OFF AGAIN/ON AGAIN HOLLYWOOD
Yesterday, while rummaging through Diana’s (locked) book case, Larry pulled out a shabby green folio which turned out to be his second screenplay: an adaptation of “The Floating Opera,” John Barth’s brilliant first novel, not thought of by Larry in many a year. In 1991, the day before Larry’s open-heart-quadruple-bypass surgery, he spoke to John Barth’s fiction class at Johns Hopkins University. John mentioned nothing about Larry’s adaptation, and he’s not heard from John Barth from that day hence.
Today, Larry casually said he wondered what happened to Peter Bogdanovich, and Diana’s printer immediately began to spew out the most recent interviews with the man himself. Larry met Peter after Peter’s then-wife Polly Platt, an accomplished production designer and producer in her own right, read “The Last Picture Show” and suggested to Peter that the novel would make a fine film. Polly produced “Terms of Endearment,” “War of the Roses,” “Say Anything,” and she was matchmaker to Matt Groening and James L. Brooks, a fortuitous relationship that begat the series “The Simpsons”, which recently surpassed “Gunsmoke” as the longest-running primetime scripted American television series.
Peter, Polly, and Larry met, and the three of them became close when Peter and Larry wrote the script together. As it happens now, Peter is about to direct a movie after a long absence from the director’s chair.
Several of the printouts had photos of Peter as he is now. Larry was saddened: Peter looked as if he had been hit by a bulldozer and then buried, only to rise up and resume his erratic but at times brilliant film career. (As to the bulldozer, Larry claims he himself looks just as bad.)
Larry and Diana had dinner with Peter just before the 2005 Oscars, the year we won for adapting “Brokeback Mountain”. He said we were a shoo-in for the Adapted Screenplay Academy Award.
Since then, we’ve not heard a word from Peter, though we heard from our now-departed-and-deeply-missed friend Polly (by then Peter’s ex-wife), that he was jealous of our Oscar. No surprise there.
We don’t begrudge Peter his jealousy, although he himself has certainly had his share of good fortune. While making “The Last Picture Show,” Peter’s second major film and one that garnered eight Oscar nominations, he left behind his wife and two infant daughters to take up with a then stunning Cybill Shepherd. Together Cybill and Peter basked in the sunlight of their mutual success until it began to wane in the late 1970s.
But annoying as Peter can be at times, he has also experienced more than his share of misfortune. The murder/suicide in 1980 of luminous Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten by her then-husband Paul Snider (a tragedy depicted in Bob Fosse’s feature film “Star 80”) devastated Peter. Dorothy was, by Peter’s own admission, an obsession of his, and we believe he’s never quite recovered from that grievous loss.
In Hollywood, as in life, it is possible to lose contact with people for years, even decades, and then find that you are working with them again.
We wouldn’t mind if Peter turned up again, chewing his customary toothpick.
–Larry and Diana
Speaking of Hollywood, I wonder if Larry is aware that The Last Picture Show (book) made very subtle (but no doubt meaningful) appearances in a few scenes of a recent episode:
I hope you see Peter again. Sometimes pride can make a person take a million left turns instead of that one right. Love you, Mr. McMurtry. You are very dear and I’m glad you are writing blogs, and hopefully, another book. Peace.