Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jeffrey Boam interview, June 1995


This is not a complete transcript of the interview. My vague recollection was that I was facing a pretty tight deadline, and so I skimmed through the recording and only transcribed the notes I thought I might use in the interview story. That said, the nuggets here are pretty interesting, given the way things played out:

* On “Lethal Weapon IV”: Jeffrey got no credit whatsoever. It turned out to be another bad “Lethal Weapon” experience with Warner Bros. and Richard Donner. Before the interview, he sent me a copy of the screenplay. At the time, I suspected he was eager to talk about it because he felt like it might be slipping away and going to another writer, and so he was trying to salvage it. His script, if I’m remembering correctly, involved the Los Angeles Lakers on a jet and a terrorist attack.

* He also mentions “The Phantom,” which he alluded to in our earlier interview. That movie bombed.

* On the fourth “Indiana Jones” movie, he didn’t get a credit, either. But what little he says about it sounds like George Lucas had the story pretty well set even back in the mid-1990s.

Don Porter: THE RIGHT-WING TERRORISM THING SEEMS PRETTY DEAD-ON.

Jeffrey Boam: “It seemed kind of far-fetched when I wrote it. [The Oklahoma City bombing] kind of spooked me a little bit, actually.”



DP: THE WAY YOU’RE PLAYING THE WHOLE RACISM THING, AND THE RADICAL RIGHT-WING, SEEMS PRETTY RELEVANT, ESPECIALLY IN L.A. AND MEL GIBSON’S BEEN SAYING HE’S NOT SURE HE WANTS TO DO ANOTHER ONE. I’M SORT OF SURPRISED THAT YOU WENT BACK TO WARNERS TO WRITE THE SCRIPT, GIVEN WHAT HAPPENED WITH “LETHAL III.”

JB: “So was I. I did a lot of anguishing over this decision, and the deal took about four months or five months, actually, to be concluded. They seemed determined to do another one -- to do another movie -- so they had someone write a script and they gave it to me to read just for my input. And it kind of made me depressed to think that this movie could be made from this script; it was kind of second-rate, imitative and derivative of the other movies. So I thought, ‘Gee, I don’t want to see this movie get made and someone else to have written it.’

“And then they came to me. And then they came to me -- and I hadn’t done anything about it, just held my feelings to myself -- the producer said, ‘You really have to do this. You’re the only one who can do it.’ And so I thought maybe I could really get something out of this, financially, and also get them to agree to certain terms that would protect me from the kind of abuse I felt I’d received the last time.“A lot of that did happen. Not all of, but a lot of it. So, they made it very attractive for me to do it, and so I did it.”

DP: IT WAS A FUN READ. I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY EXCITING, ESPECIALLY DOWN THE STRETCH, WITH THE STINGER MISSILE.

JB: “Well, the whole idea for this one was to write a movie that wasn’t as episodic and as much of a shaggy dog story as ‘III,’ ... we decided to tell a story that could maybe could work if it wasn’t Mel and Danny, wasn’t a ‘Lethal Weapon’ story. So those were my marching orders, really: to write a story where every scene was about the story.

“The director, Dick Donner, is kind of famous for detours and peripheral characters and scenes, which he really loves, which kind of take you away from the point of the story. We decided to come up with a story and just tell the story.”

DP: HAVE YOU HEARD FROM DONNER?

JB: “Only secondhand. ... As far as I know, Mel hasn’t even read it. I’ll BET he has, but no one’s told me.”

DP: WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING IN THE MEANTIME? THE DATE ON THE SCRIPT IS JANUARY.

JB: “I’ve been working on a fourth installment of ‘Indiana Jones.’ I’m just about done with the first draft. Somebody else had also tried their hand at it, and it didn’t work out too well.”

DP: THEY ALWAYS KEEP COMING BACK TO YOU, JEFFREY.

JB: “It’s nice, you know. Actually, George Lucas came to me to do this first, and I was busy writing a movie called ‘The Phantom.’ So I couldn’t do ‘Indy,’ because I had to do that, and when I finished that, George came back to me and said, ‘It didn’t really work out with the other writer, are you available?’

“And, it turned out, I was. Now I’m working on that, and it looks like ‘The Phantom’ might get made also, because Paramount just hired a new director on that project: Simon Wincer. He’s a good director, and he has a long history with ‘The Phantom’ -- he tried to get a movie made about 10 years ago in Australia. It’s very big in Australia; this character’s kind of a cult hero in Australia. Nobody can understand why, but that’s how it is.”

DP: WHEN WILL THEY START SHOOTING THE “INDY” MOVIE?

JB: “Well, it’s conceivable that it could be the movie that Steven (Spielberg) does next. It could go very quickly. George has seen most of the first draft; we put off the first 15 pages because we weren’t really sure what we wanted to do there. So I gave him everything but the first 15 pages, and he’s very happy with that. So I know we’re well on the road to having the script that he likes. And generally when he likes it, Steven’s not far behind. And once Steven’s on board, Harrison (Ford) is much easier to snag, as well.

“But with these people it’s always a big problem getting all these big paydays dealt with. But I find that on both the ‘Lethal’ and ‘Indy’ films there’s a tremendous amount of team spirit and loyalty amongst the principals. They don’t like the idea of anybody else doing it but them. So if it looks like ‘Indy’ is going to get made -- of course you could cast somebody else besides Harrison Ford, if you HAD to -- but Harrison wouldn’t dream of that. ... So these guys play hard-to-get, but then if it looks like the thing’s going to on without them, they go nuts.”

DP: ANY HINTS AS TO WHAT THE “INDY” THING’S ABOUT?

JB: “It’s set in the ’50s, I’ll tell you that. And Harrison will play his own age. A considerable amount of action. We have him (Sean Connery character) back, for kind of a cameo. I’d love to tell you more, but George is secretive about these things.

“Whatever the ’50s conjur up, that’s probably what this is about. That’s all I’ll say. I think you’ll kind of automatically grasp what the story is if you just think about what the ’50s is about and how it might relate to Indy.

“It’s not about Elvis, though.”

DP: TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE TERRORISM ANGLE IN “LETHAL IV,” AND WHETHER IT MIGHT BE TOO SOON AFTER OKLAHOMA CITY.

JB: “I don’t know whether that works for or against it. I can argue both sides of that question.”

DP: A LOT OF PEOPLE MENTIONED THAT BEFORE THE RELEASE OF “DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE.”

JB: “In a review I read in one of the major weeklies, he said he was sure Hollywood was already cranking out next summer’s action-adventure movies about right-wing militia groups.”

“But it’s a good subject that I don’t think has really been done before, except in one little-known movie called ‘Dead-Bang,’ which really just kind of scraped the surface of the whole thing. ... It kind of got some of this world right, but it only dealt with it superficially.”

DP: WHAT’S UP NEXT?

JB: “I’m gonna have to go back and work on ‘Lethal,’ assuming everyone wants to go forward. I owe them probably three more drafts on it if they require it. So if that gets moving I’ll be stuck on that.”

DP: WHAT ABOUT DIRECTING?

JB: [He says he did an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” for HBO.] “I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I didn’t enjoy ALL of it. Even though it was only a two-week commitment, I’d say about half that time I really didn’t like at all. I don’t like pre-production. I just find it a terrible chore to scout locations, and do casting. I thought that that would be enjoyable; it turned out not to be. Shooting was too intense to even comment on. And post-production is genuinely gratifying.

“So, a feature film would be that experience, times 20. ... Interesting writing jobs keep coming along.”

DP: WELL, THEY’RE THE DREAM JOBS, TOO. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU RATHER BE DOING THAN WRITING THE “INDIANA JONES” MOVIES?

JB: “ ‘Star Wars,’ maybe. It could happen. George is writing the three scripts now, for the new trilogy. But he says he wants to have them re-written; he just wants to get something down on paper so he can start doing the pre-production. But he wants all three scripts re-written and polished. So, maybe there would be an opportunity to work on that.

“This is all stuff that’s just boiling on a burner, and I hope someday it turns into a meal.”

5 comments:

  1. Hi Don, do you think you could post the entire interview with Boam, along with the 3rd interview you eluded to in the Sept 24, 2009 post?

    Were these interviews published somewhere?

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    1. Hey, Paul. The Q&A's were not published in the newspaper, only feature stories based on the interviews. I'm publishing the Q&A transcripts as I come across them while (infrequently) sorting through my old clips and digitizing them for my children. Could be I'll find the material you're looking for next week, or maybe next year, since I just tossed them into boxes back in the day. But I'm confident the story based on this interview was published in June or early July 1995. At this point, that's all the help I can give you. The stories themselves may be available digitally via the Standard-Examiner's online archive; I don't know how far back it goes in a form available to the public. Hope this helps you. If you're working on something specific, let me know and maybe I can keep an eye out while I'm sorting.

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    2. Don - thanks for the reply. Yes, I'm doing research on Boam. I'm amassing material for the slow work of improving Boam's wikipedia article. I'll look for the feature story based on the interview - looks like it's only on microfilm in Utah - perfect candidate for inter-library loan. Anything on Boam is good - there's precious little in print, and I think I've found nearly all of it. If you come across the rest of the interview, posting here on your blog makes it citable for my purposes. I'm particularly interested in anything Boam had to say about Brisco County, Jr. Thanks!

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  2. For Paul: Jeff and I were good friends as undergraduates: he was the art director for a stillborn underground newspaper we tried to get going in 1968. I've added mention of that to the Wikipedia article, but if I can help with what you're doing, I'd be glad to.

    Dan Shanahan, Professor
    Faculty of Humanities
    Charles University
    Prague

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  3. Dear, Don...I know you said you read Boam's Lethal 4 script, but you wouldn't by any chance still have a copy. I am a screenwriter and jeff was one of my favor writers. I would love more than life itself if i could somehow read it before I die. Let me know. Thanks. Enjoyed your article by the way

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