Posts Tagged ‘Thelma and Louise Book’

Over The Cliff

Callie Khouri, from Paducah Kentucky, started her work life waiting tables, by the time she had risen to becoming a music video director in Hollywood, she had been through enough harassment by men and broken relationships to get the initial thoughts about writing her own movie.  She loved movies, but she didn’t like the roles that were written for most women in the 80’s, so she decided to write a movie of her own.  She write it long hand on legal pads, it was a story featuring not one but two female heroines, Thelma and Louise, both on the run from bad relationships of their own and towards a whole lot of adventure.

By the time the script was ready, a fellow video director, Amanda Temple had shopped the script all over Hollywood, and gotten a pretty cool reception.  The sticking point with everyone seemed to be the ending of the movie, which seemed over the top.  Amanda then sought out the advice of a friend, Mimi Polk, who worked for director Ridley Scott, and his production company.  Scott had directed such movies as Alien and Blade Runner.  Mimi Polk was blown away by the script and implored Ridley Scott to read it.  Ridley Scott was similarly impressed, but he didn’t want to direct it, he wanted to produce it, after interviewing many directors, including Phillip Noice, who directed Dead Calm, and considering female directors like Amy Heckerling and Susan Seidelman, Ridley thought maybe his brother Tony would be best to direct it.  Callie wasn’t exactly crazy about Tony’s treatment of Beverly hills Cop II, but her opinion mattered little at this stage of the production. But Tony wasn’t crazy about the script, so the question of who would direct was still an open question.

By this time, buzz about this film was circling Hollywood, right away A-list actresses like Jodie Foster and Michelle Pfeiffer expressed immediate interest, so did Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn.  Pfeiffer eventually starred in Love Field, Foster starred in Silence of the Lambs. But Any number of actresses were interested Cybil Sheppard, Daryl Hannah, Meg Ryan, Rebecca DeMornay, and many others, who would get those pivotal roles that would make the movie a memorable one and possibly change the trajectory of their careers.

As important as who would produce direct, and star in the movie was which studio would back it.  As with the screenplay, the major studios balked at getting involved in making this movie.  Then a small studio named  Pathe, headed by former actor Alan Ladd, expressed great interest in making the movie. As soon as the other studios saw Pathe’s interest, they also became interested.  The question was could a small studio finance the demands of the actors, director, and screenwriter and promote the film properly?  Conversely, would a big studio try to change the film to make it more commercially viable?

This book was a natural read for me, this is a movie blog, so what better book to read than a behind the scenes book about the making of a truly revolutionary film.  Knowing who the film stars, and who directed it, it’s fun to see all the stars and directors mentioned in connection with the film.  It’s also fun to note the emergence of Brad Pitt as a major star, he had a small scene, as a love interest for the Thelma character, another major star auditioned for the role and lost out on it.  It’s interesting to know how intimately involved the director was in every facet of the movie, the visuals the story, almost every aspect of what the viewer hears and sees.  And most of all the story of Callie Khouri  is an amazing one.  She came up with a great idea for a screenplay wrote it, and despite being from Paducah Kentucky, and having no Hollywood connections, she had her story made into a Hollywood film.

But this movie was a struggle, the director would fight with the actors over certain scenes, there was tension over the love scenes over a largely male crew shooting females in such delicate scenes.  There was even one scene where the director asked one of the stars to go topless, she demurred and the other female star stepped in and flatly said no for the both of them.

Underlying all the tension was an undertone of harassment.  Many women on the cast and crew mention stories of sexual harassment on other movie productions.  But here’s where the author backs down a little, she never mentions any of the male crew members names, and other than one notable star, who is dead, Charlton Heston, no one is mentioned as anything untoward, for fear of a libel suit, I’m sure. Ironically, Harvey Weinstein is mentioned in passing, once as rejecting the script for Thelma and Louise, and once identified as “showman producer” Harvey Weinstein.  I don’t think women ever wanted to see what he was showing.  The point of this is to illustrate that harassment and the casting couch is not a new story, and it continues.

The book ends on a high note, after some depressing statistics. This is a good book, and well worth the read, entertaining and enlightening.

Off The  Cliff:  Easy to fall for.