Thursday, February 3, 2011
Robert S Lecky
Robert Lecky was instrumental in my career in a number of ways. He was often uncredited in his efforts and he was a man of many parts. He was an ordained minister, an intellectual and a realist when it came to making motion pictures. He was very influential as part of Mel Simon's transition from building shopping malls to making movies. Later, he was a presence at Golan-Globus. One day Robert asked me to go to lunch with him. When I arrived at his office, he introduced me to Geno Havens, a casting director who was holding casting sessions for Robert's next movie--don't bother looking on IMDB for that credit; ninety percent of Robert's work is invisible on the movie database. If I recall correctly, Robert wanted me to come up with an idea for a movie that hit a certain pitch with regard to action and entertainment. He asked me to write a treatment, which later I developed into a full script called Razzle Dazzle which Robert submitted to a Hollywood production company which was known as Shapiro-Glickenhaus with whom he had contact.
The day after our lunch, Robert asked if I would mind if he gave my number to Geno Havens who had read an article in Drama-Logue about my work in Paris and wanted to talk. Like many casting directors at the time, Geno conducted an actors' workshop and he invited me to sit in. For many months, I would attend his class and write scenes for the actors to work on. We developed a friendship that lead to two rather curious events.
The first ended by me spending a day kissing Brooke Shields. Geno was casting a film titled Running Wild with Martin Sheen and Brooke Shields for a South African director. He asked if I would do him a favor and play one of the parts. I agreed to meet with the director, we talked about Paris and that was that. The part was mine without an audition. On the day, I showed up at a studio in Burbank and sat with Brooke whilst make-up people made us the right color for the film they were using. She was a very pleasant conversationalist in spite of suffering from a cold. Later, after donning a tuxedo in my dressing room, I watched the crew shooting scenes until they were ready for me. I played the part of an awards presenter giving Brooke's character an award for her documentary. She asked me to kiss her after my announcement and as I was handing her the award. I didn't object.
The second event was just as curious. Geno wanted to move into producing and asked if I had any suggestions. I told him he needed to find a property and he told me about a book he really liked. He sent me a copy of Madison Smartt Bell's Waiting for the End of the World. It was the story of a desolate character who volunteers to be the human detonator for a nuclear bomb with which a group of anarchists want to blow up New York City. If ever there was a sure-fire hit destined for a Christmas release, this wasn't it. I could have said, "Geno, don't do it!" but, as a friend, my role was to help him get it done. I called Madison's agent and negotiated an option that we could all live with. Geno had a property.
The next part wasn't going to be so easy. Who could we get to direct the film based on this book that would likely be a career ender? Geno had a list of potential directors which I vetoed on sight. There's only one person on this planet that has the balls to do this and actually make it work--Marlon Brando. Marlon had been in touch with me after seeing one of my fictional interview shows on cable and I felt he had the right combination of devil-may-care and expertise to make this project into something worthwhile. Let's offer him the project as a writer/director and not ask him to act in it. Geno couldn't believe what he was hearing but he liked the idea. I called Marlon's house and spoke to Aiko, his secretary, spelling it out for her. The next day, she called back and asked me to send over a copy of the book. Marlon would consider the idea.
About a week later, Aiko calls to say that Marlon liked the story and would consider the proposition. The only problem was that he was leaving for Tetiaroa and didn't know exactly when he would return. Were we in a position to wait or did we have a deadline? I didn't say "What deadline?" but I did convey our interest in having him write and direct even if it meant a considerable delay. We were very pleased with ourselves, Geno and I, not realizing that tragic events in Marlon Brando's life would overtake the petty concerns of two filmmakers.
In a way, these two are signature events in the Robert Lecky legacy. He was a man who was the catalyst for many projects and associations. Those who knew and worked with him have nothing but fine things to say and remember about him. According to IMDB, he almost didn't exist at all.