It was an impromptu moment. I was connecting with a movie veep for lunch. After I’d swung by his office, we planned to stroll across the lot to the studio commissary for our protein-rich confab on life and potential picture projects. The quickest route was via a set of back stairs that, as it turned out, swung us by the studio president’s office.
“Hey you guys!” shouted the studio boss as we hoofed past. “Need your opinions.”
As we ambled into the generous power suite, the Boss dumped himself into a leather armchair and placed his stocking feet up on the coffee table.
“I’m trying to cast the girl role in (like the names, the movie will remain for you to guess) and the (director) wants this skinny new actress named Leslie Bibb. Do you guys know her?”
“Heard of her,” said my pal, the Veep. “Got a picture handy?”
“Janey?” shouted The Boss. “Bring in that picture again.”
“Which picture?” asked the assistant.
“That blonde number (the director) is stuck on.”
“Leslie Bibb?” asked the assistant.
The Boss’s assistant was quick to deliver us a color 8X10 of the actress. I recall she was very young, very blonde, and very pretty.
“Looks familiar,” I said.
“Don’t wanna know if she looks familiar,” said the Boss. “It’s a very simple question. Do you wanna fuck her?”
Okay. So what I’m supposed to say here is that I’m happy, married, and faithful to a fault and that getting jiggy with any actress would never ever cross my mind. That being said, over my years in the trenches I’d been subject to this particular conversation with other producers and executives. I understood the shorthand gist of the Boss’s question. Did I find the actress so attractive I’d be more inclined to buy a ticket for a movie with her in a romantic role?
“Wouldn’t kick her out of my hotel room,” I said glibly.
“Not a ringing endorsement,” said the Boss, turning from the writer to the Veep. “What about you. Would you fuck her?”
“Wouldn’t fuck her,” said the Veep.
“Exactly what I told (the director),” said the Boss.
“That it?” asked the Veep.
“No, that’s not it,” said the Boss. “We gotta nail this thing down today. So I need to know who you guys would fuck.”
“Okay. I’d fuck Jessica Alba,” said the Veep.
“Who wouldn’t want to fuck her?” said the Boss. “But she can’t act for shit.”
“Jennifer Connolly,” I volunteered.
“You’d fuck her?” asked the Boss.
“Plus she can act.”
“Does nothing for me,” said the Veep. “Too cold.”
“So who’d you fuck?” asked the Boss.
“That girl in The Island.”
“Scarlett Johansson,” I said.
“Yeah,” said the Veep. “I’d definitely fuck Scarlett Johansson.”
“Who else?” The Boss was looking at me again.
“Need to go younger,” said the Boss. “What do you think of Rachel McAdams?”
“Good actress,” said the Veep. “But she’s not hot.”
“She gotta be hot for you to fuck her?”
“Who’d you say you’d wanna fuck?” asked a voice behind us.
We all swiveled to discover the studio’s Production Head leaning in the doorway, trailed by a Senior VP who – as it just so happened – was a woman. Not that her presence meant anything, as you’ll soon discover.
“Scarlett Johansson,” said the Veep.
“We were talking about Rachel McAdams,” I said.
“Not a fan,” said the Head. “What about you?”
“Me?” said the Senior VP. “Do I look like a lesbian?”
“Do you want me to answer?” joked the Boss.
“No,” said the Senior VP. “But if I was a guy? I’d soooooo wanna do Keira Knightly.”
“Way too skinny,” said the Boss. “What’s with all these women with no boobs or ass? Men don’t wanna fuck that.”
“You asked. I answered,” said the Senior VP.
“Penelope Cruz,” I added trying to move the conversation. “Salma Hayak.”
“Says the guy who married the Irish girl,” poked the Veep.
“Amazing Irish girl,” I defended.
“That girl on the O.C.” volunteered the Senior VP. “Mischa Barton.”
“Never heard of her,” said the Head. “Does Lindsay Lohan work for this role?”
“Wouldn’t trust anyone who’d wanna fuck that,” said the Boss.
“I did,” said the Veep.
“Slut,” said the Senior VP.
“Me or her?”
“I meant you. But what the hell? Both of you.”
“Who’s (the director) got for the guy?” asked the Head.
“Paul Walker,” said the Boss.
“Now him, I’d fuck,” said the Senior VP.
“Not me,” said the Veep. “Kind of a stiff.”
“Rather we went after Jude Law,” said the Boss. “He’s the next Brad Pitt. Women will wanna fuck him all the way to the bank.”
“Would you fuck him?” asked the Head.
“You’re asking me?” I said.
“Sure. What’s the writer think?”
“Asking about Law or Walker?”
“I like ‘em both.”
“But who’d you rather fuck?” pressed the Boss.
“Hard time relating to that question.”
“It’s not a gay thing,” said the Veep.
“I know what it is,” I said. “Just don’t feel strongly one way or the other. Law’s the better actor. Aside from that, you want me to call my wife and have her weigh in?”
“Unless she’s still in high school she’s not our demo,” said the Boss.
“Guess I’m no help,” I shrugged, looking at my lunch date. I was hungry and the discussion was devolving.
“Hey,” said the Head. “Know who I’d really wanna fuck? That girl on Lost.”
“Nuh uh,” said the Veep. “Psycho.”
“No way,” said the Senior Veep.
“Way,” said the Veep. “Agent had her in for a general last week. Wanted to crawl out my office window.”
“Too bad,” said the Head. “Cuz she’s hot.”
“Maybe TV fuckworthy,” said the Boss. “Not quite movie fuckworthy.”
“Did you really just say that?” I asked.
“There’s television fuckworthy and movie fuckworthy?”
“Sure there is.”
“And the difference is?”
“TV screen is this big. Movie screen is this big.”
“I don’t buy it,” said the Head.
“Jennifer Aniston,” said the Senior Veep. “Hot on TV. Hot in movies.”
“So what?” said the Boss. “She’s fuckworthy in two mediums. She’s the exception. Not the norm.”
“Okay,” I argued. “So now we’re actually engaged in a discussion about a supposed difference between advertiser-supported fuckworthiness and ticket-supported fuckworthiness?”
This is where my words drew momentary stares.
“What about pay cable?” I added. “Where’s HBO in this equation of fuckworthitude?”
“Fuckworthitude?” asked the Boss with a rhetorical lilt. “Fuckin’ writers.”
“We’re going to lunch,” said the Veep.
“Thanks for the help,” said the Boss. “Not really. I’m just being polite.”
“Anytime,” I said.
We walked down the back stairs and made our way to the commissary, talking a bit longer about the crass and shallow nature of show business. That and if such a conversation had broken out inside the offices of a major corporation it might’ve resulted in some kind of soul-sucking employment lawsuit.
Am I proud of being part of such discussions? Not really. Especially now since my daughter has expressed an interest in acting as a career. So I need to ask myself these two questions:
One. How do I feel about my daughter’s future being decided by rainmakers using their libidos as barometers for theatrical talent? And two. If I get roped into that kind of lowbrow conversation again, would I participate or walk away?
Read my new thriller, THE SAFETY EXPERT. Available in trade paperback and ebook at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.