Looking Back Part 2

Reading & Writing, The Arts

The thread on the last entry ‘Don’t Look Back’ was hilarious, especially the way it morphed from Liv Tyler to Andy Murray, so I thought I should continue. The photos above span thirty years. (I think the one with Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley is on the shoot for our dentist horror short with Charlie Boorman.) The best part of ageing is the gradual return to invisibility – until I was forty too much was judged by my appearance, and reviews talked about my grooming as much as my writing. Newspapers still do this with young female writers, and sadly there are some female writers who play up to it.

Meanwhile, the film versions of various books were optioned and cast with different stars before being written, rewritten, then junked. I had eight separate scripts for ‘Roofworld’, most of them rubbish. One of them started with Nazi U-boats surfacing in the Thames (no, me neither). Five scripts were produced for ‘Spanky’ – including one brilliant one by Guillermo del Toro. ‘Psychoville’ and ‘Disturbia’ scripts were both written by me, and I liked them a lot, but no-one was interested. The version with Jude collapsed as he announced his divorce. The director of ‘Psychoville’, Dominic Anciano, became so disillusioned by the whole process that he took early retirement and moved to Ibiza. That’s the effect that working in film has on people. Actually, ‘Breathe’ was very nearly filmed, and the script is terrific – but currently without an option.

Hollywood executives would phone me up at 3:00am to tell me that my script was in a safe pair of hands, and there was me thinking ‘You can’t even work out the time difference, why would I think it’s safe with you?’

Having a film made drastically changes your career. Your next book usually sells for a million. I’ve come this close *holds up thumb and forefinger* twice and fairly close about six times. At some point you stop caring because you’re told so many contradictory things, or the person who options your work shows such a staggering lack of understanding of it that you shrug and take the (minuscule) cheque.

With film the money rises exponentially, rather as in roulette. The odds steepen with each step, and you are promised your big wodge on first day of principal photography, then on theatrical release. I have friends who have never published a book or made a film, who have become rich doing rewrites on films that were never made.

And there are hierarchies within writing – scriptwriters want to be novelists, popular novelists want to get good reviews and writers who go wherever their art takes them want popular success. And everyone wants a film made. Most friends who have had a TV series produced from a book have hated the result, or have been in television to start with.

Some of this will covered in ‘Film Freak’, due out next April. At the moment I’m still checking it for libel!

5 comments on “Looking Back Part 2”

  1. John Howard says:

    Those photos are a bit more relaxing. I see what you did now, bring out the shockers and then let the chaps see the good ones later. Like the bomber jacket cool in the first one. As for films, it sounds a bit like the music business. All” yes, yes, oh I like that, we will definitely do something” and then deafening silence (Have just re-read that sentence and it sounds a bit When Harry Met Sally)

  2. Alan Morgan says:

    It’s a shame that film has never worked out. Disturbia and Psychoville – though a Gilliam Calabash would look wonderful. A del Toro Spanky must have been exciting enough to spark off the love of film like a memory of Christmas. It is a wonder that having taken on a project-from-the-novel how little of the original survives. Peter O’Donnell (after his experiences with Modesty on the big screen) included a point in his will regarding the rights for his work never again being used in cinema.

    I had a script optioned a few years back, just produced on spec for a guy that works constantly in visual effects in film. He just wanted something to wave around like everyone else did (reading between the lines) and I never expected it to go further. It was a handy wedge, and a gig is a gig after all.

    As a complete aside I’ve just finished The Invisible Code. I’m not allowed to just buy certain authors nowadays (they have to wait for birthdays and such) so I’m catching up. Page 31, very nice and made me smile all day. And it looks like to an earlier thread asking for ‘their Moriarty’ we might well have one in Mr Merry* after all. Teach me not to be up to date. This latest outing was a proper page turner, one of the very best in the series. Lots of mythic London too, and plenty I’d never known before. I don’t post gushing over every new release (we all have our favourites for our own reasons) so take it this time as it is meant, one of my top two of the ten and I’m wavering on which has the top spot.

    *Thankfully I read again before posting as I’d written it as ‘Mr Jolly’. That being Peter Cook murdering people to loudly played Tom Jones.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    My nephew e-mailed me some photos of the paintings in his new show and asked if I would comment. I did and he thanked me because he says his agent just says “Yes, I can sell that, nope, that’ll never sell.” It’s a bit discouraging I should imagine when you’ve put a lot into the work. He says he was told not to put fir trees into paintings he’s planning on showing in Toronto because, “They don’t like the West Coast in Toronto.” Ah, I see.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    That first photo is the best I’ve seen of admin – I really like that.

  5. Peter Lee says:

    Chris – When you mentioned early reviews talking about your grooming I instantly remembered an acknowledgement you mentioned in “Red Bride”: “Andy’s Barber Shop opposite Chalk Farm tube is real, and the only place in London to visit for a superb No.2 Flat Top.” It amused me at the time, and still makes me smile now.

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