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AV Club Review
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Wednesday, December 4, 2019
DE PALMA SOUGHT 'DEMOLISHED MAN' CIRCA 1998
IN MIDST OF 'M:I' & 'SNAKE EYES', TOLD LANSING HE WANTED TO DIRECT STEPHEN TOLKIN SCRIPT
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/demolishedmanbookcover.jpgStephen Tolkin, a writer and sometimes director who works mainly in television, wrote a screenplay adaptation of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man for CBS Films in 1985. About a decade later, according to Tolkin, Brian De Palma, having found box office success with Mission: Impossible, told Paramount that he wanted to direct Tolkin's version. De Palma, of course, had been wanting to make a film of The Demolished Man since the mid-1970s, and worked on a screenplay with author John Farris after adapting Farris' The Fury into a feature film.

Tue Nguyen chatted with Tolkin recently, and asked him about The Demolished Man. Tolkin told Nguyen:
It was 1985. I had just adapted A. E. Van Vogt's Slan for MGM and a producer named Sidney Beckerman and his son Barry. Our executive on the project moved to CBS Films, where Demolished Man was in development, with Barry Beckerman producing. Because we had all just had a good time working together they sent me the book, I read and loved it, then went in and pitched my ideas and got the job. A simpler path than most! Just when I finished the script CBS Films stopped functioning as an entity and for the next thirteen years the script was an effective writing sample for further work, but nothing more. Then, completely out of the blue, after the first Mission:Impossible movie came out and was a big hit, Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount, asked Brian De Palma what he wanted to do next, and he said "I want to direct Stephen Tolkin's draft of Demolished Man." I was stunned when I heard this; I had never met De Palma and to this date have no idea why he would want to direct my version of the story rather than his own, or even how he ever came to read it. So Paramount hired me to rewrite the script but for some reason they chose not to do it under De Palma's supervision -- which would have been fun, I think -- and it never really came together; whatever the flaws are in my 1985 version, the 1998 version represented at best lateral, and most likely backward, movement.

In 2013, Chris Dumas interviewed Farris for the booklet in Arrow Video's edition of The Fury. Discussing The Demolished Man, Farris told Dumas:
The film rights belonged to a Hollywood wannabe who was in the hotel business. I don't recall his name. Brian was attached to write the screenplay and direct and the project was set up at Paramount. Mike Eisner thought Brian's script needed work, although he was thrilled with the project, etc. I was brought in at Brian's suggestion. Read his draft, which I thought was excellent. I did a 30-page treatment, adding new angles but not straying far from the novel. Brian okayed the treatment. I did the new screenplay. Next thing I knew [Frank] Yablans was involved, took the project away from Paramount and gave it to Fox. There were heavy-duty politics involved in this move. But Fox passed and Brian was irate. For more on that story, you would have to talk to Brian. He never mentioned The Demolished Man to me again."

Note: during that time in the mid-'90s, amidst the success of Mission: Impossible, De Palma had also been working to set up Ambrose Chapel, which never ended up being made. Tolkin's recollection that it was 1998 when The Demolished Man was being tossed around suggests a possibility that De Palma and Lansing were already preparing to make Snake Eyes while De Palma and Tolkin would work on The Demolished Man screenplay... unless perhaps it was very early in 1998, before Snake Eyes was fully-formed.

Posted by Geoff at 7:54 AM CST
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Sunday, November 10, 2013
FARRIS ON 'THE DEMOLISHED MAN', MORE
MORE FROM DUMAS' ARROW BOOKLET INTERVIEW


Following up on Thursday's post about Chris Dumas' interview with The Fury author/screenwriter John Farris, here are some more excerpts:

ON 'THE DEMOLISHED MAN'
Farris: "The film rights belonged to a Hollywood wannabe who was in the hotel business. I don't recall his name. Brian [De Palma] was attached to write the screenplay and direct and the project was set up at Paramount. Mike Eisner thought Brian's script needed work, although he was thrilled with the project, etc. I was brought in at Brian's suggestion. Read his draft, which I thought was excellent. I did a 30-page treatment, adding new angles but not straying far from the novel. Brian okayed the treatment. I did the new screenplay. Next thing I knew [Frank] Yablans was involved, took the project away from Paramount and gave it to Fox. There were heavy-duty politics involved in this move. But Fox passed and Brian was irate. For mnore on that story, you would have to talk to Brian. He never mentioned The Demolished Man to me again."

ON DE PALMA'S EARLY LIFE AND AFFECT ON HIS CAREER TRAJECTORY
In the interview (which was conducted via e-mail), Dumas tells Farris, "A friend of mine -- a grad student in film studies at the time -- once had an opportunity to as Oliver Stone about De Palma; Stone replied that De Palma was 'the saddest person' he'd ever met. (I assume that by 'sad' he meant 'despondent,' rather than something like 'pathetic.') Did he strike you as a melancholy sort?"

Farris responds, "Brian was 36 when he made The Fury. I found him to be somewhat shy, not overly talkative but humorous and engaging when his guard is down, intensely observant but not judgmental, far too intelligent to be anything but annoyed by the Hollywood game, impatient with anything or anyone that caused him to lose focus. And, I think, disappointed that his career hadn't taken off like that of his friends Spielberg and Lucas. Friends, but rivals, in what Brian has referred to as 'The Competition'.

"A friend of mine since high school had played the female lead in Hi, Mom! and had briefed me on her experiences with him during filming. As a fledgling director he gave her a tough time. But he was younger then, and still unravelling the emotional knots of growing up in a prosperous but dysfunctional family. I'm not trying to psychoanalyze him. Adolescence wasn't paradise for most of us. But having heard from Brian about certain incidents in his early life, which are strictly his business and will not be related here, it's clear that they profoundly affected the direction, or trajectory if you will, his career has taken. For complex studies of where his fascination with, and terror of women has led him creatively, try watching Sisters, Dressed To Kill, and Raising Cain one after another.When Dumas asks how these things came up in the context of writing films together, Farris answers, "That grew out of discussions over lunches at Musso and Frank's, relevant to the script of The Fury and how much of the relationship between Gillian and her mom should be in the movie. Also there is something about me that often has near-strangers eager to talk about moments in their lives they wouldn't confess to a priest. Basically I guess I'm just a good and uncritical listener."

FARRIS & DUMAS DISCUSS OTHER DE PALMA FILMS
Dumas asks Farris what De Palma films he had seen prior to working on The Fury. "I had seen Sisters, Obsession and Carrie," replies Farris, "brilliant exercises in what can be done when you have almost no money to spend. Other than what my actress friend had told me about Hi, Mom! I didn't know anything about Brian's student-film years."

Dumas then continues, "Have you kept up with all of De Palma's movies since then? You mention Raising Cain, which I still think is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, like Preston Sturges remaking Psycho -- did you have a similar reaction to it? I wonder what you thought of the particularly political ones, like Casualties Of War and Redacted and even Snake Eyes, and I especially wonder what you thought of Scarface, given its initial failure and its unprecedented second life on home video."

Farris then responds, "Scarface is my second-favourite De Palma movie, after The Untouchables. It has a near-hallucinatory quality, wonderful script and a visual flair to make any of his rivals in 'The Competition' envious. I also liked The Bonfire Of The Vanities. That one was a lose-lose situation for Brian, based as it was on an overhyped, revered 'masterpiece.' If you don't 'get' Brian, then you hate the movie. Pauline, where were you when he needed you?

"Casualties Of War is another good one. Haven't seen Redacted. As for Cain, I think it's a minor masterpiece waiting in the wings to be properly acknowledged by film scholars. The only movie Brian has made, and at a very stressful time, that is so obviously about himself."

UNREALIZED PROJECT: 'WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN'
Near the beginning of the interview, while telling Dumas how The Fury came together as a film project, Farris mentions another adaptation he and De Palma had been working on together. While working on the screenplay for The Fury between 1975 and 1976, Farris says, agent Bob Bookman "put me together with another client, Brian De Palma, to work on an adaptation of the Mary Higgins Clark best-seller Where Are The Children? which Brian was attached to direct. I spent a couple of months on a screenplay that would work. By then Brian was bored with the project. Carrie had been released and was a big success and he wanted something more challenging than a fairly mild mystery. 'What are you working on?' he asked me.

"So on January 17 we all met in Frank's office, agreed that day on Kirk Douglas as the lead, called him, and then the real work began. Seven drafts of the screenplay later, Brian began filming on a beach in Chicago."

Where Are The Children? was eventually made in 1986 by director Bruce Malmuth, with the screenplay credited to Jack Sholder. The film starred De Palma's friend, the late Jill Clayburgh, who had played the female lead in De Palma's first film, The Wedding Party. The plot/storyline synopsis on the IMDB has a similarity or two with the plot of De Palma's Femme Fatale, regarding a woman who loses her children (they are later found dead). After being convicted of their murder and then having that conviction overturned, the film moves ahead "seven years later," where the woman has changed her identity and hair color, and has a new life married to a realtor. One day she opens the newspaper and is stunned to see her picture in the local section.

SPOILER ALERT: Femme Fatale has a woman who has a premonition that she has assumed the identity of a look-alike who has committed suicide following the death of her child. The story moves ahead "seven years later" where a paparazzo takes her picture and it gets plastered in the streets of Paris, causing her to fear retribution from the thieves she had swindled in her earlier life.


Posted by Geoff at 2:14 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 10, 2013 2:57 AM CST
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