[An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her Instagram photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film therein]
The actor is really big in Japan. In America, he’s merely tall.
The director saw him during a trip overseas. Alone in his hotel room, watching TV in a language he could neither speak nor make heads or tails of, he saw a commercial for Maxwell House.
Inexplicably, the actor was served fresh coffee at a stop light. A butler approached the car and handed it to him through the open window. They exchanged smiles and did what looked like a high five.
(Must have been a cultural thing?)
The problem of casting: the guy is tall. So very tall. Very few actors are this tall. He’s like a skyscraper and in the audition footage various teeniny people appear to be shouting up to his observation deck from the ground floor. The actor stooped to hear them, providing this unconscious courtesy as if apologizing for his height.
The director pulled him aside.
I chose you because you look like you. You are making yourself not look like you by this thing you’re doing. I’m sure the actors appreciate it but I can tell you the audience likes the Empire State building in large part because it is way up there and they are way down here and this discrepancy speaks to something in their soul or their gut or whatever.
Imagine the Empire State building as a four story walk-up.
The actor was like, Am I stooping??
He was most certainly stooping.
Yeah, see, you’re not a walk-up. You can hear God’s stomach grumbling up where you are.
So there was that, and once that was resolved, everything kicked into gear.
What they did was they changed the script. They changed the story. What the director realized was – who needs to see anyone else, when you’re looking at the Empire State building?
Investors needed to see someone else. Investors wanted tits, specifically. Who goes to see a movie about the Empire State building, they laughed (with their sharp shiny teeth showing).
(The director didn’t bring up Andy Warhol.)
The movie now involves voyeurism. So it is the director looking at the Empire State building, admiring its – what? – majesty? Beauty? Vertiginous solitude?
What’s vertiginous? said the investors, hiding their teeth.
The movie is about looking at the Empire State building and seeing everything it sees. The movie is about that architecture and the phenomena of distance.
The Empire State building is out on a boat for reasons which are never fully explained. A murder was committed on land, and the boat has been taken to as a hideout. It’s the boat and the Empire State building out in the middle of nowhere.
At first, the Empire State building is at peace on the boat. For once no one is clambering to get up to the observation deck.
But there are binoculars in a compartment under the steering wheel (does a boat have a glove compartment?) and when the Empire State building finds these he becomes obsessed with their telescopic potential.
The tag line of the poster: “It’s lonely at the top.”
So much going on over there on the coast. So many little dramas and intrigues. Sub plots ensue. A vacationing family of four are constantly arguing – it gets heated – and violence erupts.
What about the tits? the investors asked during pre-production. They needed assurance that tits would be viewed through the binoculars. Who plays the mother? How old is she? Is this a topless beach?
So it’s a topless beach. And all the arguing takes place au naturale. Concessions were made.
For the investor, it’s a movie about tits.
For the director, it’s a movie about beauty and heights which can’t and maybe shouldn’t be scaled.
[Image of Bennet Foster by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there: mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook. See also: Bennet Foster’s band Magic Kids, and his out of this world voice]