Saint (left) and Greavsie (right) my codenames for the Hollywood double act.
The day was starting quietly enough for the Male Trailing Spouse and then he got out of bed. It was a big mistake.
A strange English voice was on the line from Hollywood, "Jimmy Greaves" -- a hotshot director who had been advised by Saint to climb down from Mount Olympus and seek out a sleazy writer for learned counsel on fixing the plots of crap films and TV shows.
The following day we had our first Skype chat.
"I'm a very important director."
The warm up was small talk. It turned out that Greavsie had gone to the same University (not Oxford or Cambridge) as Saint and my little brother.
"Is Abel still drinking and smoking too much?"
What an odd question to ask but I could not entirely blame him -- Abel once ran a rowdy after hours drinking club in his halls of residence.
"Do you drink too much?"
"No. I gave up booze two and a half years ago."
"Oh, did you go to AA?"
"Fuck no. I fix me own cars, mate," I said toughly, "besides, AA is for drama queens."
"What's Abel doing these days?"
"Making a lot of money," I answered in a Lew Grade tone of voice.
"How much is he making?"
The late Michael Winner. A bona fide very important director!
"What are you, the Taxman? More than his older brothers but less than Michael Winner."
"But Michael Winner's dead!"
"Yes, I know. A great loss to the world of film making."
He was being a nosy git. But forewarned is forearmed. The night before I had vetted Jimmy Greaves via some industry contacts in London. The hearsay was not good. Greavsie had recently made a big film. Word from the set was that he could not control the star (who routinely turned up to work hung over and once punched out a female member of crew), had a cocaine problem (a lot of these film blokes do) and ran up huge bills on telephone sex lines charged to expenses (whatever happened to the casting couch?) The studio allegedly fired him and drafted in someone else to complete the film.
No wonder he was talking to the likes of me.
"I'm a very important director."
Was Jimmy Greaves a sex freak and a drug addict? He did not sound or look like one and I was content to NOT believe the stories and propaganda from London. After all, this guy was helping out Saint in Hollywood, had gone to the same Uni as Abel, and was talking to me, a stranger in a strange land. Maybe he was a multimillionaire cunt with a heart of gold or a cunt proper? It was too soon to tell.
"My advice to you," said Greavsie, "is don't become a scriptwriter. They all go mad, develop drink and drug problems and end up broke. They start off in their twenties and end up fuck ups in their forties."
He reeled off some famous names, Academy Award winners, all of them burn outs and footnotes in Hollywood history. It was not an incentive to production by any margin.
Greavsie asked about my forthcoming book and undercover work in jails. He was about as subtle as a flashing hang-glider.
"Did you get raped in prison?"
What kind of an asshole question is that? I was about to give this bumptious twat a supreme bollocking but the cautious words of my younger, smarter brother echoed upstairs.
Treat Jimmy Greaves like a God, like he is the reincarnation of Alfred Hitchcock and be very, very grateful.
It was too late for me to play the sycophant so I got down to biz. I told him about various ideas on the boil -- the Bulldog Drummond reboot (whom he had never heard of) and my cricket film "First Eleven" (the Editor of Wisden suggested "Test of Fire").
He fixed me with a look of utter incredulity.
"Cricket? This is Hollywood nobody cares about cricket here!"
The Final Test (1953) the first English film about Cricket
I told him that the novelty of the story would be a cricket film with all the cliches of an American baseball film -- team on the slide turns the tide (Major League) with the help of a rebel veteran (Bull Durham) and an Arthurian batsman (The Natural). So many awful movies have been made about American Football and Baseball, why not cricket that great English invention? I was overcome by patriotism and lamely protested the case.
"Cricket is international. And this sports comedy would be accessible to an American audience."
The match was soon to be rained off.
Playing Away (1987) the other British film about cricket
"I don't like cricket, I hate it. About 15 people would go and see a film like that in America...where would you get the money to make it?
"India," I confidently snapped.
(According to Saint all the money for films in Hollywood these days is coming from two primary sources -- India and Russia).
"Huh," said Greavsie, "good luck with that. What else have you got, what about doing an adaptation of your jail story?"
"I had thought about that," I said, "but it is a little too George Orwell for the exploitation treatment. I got a 1980s spy story on the go, set in London, Moscow and Leningrad. It's very off beat, aimed at the 17-32 demographic..."
"Oh, is it like le Carre?"
Ashenden: the first spy thriller
"No, fuck no, this is based on my own experiences and is a cross between The Sandbaggers and W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden."
"Your own experiences?"
"Yes," I said, "I have been to Russia."
Enough. I had shared too much with this celluloid deity, who had told me five times in two minutes that he was a "very important director". I was a narcissistic writer after a fast buck. It was time to do the Hollywood shuffle.
"How much could I get for a treatment? What's the going rate?"
Greavsie looked at me like I was Oliver Twist asking for more.
"What? There is no going rate!"
I put on the Paxman hat and asked him again and again and again.
"You're not listening Alex, there is no going rate for a treatment or a script!"
"I am listening. You have not answered the question. It's very simple. What is the going rate?"
"Alex, Alex," he said with an air of patronizing exasperation, "there isn't one."
"Well there is," I said, "because you just got $50,000 for a treatment."
" I am a very important director."