|I don't know why I'm not invited to more parties.
Seriously. I have dozens of stories from my day job as a big-time, grown-up Hollywood screenwriter - all of them field-tested and honed and embellished to perfection. Okay, not dozens. Nine. I have nine stories. But that's more than you have, you asshole. For example, I have my Richard Pryor story. Years ago, I wrote a comedy starring Mr. Pryor. What was it called? It doesn't matter. It wasn't Stir Crazy, okay? It was one of the shitty ones he made later, after he started to shrivel up, when nobody could bear watching him. Timing is everything in this business.
Anyway, before they started filming, we had a read-through of the script. I flew out to LA. The whole cast sat around a big conference table.
At some point in the script there was a scene where one of the characters - a senile old lady - takes a crap in the backyard. Shamelessly, in broad daylight. Like a dog. Oh my friends, it would have been a classic sequence; students of American comedy would have been dissecting it for years to come.
But Mr. Pryor felt that scene didn't work. I respectfully disagreed. We went back and forth. He wanted it out. I thought it should stay.
Finally, the Director turned to Pryor and said, "Richard, is this something you feel strongly about?" And this is what Pryor did: he reached into his jacket and pulled out a gun! A real gun. A derringer - with two short barrels. I'd never seen one before but I could tell it was definitely real. I was so scared I almost blacked out.
Pryor put the derringer on the table - thunk - and stared at me, sort of defiantly. It was like a saloon scene in a bad western. Everyone gasped and laughed nervously. Nobody said anything for about five seconds. Then I playfully ripped the page out of the script, indicating "Heh, heh, okay Richard, you win!" Everyone tittered nervously some more. Finally, Mr. Pryor put the gun away and the read-through continued.
We never saw the gun again. Now here comes what I think is the really weird part: nobody ever mentioned it. Not then. Not for the rest of the meeting. Although, as I recall, everyone laughed at Mr. Pryor's lines a little louder from that point on.
Here's what I was thinking: "What sort of pathetic, self-hating, paranoid junkie would bring a gun to a script read-through? I'm glad I don't have to direct him - I'd be afraid to ask for a second take!"
Here's what everyone else was probably thinking: "Man, I'm glad I didn't write this shit!"
I have eight other stories, almost as good. Call me.
- Andy Breckman hosts Seven-Second Delay every Wednesday from 6 to 7pm. His screenwriting efforts include the overlooked classic Moving, which coincidentally starred Richard Pryor.
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