All these moments lost in time, like tears in the rain.Complications Ensue
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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Back in my days as a development exec in LA, I nearly worked with both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. I was working for an Israeli producer out of his house in Tarzana; we were trying to make co-productions, to pick up enough money from this country and that to patch together a budget. Shatner signed on to be the star of our action movie, Warriors. We met him up at his house in the hills, and he had some really excellent points about his character's motivation. I went off and rewrote the script, and it was a lot better, and then foreign buyers nixed Shatner as the lead -- we literally could not finance a $2M movie with Shatner in the lead. So we had to apologize to Captain Kirk and cast Gary Busey.

That was before Free Enterprise, in which Shatner discovered that he could play a pompous buffoonish version of himself to great hilarity, which gave him Denny Crane, his brilliant Boston Legal character, and he became a star again.

The Gary Busey movie did not turn out brilliantly. I am not 100% sure Busey ever actually read the script. I'd guess he did not read it before we started shooting. But that's another story. (Actually Gary Busey is a whole flock of my stories.)

Later, we had a movie about the Israeli air strike on the nuclear reactor in Baghdad. Saddam was about to get the bomb in 1981 and the Israelis flew a bunch of F-16's across Jordan and Iraq and blew it up. They did such a good job of flying literally under the radar that the Iraqis thought it had to be the Iranians, until the Israelis admitted it.

Hollywood Pictures, a Disney film label, optioned the project. Soon, Leonard Nimoy wanted to direct it. So we had a lovely breakfast up at the Bel Air Hotel in Stone Canyon -- it's a series of bungalows nestled among trees -- and it was the first time that I'd realized that Leonard Nimoy was an old Jewish guy. He had smart things to say. He grokked the project. He liked my rewrite of the script.

And then Hollywood Pictures got excited about Jan de Bont, a Dutch cinematographer who wanted to direct, and they jettisoned Nimoy. I never felt that de Bont had any particular emotional attachment to the project, like Nimoy did; he just wanted to direct and here a studio was offering him a movie. Two years and $600,000 in rewrites later, Hollywood Pictures pulled the plug on the project. We had various conspiracy theories about why the only film label in town with no Jewish execs would do a movie about the Israeli Air Force; we found it interesting that they pulled the plug shortly after Disney successfully bid for Israel's second (or fourth, or something) broadcast TV channel.

So we never got to work with Kirk or Spock. Damn it.

It's interesting that in all the mourning for Mr. Nimoy, I don't hear the name of the guy who invented Spock, Gene Roddenberry. Nimoy so thoroughly inhabited the role over the years that we forget that Roddenberry invented Spock and the whole Vulcan species. It was Nimoy, though, who invented the Vulcan salute. It's a rabbinical gesture; the hand forms a "shin," the W-shaped Hebrew letter which stands for "El Shaddai," the Almighty: may God be with you.

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory," was Leonard Nimoy's last tweet, and it is true, and profound. And it made me think of Roy Batty dying on the rooftop of the Bradbury building, saying words that David Peoples wrote and Rutger Hauer rewrote: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I've seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain."

I have something in my eye.

I wish there was a Vulcan "rest in peace."

May God be with you on the next step in your journey.


Very nice memorable. I think the depth of the response speaks to how deeply Nimoy's work resonated with us, not unlike Robin Williams'. To this day, the end of the Wrath of Kahn remains for me one of the most moving in all of film.

I'm also glad to see you say good things about Shatner. I've seen some use this as an opportunity to bash Shatner, which seems unfair.

By Blogger David, at 10:47 AM  

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