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Untold Tales of Hollywood #17

You can file this missive under “Office Pranks”.

One afternoon John Milius produced a sling and a bag of plums.

“We need to do some target practice,” he proclaimed.

Ron Cobb and I followed John outside until we faced the side of one of Warner Brothers Studios‘ huge buildings.

“You see that office window, top floor, third from the right?” john asked. “That’s (Robert) Zemeckis and (Bob) Gale‘s office. Let’s see if we can hit it.”

Zemeckis and Gale had written 1941. They were working on their new project, Used Cars, a hilarious comedy that both Milius and Steven Spielberg were producing.

We all took turns using the sling to hurl ripe plums at Zemeckis and Gale’s office window. Occasionally we were successful in hitting it. Splat!

Spielberg also produced Back to the Future with Zemeckis directing from the Zemeckis and Gale original screenplay. Ron Cobb was chosen to create the car which he decided to base upon a DeLorean, a great visual joke for those in the know. Back to the Future was a gigantic hit, making the greenlight for Back to the Future 2 a no-brainer.

Upon embarking on Back to the Future 2, Zemeckis and Gale began to get notes from the studio. Giving filmmakers “notes” is a studio move to control the creators and an attempt to give the film the widest appeal possible. Instead, what usually happens is that the project gets watered down and diluted beyond recognition.

Writers and directors hate getting “notes”.

After the first batch of notes demanding changes were delivered, Zemeckis and Gale confronted the suits at Warner Brothers.

“Do you really think you know how to make a sequel to Back to the Future better than the guys who created the first one?”

The notes ended.

After awhile, it was decided that we should move our Conan offices from the A-Team building in Burbank to the Beverly Hills offices of Dino DeLaurentiis.

For Christmas, John Milius gave Cobb and me official British commando sweaters and United States Marines Kabar knives. These were pretty big, heavy duty knives.

“I think we need some knife throwing practice,” John declared.

Cobb found a door-sized sheet of heavy plywood. Ron drew our target: a life-size distraught dungeon prisoner chained to a wall. We placed the panel at the far end of the hall that led to our offices.

Then the knife-throwing practice began. It was a long hall and we threw those knives hard. Sometimes they’d stick; other times they’d slam into or bounce off the board. And, occasionally, someone would round the corner and just miss being skewered or beheaded by a flying knife.

Our practice bouts were frequent, so for the safety of non-Conan civilians, we were instructed to loudly shout “THROWING!” as a warning before each knife pitch. Eventually, our practice wore a hole through the chained prisoner’s heart, and our knives began to penetrate the Delaurentiis walls.

Boys will be boys…

3 thoughts on “Untold Tales of Hollywood #17

  1. where in the was OSHA?!

    Seriously, though…I would think artists of all people would be sensitive to the danger of some innocent being skewered. I meany, really, in an office, would you expect to walk into a thrown dagger?


  2. @Rick: When I finally entered the world of film, I quickly discovered that responsible adult behavior was not necessarily the norm. Not to excuse this behavior, but we were all pretty young.

    I have to say that when they visited me at the Conan offices, my more serious friends in The Biz were horrified by many of the antics taking place where I worked. They couldn’t wait to leave and couldn’t understand why I would want to work there. In many ways, I felt like Candide — “In the eyes of the innocent, all is divine.”

    I was working with some extremely powerful personages whose slightest whims were always fulfilled instantly. It gave them a very skewed vision of “real life”. It was a very seductive (and addictive) life style which I’ll examine in future posts.

    I resisted the norm of treating directors like they were God. That mature, egalitarian (just because you’re a director doesn’t mean you’re a better human being than I am, deserving of more privileges; we’re both just guys) attitude I held toward The Biz — and my honesty — eventually hurt me.

  3. Me. I was one of those individuals who peeked around the corner, when coming to visit you in the Beverly Hills offices, checking to see if any more sharp, flying objects would be thrown in my path. Although I remember an axe. Welcome to Hollywood, Jim!

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