most expensive coke spoon Tiffany will ever see.
Simpson pulls out a small Ziploc bag of fresh coke, dangles it with a smile.
Tiffany smiles too.
There was a real love between Jerry and me. There was no way we were going to split up.
He’s probably been the one love of my life.
CHAPTER 79: WHAT THE FUCK WAS WRONG WITH THESE GUYS?
Fade up Jimi Hendrix’s erratic “Manic Depression” as Simpson spins his open single-blade Swiss Army knife on the kitchen counter of his Bel-Air mansion.
Mancuso was still hassling us to renegotiate our profit participation at Paramount. Still hassling us to pay back nine million dollars, which he was loading up with interest every day. What a prick.
The blinds are closed, holding the daylight back. The thin blade slices the air.
Jerry and I wanted out. Mancuso agreed. So we started shopping around town for another production deal.
Simpson yawns as the knife slows to a stop, pointing to the large Jenn-Air refrigerator. He opens the door, leans in and retrieves a large bowl heaped with links of fresh gourmet sausages.
We went everywhere and ended up signing a five-year deal at Disney. Man, who would have thought we’d end up at the Mouse House.
Simpson takes out a large copper frying pan, bangs it on the stovetop and fires up the gas.
I’m sure they thought we were going to make another “Beverly Hills Cop.” But I was becoming politicized in my forties. I wanted to make movies about something. Something with an edge, something controversial.
Simpson grabs his knife and slices off one sausage after the other, dropping each into the frying pan. The meat sizzles and spits.
Hey, what’s your problem? I’m on a carb-free diet. Doctor’s orders. And anyway these aren’t ordinary sausages. They’re from the European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen. Best meat shop in Beverly Hills.
Simpson keeps dropping sausages into the frying pan until there are eleven in there, frying in their own fat.
And they deliver. They’ve got more than twenty varieties. All made fresh daily, with no preservatives or fillers. I’m partial to the southern Italian with fennel seeds and chili.
Simpson shakes the frying pan to stir the sausages.
The world was changing. I was changing. I was trying to grow up.
Two sausages almost slip out. Simpson tries to push them back but burns the tip of finger on the edge of the frying pan. Fuck! Shakes his hand, sucks the tip of his finger.
I used to think money gave you freedom. Now I know it gives you freedom to find out how much pain you’re in.
The stories we were working on still reflected our loner-against-the-world ethos, but they were being played out against some serious social underpinnings -- crumbling social classes, governmental corruption, dysfunctional families.
An innocent against a hostile environment in a world much darker than our earlier movies. What could I do? The world was becoming a darker place.
I started working with better screenwriters. I started going deeper.
I resurrected “Zone of Silence” about the government’s secret research into UFOs. Relax, I hadn’t been abducted. Hadn’t even seen a UFO, unless you count watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
But I didn’t want it to be another schmaltzy Spielberg movie. That’s why we hired John Dunne and Joan Didion to work on it. We didn’t want a kid’s movie. We wanted a cross between “All the President’s Men” and “Z.”
Jerry and I were also planning our tandem directing debut on “Witness to the Truth,” an FBI corruption tale we had Robert Towne work up.
The development process? Dealing with Disney? Man, what a pain in the ass.
Slow? The executives were fucking retarded. We’re trying to make pictures from a thematic and character base. Disney kept banging on about concept, concept, concept. It was like listening to myself ten years ago.
What the fuck was wrong with these guys?
Ricardo Mestres kept complaining we couldn’t produce a script his guys could get excited about. So we tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. And put in those fucking Disney moments everyone wanted.
I thought we had a go with “Bad Boys” until it fell apart. We spent six months doing rewrites and then Dana Carvey dropped out. We had Carvey and Jon Lovitz on pay-or-play deals. But without the pair Disney wasn’t interested.
What the fuck was so fucking unique and interesting about Carvey and Lovitz for fuck’s sake. All we had to do was recast but Disney was giving us a pass.
Fuck. Everyone started sniping behind our backs, bitching that the Disney deal was falling through. That we’d never make another movie.
Everyone had warned us that Disney was going to be the death of us.
CHAPTER 80: ANYTHING WORTH DOING IS WORTH OVERDOING
Simpson sits behind his desk in the study of his Bel-Air mansion, absentmindedly watching an amateur VHS videotape he filmed. Dominatrix Video Tape #02.
On the screen a naked Patricia is fucking a naked MICHELLE, 27, hard from behind with a black strap-on. Michelle is thin with big tits and dirty blonde hair. She’s also pretty frazzled on crystal meth. A naked Tiffany attaches pussy clamps on Michelle who calls for them to be tightened harder, harder.
Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. How can you know it’s enough until it’s too much? It’s the only way to find out.
On the screen Patricia sweats and sweats, Michelle pants and pants. From behind the camera Simpson complains that Michelle is not playing her role properly, she’s loving every fucking minute of it.
CHAPTER 81: ART OUTLIVES US ALL
It’s 1992. A party is in full swing in Simpson’s Bel-Air mansion. PARTY GOERS are flitting all over the place.
Simpson is huddled down in the living room with independent filmmaker PAUL SCHRADER. Deep in conversation.
Schrader rolls a five-paper spliff without any tobacco. Simpson snorts coke from the tip of his single-blade Swiss Army Knife which he keeps dipping into a Ziploc bag packed with creamy, flaked Colombian powder.
‘Start fast and hard and loud and then stay that way. Don’t let up for two hours.’
Simpson offers Schrader some coke from the tip of his single-blade Swiss Army Knife. Schrader begs off.
‘What about story problems?’
‘Character logic? Fuck it. Turn up the music. I know what Americans want.’
‘And what do Americans want, Don?’
Simpson ups the bravado.
‘Sex. Loud music. Sex. Hot clothes. Sex. Illicit drugs. Sex. Fast cars.’
‘And then some more sex.’
‘That’s a lot of sex.’
‘Americans want to see people screwing. Never forget that.’
Schrader rolls his eyes.
‘What? You gay or something?’
‘It’s just --’
‘You a fucking prude?’
Schrader sighs. Simpson looks at Schrader in disbelief.
‘You want to make fucking art!’
Schrader blushes. Simpson laughs.
‘Fuck off. Next you’ll want to talk about dialogue.’
Schrader opens his mouth to say something but Simpson jumps in.
‘Dialogue? Fuck off. Americans don’t want to see people talking. They want to see shit blowing up.’
Schrader opens his mouth to speak but again Simpson beats him to it.
‘Dialogue? Put your money where your mouth is. You go make your relationship movie, I’ll go make one about fucking and getting loaded. See you at the box office.’
Schrader offers the freshly rolled spliff to Simpson.
Simpson takes it, Schrader flames a lighter and torches the tip. Simpson inhales.
‘Don, the box office isn’t everything.’
Simpson explodes into a coughing fit. Schrader smiles.
‘What was the highest grossing film in nineteen-forty-one?’
Simpson recovers. He has no idea what it was but he knows what it wasn’t.
‘It wasn’t “Citizen Kane.”’
Simpson passes Schrader the spliff.
‘No, it was a piece of war propaganda by Howard Hawks called “Sergeant York.”’
‘And which one are we going to remember, Don? Which one is going to make the history books? The one that made money or the one that made art?’
Schrader passes Simpson the spliff.
‘Art outlives us all.’
Simpson inhales deeply. Several of the Partygoers dissolve away like wisps of smoke.
CHAPTER 82: WE’VE BECOME THE NEW GODS
Schrader exhales as the partygoers in Simpson’s living room thin out.
‘You’re wasting your time making these studio movies. You’re just making dollars for some corporation that already has too much money.’
Schrader passes Simpson the spliff.
‘You’re a rent boy for the studio. You cover all their overages, you cover all the extras they load onto the budget. And they make you pay two per cent over prime.’
Simpson inhales deeply and thinks. Schrader leans in.
‘They don’t even realize cinema has become the new church. They don’t understand we’ve become the new Gods.’
Simpson inhales again. Last of the Party Goers dissolve away like wisps of smoke.
CHAPTER 83: OR A HIGHER CALLING
Schrader exhales. Only Simpson and he are left.
‘One day we’ll die for our sins and we’ll look back and what will we see? Our life’s work?’
Schrader passes the spliff to Simpson.
‘Movies that made money? Or films that made art?’
‘A life of spreadsheets?’
‘Or a higher calling?’
Smoke wisps away.
CHAPTER 84: I KNOW, IT’S A WEAKNESS
Looking out of the tinted rear passenger window of a Cadillac limousine idling on the corner of Balboa Boulevard and Rinaldi Street in Granada Hills, Los Angeles.
Low grumble as Simpson pulls up alongside in his new black Porsche 911 Turbo S with Euro wing and wheel flares. The traffic lights are red against the evening sky.
I’m in awe of CEOs who make more than me. I know, it’s a weakness. Creatively they’re fucking idiots, right. But man, can they pack that wealth on.
Simpson turns and recognizes whoever is in the back of the limousine. Lowers his electric window and mouths something to the passenger.
Whoever is in the back of the limousine lowers the electric window.
Simpson repeats himself.
‘How’s my little gay Jewish houseboy doing?’
DAVID GEFFEN glares at Simpson from the back of the limousine.
‘Fuck you, Simpson. I’m selling my record company for a billion dollars. I’m a fucking billionaire.’
Limousine’s electric window whirs up.
Simpson takes off before the traffic lights change to green. Rapidly accelerates to a hundred miles an hour down Balboa Boulevard. Checks his rear view mirror with a sharp smile.
Takes a bend too wide and clips one, two, three, four, five, six parked cars. Mounts the curb and flies into the display window of the Luce Lighting store.
Glass shatters and sprays every which way as Simpson’s Porsche flies through the display window and crashes into glass and crystal chandeliers, pendants, sconces, lamps.
Electrics short circuit, sparks spray. Porsche engine rumbles and gears grind as Simpson shoves it into reverse. White reverse lights light up.
Tires spin out on all the shattered glass as Simpson tries to back out.
CHAPTER 85: ONLY BETTER
MASSAGE THERAPIST is massaging Simpson on the portable massage table in the airy living room of the Casa Grande at Canyon Ranch in Tucson.
Simpson has his eyes closed, happy.
Massage Therapist is a professional. Casa Grande is more than a luxury suite. It’s a complete freestanding home in the resort with multiple bedrooms and views out to the distant mountains.
I loved coming out to Canyon Ranch. No phones, no hassles.
Massage Therapist thumbs a tightened muscle.
It was a fucking oasis, man.
Simpson looks like he’s dreaming.
Except there wasn’t a whole lot of entertainment. Had to escape over the wall for late-night beer and burger runs.
Simpson’s smile widens.
Once somebody FedExed me a Domino’s Supreme Pizza. Man, it was like finding a naked blonde in high heels in my bed -- only better.
CHAPTER 86: IT’S CALLED YOU
Simpson sits behind his desk in the study of his Bel-Air mansion, absentmindedly watching an amateur VHS videotape he filmed. Dominatrix Video Tape #03.
On the screen a naked Michelle is splayed on the bed, giggling to herself. A naked Patricia goes to open the first closet. From behind the camera Simpson screams at Patricia to stop.
A naked Tiffany grabs Patricia’s hand and leads her to the en suite. From behind the camera Simpson complains about the lack of action.
On the screen Tiffany steps out of en suite wearing a black peaked leather cap and mirrored Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses. Between her legs she wears the black strap-on dildo.
She looks at the bedraggled Michelle and declares that this is over, and she’s going to finish it. Simpson behind the camera cheers her on.
On the screen she strides to the bed and flips Michelle on her hands and knees. Lifts her hips in the air and pushes her face into the bed. Then plows the dildo straight into her ass. Simpson moves in.
On the screen Tiffany pulls back both Michelle’s arms and starts fucking her ass furiously. Tiffany pulls back her arms so hard Michelle squeals in pain until one of them breaks with a loud snap. Then Michelle screams. Simpson looks out from behind the camera, eyes wide reflected in Tiffany’s sunglass lens.
On the screen Tiffany asks him whether he’s happy now. Simpson looks at his reflection in Tiffany’s sunglass lens.
The more money you make, the more you have to deal with something pretty heavy.
Simpson looks at himself looking at his reflection on the screen.
It’s called you.
CHAPTER 87: MAN, I WAS TRYING TO CHANGE
Simpson is in the master bedroom of his Bel-Air mansion, pointing out the first closet to his young house assistant TOD MARRERO.
Jerry Bruckheimer’s soft, gentle voice flows out of the black AT&T speakerphone and answering machine on the bedside nightstand. It sounds like the voice of a kind god.
‘-- Don, we love you. But this is your life. You can’t keep going down this road. You have to turn it around.’
Simpson looks frayed. Tod looks tense.
‘Just get a fucking lock put on it, right. Don’t look inside. Just the fucking lock.
‘-- For your own sake, Don. I want you to hand your life over to me. I can help. I want to help.’
Tod hurries out. Simpson yells out after him.
‘I fucking mean it.’
‘-- It’s what I’m here for.’
Simpson looks around the room, trying to see where the voice is coming from.
‘Who the fuck is this?’
‘-- It’s Jerry. It’s your partner.’
Simpson looks around the ceiling.
‘Where the fuck are you?’
Glide to AT&T speakerphone and answering machine.
Man, I was trying to change. You know the subterranean tunnel I had installed from the outdoor pool to the hot tub inside? I had it filled. It was time to put away childish things.
None of our pictures were getting a green light. We couldn’t get anything up.
I needed to put the distractions away and focus on the films.
I needed to get my mind straight.
I needed a fucking hit.
CHAPTER 88: THE SACRIFICES I’VE MADE
Dr. Stephen Ammerman sits at his desk in his office on the third floor of the West Olympic Medical Center in downtown in Los Angeles, writing out a prescription for Simpson’s medication.
‘I want you to take these to keep you sparked up, okay. They’re new.’
Simpson stands on the other side of the desk. Dr. Ammerman keeps writing and doesn’t look up.
‘What are they?’
Dr. Ammerman signs off.
‘Technically they’re anti-depressants. But they’re a new generation. No nasty side effects.’
‘How’s the script coming along?’
Dr. Ammerman hands the signed prescription to Simpson who takes it and leaves.
‘You know how it is. One distraction after the other.’
Doctor Ammerman knew his pharmacology. Wasn’t afraid to experiment. Taught me how to inject the good stuff. You didn’t have to hit a vein. Popping it under the skin will do. Straight into the muscles.
Everyone’s looking for the fountain of youth. I was able to buy it. Supplements that made my organs thirty years younger. Smart drugs too.
“The Fountain of Youth.” Now there’s a great title for a movie.
Did you know I had a testosterone patch implanted? My testosterone level was off the fucking charts.
Angry? Fuck that. I wasn’t angry. I just didn’t suffer fools.
I never let my guard down for a second. I never let anyone in.
I used to marvel at Jerry and Linda. To be honest, I was envious because Linda is so extraordinary on every level.
I’ve never been with someone who I thought would be my soulmate forever.
Except the movies. I knew from the time I was twelve I wanted to be involved in motion pictures.
And I was willing to sacrifice a lot to make it happen. Now I have to deal with the sacrifices I’ve made.
CHAPTER 89: MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE
Security monitor screens Tiffany and Michelle and Simpson at the front door of his Bel-Air mansion.
Michelle has her arm plastered and in a sling. She’s well and truly out of it. Tiffany also looks a little shaky on her feet.
Simpson stands in a bathrobe with his back to the open front door.
‘I can’t fucking believe it! You’re trying to shake me down, you stupid fucking whore.’
Simpson reaches into the pocket of his bathrobe and throws a handful of hundred dollar notes at them.
‘Here’s a thousand bucks, now fuck off. Get out and stay the fuck away from my house.’
Simpson steps inside, slamming the front door behind him.
Hey, that’s life. You’re just an extra in everyone else’s movie.
Tiffany starts crying. Michelle starts trying to pick up the notes as they flap away.
It was kind of weird. Never understood it. The more money you make, the more you hate yourself.
Love? Fuck, what do I know about love.
Love is not something I understand. Love is something -- in my experience -- that always seems distant and floating, a kind of gossamer-like goal that a lot of people are intently pursuing.
Look, it might be possible for some people. They’re probably purer than me.
I don’t think I’m clean enough to do that yet.
Maybe in another life.
CHAPTER 90: I WANT TO FLY OVER ASPEN AND INTO THE SUN
It’s 1993. It’s late. Simpson stands in the middle of the tarmac at Burbank Airport looking up at the shattered stars. He wears dark sunglasses. He’s packed on the pounds.
A black Jeep Cherokee pulls up, the driver’s door opens slowly and Jerry Bruckheimer steps out. He walks up to Simpson and speaks in a near whisper.
‘Don, it’s two-thirty in the morning. What do you want?’
‘What do I want? I want a jet.’
‘No, Don, you don’t want a jet. You want some serious medical care.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘There’s a facility we’ve arranged for you. No one needs to know.’
‘John Travolta’s got two fucking Gulfstreams, Jerry. Two fucking Gulfstreams! The world’s gone fucking crazy.’
‘Everything’s been organized.’
‘Even Julia fucking Roberts has got a fucking Gulfstream. Jesus, Jerry, everybody’s got a fucking private jet except me.’
Jerry looks at his friend and partner.
‘Why do you need a private jet, Don?’
‘A Gulfstream, Jerry.’
‘Why do you need a Gulfstream, Don?’
‘Barry Diller’s got one.’
‘That’s not a good reason, Don.’
‘Geffen’s got one, too.’
Jerry hangs his head. Simpson looks up into the stars, swooshes his hand into the moon and smiles.
‘I want to fly over Aspen and into the sun.’
Jerry turns and walks away.
CHAPTER 91: WHO THE FUCK MOVED THE GATES!?
It’s a dark night. Simpson’s new black Porsche 911 Turbo ST roars into the side driveway of Promises Treatment Center at 20786 Cool Oak Drive in Malibu and plows straight into the high stone wall.
Driver’s door swings open and Simpson spills out. He picks himself up, dusts himself off. His dark sunglasses askew.
‘Who the fuck moved the gates!?’
Red rear brake light glows in the dark night. Simpson’s cell phone rings. He flips it open.
‘It’s the Don.’
He looks around, dazed.
‘Yeah, yeah. I’m here.’
He tries to straighten his sunglasses.
‘I’m checking in. I’m just waiting for somebody to park my car.’
CHAPTER 92: YOU CAN ALWAYS USE A BIGGER POOL
Simpson sits at the bottom of his empty swimming pool in the shadow of his Bel-Air mansion, guzzling a large bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka. Empty pill bottles are scattered around him.
In his hand he has an architectural scale model of his estate with a new pool and pool house.
I was going to fill it in and put a tennis court on top but I changed my mind. I decided to make the pool bigger.
The scale model is so detailed it has tiny patio furniture surrounding the pool as well as tiny model girls.
They’re all naked and on display poolside.
Figured I’d finally learn how to swim. Put in the laps, tone up, get healthy.
He peers into the scale model. A tiny model man chases a tiny naked model girl around the pool, flicking his towel at her ass.
You can always use a bigger pool, right?
CHAPTER 93: YOU BETTER PICK IT UP, JACK
A bigger pool and a bigger dick.
Simpson sits on the toilet in his bathroom, munching mouthfuls of popcorn from a jumbo-sized cardboard tub and looking down at his dick.
Penile augmentation? Sounds like a fine idea, right? Dual widening and lengthening procedure. Thicker and longer. What more could you ask for?
He shakes his head in disappointment.
Doctor Dick was my man. Top cock man in Los Angeles. Six thousand plus costs. For lengthening, the good doctor cuts a V-shaped incision just above your pubic bone and severs your suspensory ligament.
Simpson downs another mouthful of popcorn.
For widening, fat is removed by liposuction from the abdomen and injected into your cock. Recycling, right? Sounds great, right?
Simpson yells at his dick.
Until infection sets in and the fat reabsorbs.
Simpson flops his flaccid dick side to side.
‘Hey, you listening to me?’
His dick doesn’t answer back.
‘You better pick it up, Jack.’
You know, they should just make a pill to make your dick hard. How hard can that fucking be? No, not your dick. Making the fucking pill.
They’ve got a pill for everything else.
Why not something to perk up your cock.
CHAPTER 94: THE PAGES? WHERE ARE THE FUCKING PAGES?
Simpson sits opposite producer JOEL SILVER, 41, and agent BILL BLOCK in the living room of his Bel-Air mansion in the middle of the day.
Both men are in their 40s. Both long-standing film executives. Silver and Block glance at each other. Simpson looks unwell.
He picks up a handset from a side table, wheezing. His voice quavers as he talks into the phone.
‘Where’s the UFO script, you cocksucker?’
Block looks worried. Simpson clears his throat.
‘The pages? Where are the fucking pages? Send me the pages, you prick.’
Silver looks at the phone line snaking back towards the wall. It’s not connected. Simpson coughs.
‘What do you think I fucking pay you for?’
Block spots the unconnected line too and looks at Silver.
CHAPTER 95: GO ON, GUESS
It’s 1994. THEATER MANAGER on a stepladder at the worn marquee of Century 21 Theater at 845 East Washington Boulevard in Pasadena is taking down the black plastic letters advertising “THE REF.” Backlit, letter by letter.
Jerry and I were executive producers. Shit, I don’t even know why we did it. Oh yeah, that’s right, the money. It’s always the money.
Four years dicking around at Disney until Jerry and I produced “The Ref.”
A serious comedy starring Judy Davis and Denis Leary as a burglar who winds up as a mediator in a dysfunctional family he’s taken hostage.
Told everyone it was about what it takes to tell the truth in marriage. Not exactly my area of expertise.
What a piece of shit. Understated, financially disappointing piece of shit. We were just producers for hire. Fixing up someone else’s fuck-ups. I fucking hated it.
Talk about second act slump.
And the ending. Originally we shot it with Denis Leary being caught by the cops to show the son that a life of crime leads nowhere. How Disney is that? Fuck, even the test audiences thought that sucked.
Piece of advice. If you’re going to make a comedy, try and make it fucking funny.
Do you know how many times Denis Leary fires his gun in that movie? Go on, guess.
Just once. At the smoke detector to stop it from beeping.
Who says I couldn’t make a character-driven film?
CHAPTER 96: OBVIOUSLY WE’D LOVE TO
Bruckheimer strides towards a row of private jets angled on a side runway at Los Angeles Airport, talking on his cell phone. Calm and collected.
‘Obviously we’d love to. However, Don’s back in rehab. So we really can’t move on it for at least three weeks.’
Bruckheimer looks at the gleaming jets and smiles.
CHAPTER 97: AFTER A FEW HOURS I’D SEEN ENOUGH
Time lapse as the afternoon sun sets on the rendered concrete side entrance wall at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at 8700 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. The wall looks high and imposing. More like a correctional facility than a medical facility.
It got a little serious there for a while. So I checked myself into Cedars-Sinai.
Time lapse as sun sinks.
But, you know, I wanted to hedge my bets. So I told my driver to stay in the neighborhood.
Time lapse as night falls.
After a few hours I’d seen enough. Found a pay phone and called him to come rescue me.
I went over the wall in a pair of fucking pajamas.
CHAPTER 98: BE NOT AFRAID OF GREATNESS
A man’s wrist cuffed with a pajama sleeve pounds on a front door in the middle of the night.
Race Newman opens the door of his apartment in Burton Way in Beverly Hills to reveal an anxious Simpson standing there in a pair of pajamas.
‘Can I get a line?’
‘Man, you just got out of rehab.’
Simpson hurries inside. A black town car idles by the curb.
‘One line can’t hurt.’
Newman closes the door. Giant RCA television screens “Entertainment Tonight” in the corner.
Newman takes out a Ziploc bag of coke, sprinkles some powder on his glass coffee table and starts cutting it up.
‘One line, right?’
Simpson watches ROBERT DOWNEY JR. discussing his new-found sobriety on television.
‘Hey, it’s Bob.’
Newman is cutting the coke.
‘Yeah, he’s coming round in an hour or so.’
Simpson smiles. Newman starts slicing a line.
Simpson’s smile widens. Slice cuts as Simpson snorts it and another line is sliced. And another. And another.
And another. And another. And another.
Slice dissolve Downey Jr. sitting next to them wearing dark sunglasses. He’s wearing exactly what he was wearing on television. Even the thick orange make-up.
It’s like he’s stepped out of the television screen.
Downey Jr. flames his cigarette lighter and cooks up some brown Mexican heroin in a spoon. He loads a syringe and passes it regally to Simpson with a cocksure smile.
‘Be not afraid of greatness.’
CHAPTER 99: WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?
One hundred million dollars worth of confiscated heroin.
Sunlight spills over the first day’s shooting on the “Bad Boys” set at the Dade Tire Company in Miami. It’s been dressed to look like police headquarters with ACTORS dressed as police and detectives mingling with real POLICE.
Throw in Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and Téa Leoni and you’ve got yourself “Bad Boys.”
The heroin was the kicker. The MacGuffin. The thing that got the story rolling.
Bad boy detectives scramble to trade roles in order to win the trust of a beautiful witness in a murder case.
The casting was inspired. Originally we had Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. But I changed it to Martin Lawrence and Will Smith after I caught an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” I know. Television? Who the fuck would have thought television would save my ass.
I played them against type. Smith, the clean-cut sitcom prince, plays the swinging bachelor, and Lawrence, notorious for the raunchiness of his stand-up routines, is the devoted family man. Then flipped them again.
Kicking ass and cracking dick jokes. What’s not to love?
The budget was set at just shy of twenty million. We needed to keep it that way or else Columbia would have our balls on a plate.
We signed a young music video director named Michael Bay behind the camera. Michael had worked for us on a music video for “Days of Thunder.”
When I first met him for “Bad Boys” I threw forty pages of dictation at him, told him the script was fucked and promised we’d take our names off the project. He freaked.
Jerry had to calm him down. Told him not to worry. Told him we’d fix it.
It was Michael’s first feature film. Always good to keep first-timers on their toes.
Fix it? Fuck that, we just improvised.
We shot in Miami because it was film friendly. Do you know what film friendly means?
It means the city gives you a tax credit for shooting there. They pay you to film there on the promise of local employment and economic activity. Local employment for what? A bunch of extras?
Truth is everyone loves the glitz and glamour and movie stars.
I wasn’t around for much of the production. Miami is too humid for me. But the rushes looked great.
The multi-million dollar estate on a private island. The Tides Hotel right across from the beach. The Art Deco district. The Biltmore Hotel.
We converted a freighter on the Miami River into a drug lab. We shot around the Dade County Courthouse.
We blew up a B727 inside a hangar at Opa-locka Airport on the last day of filming.
CHAPTER 100: WE WERE BACK, MAN
We had a great ending. But we didn’t have an opening to save ourselves. Sure we shot one, but Jerry never liked it. I fucking hated it.
It’s 1995. It’s the premiere of “Bad Boys” at Cinema 10 within the three-level Miracle Center mall at 3301 Coral Way in Miami. The CROWD is riding the escalator from the twin box offices on the middle level to the auditoriums.
We brought in six writers, showed them the movie, and they pitched us ideas for the opening.
And we filmed the best one.
The Porsche 911 Turbo II 3.6 in the opening scene? That belonged to Michael.
Nice car. We threw in a ton of bass in the final sound mix. Really got that fucker to rumble.
We had the premiere in Miami at Cinema 10 in a mall called the Miracle Center. Seriously, who in their right mind would call a mall a miracle? Only in America, right?
Crowd settles into their seats as the lights dim and the Columbia torch lady opening logo on the screen drifts to plump golden clouds opening the film. Opening credits read COLUMBIA PICTURES PRESENTS A DON SIMPSON/JERRY BRUCKHEIMER PRODUCTION
I snuck in and sat in the front row. I like to look back at the audience, watch them laugh. Maybe reach some emotion and have them cry.
On the screen the clouds rapidly cut through the Miami landscape to Smith and Lawrence jive-assing in the speeding Porsche, bitching over a hamburger and fries and cup holders.
Crowd cracks up.
You know in the end when Will says ‘I love you’ to Martin? Will had already agreed to say it.
On the screen Lawrence spills a bunch of fries between the passenger seat and the gearshift. Smith slam parks the car and it’s on. A dark sedan pulls up behind them, a long-legged distraction gets out as two carjackers sidle up to each side of the Porsche with guns drawn.
But on the day it came to shoot the line he changed his mind. Said he wouldn’t say it, couldn’t say it.
On the screen the carjackers are yelling at Smith and Lawrence to get the fuck out of the car. They climb out, scatting each other.
Crowd starts laughing that nervous laugh.
What is it about a black guy and saying ‘I love you’ to another black guy? Michael told him he didn’t give a shit and didn’t have an ending. In the end Will relented and said the magic words.
‘I love you.’ Fuck, how hard is that to say?
On the screen the pair give some to the would-be car thieves. The thieves crumple to the ground. The pair pull out their guns.
Crowd erupts in a cheer.
“Bad Boys” opened number one. And stayed that way for almost three weeks. Just in time for our next picture.
We were back, man. We were fucking back.
CHAPTER 101: YOU KNOW, IT’S NOT ALL SEX AND DRUGS AND MOVIE STARS
“Bad Boys” grossed around sixty-five million at the box office. Which is pretty damn good for a couple of black guys.
PREMIERE AUDIENCE in black tie and eveningwear are lined up row after row inside the cavernous darkness of Grauman’s Chinese Theater at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.
It was like a curse had been lifted. Even our critics started looking at us differently.
Audience stare up at the scene on the giant screen, riveted as Gene Hackman on the bridge of the USS Alabama orders the submarine to launch depth. The nuclear missile launch keys hang around his neck.
Next up was “Crimson Tide.” In the face of the ultimate nuclear showdown, one man has absolute power and one man will do anything to stop him.
On the screen Denzel Washington steps in with a garbled Emergency Action Message from the Pentagon. The radio is down. Cut off from the chain of command, the sub may be the only deterrent to a Russian nuclear attack.
A tense, military thriller where a young first officer stages a mutiny on board a submarine to prevent his trigger-happy captain from launching his missiles and possibly triggering World War Three.
Hackman seizes the initiative and prepares to order a nuclear strike. He can only do that if Washington as second-in-command agrees.
Man, we threw a ton of writers at it. I think we brought in Steve Zaillian six or seven times. Kept paying him to rewrite his own rewrites.
Hackman wants to press ahead. Washington wants to confirm the message.
Quentin Tarantino came in to do some unaccredited punch-ups of the dialogue. The comic book bickering is all him. Based the character Russell Vossler on a guy he used to work with at a video store.
Hackman wants to make a preemptive launch. Washington argues for backup.
Tarantino also gave Hackman a Jack Russell Terrier and a taste for expensive cigars.
Hackman doesn’t want to hear a word of it. Washington tries to get a word.
When in doubt give the bad guy a dog, any fucking dog will do.
Hackman tells Washington to shut the fuck up and orders target package into position. Washington cannot concur. He cannot repeat the command.
Shit, you give Richard Nixon a fucking dog and everyone will love him. Works every time.
Hackman screams at officers to arrest Washington under a charge of mutiny. Washington tells Hackman he is relieving him of his command.
We called Robert Towne in the middle of the night to clean up a key scene about the essential nature of war. We had to set up the potential of conflict up front. Towne dictated his rewrites over the phone.
Washington puts Hackman under arrest and orders him to be locked in his stateroom.
Al Pacino was originally offered the role played by Gene Hackman. Warren Beatty was also interested and we spent forever trying to convince him to sign on. Kept sending him the best hookers money could buy.
Hackman needs no escorts. He leads himself away, turning to take off the launch keys around his neck and telling Washington he’s not ready to make tough decisions yet.
He just wanted to keep dancing. That’s Warren for you.
Hackman tosses the keys at Washington and leaves.
We considered Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise for the role that went to Denzel Washington. Even offered it to Val Kilmer. Dickhead turned us down.
We had Tony Scott directing. Always trying to be better than his brother. It’s a hard ask. But it keeps him pointed in the right direction.
Tony used four cameras simultaneously. The man loved to shoot, hated to fucking light.
Has this trick of writing the shots he has to make for the day with a black marker on the back of his left hand. Hands his watch to his assistant, and just looks at the back of his hand to see what was next. It’s his shot list, his to do list. Draws a line through each one after he’s done.
You know, it’s not all sex and drugs and movie stars. It’s a lot of hard work to make the movies we make.
Essentially you’re talking about a two hander in a fucking submarine under the fucking ocean for two fucking hours. Fuck me. I think I watched “Das Boot” about five hundred fucking times.
You got to keep ratcheting up the drama tighter and tighter and tighter, until you can’t take it anymore.
You got to keep it real. At one point a sonar operator mentions a Soviet Akula class submarine. They’re real. Akula is Russian for shark.
The see-through sonar panels with the sweeptrack you see all over the sub? They’re complete bullshit.
Who the fuck is going to watch some guy wearing headphones?
It’s a movie for fuck’s sake.
CHAPTER 102: WE’RE THE AUTHORS OF OUR OWN FUTURE
Simpson and Bruckheimer stride into L.A. Farm at 200 Olympic Boulevard in Santa Monica.
Hey, we saved the world from World War Three. We were fucking heroes.
Past film and media executives to the best table in the sleek restaurant. More than a few heads turn.
Simpson is wearing a navy blue blazer and a tan from a vacation in Hawaii. His weight is down. He looks good and proud. A rightful heir returning to Hollywood’s throne.
Last year of my life everyone had written me off. Now look at me. Two motherfucking hits in a row. Untouchable.
STAFF fuss around the pair as they sit down. Simpson orders fish without looking at the menu. Bruckheimer asks the WAITRESS exactly how the lobster and scallop risotto is made.
I knew every ticket sold would help erase the industry’s less-than-favorable memory. My reputation as an overspender with a taste for excess, both on screen and off, was fading.
People who wouldn’t return my calls are now calling me. I had to put on an extra assistant.
Chairman of Walt Disney Studios JOE ROTH ambles over to Simpson and Bruckheimer’s table. He pats Simpson warmly on the back and whispers something in his ear. Simpson beams.
Great success in Hollywood can often feel like failure. Producer David O. Selznick anguished his entire life because he couldn’t top “Gone With the Wind.”
Fuck it. I wasn’t going to sweat it. I know we have to reinvent ourselves for the next ten years.
We’re the authors of our own future. We don’t have to cave in to other people’s expectations.
The easiest thing in the world would be to develop endless genre movies. Just sit back and keep spitting them out. Each one a little better than the last.
But we had room to breathe. We didn’t have to make a fucking sequel or listen to a fucking studio.
We could make the kind of pictures we wanted to make.
CHAPTER 103: DON SIMPSON? I WAS MORE LIKE DON QUIXOTE
Pull back from a fogged-in Montana late summer landscape draped in twilight. Nothing moves, nothing breathes.
So why wasn’t I fucking happy?
Pull back to reveal the landscape is an oil painting by Russell Chatham.
The painting sits in a gold frame on the living room wall of Madam Adams’ cream and Wedgwood blue ranch-style house-cum-brothel high in the Hollywood Hills. The sun has set. The house is empty save for furniture covered in white dust covers.
I mean, shit. I had everything. Two motherfucking hits back to back. Every motherfucker in town throwing money at me and still I wasn’t happy.
PROFESSIONAL MOVER walks through carrying a large plain brown cardboard box.
Maybe it’s because Alex had died. Maybe that’s why I was so fucking depressed.
MORE PROFESSIONAL MOVERS step in and start taking away the furniture.
Died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after open heart surgery. The world’s richest madam died of a broken heart.
I never got to say goodbye.
You know, in strange way, I loved Alex.
I mean, I wouldn’t fuck her. But you know what I mean. She was a legend. She was the mother superior of prostitution.
The world came to her. She never had to leave the house, let alone her bed.
She knew what men really wanted from women. It’s not how beautiful you are, it’s how you relate. It’s the dialogue that counts.
Mostly I like to talk. It’s more like a date. I mean, sure I fuck the shit out them. But it’s not just about the sex.
She used to order the best Chinese from Joss for her cats. She’d clean each shrimp, chop them into shreds and pile them on a little blue and white Chinese saucer and feed it to her cats.
They were the best-fed pussies on earth.
Alex used to call her girls her creatures. I used to book them by the vanload.
Boys will be boys, or even girls. As long as they keep it secret. Discretion is what you’re paying for.
Before she died she’d been doing a lot of business with Arabs. All those sheiks or whatever the fuck they are. All those petrodollars.
Goddamned sandfuckers cornered the market. Hired all the madams on an exclusive basis. The madams became agents. Their job was to assemble harems for these fuckheads back home in the Gulf.
Around 50 to 100 starlets at a time. All the top girls were taken out of the market.
Shit, some of these girls were making a million, two million for two-month stints. I couldn’t pay that sort of cash.
You couldn’t find a hooker in Beverly Hills for love or money. Why else do you think Hugh Grant and Eddie Murphy started picking up streetwalkers downtown?
Man, I couldn’t fuck a hooker to save myself.
Don Simpson? I was more like Don Quixote.
No wonder I was so miserable.
CHAPTER 104: I’M NOT A SMALL SCREEN KIND OF GUY
PREMIERE AUDIENCE stare up as the closing credits roll on the huge screen at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.
“Dangerous Minds” was based on the autobiography by former U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson, who took up a teaching position at Carlmont High School in Belmont.
Original artwork is engrained into the theater’s high ceilings and walls.
Most of her students were African-American and Hispanic teenagers from East Palo Alto at the opposite end of the school district. Losers, no hopers, students no one gave a fuck about.
A beautiful gilded sunburst glimmers above the screen.
The original title was “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” which was the name of the book. What a fucking stupid title. Go back to school and learn a little English, for fuck’s sake.
We had Michelle Pfeiffer play the lead. Brought in Andy Garcia as her love interest. Good in theory but didn’t play. We had to cut all his scenes.
Not even the test audience could imagine them fucking.
Michelle Pfeiffer? Fuck, there was one skittish actor. Thin as a bird, I’ll give her that. Never saw her eat once.
Hit us with per diems every day of the shoot. For two dollars, three dollars, one dollar, seventy-five cents. Hundreds of them, thousands of them.
I was going to get her a cash register as a present on the last day of shooting, but Jerry wouldn’t let me.
Critics couldn’t make up their minds about the movie. Some hated it, some hated it a little less. Who fucking cares. It was the breakaway hit of the summer.
I made sure “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Dylan was on the soundtrack. Fuck, we paid a fortune for it. But it was worth it.
Soundtrack went to number one. Everyone at Disney was pushing us to do a spin-off television series.
Honestly, television? Who gives a fuck? Why bother?
I’m not a small screen kind of guy.
CHAPTER 105: MY DRUG USE WAS GETTING OUT OF HAND
It’s hot. Dr. Stephen Ammerman lies back on a chaise lounge by the side of the pool at Don Simpson’s Bel-Air estate, injecting himself with another dose of prescription-strength morphine.
Shit, no one told me Doctor Ammerman was a recovering addict. He told me the morphine was for scalp pain. And anyway, where was the Narcan?
Ammerman wears a loose bathrobe. He moves to get up and steps on a spent morphine ampule, crushing it under his bare foot. Another three spent glass ampules lie on the ground.
He’d been living at my house to help me detox after his hair transplant operation.
Blood seeps out from under his foot. He doesn’t feel a thing as he shakily stands up. Perspiration beads on his forehead.
He’d help me get off all the drugs.
Slow motion as his breathing slows down and his pupils shrink to pin pricks.
I’d help him with his screenplay.
Slow motion as he begins to shuffle poolside towards the pool house.
Honestly, I kind of knew my drug use was getting out of hand.
Slow motion as he slips on his bloodied foot and careens into the pool.
He was supposed to help me.
Freeze frame as water splashes up.
CHAPTER 106: WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST?
Unfreeze frame as water splashes down into the basin of Simpson’s en suite bathroom of his Bel-Air mansion.
Simpson washes his face and pats it dry with a hand towel. He doesn’t look at his reflection in the mirror.
He’s overweight. His greasy hair is pulled back in a lank ponytail. He presses a button on the black intercom on the bathroom wall, and leans into the speaker. His voice is flat, broken.
‘What’s for breakfast?’
Downstairs MICHELLE McELROY, 26, slides open the glass kitchen door and walks to the pool house. Sounds of opening and closing the freezer inside.
Michelle walks back holding a string of sausage links. She glances over to the pool and sees Dr. Ammerman floating face down, tendrils of blood trailing from the gash on the bottom of his foot and hundreds of pin pricks on the top of his head.
She drops the sausages, screams.
CHAPTER 107: ANYWHERE BUT HERE
Telephones are ringing every which way. Simpson is frantically stuffing armfuls of clothes and well-thumbed notebooks into black leather suitcases on his bed. Tod Marrero is trying to help. One suitcase is piled high with pharmaceuticals.
‘You got to get me the fuck out of here.’
Marrero flings a pair of Armani stone linen pants into a suitcase. Simpson flings them out.
‘No, not those. I don’t fit into those anymore.’
Simpson tries to close the lid on a suitcase overflowing with clothes.
‘You got to get me on the next flight out of town.’
‘Seat 1A or I ain’t paying.’
‘Where do you want to go?’
Simpson goes over to the first closet and locks it.
‘Anywhere but here.’
It was the first time I came face to face with death. Sure, we pretend in movies. But this was the real thing.
I mean, I’d overdosed before. But I’d always come back.
I’d gone up to the edge. I’d gone over the edge. But I’d always come back.
I decided to check into the UCLA Medical Center. Had to do the drug screening and tested positive for positive for opiates, barbiturates and amphetamines. Shit, I didn’t need a lecture. I needed help.
I checked out after two nights.
There were rumors I’d checked into a rehab clinic in Kansas City. Have you been to Kansas City? They don’t even have a Häagen-Dazs there.
I found another doctor and left the country. I was a recluse for two months in a hotel room in Barbados.
I needed to lie low. I needed to get clean. The good doctor kept a supply on hand. I don’t remember much.
I remember coming back. I kissed the tarmac when I arrived back. Down on my hands and knees, literally kissing the ground.
I was never more glad to get back to any place than I was to get back to L.A.
I can’t function anywhere else.
CHAPTER 108: NO WARRANT
KEEN POLICEMAN, 32, shakes his head as he closes the second closet in Simpson’s bedroom of his Bel-Air mansion. The bedroom has been scrubbed clean.
He tries to open the first closet but it’s locked. Tries with more force.
It’s locked tight.
He looks around and pulls a metal twist from his belt. He jams it into the doorframe to pry the lock open as HEAVYSET POLICEMAN, 42, walks in.
Keen policeman shrugs his shoulders.
Heavyset Policeman shakes his head.
Keen Policeman reluctantly slips out the metal twist.
CHAPTER 109: CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
SHOWEST ATTENDEES at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas move inside the Jubilee Theater as Simpson ambles to the stage.
Everything is several sizes too small for his expanding girth -- black leather jeans, black boots with red highlights, black Armani sports jacket, collarless dress shirt strangling his neck.
Nineteen ninety-five was my best year professionally and my worst personally.
He wears dark sunglasses and shields his eyes from the spotlight. He cannot see Jerry Bruckheimer standing in the back of the theater.
“Bad Boys” then “Crimson Tide” then “Dangerous Minds.” Hit after hit after fucking hit.
His hair is long and greasy and pulled back into a ponytail. He hasn’t shaved.
But I was dying. I didn’t know it at the time but I was already dead.
Simpson leans into the microphone which feeeeeeds back. He recoils and steadies himself. Clears his throat.
‘I’m taking all this fucking heat for drugs and a few whores. I mean, what the fuck? What can you do when you’ve got studio heads who’ve screwed the same whores busting your balls?’
ShoWest Attendees look around, shift uncomfortably in their seats.
‘I’m supposed to take the bullet for it? But they pull you aside at a party, ask you how you’re holding out and say you’re their hero for the things you do.’
Simpson straightens his sunglasses.
‘Fuck, it doesn’t make any sense.’
He shakes his head.
‘I mean a lot of people die in swimming pools, right? What’s the big fucking deal?’
In the back of the theater, Bruckheimer drops his head and turns and walks out towards the slots.
Simpson loses himself in his thoughts.
As for losing my partner?
Bruckheimer disappears into the crowd and sparkling slot machines.
I didn’t really want to split up with Jerry. It was just some fucking interview. Who the fuck believes what they read in a newspaper?
Maybe it was just wish fulfillment.
Maybe I should be careful what I wish for.
CHAPTER 110: I’M MORE OF AN ARTIST
But it ain’t a big deal. It meant I could finally work on some real films.
ShoWest Attendees ooze out of the Jubilee Theater in Bally’s Hotel and Casino, past banks of the latest generation of interactive slot machines based on favorite television shows like The Twilight Zone, Laverne and Shirley, Gilligan’s Island, The Price is Right. Sounds of credit cards being slipped in and out of machines.
I could always get another partner, right? Someone to do the mule work, do the fighting with the studios.
Cornelius T. Hall, 62, has a big lumpy arm around Simpson’s shoulders, blubbering on about concession sales.
Is splitting up the most successful Hollywood partnership a blow? Yes.
Simpson is lost in his own thoughts.
But it ain’t a serious one. It ain’t the end of the fucking world.
It opens up a lot of opportunity for me.
Jerry’s a suit. I’m more of an artist. I’m the type of guy who will put a million dollars of my own money into a movie.
Jerry’s never wanted to do that.
Jerry’s never done that.
CHAPTER 111: OF COURSE I NEED A SCRIPT
Simpson sits up in bed in his suite at Bally’s Hotel and Casino.
He’s talking on the telephone to Paul Schrader. He flips through a worn notebook titled “Zone Of Silence.” A soft breeze ripples in from an open window.
‘I’ve got to think of it as a new beginning.’
Simpson looks out the window at a neon night.
‘I hadn’t planned on starting over at this stage of my life. But hey, that’s what I got to do.’
He flips through a few more pages of his notebook, scanning the words written inside as he talks on the phone.
‘Remember all those years ago when you said my UFO conspiracy movie was shit?’
He closes the old notebook.
‘Well, you were right.’
He Frisbees the old notebook out the open window.
Then reaches for a new Mead black marble notebook and a pen.
‘I’m working on a new project.’
He writes out the title on the cover.
‘It’s called “The Blood of The Christ.”’
Simpson opens the notebook to the first page and starts writing.
‘It’s about a scientist and a priest who try to clone the body of Jesus Christ from the Shroud of Turin.’
He keeps writing.
‘That’s right. That’s where they get the DNA from.’
He keeps writing.
‘Of course it’s a good premise. I may be a cunt but I ain’t a stupid cunt.’
He keeps writing.
‘Of course I need a script.’
‘Why else would I be talking to you?’
He laughs at what Schrader says. Nods as he writes.
‘In the beginning was the word.’
He beams as he writes.
‘And the word was with God.’
He grins as he writes.
‘And the word was God.’
He writes on.
CHAPTER 112: IT AIN’T EASY BREAKING OLD HABITS
It’s late in the day. Simpson oversees a HANDYMAN, 60, installing a second black Jenn-Air built-in bar refrigerator next to the first.
‘You know, in case the other one breaks down.’
Simpson picks up the framed black and white 8x10 autographed glossy of himself taken when he was in his early 40s.
As long as you’re making money, Hollywood allows anything.
Simpson looks at the glossy of himself.
Man, it ain’t easy breaking old habits. I think we live our childhood until we’re too old to do anything else.
Simpson looks closely at his younger face.
CHAPTER 113: THE SHROUD OF TURIN
It’s down in the night. Simpson is in his en suite bathroom, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He’s aged a lifetime in the past few years.
A single overhead light deepens the lines on his face. His eyes are sunken, his features poignant.
His shoulder-length hair is parted in the center and falls either side of his face. His beard is neatly trimmed.
He closes his eyes and for the briefest of moments his face looks like the face on the Shroud of Turin.
He opens his eyes and gently smiles.
CHAPTER 114: HOW TO CATCH A WOLF
It’s a new morning. Simpson sits up in his bed, talking on the telephone to Bruckheimer while reading an article in The Hollywood Reporter.
‘Says here we’re no longer on speaking terms.’
Bruckheimer’s voice hisses through the phone.
‘--Don, do you know what time it is?’
‘Fucking wolves. They smell blood and they’re in for the kill.’
Simpson doesn’t look at his watch.
‘It’s nine o’clock, Jerry.’
‘--In the morning, Don.’
Simpson keeps reading The Hollywood Reporter article.
‘I know. I’m working.’
Simpson shakes his head.
‘Wolves, Jerry. Fucking wolves.’
He opens the drawer of the nightstand by the bed and pulls out a Ziploc bag of coke. Opens it with one hand.
‘Do you know how an Eskimo catches a wolf?’
He opens his single-blade Swiss Army Knife.
‘First he coats his sharpest knife blade with animal blood and lets it freeze. Then adds another layer of blood, and another, and another, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood.’
Simpson digs the tip into the cocaine and scoops a pile out onto the top of the nightstand.
‘Then he fixes the knife in the hard snow, blade up.’
Simpson starts dicing the cocaine.
‘Before long a wolf smells the blood and discovers the bait. He licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare.’
Simpson keeps dicing the cocaine finer and finer.
‘Harder and harder the wolf licks the blade. Feverishly, frantically. His craving for blood becomes so great he doesn’t notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue.’
Simpson slices the cocaine into a neat line.
‘He doesn’t notice his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own blood. He just craves more and more until the dawn finds him dead in the snow.’
CHAPTER 115: AND I THOUGHT I WAS A MEDIA WHORE
Front-page story in the August 7, 1995 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Headline reads How Do You Top “Pocahontas?”
Story reads Yes, $19 billion is an eye-popping sum, even if it is going to buy Capital Cities/ABC, with its popular television network and the nation’s leading sports channel. And O.K., Michael Eisner’s decision this week to hire Michael Ovitz, the restless talent agent, as his new president at the Walt Disney Company caught everybody by surprise.
Simpson’s voice cracks.
I fucking hated myself. I mean, I really let myself go.
What the fuck was wrong with me? I was supposed to be at the Venice Film Festival for “Crimson Tide.” Couldn’t do it.
Couldn’t fucking do it. Couldn’t get on a fucking plane and meet Jerry in Venice. I fucking love Venice.
Jerry did everything to promote that picture. Even dragged a submarine into the middle of Venice harbor.
A film festival started by a fascist dictator and Jerry standing on top of a submarine, touting the movie.
And I thought I was a media whore.
CHAPTER 116: I WAS THROWING DOWN PILLS BY THE HANDFUL
Front-page story in the September 16, 1995 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Headline reads From Cult Hero to Renaissance Man.
Story reads Is Sylvester Stallone worth $20 million a movie? Does Demi Moore sell enough tickets to warrant her current fee of $12.5 million? Is Charlie Sheen worth $5 million a film? Charlie Sheen?
I traveled to Hawaii with my favorite psychiatrist.
Doctor Fredrick loved her pills, and her manicures and spa treatments. Checked into my favorite hotel to dry out.
But that didn’t work out. I came back more fucked up than when I left.
I was throwing down pills by the handful. Checked myself into St. John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica for drug-related psychiatric treatment.
But I left after a day without telling anyone.
CHAPTER 117: FUCK, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE
Front-page story in the October 27, 1995 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Headline reads Dismay Over Big-Budget Flops.
Story reads Flops and hits come and go here, and for the most part, they are taken for granted. But three big-budget, high-profile movies -- “Jade,” “Strange Days” and “The Scarlet Letter” -- opened and virtually collapsed over the weekend, resulting in losses that probably reached $150 million and left many people in the film industry feeling shaken.
I missed Jimmy Wiatt’s birthday celebrations.
I know, after I promised him I’d go. Swore I’d catch up him and Steve Tisch in Hawaii later but fucked that up too. Never even got on the plane.
My weight was up, I always had the flu. I felt like shit all the time.
Had an allergic reaction to some medication. My hands and my head swelled up. Well, more so than usual. To be honest, it completely freaked me out.
I thought my head was going to fucking explode. I looked like the fucking Elephant Man. I was eating Ativan and Valium for breakfast, lunch and dinner just to calm the fuck down.
I wasn’t doing drugs for fun. I was doing them to get better.
I couldn’t rest. I had work to do. I needed to be focused. You pop a couple of Dexedrines or Dextrostat with your morning espresso and let me tell you, you are officially on.
You keep popping them through the day and of course by the time night comes you can’t sleep. So you need a downer or three to get to sleep.
Plus your body aches. Which is why God invented painkillers. I’m not going to lie to you. If I’m in pain, I’m taking medication. What am I? A fucking masochist?
Had an MRV test. You know, a heart-rate variability test where a heart specialist hooks you up and monitors your nervous system. My doctor was concerned. An MRV test is supposed to tell you how your heart is functioning, how healthy you are.
I was a little shocked when my doctor showed me the results. The specialist had written out his conclusion by hand.
‘An exhaustive analysis not only failed to disprove but also confirmed initial diagnosis of Risk of Sudden Death. No one can dispute need for treatment in inpatient setting, until danger has passed. Advise patient to prepare for elective rather than frankly catastrophic event. Sincerely. William P. Stuppy, M.D.’
Okay, two things. First, how can I take the advice of anyone called Doctor Stuppy seriously? Even if he’s supposed to be the top heart specialist in town. Jesus, how hard is to change your name by deed poll?
Second, I can’t believe I just remembered it word for word. When I was acting, I was never able to remember my lines. I’d have them written out on my hands. End up with half a script between my fingers.
My doctor sat me down and told me I was going to die. Fuck, we’re all going to die. But he was pretty insistent.
Told me I had to quit all the medication or that death would most likely happen at the dinner table or on the can. Those were his exact words.
Who the fuck dies on the can?
So of course I got a second opinion from another doctor who of course found no evidence of any significant heart disease. And those were his exact words.
‘No evidence of any significant heart disease.’ When I told my doctor, he agreed with him. Said there was never any heart disease. Said it was the stress on my nervous system from the uppers and the downers and the painkillers and the rest of it that was potentially fatal.
He told me straight out that the pills were going to kill me.
Doctors. What are you going to do? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
CHAPTER 118: WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR?
Hundreds of different colored pills of light shimmer into focus and dissolve into twinkling lights decorating a monstrous Christmas tree.
I knew my friends were concerned. I could see it in their faces. I could sense it.
Dissolve twinkling Christmas tree lights into breathtaking shot of Los Angeles glistening in the night.
Katzenberg tried the tough love route. Told me that as someone who loves me and admires me and learnt everything he knew from me, I had to completely turn my life over to him for six months.
I called him and begged off. Jeffrey was very quiet. Told me he had an awful sense of doom about what was going to happen.
You know, I never had anyone tell me they love me before. I mean, sure they told me they loved me. Everyone did. But not say it and mean it. Not say it and really love me.
It shook me up. Couldn’t sleep for two nights. But shit, I couldn’t take Jeffrey’s advice. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t.
Then Geffen calls me the next day and says the same thing.
‘Get yourself in a place where you can be saved from yourself, Don. You cannot go on this way, Don. This is your last chance, Don.’
Hey, what are friends for?
I know what they wanted to do. The whole twelve-step thing. The whole greater power thing.
But it’s not for me. I’m not going to surrender myself. I could never surrender. That would have been an admission of failure.
Okay, I promised Wiatt I’d check into a detox clinic. But I never followed through. Have you been in one of those places? Man, it just reeks of defeat.
Then Jerry hit me between the eyes. Leaves a message on my answering machine breaking off our friendship. Broke my heart. I was petrified of losing Jerry. He was my soulmate. Everything I had was because of the two of us.
Friends? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
I know, I know. Tough love. Tough fucking love. Broke my fucking heart.
There was lot of soul searching. I knew I had to start my own company. But I knew Jerry and I would end up together again one day.
Everyone was pleading with me to check into a hospital. But I couldn’t. I needed to focus all my energies on my new production company.
I needed to make some serious changes. I needed to start over again.
CHAPTER 119: JESUS CHRIST, MY LIFE HAD BECOME MY OWN MOVIE
A single rocket smashes through the night and explodes into a thousand trails of phosphorous light.
Last week I left CAA. That was a pretty big fucking deal.
More rockets skid and veer into the night sky, blazing with light.
Signed up with Jimmy at ICM. Got Jake Bloom to take care of the legals on my new production company.
More rockets explode and bloom into the night as crowds cheer in 1996.
New year, new agent, new production company. I was a new man.
I always knew that to have a hit movie, the central character, before triumphing -- and he had to triumph -- must first be reduced, psychologically and physically, and almost destroyed, before the comeback.
Jesus Christ, my life had become my own movie.
Jerry used to tell everyone I’d spent my whole life rewriting the ending of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Jerry was busy prepping “The Rock.” Alcatraz prison is occupied by terrorists and the good guys have to break in. That’s right, breaking into prison. There’s your twist.
Jerry was burning through writers, looking for a punchy ending.
Quentin Tarantino had a go. Jonathan Hensleigh and Aaron Sorkin put their hand in. Hensleigh was bitching to everyone that he never got a credit. Prick had no idea how the game works.
I knew how to end the movie. With a bang. You know, a fucking huge explosion.
Worked for Nicolas Cage. It was the first of three movies in a row with a finale where a explosion flings him through the air.
Everyone loves an exploding movie star.
You may not credit him, but Nicolas Cage is one smart actor. It was his idea that his character wouldn’t swear. Instead of dropping the f bomb he’d say gee whiz. Gee fucking whizz.
Connery brought in Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to rewrite his lines. Every single line, every single word.
Every single fucking word in every single fucking line.
Man, and I thought I was fucking pedantic.
CHAPTER 120: THAT’S WHAT’S WRONG WITH HOLLYWOOD
Simpson pitches a table of studio executives in the Universal Pictures Headquarters boardroom at 100 Universal City Plaza in Universal City.
Simpson is dressed top to toe in too-tight white linen Armani. He looks like the Michelin Man.
‘It’s a metaphor. You do know what a fucking metaphor is, right?’
Chief Executive CASEY SILVER sits at the head of the table. LYNDA OBST sits next to him. Fanned around the table are SLICK EXECUTIVE, SMOOTH EXECUTIVE and SUAVE EXECUTIVE who seem more interested in impressing each other.
‘But Jesus pictures never make money, Don.’
Slick Executive flicks through a new Gulfstream V brochure.
‘If it helps, don’t think of it as a Jesus picture. Think of it as a Jewish picture.’
Smooth Executive nods.
‘“Schindler’s List” picked up ninety-six-point-one million domestic.’
‘Twenty-eight-point-five million in Germany.’
‘What was the global gross?’
‘Seven Oscars from twelve nominations.’
Simpson smiles at Silver.
‘No stars, no entourages, no hassles.’
‘“The Blood of The Christ?”’
Simpson parts his hands like curtains unveiling the screen in a movie theater.
‘In colossal red type.’
Suave Executive thinks aloud.
‘It does have name recognition.’
‘You think so? Yeah, I think by now pretty much everybody on the planet knows who the fuck Jesus fucking Christ is.’
‘Is that it, Don?’
Simpson nods. Silver walks out the door. Simpson hurries after him.
Smooth Executive smirks.
Look at all those MBA fucksticks. Dull and stupid cunts. Ex-lawyers, ex-agents.
They’re not filmmakers. They don’t know anything about a script.
They don’t know how to make a film. All they know how to make is a phone call.
Tight smiles all round. Except for Obst who glares at her colleagues.
That’s what’s wrong with Hollywood -- middle-fucking-manage-fucking-ment.
Schleppy little vice-presidents with access to the parent company jet. Fuck, I don’t have a jet.
Slick Executive unfolds the centerfold of the new Gulfstream V brochure and looks over the beautiful interior shots.
Why don’t I have a jet?
CHAPTER 121: DON’T MAKE ME BEG
Simpson catches up with Silver in the hallway outside the boardroom at Universal Pictures Headquarters.
‘This is a major, major film, Casey.’
Silver gives a blank smile.
‘You guys need this. You haven’t had a hit in eighteen fucking months.’
Silver has his hands in his pockets.
‘I’ll call you, Don.’
‘Casey, I need this production deal.’
Simpson looks him straight in the eye.
‘I need a home. Universal would be great for me.’
Silver walks away.
‘Don’t make me beg, Casey. I’ll beg.’
Simpson is joking.
‘I’m not joking. I’ll drop down on one knee and do it.’
Silver’s voice rolls down the hallway.
‘Don, you don’t have to beg.’
CHAPTER 122: HE CREATED THE HIGH-CONCEPT MOVIE
Slick Executive, Smooth Executive and Suave Executive share a private joke in the boardroom at Universal Pictures Headquarters. Obst fumes.
‘Hey, get fucked, okay. If it wasn’t for Don Simpson we wouldn’t even be here. He created the high-concept movie.’
‘Don created the three-act structure we all use, the one that McKee and Field take credit for.’
She motions at the posters of “Jaws,” “Jaws 2,” “Jaws 3-D” and “Jaws: The Revenge” framed on the wall.
‘The hot first act with an inciting incident and the second act with the dark bad moments where the hero is challenged and the third act with the triumphant moment and the redemption and the freeze-frame ending.’
Smooth Executive stifles a yawn. Slick Executive goes back to his Gulfstream V brochure.
‘That’s his. That’s Don’s.’
She storms out, slamming the door behind her.
Suave Executive pulls on his cufflink and turns to his colleagues.
‘Well, I don’t know about you but I’d like to see Don Simpson on his knees.’
Slick Executive chuckles. Smooth Executive cracks up.
CHAPTER 123: TOWARDS THE LIGHT
Simpson has moved his study into the living room of his Bel-Air mansion.
It’s evening. A huge blue glass desk the size and color of the sky shines in the middle of the room. Tod Marrero is cleaning up.
He puts all the prescription drugs and medical equipment into the top drawer. He straightens the scripts and notepads, sharpens the pencils.
Simpson’s voice fades in from another room.
‘So what’s my schedule tomorrow?’
Tod Marrero checks the appointment book.
‘Nothing. It’s open.’
‘Aren’t I supposed to be at UCLA Medical Centre for cardiology tests?’
‘That’s the day after.’
Marrero closes the appointment book and leaves.
Simpson steps into the room, dressed in black pants and black turtleneck sweater. He glances at Mark Rothko’s painting ‘Untitled’ (1943) leaning against the wall.
He seems anxious. He looks around before leaving for upstairs but steps back and turns out the downstairs lights.
Then heads back up towards the light at the top of the stairs.
CHAPTER 124: I’LL BE CLEAN
Follow Simpson into his enormous bedroom.
He kicks off his shoes and moves over to the black AT&T speakerphone with answering machine on the nightstand. Presses the speakerphone button and dials out.
He starts taking off his pants as the numbers click and whir across America. James Toback picks up in New York City.
‘-- Hey, is that you Don?’
Simpson takes off his shirt.
‘-- You lost weight yet?’
‘I’m cutting out the carbs, James.’
Simpson heads to the wall of floor-to-ceiling closets and opens one.
‘-- Don, I’m worried. We need to start shooting soon.’
Simpson tries to suck in his stomach. It’s no use.
‘Don’t be. I know I need to be naked for the role. I know the FBI has rules about fat.’
‘-- Don, even if you’re playing a renegade FBI agent you can’t be fat.’
‘I get it, James. I’m on it.’
‘-- You’re serious about this movie right.’
Simpson pulls out a black silk bathrobe from the closet and puts it on.
‘About “Harvard Man”? Of course I’m fucking serious, James. This is my first solo picture. I’m taking it to Joe Roth at Disney.’
‘I’ll be honest, Joe Roth and Disney will not want to do this on their own. It’s not a studio movie.’
‘-- No fucking kidding!?!’
‘Let me tell you how I’m going to get them to do it.’
Toback doesn’t say a word.
‘I’m going to walk in and tell them all the reasons for not doing this project.’
‘-- Are you fucking serious?’
‘It’s too overtly sexual. The drugs will turn off a large part of the audience. The behavior of these characters is too extreme. There’s no one to root for.’
‘-- Jesus, Don, why don’t you just kill me now.’
‘And there’s not one major star in it.’
Simpson cocks his head to the other side.
‘Then I’m going to tell them why they’re going to make this movie. For two reasons. First, you genuinely like and respect me. You know what I went through for you on “Dangerous Minds.” You know I know how to fix movies. We both know we had a disaster on our hands, the movie was going nowhere. But then I came up with the title, and I came up with the number one song. You take away the title and that song, and you don’t have a movie. You have a piece of shit.’
Simpson rolls on.
‘I was the one who stood up to Michelle Pfeiffer. She fought me like crazy. She hated my title, she hated my song, she wanted some bullshit soft jazz score. And if the film had her title and her song it would have been lucky if it had done two million instead of two hundred million and her career would be in the toilet. I didn’t give a fuck if she threatened to walk or cancel publicity -- I stood up for what I knew was right.’
Simpson walks over to the second closet and opens one of the built-in refrigerators inside. Reaches in and pulls out a jar of Mills Pond peanut butter.
‘From that moment on Joe Roth respected me in a way he never respected anyone. He’d never heard a producer talk to a star that way.’
Simpson twists open the lid.
‘Roth will tell me he wants me to stay at Disney. He won’t risk me going to Paramount or Universal by turning down your movie. That’s the second reason it will get made.’
Simpson second-guesses himself as he fingers a scoop of peanut butter straight into his mouth.
‘But to be honest I’m not even going to say that to Joe because it will sound like blackmail. If he tells me no, I’m not going to want to stay at Disney anyway. I don’t want to be at a studio where I go in with a ten million dollar picture and have someone tell me I can’t make it. Fuck that.’
‘-- Then what happens to my movie?’
‘Then I’ll call Steve Tisch, and he’ll put in two and half million and I’ll put in two and a half million and we’ll get Ed Pressman to raise the rest.’
‘-- Does Steve Tisch know about this?’
Simpson fingers another scoop of peanut butter into his mouth.
‘How could he? I just thought of it.’
‘-- I’m worried, Don.’
‘I’m worried about my part, James. You told me it was a big role?’
‘-- Don’t worry about the part. Worry about losing the weight.’
‘Hey, get off my back about the weight. I went for a run today.’
Simpson leans over to hang up.
‘We’ll talk tomorrow, James.’
‘-- You went jogging?’
Simpson’s finger hovers over the call button.
‘Up in the hills for an hour and a half. Booked a German trainer. I’m off to Canyon Ranch next Thursday. I’ll be in shape in no time.’
Simpson clicks off.
‘I’ll be clean.’
CHAPTER 125: I’VE GOT TO STRAIGHTEN MYSELF UP
Later that night Simpson opens the door of the first closet and leans in for a moment.
Then makes his way back to his bed. Picks up the bottle of 1991 Siduri Pinot Noir on the nightstand stacked with film scripts and pours himself a glass. Slides open the drawer underneath and takes out his “The Blood of The Christ” notebook and a freshly sharpened pencil.
Snatches up the telephone handset and dials Paul Schrader. He smiles when it’s answered.
Simpson pushes a few pillows against the headboard and sits down.
‘No, I’m not being a hermit. I can’t, Paul. I look grotesque. I have to lose some weight first.’
Simpson shakes his head.
‘I’ve got to straighten myself up. You know the story, I’ve got to redeem myself.’
‘Yeah, I know, I should have been a Calvinist. Could have been a Calvinist. I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.’
‘It’s the story of my life. Complete immersion in physical indulgence, in overwrought behavior, in decay -- and then redemption through ritual cleansing. The good life.’
Simpson looks at his notebook.
‘I keep telling myself I’ve got the body of a twenty-five year old. But I’m not so sure of that anymore.’
CHAPTER 126: I CAN’T ESCAPE MYSELF
Later that night Simpson continues talking on the phone to Schrader.
‘What? I said that? I said I’d be a bad boy until fifty and then I’d become a holy man?’
Simpson leans back.
‘Paul, I must have been fucking high. Really fucking high.’
‘Yes, Paul, I’m well aware I’m now fifty-two. But I’m quite ready for the holy man part. Give me twenty years.’
‘Got to pay for all those past sins.’
Simpson looks away.
‘Try as I might I can’t escape myself. Lord knows I’ve tried. But all roads lead back to me.’
Simpson hints at the truth.
‘I’m sure there’s a path of enlightenment. I’m sure there’s a revelatory experience awaiting everyone that has to do with finding out who and what you really are. And I think when that occurs -- if it occurs -- you reach heaven.’
‘And the degree to which you don’t reach that place of realization, well, you’re in hell.’
Simpson wipes away a tear.
CHAPTER 127: SWEET DREAMS
Later that night Simpson is still talking on the phone to Schrader.
On the nightstand sits an empty bottle of 1991 Siduri Pinot Noir and a half-full wine glass.
Simpson is scrawling in his notebook.
‘Yeah, I know. Everybody knows scientists carbon dated the Shroud of Turin to the Middle Ages.’
Simpson puts his pencil down and reaches for his wine glass and downs a mouthful.
‘But what if they used an invalid sample? What if the sample they used to test the age of the Shroud was from a rewoven area of the cloth?’
Simpson puts the wine glass down.
‘What if new pyrolysis-mass spectrometry tests prove the radiocarbon sample wasn’t part of the original Shroud?’
Simpson opens the drawer of the other nightstand and takes out a Ziploc bag of fresh cocaine.
‘Fuck it, too technical. Too boring.’
Simpson opens the bag with one hand.
‘No, no. Go to the bathroom. I’ll hang on.’
Simpson opens his single-blade Swiss Army Knife and scoops cocaine out onto the top of the nightstand. Scoops out more and more and lines it up with the edge of the blade. Snorts it straight up without a second thought.
Idea explodes in Simpson’s brain.
‘Hey, are you there? Great. Okay, let’s say the carbon dating is right.’
Simpson beams as synapses collide.
‘Let’s say the carbon dating is right because it’s not the face of Jesus.’
‘It’s the face of a false messiah. It’s the face of the devil.’
Simpson lines up more cocaine.
‘Yeah, they resurrect the devil. The second coming of Satan? Fuck, that is a good twist.’
Simpson laughs to himself.
‘That’s fucking great. Act one down, two to go.’
Simpson scrawls into his notebook.
‘All right, yeah. You too. Call me later.’
Simpson writes out the last line, then shuts the notebook.
Simpson hangs up. He grabs the remote control and snaps on the massive black Zenith television. Hissing static lights the room.
Simpson reaches over and opens the drawer on the nightstand. Takes out his reading glasses and James Riordan’s just-published biography of filmmaker Oliver Stone.
He gets up and heads to the en suite bathroom. He stops at the first closet door, slightly open. He reaches inside and grabs a handful of Narcan ampules and a hypodermic needle.
The mirror catches his reflection as he steps into the bathroom.
CHAPTER 128: THE IMPOSSIBLE REFLECTION
Dissolve as first light steals into the bathroom.
Dissolve as Simpson’s body slumps against the black marbled wall.
Dissolve as his head sags down onto his chest with both eyes closed.
Dissolve as the book slowly slides out of his hand and falls onto the black tiled floor.
Dissolve as his reading glasses slide off his nose, tumble off his body and land on the book he’d been reading.
I didn’t just look into the mirror. I guess I fell right into it.
First light shimmers off his reading glasses.
You know who I’m like? I’m like that son of a bitch Jay Gatsby. I’m like the American dream. The impossible reflection.
And that’s when his last breath leaves him.
CHAPTER 129: HOW MUCH WAS TOO MUCH
Dissolves as day breaks into the bedroom.
Dissolve as curtain breathes lightly, ever so lightly.
Dissolve around closet door to reveal what’s inside the first closet for the first time.
Shelves meticulously lined with bottles and packets of pills, tablets, capsules, ampules, syringes, needles. Like shelves of a pharmaceutical supply house. All in alphabetical order.
Time lapse as the new day pours in over the pharmaceuticals.
Hey, hey, hey. Doctor’s orders. Atarax, Benadryl, Benztropine, Colanadine, Compazine, Desyrel, Diphenhydramine and Diphenoxylate plus Haldol, Promethazine, Tigan, Unisom, Vicodin, Xanax. Multiple daily injections of Toradol for pain, Librium for mood swings.
Time lapse as dawn light spills in over the pharmaceuticals.
Ativan every six hours for agitation, Valium every six hours for anxiety, Depakote every six hours for acute mania, Thorazine every four hours for anxiety in case the Valium wasn’t doing the trick, with Vistaril every six hours for backup. I don’t like feeling anxious. I can’t work when I’m anxious. Which probably explains the Lorazepam.
Time lapse as morning light rises over the pharmaceuticals and gleams over three spent Narcan syringes.
Oh yeah, and Narcan in case everything fucked up. The cocaine was for fun. So was the heroin.
Time lapse as daylight floods in over the pharmaceuticals.
And looking at it now, it must have been the Narcan that did me in. I knew taking too much Narcan could trigger a cardiac arrest.
Just didn’t know how much was too much.
CHAPTER 130: NOW THERE’S A TWIST
Time lapse as afternoon falls over the pharmaceuticals in Simpson’s closet.
Kind of ironic, ain’t it? The one drug that’s supposed to save me when all else fails is the one that kills me in the end.
There’s a smile in his voice.
Now there’s a twist.
Curtain falls still.
Sounds of AT&T speakerphone with answering machine ringing in an incoming call. Answering machine bleeps and picks up the call. Glide towards speakerphone as Simpson’s recorded message clicks in.
‘It’s the Don. You know what to do.’
‘-- It’s Casey Silver, Don. From Universal. We’ve been talking about your project and, well, there’s no other way to say this --’
Glide closer towards speakerphone.
‘-- We want to do it. We want the Jesus film, we want the production deal, we want you.’
Glide closer still.
‘-- Call me. We need to talk terms.’
The small green indicator light flashes to life.
CHAPTER 131: THIS IS HOW IT ENDS
Jerry Bruckheimer sits alone in a Gulfstream V as it slices through a sunset sky. A golden urn sits on his lap.
The deep gray jet lands at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.
The golden urn is carried by Bruckheimer from the jet into a whisper gray limousine.
The golden urn sits on Bruckheimer’s lap as the limousine drives up State Highway 82 towards Mount Aspen.
The golden urn is carried by Bruckheimer from the limousine to a silver gondola at the base of Mount Aspen.
The golden urn sits on Bruckheimer’s lap as the gondola climbs to the top of Mount Aspen. Mountain peaks topped with ridges of snow fringe the horizon, draped in magic light.
Fade up live version of Jimi Hendrix’s immortal “Purple Haze.”
Light snow begins to fall Bruckheimer carries the golden urn to the edge of the deck overlooking mountains and highlands.
Bruckheimer twists the lid off the urn and scatters Simpson’s white ashes into the wind, into the setting sun.
An updraft swirls the ashes up and into the falling snowflakes in time to the lyrics. Ashes and snowflakes mingle and merge until it’s impossible to tell them apart.
This is how it ends.
EPILOGUE: OOO, YEAH
Roll credits in time to lyrics as Hendrix sings the song higher and higher.
Dubbed guitar soars above the words.
Hendrix’s voice fades away.
Fade to white.
Stefano Boscutti is an award-winning writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Stefano is also an
expert creative consultant specialising in world-changing creative projects and
campaigns for Ford, Foxtel, Lexus, Porsche, Qantas, SBS, Warner Bros. and more. McKinsey & Co?
Not after the consultancy’s role in helping Saudi Arabia target online critics. Questions?