My very first Hollywood pitch meeting was with Dawn Steel when she was production chief at Paramount Studios. She was the second woman ever to head a major film production department, Sherry Lansing being the first at Twentieth-Century Fox. The meeting came about after David Permut, a producer who had two movies then in release (Blind Date with Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger
and Dragnet with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd
), had seen my Stevie Williams (Interview) segment on cable and called to inquire
about the rights to the book being discussed on the show. "There's no book, David. You were watching a fictional interview," I told him. "It's a great story," he replied. "What do you want for it?"
We made a deal for the property that also positioned me as one of the producers and David brought in Tom Donnelly who was a respected screenwriter and had directed the Kevin Bacon movie Quicksilver to do the screenplay. Tom turned my story of a New York call girl who helped NYPD track down the 'Perfume Killer' into a full-length script. He and I met to bounce ideas back and forth but it was his to write. So it was that in my first pitch meeting, I find myself in company with David and Tom sitting across from Dawn Steel. She declined--"Too dark," she said. Rob Cohen would later acquire the project for Taft-Barish and David set me up with a first-look deal at Tri-Star Pictures linked to the (Interview) series.
As a bookend to this story, Dawn Steel did purchase a project based on one of my stories, The Barbara French (Interview), that had been seen on cable and acquired by Charlie Evans Jr. It wasn't too much later that she succumbed to a brain tumor and the project went into hibernation at Warner Bros.
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