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MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

Stop the madness! Enough on Pellicano, already … wake us in time for the movie

May 3, 2006
Like almost everyone else in Los Angeles, I’ve become so distraught by recent revelations in the Pellicano-gate scandal (there, I’ve said it) that I’ve had a hard time concentrating on the business at hand. By comparison, navigating around Monday’s immigration boycott was a walk down the Yellow Brick Road.
I still find it difficult to believe that any show-business executive – let alone, a former agent – would hire a Philip Marlowe wanna-be to spy on his enemies. These are honorable men, who are engaged in a high-stakes game in which integrity and fair play are taken for granted. And, if Ron Meyer visited the besmirched P.I. in prison … well, what would Jesus have done? Charity has to begin somewhere … it might as well be in the executive offices overlooking an amusement park.
Surely, the New York Times and Vanity Fair have something better to obsess over than a case of business-as-usual in Hollywood? If even half of the leaked rumors it’s repeated, concerning such outstanding corporate citizens as Michael Ovitz, Brad Grey, Chris Rock, mogul Ron Burkle, director John McTiernan and attorneys Bert Fields and Terry Christensen (generally referred to as “feared” or “aggressive,” not “reptilian” or “ruthless,” as some would have it) were accurate, the Hollywood honor code would demand they be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. Not only wouldn’t they be able to eat lunch in this town ever again, but they also wouldn’t be allowed to operate a Hummer or Mercedes anywhere west of the 405.
Who would risk such ostracism?
OK, you got caught me there … the answer to that question, of course, is “everyone in the 312, 213 and 818 area codes.” Remember, in the business of show — as in college sports — if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. And, anyway, chewing the fat with hard-boiled guys like Pellicano is way cooler than staying home and watching DVDs of movies that have yet to be released. Too bad, if a few estranged wives and girlfriends, jealous business partners, uppity actors and nosy reporters don’t get the joke.
If the lawyers one retains aren’t fearsome and aggressive, what the hell good would they be? Everyone has a niece or nephew in law school that could walk the case through court for the price of a Mini-Cooper. Why waste the big bucks? Better to cop a plea, than risk a trial that might conflict with Cannes or Christmas on Maui.
And, that’s the part of this manufactured scandal the editors and journalistic assault teams of the New York Times and Vanity Fair don’t understand. Until the half-buried body of a divorce lawyer or plaintiff is discovered alongside the road to Palm Springs – those of dead homeless people don’t count – no one in those aforementioned area codes is going to give a good crap about eavesdropping and wiretapping. Reporting that this contretemps is “gripping” the town doesn’t make it so. A few homes in Malibu and Bel-Aire might be feeling tremors, but none north or east of Burbank and south of the 10.
Who knows when any one of us might need the services of an aggressive litigator? If they’re all in prison, where’s our justice gonna come from?
It all makes for a titillating read over bagels and macchiato on a slow morning at Starbuck’s. L’affaire Pellicano pales, however, by comparison to losing the services of a maid or gardener for a full day, just so they can march down Wilshire Avenue … instead of taking the bus, like normal servants do.
No, the full extent of the horror won’t be known until someone at HBO commissions a made-for-cable movie to explain it to us, just as it did in “Barbarians at the Gate” and “The Late Shift.” Right now, I’m seeing Dennis Franz as the wiseguy P.I. … G.D.

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MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

INTERVIEWER
Do you outline plays before you start to write them?

PINTER
Not at all. I don’t know what kind of characters my plays will have until they…well, until they are. Until they indicate to me what they are. I don’t conceptualize in any way. Once I’ve got the clues I follow them—that’s my job, really, to follow the clues.

INTERVIEWER
What do you mean by clues? Can you remember how one of your plays developed in your mind—or was it a line-by-line progression?

PINTER
Of course I can’t remember exactly how a given play developed in my mind. I think what happens is that I write in a very high state of excitement and frustration. I follow what I see on the paper in front of me—one sentence after another. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a dim, possible overall idea—the image that starts off doesn’t just engender what happens immediately, it engenders the possibility of an overall happening, which carries me through. I’ve got an idea of what might happen—sometimes I’m absolutely right, but on many occasions I’ve been proved wrong by what does actually happen. Sometimes I’m going along and I find myself writing “C. comes in” when I didn’t know that he was going to come in; he had to come in at that point, that’s all.
~ Harold Pinter

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