Lorenzo Semple Jr.,

Lorenzo Semple Jr.,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 27 1997 12:30 AM

Lorenzo Semple Jr.,

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       Those who read yesterday's entry may recall that it ended with a late-night epiphany: The notion that my friend Larry's proposed H.G. Wells update, an action-thriller about not one but a whole army of Invisible Men, might better be pitched as a comedy. Somehow this concept survived the sleepless hours, so I called Larry at 9 a.m. today to suggest it. And was promptly flattened. The Invisible Man has already been made as a comedy, Larry gently instructed me, not once but twice, with disastrous results both times--one of which actually originated from a pitch Larry himself had sold to Paramount. (The Man Who Wasn't There, 1983--carrying the rare 0-stars rating on my Motion Picture Guide CD.) Easiest money he ever made, Larry added--75 thou for a 10-minute meeting--and he didn't even have to write it, as the studio already had a different writer/producer combo lined up.
       Two-minute break while I sizzle with envy. And while I reflect that I shouldn't have been so surprised Larry had sold an earlier version of the same idea. When he's got a good thing in his teeth, Larry does not drop it. Ever. So much for the dazzling originality of my notion. However. You can't survive as a movie writer as long as I have without acquiring a certain primitive flexibility. That is to say, the ability to reverse course rapidly without blinking an eye.
       So it's been made as a comedy, I said, determined not to look like an ignoramus. So what? Surely not as this kind of comedy. Those were little movies about one invisible man. Naturally they were turkeys. This would be a huge movie. Think Men In Black, think Jim Carrey. Isn't the thought of that maniac leading an invisible army in a 24-hour takeover of the military and executive branches of the U.S. government truly risible? How about Jim Carrey, invisible, making love to 18 supermodels at the same time? What a whirlwind of long legs and velvety arms and--well, let us just say other interesting female body parts. Larry thought for about the hang-time of your average NFL punt. Yeah, he mused, basic training of an invisible army might be very funny. Interesting concept. Let him think about it over the long weekend and we'll get together next week. ...
       Dear Diary: Am I certifiably insane? Can I really be imagining collaboration on a movie I'm 100-percent unqualified to write and which, if made, it would take a troop of Cossacks to get me into a theater to see? Yes. Yes. A sibilant Joycean Yesssss!
       Later. Invited to dinner at a snazzy Sunset Strip eatery by a rich real-estate lady, got a surprise bonus. Ann Rutherford had been invited for me. Ann Rutherford, as in "Polly Benedict," the ever loyal girlfriend of mischievous Mickey Rooney in MGM's Andy Hardy series. Also the real-life widow of Bill Dozier, producer/genius of our TV Batman series. Many memories flooded back, among the most piquant of a day when I was working on the pilot of a Green Hornet TV series. Intended to cash in on Batman's success, the series never took off, though it did jump-start the career of an unknown kid Bill had recruited in San Francisco to play the Hornet's sidekick Kato--kid named Bruce Lee. Anyway. Creator of the Green Hornet, a formidable octogenarian named George Trendel, had been transported from Chicago to Bill's office at Fox. Sitting around, trying desperately to make small talk, I came up with what I thought was a perfect gambit. For those who don't know--which includes just about everybody--when the Green Hornet was not a masked do-gooder he was Britt Reid, supersquare newspaper publisher. "Mr. Trendel," said I, "just out of curiosity, what impelled Britt Reid to become a crime-fighter?" Old George looked at me like I'd just asked if the Pope was Catholic. "For chrissake," he snarled, "don't you realize that Britt Reid's father was the Lone Ranger's nephew?" Proving that to even the most intractable script problem there is an answer, if you frame the question right.
       11:30 p.m. Enough today. Now to zzzzzland, with any luck perchance not to dream. Think Mars. Think street fighting in a Greenwich mall, exchange of fire between elements entrenched in The Gap and those in The Sharper Image. Think smaller things. Think house guest Sally arriving tomorrow from N.Y., girl shutterbug, actually a swell fine-art photographer. Remember that those things from her Hasselblad are called images, never pictures.

Lorenzo Semple Jr. is a screenwriter. He originated the TV version of Batman and since then has written, among other movies, Three Days of the Condor, Dino De Laurentiis' King Kong, and the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again.