The Good Story Behind the Bad Story
In 1983, I was in college, studying to become either an
illustrator, sculptor, or animatorI couldn't decide which. My
political cartooning aspirations had been dashed due to poor study
habits (I won an award for the best newspaper cartoon in the state
at the college level that year, while still getting a "D" in my journalism class).
Anyway, while sitting around in my dorm room at Long Beach State, doing nothing but avoiding the dreaded decision of my ultimate career choice, I wrote a screenplay for $2000 (that's TWO thousandnot twenty thousand, not two hundred thousand) with my old friend Dave Hines for a producer who will remain nameless (not by mebut by his reputation and track record). It was called Nightlife, and was about a teenager who gets bitten by a female vampire in Hollywood. From this tiny seed, even tinier seeds would grow. (Here is the first act.) At right are my class notes from an "Issues in Art" lecture, in which I mapped out the final chase scene for the script, taking place on Hollywood Boulevard, with the heroes trying to hold off vampires with copies of "Dianetics" in front of the Scientology building. I even incorporated the class's guest speaker, with the weird balding pattern, as a priest.
Meanwhile, I was nearly killing myself in an attempt to avoid a career choice. I took twelve units of illustration classes, then another ten of sculpturetwo full class loadsjust to avoid making an ultimate decision. Between 16 hours of schoolwork a day and writing the script, I was wandering around in a fog, wearing ink-and-clay-stained pink clothes (I hadn't yet grasped the washing complexities of separating bright red shirts and tan pants). Before long, I developed pneumonia. I grew dark rings under my eyes, lost 15 pounds, and ground my teeth into the jagged nubs they are today.
In the midst of all this, I also experienced a mild nervous breakdown as the result of a failed love affair with a girl named Robin. I couldn't figure out why a buxom, astonishingly beautiful 20-year-old Rose Parade princess didn't find me (a skinny, unastonishingly ordinary-looking 21-year-old art student) to be suitable marriage materiala problem that still vexes me to this day (as does separating the reds in the wash). Anyway, we named the lead female character in Nightlife after her, and the male lead was named after Dave's nephewa truly great kid who had passed away from leukemia. (Dave was honoring a tragically deceased child while I was just trying to impress a girl. Me, shallow? Oh yeah...) Here's a drawing of Robin that I did as she studied in my dorm room:
Needless to say I was in no shape to make any major life decisions. So, to my surprise (and relief), somebody finally made the decision for me. Samuel Goldwyn Jr. bought the rights to Nightlife, but demanded a rewrite to make it more commercial. He also demanded full-time writers, saying that if I stayed in school he would simply hire someone else to take over. What can I saythe loss to the sculpture, illustration and animation worlds is the screenwriting world's loss, too. I jumped at the chance.¹
Calvin Yocum was a product of Yale University and a
reader for the Samuel Goldwyn Company. He was infamous among the Goldwyn execs for
being the toughest reader they hadhe even
panned Dr. Zhivago. According to them, Calvin hated everything.² But to the
amazement of everyone at the Goldwyn Company, he loved our
script, to the point
that it got us our first spec sale. His coverage was so gushing that Sam
Goldwyn actually showed Calvin's write-up to us one day at the
Friars Club. I still have a copy. Here are Calvin's notes:
script is absolutely hilarious, sort of a Rocky
Horror Picture Show meets Blazing
Saddles with a little Airplane! thrown in. No
mere synopsis can convey the goldmine of humor. Besides the
story itself, there are dozens of sightgags thrown in to keep
things jumping. Literally, there is never a dull moment. It's
no-holds-barred comedy that pushes the boundaries of good
taste at all times, but it is exactly that kind of demonic
energy that makes it all so inspired. The writers create a
Fellini-esque vision of Hollywood that reeks not only of comic
atmosphere but somehow captures and hyperbolizes our worst
fears about the sleazy parts of town. It is a vision that
balances precariously and triumphantly on a razor blade. It is
funny, but with a few minor changes, it could be visually and
intellectually serious enough to rival Satiricon or
Coppola's Rumblefish. The high school takes all of the
not so latent fears of our own experience -- especially the
fear of ostracism -- and hyperbolizes them and satirizes them
wildly. There are a half-dozen other bits like the disco
gypsies and the Redemption Center that score too.
In the right
hands, this script has enormous commercial potential.
Certainly it is 180 degrees from the serious and wholesome
intentions of The Golden Seal, and it may
not be the type of project that interests the Goldwyn company.
Nonetheless, in its genre, Nightlife is
Now most people in show business, out of show businesshell, out of kindergartenwill tell you that when you sell a
screenplay in Hollywood you need an agent to handle the deal. Fools!
Imbeciles! Giving ten percent to some leach who is just glomming on
to your pay after you've done all the hard work? Never! Dave and I
handled the negotiations ourselves. (We'll get to the actual numbers
We were given an office two doors down from Sam Goldwyn
Jr. himself, overlooking the Beverly Hills Country Club, with a view
of the Hollywood sign in the hills behind, and a hotel room at
the fabulous Tropicana Hotel, just outside of Beverly Hills (they
put us in a hotel just outside of Beverly Hills because it was half
the price of a hotel inside of Beverly Hills). Other than having to listen to Joan Jett and Billy
Idol trash their rooms next door every night, it was a dream come
true... until Dave's fiancée told him to come back to Vista (our hometown), where they lived in a converted chicken coop on her brother's property (no, that is not a snide exaggerationthey really lived in a converted chicken coop). If he didn't return, she was going to fly the coop and he would lose her forever. So we gave up the Beverly Hills office and the just-off Beverly Hills motel room and drove back to San Diego County, the Unnamed Producer cursing at us loudly as we left.
Two months later, the young geniuses drove back up to Beverly Hills and turned in their first
big-time Hollywood movie rewrite. We were confident... even cocky. We presented the script to the Unnamed Producer with lit candles on the cover to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately, Calvin Yocum's
story notes had gone to our heads (we were young Fellinis, damnit).
Eschewing commercial concerns, we turned a light teen comedy about
sex and vampires into an allegory for herpes, the dreaded scourge of
humanity. (Ah, the good old daysnow people are relieved
when they find out they only have herpes.) We decided that the look
of our teen sex film was to be inspired by the dark, brooding
artwork of Edvard Munch. I wish I was joking about this, but I'm
not. (Side note: There is still a portrait of Lauren Hutton in the
finished film based on the Munch painting shown at right, variously titled "Madonna" or
"Vampire," painted in 1895.)
Sam Goldwyn Jr. wanted to fire us the next day, but the
Unnamed Producer wanted to protect his "boys" (and his bank accounthe was only paying us a small portion of the allocated $50,000
writing budget), and he lobbied to keep us on board. Thanks to his
intervention our jobs were saved...
... Whereupon in a complete lapse of logic, Dave decided
this was the perfect time to finally marry that fiancée and drive off on a
Disneyland honeymoon (with our heads on the chopping block he understandably preferred Fantasyland to
reality). So while he had a romantic honeymoon getting sick on the teacups I sat through a story conference with the
producers and Goldwyn execs... Actually I just got yelled at for two
hours. The Unnamed Producer didn't even yellhe just shook his
head and dropped the screenplay on the floor like so much trash.
Our tiny paychecks were canceled before they could clear
at the bank, and we lived on nothing for the next three months until
a suitable rewrite was turned in. I drove that draft up myself, bringing the real Robin to the Goldwyn offices to supply extra sex appeal. Three of the producers read the first twenty pages on the spot as we sat in Russ Thatcher's office. I assume they were all there to fire me on the spot if they didn't like it. Fortunately they were laughing, relieved, and extremely complimentary... and then I noticed that one of them (not Thatcher) was leaning over Robin's shoulder, looking down her blouse, which might have explained the better mood more than my writing. (A few years later, the same producer approached me at a Christmas party and offered $500 to let him watch me have sex with "Robin." It was a different girlfriend, by then, but he called her Robin, anyway. Ah, the glamor of showbiz!) Anyway, the Unnamed Producer declared the screenplay salvaged. (Which was fortunate, because when they asked the real Robin what she thought, she answered that her character was under-developed!!! Fortunately they didn't agree... or didn't care.)
Over the next two years we went through four or five more
rewritesamassing a grand total of about ten grand in pay, combined.
(Mom and Pop must have been so proud of their non-college graduate
There are plenty of great stories that I could relate that
happened during this period: For instance, the time we tried to drive into the Beverly
Hills Hotel in Dave's beat-up '62 pick-up truck to meet the
director, Howard Storm, and the valets wouldn't let Dave's wheezing,
shaking, twenty-year-old piece of junk into their parking areathey waved us off and yelled "the service entrance is in the back."
(A recreation of this event also appears in the film, with Jim
Carrey driving an ice cream truck). If the valets weren't mad enough
about the size of our tip, the fact that the truck then stalled and
blocked the entrance from the other customers for half an hour sent
them over the edge into a fit of cursing never before heard at the
stylish, dignified entrance of a four-star hotel.
Or there was the time I went
to a story conference while having an appendicitis attack. I
couldn't even stand up straight for the meeting (I guess the
producers just assumed I was groveling). My appendix exploded that
night and I nearly died on the operating tableand the next
morning the Unnamed Producer called my hospital room and asked when
the rewrite was going to be ready.
Anyway, after a year of similar episodes the script was
finally approved. We were still agent-less and still nobodies in Hollywood, but we were going to get a real MOVIE made!
Unfortunately, all of our allotted pay had been used up in financing
the rewrites, so we were also broke. There was only the satisfaction of
having written a sex comedy about a 17-year-old virgin getting
bitten in the crotch during oral sex from a female vampire, for an
intended audience of 13-year-olds without parental supervision. I
was quite proud. Generously, the Unnamed Producer gave us each a
$6000 bonus on the first day of shooting from the remaining 30 grand
he'd swiped. I immediately blew it all on a cara Dodge Daytona Turbo. (Hey, I was 20.)
A year later: The film, now titled Once Bittenand heavily rewritten by the director and his own writeropened in theaters to embarrassingly negative reviews.³ On the bright side, it was the #1 movie in the country on its opening weekend, raking in $4,025,657 in 1,095 theaters for a $3,676 per-screen average (beating out my boyhood idol Charles Bronson in Death Wish 3). According to "Box Office Mojo," it still ranks as the #37 all-time film in 'Fewest Theaters to Debut at #1' (is that an insult or a compliment?), and is the 11th highest-grossing film ever made by the Samuel Goldwyn Company. It had its own billboard on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood (shown in the photo, above), and it was even condemned by the Catholic Church. (Cool!!!)
But after that, the film sank pretty quickly in a sea of rival, identical teen sex comedies. All of the special qualities that Calvin Yokum praised in our original script had been systematically weeded out: The filmmakers were more interested in recreating generic teen-film formulas than rocking the boat with anything untested or different.⁴
Originally our script portrayed Hollywood as a seedy, scary place, filled with homeless people and Goth
weirdos, where a vampire could blend in and never be noticed (the
film still uses that explanation in a bookshop scene, but now it
doesn't make any sense). The director, a TV veteran who
had helmed episodes of Taxi and Mork & Mindy, got
rid of the "Fellini-esque" elements in the script. He replaced the
opening sequence in the seedy downtown Hollywood area with a splashy
music video-style montage in Beverly Hills, and replaced my favorite carnival
scene (Carrey's character is stalked by the vampire through the
House of Mirrors in a run-down amusement parkwhere she can see his reflection in the glass as she chases him through the maze, but he can't see her) with a single mirror in a changing booth
at a trendy shopping mall clothing store.
Originally (before Goldwyn was involved), the Countess was going to be played by Elvira. On the left of the image below is a sketchbook drawing from when I was trying to visualize scenes for the script. This is how Dave and I envisioned the bar in the film: It's dark, she casts no reflection in the mirror, and a spider is stealing the cherry out of her drink. (How symbolic!) On the right is Lauren Hutton in a much more glamorous bar than we had originally envisioned. Not a spider in sight.⁵
The filmmakers, being wealthy middle-aged men, couldn't remember far back enough to
explore how frightening it was to lose your virginity, and never
ventured into the part of Hollywood that we described. They
preferred to have Hollywood seen as a glamorous hotspot with
bright lights, fancy cars, fast women and slow-witted teenagerslike Beverly Hillsand deal with the issues that THEY found scary:
Aging, gay butlers, and teenagers breaking into spontaneous
break-dance routines on Rodeo Drive. Once Bitten may be the LEAST
scary-looking vampire film ever made. The Countess lives in a brightly-lit, faux-palace featuring immense open, western ranch-style rooms with post-modern lacquered furniture and huge windows to let the sun in; Vampires stalk neon-filled Hollywood streets teaming with klieg lights and simulated beachfront photo shoots with supermodels; Shadowy nightmare
sequences were cut in favor of all-white, brightly-lit, "modernized" scenarios with no comic
ideas or punchlines. "Anemic" was the favored critical insight
(I will say unhesitatingly that the three or four genuine laughs
left in the film are from Dave and me, but the tonal shift from a vampire movie invaded by teens to a teen movie invaded by vampires really did it in).⁶
The film starred Lauren Hutton and, in his first major (?)
screen role, a young Jim Carrey. (You can see how the makeup
department really went to town on this film: To transform Carrey
into a vampire they... slicked his hair back!) The film debuted in
the number one slot on the charts in Variety. Dave and I even appeared IN PERSON at a San Diego County theater, where we signed posters for the audience members. Everybody
called and congratulated me, telling me how proud they were. I was
proud, too: I was at least partially responsible for a multi-million
dollar endeavor, and millions of people were seeing my work. And I
pondered that amazing fact every day of that opening week as I drove
past the theater marquee.....
..... on my way to work at Sam Goody, earning minimum wage
as a clerk in the video sectionfeeling like the biggest friggin'
loser on the face of the planet. (The drawing at right is from my
sketchbook at that time.)
If that wasn't humiliating enough, the film came out on
video six months later and my co-workers had to point me out every
time the movie was rented by a customer ("See that guy vacuuming the
carpet over there? He wrote it!!!"). Worse yet, if I concealed my
identity then I had to listen to the customers' rotten reviews of
the film when they brought it back (one unknowingly offered,
"Whoever wrote this shouldn't be working in Hollywood." I screamed back, "YOU GOT YOUR WISH!!!")
When that became too embarrassing, I started delivering
The Los Angeles Timestossing 300 papers every night in dejected anonymity while driving my
brand new Dodge Daytona Turbo.
On the bright side, I've now made more money in residual
checks from that film than I ever earned writing it (the Unnamed
Producer did give us a point and a half of his royalties), and I
have an agent now who once got me twenty times the amount I was paid
on Once Bitten for a
script that was never even filmed (you tell me that Hollywood
isn't screwed up). Ironically, it was a project about a
half-man/half-cartoon, but was finally canceled because a rival film
had beaten us to the punchcalled The Mask... and starring
To really be honest, I've actually begun to enjoy telling
this pathetic storyI can always trot it out for sympathy. Plus, I later learned that Jim Carrey had a much worse time
on the film than I did: Terrible family trouble, career trouble,
romantic troubleI just hope the poor bastard came out of it all
UPDATES: My writing partner has reminded me of a few more anecdotes that don't really fit into the above story:
ANECDOTE #1: I had originally campaigned for an
actor to star in the film that was featured in a little-watched TV
show getting killed in the ratings by Magnum P.I. The show
was Family Ties and the actor was Michael J. Fox. I sent Sam
Goldwyn Jr. a videotape of Fox, but Sam felt he would never carry a
big screen film (Back to the Future opened about two months
before our film and grossed $200 million, and the film Fox did
instead of ours, Teen Wolf, grossed about $50 million more
than our film).
On the bright side, they cast Carrey, an unknown comic, in
Fox's place. At the time, the director wanted Carrey to co-star with
Morgan Fairchild. I went ballistic (meaning I moped a lot, in reality), because Morgan Fairchild is
about 4 feet tall, and could never convincingly menace Carreyabout six feet, fourteen inches tallonscreen. Eventually they cast
Lauren Hutton in her place.
My gripes about the snubbing of Michael J. Fox aside, when
I finally visited the film set at the Whiskey in Hollywood, it took just one scene for me to be
totally blown away by Carrey. We had written a dozen sleazy LA bar sight gags into this sceneall cutbut Carrey just had to walk across the bar and look scared: Somehow he made that funny! Every line delivery was fresh and original, and he knew how things looked on camera without having to look through a lens.
While much of the comedy in our screenplay had been removed or compromised (the director had even
cut jokes to "give the audience more time to laugh" at the previous
jokes), Carrey didn't need our sight gags or punchlinesit was overkill. We had no idea while writing inside that crumbling chicken coop for two years, over-cramming the pages with sight gags and post-ironic snark to protect our story from incompetent filmmakers, that we were actually writing for an authentic comic genius. We didn't need those gagswe needed another month or two to rebuild the screenplay around Carrey... but that was impossible, so he had to carry it all by himself (witness the dance scene). No matter how much of our stuff was removed, the humor in the character was
still there, intact, without the punchlines. Carrey was the
punchline. After watching Carrey work I admitted to producer Russ Thatcher that they were right to cast Carrey, after all (he just smiled, patiently, as he always did). He then introduced us to Carrey, and we talked for half an
hour, about how I liked him on The Duck Factory, a sitcom about an animator that he had starred in the previous year. Then we left to be interviewed by the publicist... who informed us that the director and his writer were filing for arbitration with the Writers Guild to take away our screen credits.
I stewed over being further marginalized by these jerks during the course of the publicist's interview ("Good," I thought. "The script sucks now, anyway. Let them take the blame!")... Then, as Dave and I were leaving, I
spotted Jim Carrey near the catering truck. I walked over and told him, "They butchered our script, the director's incompetent,
this movie is going to suck, and you're the only good thing left in
it." (Just what an actor wants to hear in the middle of a shootthat the film sucks. Hey, you can't say I was smartbut you can't say I
was wrong, either...) It probably got me barred from the set, but we never went back again, anyway. We just stayed home and worked on our next script for the Unnamed Producer. Then we took one meeting in Los Angeles and were offered the job of writing what eventually became Meatballs III. When they asked us about our representation in order to make a deal, I told them they would have to call my mom. They laughed heartily, not realizing that I was (half-way) serious. (Being young Fellinis, we turned them down anyway, in order to write a spec.)
ANECDOTE #2: We had originally pushed for Valley Girl star Deborah Foreman to play Robin, but here are five reasons why Karen Kopins was awesome in the film: 1) She was so good that Goldwyn inserted her image into the theatrical poster at the last minute, because of positive audience response at test screenings. 2) She's the only participant in the dance scene who could actually dance. 3) She didn't know how to pull her punches, and hit one of the vampires so hard during the chase scene that she knocked his prosthetic teeth out. 4) She has the best line in the movie, strictly on her delivery. I had swiped a line from The Seven Year Itch, one of my favorite movies, for the character of Robin. The original line is recited by Tom Ewell in that movie to a guy he thinks is seducing his wife. It goes, "Helen loves me because I'm nice! And sweet! And kind!" and Ewell then punches the guy in the mouth. I changed the line to, "Mark doesn't want you because you're mean and evil. He wants me because I'm nice and sweet and pure... so fuck off!" Her delivery was perfecteven better than Ewell's, or anything that I had imagined when I first swiped the line. She didn't even need to punch anybody (thank Godsee point #3). Sadly, most people don't get to hear her pure, uncensored version on broadcast TV. It's the best reading of a line of my dialogue, ever (or George Axelrod's). 5) She was so good she made me obsess about her instead of the real Robin for a while.
ANECDOTE #3: The time during a story conference in
a restaurant when one of the producers, Robbie Wald, wanting to keep a gag from the original drive-in opening
concerning a Black & Decker vibrator with a pull-cord, actually
got down on his knees and loudly begged a studio executive to,
quote, "put the vibrator back in."
ANECDOTE #4: The time I came close to physically
assaulting Samuel Goldwyn Jr. after a preview screening when he
removed a gag in a church confessional (meaning I moped a lot, although I did yell in his face for about three seconds as he stood by his limo). The original gag had Carrey
in a confessional, unknowingly admitting his sins to a homeless man.
He asks, "What should I do?" The drunk answers from the next
compartment, "Pass me the toilet paperI'm all out on this side."
(It was actually my dad's joke, and he was at the preview waiting to
hear his big contribution. So when a new line popped up instead it
really pissed me off.) Goldwyn changed the gag to the bum
just saying "You're in deep shit," or something, and claimed he had
to do it, or the film would be condemned by the Catholic Church. (It
anywayit was a film about an atheist vampire deflowering high
school kids, for Christ's sake)... Anyway, you can still hear
the bum grunting as he takes a dump while Carrey talksand a
variation of the gag was finally seen a few years later in the
Beavis and Butt-Head movie. Big laugh, by the way, Sam.⁷
ANECDOTE #5: My secret shame: At the time we wrote
the script I was in love with a girl (the real-life "Robin"described above). Robin looooved
lions. Collected anything with lionstoys, dolls, pillows,
figurines, postersanything short of an actual man-eating lion (although she probably considered getting one of those, too, to keep me off her).
Anyway, it was a big deal in the eighties to have video montages in
every film. And this film has a terrible one. They hired some
video montage "specialist" to film scenes around Hollywood as the
haunting "Once Bitten" theme played over the soundtrack. Really lame
stuff, like a "model shoot" on Sunset Strip. (Why are they
pretending to be on the beach at night on the Sunset Strip? Not only is it
not funny or scary, but the real friggin' beach is only FIVE MILES
AWAY!) Anyway, one thing they addedand don't ask me whywas
the image of a supermodel walking a lion down Rodeo Drive. We had
nothing to do with it. So the film came out, and the real Robin
calledTHRILLED at the "tribute" to her onscreen. (The supermodel
happened to look like the real Robinwho was a blonde, big-haired
Rose Parade princess and a real babe.) And me, being the
down-and-out, emotionally crippled video store clerk I was at the
time, TOOK FULL CREDIT. So, to Robin, if you're reading this out
there somewhere, I didn't actually write that scene... But come on,
I named the friggin' love interest after you!⁸
NOTES ON THIS PAGE:
¹The same thing happened six years later, when I re-enrolled at Long Beach State, then landed a job at Warner Brothers writing with Rodney Dangerfieldbut that's another story, and this one's depressing enough by itself...
²Not altogether true; Calvin's Facebook page shows that his favorite books are Anna Karenina and Heart of Darkness (the image at right shows him devouring great literature as a child in preparation for reading our screenplay). His Linkedin page says that he became a story analyst at 20th Century Fox, and avoided our work post-Once Bitten like one of those plagues the Countess speaks of in the film.
³I have a videotape of me clicking between channels on the TV as the Los Angeles TV critics tear the film apart on the 5pm news. It's merciless. The worst review came a few years later, however. We held a place of infamy in a book about the history of homosexuality in the cinemathe late Vito Russo's "The Celluloid Closet." The book took us to task (Well, not "us" exactlyjust Dave. I was somehow overlooked... which also pissed me off, strangely) for being one of the most homophobic of the many homophobic teen comedies made in the early 80's. The scene that Mr. Russo found especially offensive involved a high school shower, in which Carrey's two best friendslooking for the vampire's bite marks on his inner thighfind themselves in a compromising position which causes a homosexual panic among their fellow students. The call "Fags in the showers!" goes out, and the showers immediately empty (based on a true story, by the way). Now, whether you think that's the height of humor or not isn't the point. The point is... well, the point is that Mr. Russo completely missed the point. The shower scene depicted common high school (indeed, common, period) attitudes about gays and made fun of them, showing the situation to be completely and totally ridiculous. To quote Calvin Yocum's script coverage, "The high school takes all of the not so latent fears of our own experienceespecially the fear of ostracismand hyperbolizes them and satirizes them wildly." It's not homophobic. It's making fun of homophobia, and the homosexual panic of dumb teenaged boys. In other words, we were making fun of the reactionnot at the perceived act. THE JOKE IS THAT IGNORANT HIGH SCHOOL KIDS ARE MORE AFRAID OF PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT SEXUAL ORIENTATION THAN THEY ARE OF VAMPIRES! That doesn't mean we AGREED with them! Did we side with the kid yelling about "fags" in the showers? Nope. He was just some panicky dumbass in a high school shower stall filled with other panicky dumbasses. They were THE GAG! But just because the word "fag" was used, Mr. Russo found the scene objectionable. This is known as a knee-jerk reaction. Accent on the "jerk." Sure, the stereotypical Cleavon Little "I came out of the closet centuries ago" stuff was embarrassing, but more for being boring than offensive. But you know what? I didn't write that stuff, and neither did Dave, and to blame us for everything in the finished film is just promoting an offensive screenwriter stereotype. So there, Vito, you writer-phobe...
⁴Notes included: Adding a scene of Russ and Jamie picking up newly-free chicks outside a women's prison (dropped); A bumbling butler (dropped and substituted with an even dopier gay butler); They also told us, "Robin can't save Mark because it makes him look like a wimp" (so the Countess inexplicably kidnaps Robin in order to lure Mark back to Los Angelesinstead of just taking Mark from the same parking lot); and to top those off, "Write some tits into this scriptI want to have some fun casting this thing."
⁵In retrospect, we sealed our own doom with that second draft. Goldwyn probably opted for an old school comedy veteran after seeing how inexperienced and unreliable we were, thinking an old pro would keep us in-line. We fought with Howard for our ideas, won the wrong battles, and in the end, he just used his own writer to add things we wouldn't. Howard's writer, Jonathan Roberts, had co-written a movie we liked called The Sure Thing, but as the Unnamed Producer put it, "They got the wrong co-writer." (Roberts actually went on to work on some good projects, so I won't blame him for the finished script.) Anyway, one day we received their rewrite in the mail. Not only had they changed the mirror scene, they had added a mincing, stereotypical gay butler who made comments about seducing pre-teen Little Leaguers (it was cut from the finished filmsorry that you lost more ammo, Vito Russo); Vampires burst through walls and cement floors with superhuman strength, then get knocked unconscious by A) an open door, B) running into a pillar, and C) getting punched by Robin; They even had Mark and Robin playing "patty-cake" like Hope and Crosby in the Road movies to thwart pursuing vampires (filmed and cut: the lesson being that you should never reference better comedies than your own); Worst of all, they had given the Countess a TALKING PARROT! At the end of the story, the Countess finds a virgin trick-or-treater at her door and the Camera pans to the Parrot, who says, "Here we go again!" It was so bad that I fell into hysterical laughter. Dave just put his head on his wife's shoulder and sighed. Fortunately, the parrot was dropped from the story, but then the filmmakers were left without an end line for the film. We were called into the office for a meeting during re-shoots, and I pitched them a line that they loved and used to end the film ("I believe I've created a monster")... and they never realized that it was actually the last line of the draft that they had almost fired us for two years before.
⁶And, let's face it, vampire movies are just plain silly. The whole notion of them being repugnant societal outcasts is ridiculous. If the Countess went on TV and said, "I can give you eternal youth, and all you have to do is drink virgin blood three times," it'd be a multi-multi-multi-billion-dollar industry, overnight, and there'd be virgin millionaires selling vials of blood on eBay. I mean, come onwould you rather get bitten by a beautiful blonde vampire and live forever, or run three miles a day in LA traffic, eat shitty diet foods, and have fat removed from your ass to be injected into your lip every six weeksall just to die from old age when you're eighty instead of 78? Vampirism would be the ultimate fitness craze, and virgin blood would be the new Gatorade!
⁷Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., was actually an extremely nice, patient, gracious man, who took is to lunch at the Friars Club so we could rant about the freaking talking parrot, personally answered all of our phone calls, even a year after the project (the HEAD OF THE STUDIOafter all the shit we stirred upthink of that), sent us all the posters and film paraphernalia we wanted, and gave us our own office in Beverly Hills (and then gave it up without complaint when we wanted to go home). In retrospect, he was the best boss we've ever had... not to mention the only one who paid us honest royalties.
⁸We have since reconnected on Facebook; She says she doesn't remember the film... but despite that, won't let her kids see it. She's still a very nice person, though...
Jeffrey C. Hause
Jeffrey C. Hause (left) and partner Dave Hines (less left)
pose for the The San Diego Union upon the
release of their #1 movie at the US box office, Once Bitten... before Jeff
leaves to work at the video counter in Sam Goody. Today, Jeff and Dave have been writing professionally (in a
very amateur fashion) for thirty years. They've written
screenplays at film studios like Warner Brothers, Disney,
Universal, Columbia, and Interscope; on films like Desperate But Not Serious (aka Reckless & Wild) and Tales from the Cryptkeeper, for producers such as
Ivan Reitman, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and Ray Stark. Jeff and Dave's most recents works are BachelorMan (2006) and Pirate Camp (2008). Jeff has also written for
entertainers such as Rodney Dangerfield, Gabe
Kaplan, Rick Dees, and Jay Leno. He also worked on the Lifetime Channel movie Holiday Baggage (2010) and is currently working on a book entitled, Davy Crockett on Stump, Stage, and Screen.