Monday, June 14, 2010


Screenwriter Larry McMurtry's original, unsuccessful pitch for Brokeback Mountain

Producer: Come on in Lar. Hear you’ve been working on something that’s going to make me happy and I like to be happy.

Screenwriter: You’re going to love this, Paul. It’s called Brokeback Mountain.

Producer: Please, call me (taps on the nameplate on his desk that reads "Mr. Ravelstein").

Screenwriter: I'm Sorry, Mr. Ravelstein. But you’re going to love this. It’s a Western-

Producer: Whoa! You lost me. I like Westerns. You like Westerns. The public, eh, doesn’t like Westerns. If this was 1938 and John Ford was behind that door, I might be interested.

Screenwriter: Wait. Wait. This is a more modern Western. Set in the 60’s and 70’s.

Producer: I’m listening. I’m listening. I’m getting a Lonely are the Brave Electric Horseman vibe here. Please continue.

Screenwriter: There are these two young guys, in their twenties, working for a summer herding sheep on a mountain in Wyoming. I think you’ll like this, Mr. Ravelstein.

Producer: I do like it and call me Paul.

Screenwriter: Yes, you could hire two young actors to play the parts-

Producer: Might have some appeal for our 18-49 female demographic. So what happens with these guys during their summer together? Do they find a dead body? Is it one of those unsolved mysteries? Maybe with a supernatural bent? Or do they accidently kill someone and try to hide it? Or a treasure of some kind? They find a stash of cash and are pursued by the mob. I smell a Harvey Keitel cameo.

Screenwriter: No, no. nothing like that. I thought about some of those elements, but it just seems cliché. No, they become friends on this mountain until their job is over. There's not much more to that part.

Producer: Whoa! You lost me again, Lar. You’ve got to have a hook of some kind. Figure out something for them to do while they’re on this mountain.

Screenwriter: I do know that after they leave the mountain, they find wives. But neither of their marriages are ultimately happy.

Producer: I’m listening. I’m listening. We could get a hot young actress. Have a scene where she takes off her top. That’s always good for box office.

Screenwriter: Someone not well known for the wife.

Producer: Known enough, but not too well known. Give these girls a few credits and you can kiss those tit shots goodbye. I think it’s pretty ungrateful, like they’re above it all. I’ll get off my soapbox now. All right Lar, Let me see if I can guess where you’re steering this vessel. One of these cowboys has an affair with the other cowboy’s wife. Am I right?

Screenwriter: No, that’s not it. Both marriages do drift apart. I do have a scene where the guys go off fishing together.

Producer: Whoa! You lost me again. Marriages drifting apart-we’re not doing a Lifetime movie here. And the guys going fishing? Who are we going to cast? James Earl Jones and Robert Duvall? You looking for retirement home bookings, Lar?

Screenwriter: I admit I haven’t got some of the details worked out quite yet.

Producer: But something’s going to happen, right? Do they get lost at sea? Am I getting a Perfect Storm vibe here? Or do they finally find a treasure of some kind? Pirates of the Caribbean, maybe? Do they find a dead body, kind of a grown up Stand By Me?

Screenwriter: No, I’m trying not to go in a predictable direction with this, Paul.

Producer: Call me Mr. Ravelstein, if you don’t mind, or even if you do mind. Let me get this straight, Lar. These two guys that work for a summer together later go off on fishing trips every once in awhile. They both have marriages that end in separation, for no reason that you can think of. No dead bodies. No hidden treasure. No seducing the other guy’s wife. I’m not being wowed here!

Screenwriter: Wait, I have written a scene where one of the guys gets killed.

Producer: Over money?

Screenwriter: No

Producer: He’s not screwing his friend's wife?

Screenwriter: No

Producer: Sorry, Lar. I’m going to have to pass. Shelve it. While you’re here, do you have anything else?

Screewriter: Uh, how about Lonesome Dove 14?

Producer: You lost me.

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