GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Virginia Madsen

One evening I receive a call from a woman who wanted to talk about a segment of my series (Interview) which she had just watched on television. The caller was Virginia Madsen.

The story that caught her attention was about a woman living a solitary life in an isolated mountain cabin. The character is at one with the peaceful surroundings of nature where she lives with her dogs and the comforts she finds in her collection of books. It was as though she had taken a page from Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Alone, she felt secure but the undercurrent was that she needed the quiet and safety of self as a remedy to whatever life had imposed on her in earlier times. The story turns on the disruption of her idyll when her cabin is invaded by a fugitive who takes her hostage.

A lifetime earlier, I had seen The Collector with Terrence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, an excellent if disturbing film about captivity. I can't say that I had it consciously in mind as I created this story though there are similarities. What similarities there were disappeared in the second half of the second act--at the mid-point as Syd Field would say. Here, I told the tale of a woman who is able to neutralize the threat to her with a calm acceptance of her tormentor giving him nothing against which to attack. This curious void and lack of resistance threw off her captor's equilibrium disconcerting him. He became curious about her rather than certain, gradually putting aside the hatred that his mania had dictated to him. In the end, he surrenders himself to her and, subsequently, to the authorities. He finds himself in prison under a life sentence. It is then that the two marry each other.

Virginia told me that she was intrigued by the story as a film in which she could play the woman's role. She thought her brother (Michael), also an actor, would be perfect for the role of the captor. She requested that I send a cassette to the woman who was her manager at the time which I did. Subsequent phone conversations with the manager were, in stark contrast to my conversation with Virginia, disagreeable to say the least.

Another close encounter. Another lesson learned.

As a post script, the actress who played the book's author in the segment that caught Virginia Madsen's attention was Katherine James. She, too, had called me one day after having seen an (Interview) program on cable and wanted to talk to me about the series--she had seen other episodes. I invited her to come on the show and when she agreed, I created the story described above for her to play as I felt it resonated with who she was--at least, with whom I perceived her to be.

As I became better acquainted with Katherine, I learned she had been offered the title role in the movie Candy--a send up of Voltaire's Candide--that featured Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau and Ringo Starr amongst others. It was directed by Christian Marquand with a screenplay by Buck Henry from the novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. She declined the role and, instead, went off to London with Ginger Baker.

There's no business like show business.

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