Friday, August 7, 2009

Finishing the script for HORROR EXPRESS

From: HOLLYWOOD EXILE Or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist
by Bernard Gordon

Back in Madrid, after a full month of rewrites, Julian insisted on taking off to Rome. He was fed up with the script. With misgivings, I let him go but immediately regretted it. Eugenio was uncharacteristically stubbern about needing changes, and I had to agree that further work would help. I was back on the phone to Rome. "I hate to do this, Julian, but I need you back here."
"Not a chance," he replied.
"The script needs work, and I'm too busy to do it myself."
"I'm sorry." He meant it. "I have a life here and a wife who's been neglected for too long. I just can't leave again so soon."
"I'm sorry, too. And I understand. But I wish you wouldn't force my hand."
"What does that mean?"
"It means you're putting me in a lousy position. It means that if you're not back here in a couple of days, I'll have to get someone else to work on the script."
Julian snorted. "Fat chance. Who will you find in Madrid?"
Actually, I had anticipated this impasse and had checked around . I knew that John Melson (from the BATTLE OF THE BULGE script) was still around and eager for work. "Johnny Melson is here and he wants to work. You remember him."
Long pause. Julian was considering. "How long will it take?"
"A week. Maybe two. Not more."
Julian came back, worked quickly and well, and in another ten days we had the script in satisfactory shape. Eugenio kept dragging his feet. I began to wonder why. He had a script that was much better than either one he had worked on before. Why was he so negative? Yorday was gone. Didn't he feel secure working on an English-American production where I was in charge? I was learning that most directors had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the set for the first day's shooting. Was that the problem? Or was it something else? I was not fated to get a good answer to this, because, fewer than three days before our start date, I had an emergency call from him.
"I'm sorry, Bernie, but I have to go into the hospital for an operation. I won't be able to do the picture."
Get another director? Now? And a Spanish director at that, because of the damned Spanish nationality problem? Alarmed as I was, I had the decency to ask Eugenio about his condition. "What's the problem? What kind of operation are you having?"
"It's for hemorrhoids," he explained. "I've put it off as long as I could. I can't wait any longer."
This struck me as less than a life-and-death matter. "How long will you be in the hospital?"
"Three of four days."
"I'll postpone production for a week. We'll just have to start a week later." He was stuck. He would have to go on. We didn't get started until the second week of December, 1971, which meant we ran through the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Despite problems, I felt I was really making a film - no Ben Fisz, no Milton Sperling, no Yordan. Not even Sacristan. I have never enjoyed anything so much in my life.

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