WAKING UP IN RENO:
Brent Briscoe and I were friends with the very talented Billy Bob Thornton before Sling Blade came out. I worked with him on Evening Shade and then while he was doing Hearts Afire! We ate lunch all the time and talked about our favorite baseball team the Cardinals. After 1994 when Evening Shade and Seaquest were cancelled my family and I moved to Marion Indiana. Brent moved to Moberly Missouri. Billy Bob Thornton had an idea of doing a redneck version of Bob – Carol – Ted and Alice and Brent and I both felt we were living the redneck life in our new environment. Plus I saw the potential collapse of my in-laws long standing marriage and I thought if I could get this movie made in time I could help save their marriage. Brent and I wrote this movie in 2 months, we gave it to Billy and the next day he called me and said, “I think I can sell it”. Sling Blade came out shortly thereafter! He wins an Academy Award – and sure enough Billy Bob sells RENO to Miramax. We did very well on the script, had every major agency in LA try to sign us and eventually went with ICM. We were also blessed to seemingly have every star in Hollywood wanting to do this movie. I was at a table read or had these people attached throughout the process. Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston, Woody Harrelson, Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, Laura Dern, Mary Steenburgen, Powers Booth, and Barbara Hershey. Every one of them made the script better or our hype in the industry grew thanks to them and I appreciate them. In fact, if you read the headlines page here – when it was reported that Brad Pitt (my college friend) wanted to do it with Jennifer Anniston we got a deal on another script just because of that. Strange town! Directors who were in at one time: Billy Bob, and then Peter Berg, and then James Gray and then eventually landed with the very funny Jordan Brady. All of them helped with ideas and thoughts. We wrote the movie with Billy in mind as Roy, but he wanted to play the other role of Lonnie Earl and went against type and Patrick Swayze went against type too, but their choice to switch just goes to show you how diversified and talented they both are. Natasha was classy and her character was the rooting interest to see if she could wake up in Reno and Charlize Theron played the volatile role better than I could have ever imagined. She has takes that nobody has seen that I really think if it were in the movie she would have been nominated. The final cast was stellar – (3 Academy Award Winners) and everyone did an amazing job. Amazing! All of them! Funny, real, sensitive and totally nailed it. We had Harvey Weinstein and Jon Gordon who as producers were winning Academy Awards left and right. We had the legendary Director of Photography William Fraker, Jordan Brady KNOWS comedy and is very funny. We had a great team. It was a joyous experience that I will never forget! Although the movie is very funny with some powerful scenes that matched in my mind perfectly … it sadly didn’t come close to the mark and I knew it was in trouble before it was released. The first cut was rough (which is normal) and Brent and I were concerned, the second cut was a lot closer to the vision and we felt we had a real chance for success, but then for whatever reason we regressed in the final cut in my humble opinion. Who knows who makes the calls, I was just happy to be along for the ride and you learn that in movies the writer is normally done once it is sold. The acting was brilliant – but some scenes were not shot and others were dramatically cut that I think hurt us big time. They did a voice over at the end that wrapped it up in a pretty package, but it was not what we wanted and made it look like we were trying to wrap things up when we didn’t. It’s interesting how much praise we received for the script (which I thought was pretty good, but not the best thing we have written) and how much criticism we received on the script from critics who I feel quite certain NEVER read the script. The bottom line is that there are a lot of things that go into making a movie and who knows why it derailed. That is the magic and mystery of movie making. On a positive note I had the best time doing it and the director Jordan Brady was great and allowed Brent and I to play the Sheriffs that pull over the leads. In early talks with Billy Bob, Brent was to play the Sheriff and I was to play the Bell hop, but Jordan had the hysterically funny David Koechner on board to do the bell hop, so he told me to write myself in as Boyd the 2nd fiddle to Brent. So I thought what if Charlize flirts with my character .... yeah that's the ticket. :) So we did it and I ask that you watch that scene with my ugly mustache. Another 2 scenes I would encourage you to watch is near the elevator with Charlize and Natasha …. Funny, sad and yet so powerful! They kicked it just as I saw it in my head. Another wonderful scene is Billy Bob And Natasha outside the hotel room while Charlize and Patrick are having a good time in the room. That scene is also funny and yet very sad and touching. Everyone was terrific to us and we were treated great. The first night I was in Reno, I met the cast in a strip bar where they were watching the Superbowl with the Rams vs the Titans. Being a huge Rams fan I could not concentrate in the strip club and needed to go to my room with Brent to watch the Rams win! I can’t say enough about how great everyone was. Look at some of the videos on here and you will see how much fun everyone was having. Cleo King, who Brent and I acted with in College, was also in this movie. Small world. Brent and I just came off doing the movie Madison and it was a very special time for me. I am extremely grateful to Harvey Weinstein, Jon Gordon, the entire cast and crew and especially my friend Billy Bob Thornton – who has done so much for my family and me. Billy Bob later did a commercial for my Community School of the Arts. Mr. Weinstein invited me to one of his Academy Award party’s and that was the last time I saw Patrick Swayze. We saw each other on the red carpet and he gave me a huge hug as if we just won the World Series. The Paparazzi started snapping pictures like crazy and asked who I was. When they were told I was the writer the cameras went down indifferently. A friend of mine later said at least you are on this side of the red carpet. That night at the party I spent a majority of the night in-between Walter Cronkite and Limp Biskit. What an experience this movie was and continues to be. I am saddened by Patrick Swayze and Natasha Richardson’s untimely deaths. Both class acts – but I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have a vision come to life – because of that vision be able to employ so many people and make people laugh to this day. Getting residual checks are nice too. Again … thanks to everyone who helped make this a reality.