Scene: West Hollywood office, studio exec sitting in his oversized leather chair, smoke from his cigar wafts past a small sign on the wall that says, “THIS IS A SMOKE-FREE STUDIO”. Gazes at the Pacific outside his window as he thumbs through a screenplay with the working title, “The Manti Te’o Story: Me and My Notre Dame”. The bottom of the title page reads “Based on a true story”.
Enter the young screenwriter who penned the screenplay.
“Kid, I just got around to reading this script you sent me at Christmas”
“Whatever. I love it. Got everything. Poor kid from Hawaii, comes to Notre Dame, becomes the star linebacker, helps team win National Championship, wins Heisman, plans on marrying the hometown sweetheart, a Notre Dame cheerleader. But she dies in the final scene. Nice touch, just like in Love Story. I see Tom Cruise as Te’o. Lindsay Lohan as the girl, and Barry Fitzgerald as Coach Kelly. It’ll be bigger than ‘Rudy’”.
“Sir, before we go on, isn’t Tom Cruise a little old to play a college kid?”
“Who cares? He’s still box office. One word: Botox”
“He’s sort of small to play a football player, isn’t he?”
“Did you hear me? Box office. One word: Lifts”.
“Sir, about Lindsay Lohan. She might be going to jail.”
“One word: Lawyers.”
“But she can’t act.”
The exec stares at him with a befuddled look like Homer Simpson. The screenwriter sees the exec is unfamiliar with the concept, so he continues.
“And I know Barry Fitzgerald was the perfect Irish character actor but… “
“He’s been dead since 1961.”
“I wondered why I hadn’t seen him in the commissary lately. No problem. We’ll get Stallone or Pacino.”
“There are a couple of other problems, sir. Since I sent you the script, some things have come up.”
“Te’o didn’t win the Heisman.”
“No sir. Came in second to a quarterback from Texas A and M. nicknamed Johnny Football”
“Second is pretty good. Close enough. Picture won’t be out for a while. We can say Te’o won. Who’ll remember? Do you remember who won the Heisman in 2008?”
“Taken care of. Johnny Football you say? Hmmm, make a note of that.”
“Yes sir. Another thing. Notre Dame didn’t win the National Championship.”
“No sir. They lost to Alabama in the championship game, 42-14.”
“Close enough. We can say they won. Might hurt the box office in the South, though. But I think we can make it up with my next project, “Johnny Football, All-American”. Clean-living Texas kid wins Heisman trophy, goes on to be president. ”
“Sir, back to this project- it’s supposedly ‘based on a true story’.”
“Kid, don’t you know what ‘based on a true story’ means here in Hollywood?
“I guess not, sir.”
“It means none of this stuff ever happened. But when you close your eyes and get your mind right, you can imagine one or two things could have happened. Almost. Come on kid, “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer” was “based on a true story”.
“I forgot. Another problem, sir.”
“You mean the cheerleader? What did she do? Run off with a halfback from USC? ”
“Whew, that’s a relief. I was thinking we might have to get a Kardashian for the role.”
“Te’o’s girlfriend is not a cheerleader. On top of that, she’s not dead.”
“The cheerleader part -who cares? We’ll make her one. Who’ll know the difference?”
The screenwriter tried to interrupt but the exec was on a roll.
“Not dead, you say. Beautiful. We rewrite the ending. I see a wedding before he goes off to the NFL. In Maui. Shot on location, of course. Take their vows in a volcano crater against a beautiful sunset, honeymoon stroll along the surf. Did I say bigger than ‘Rudy’? The new ending will make it bigger than ‘Titanic’. More Oscars too. Might be one in it for you.”
“Sir, the girlfriend is not real.”
“What do you mean, not real?”
“She was made up. She never existed. We just found out.“
“What are talking about? What is this “The Lady Vanishes”? “The Invisible Woman?” I can’t get Hitchcock to direct. He doesn’t do pictures anymore”
“I know sir. He’s dead.”
“I was wondering why I hadn’t seen him in the commissary lately. Reading this screenplay cost me a whole afternoon. You’re on the line here. If you don’t think of something, I’m going to have them repossess your car. You’ll be back in Ohio inside a week. What do you propose to do?”
“No problem, sir. I have an alternative screenplay.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“Small town boy goes to U. of Alabama, becomes the star quarterback, wins National Championship, and here’s the best part. His girlfriend is Miss Alabama who goes to their rival school, Auburn. I’ve got a working title. I call it, “Daddies, Tell Your Sons To Become Quarterbacks.”
“Kid get out of here right now with that nonsense.”
“But, but, but… “
Ten minutes later, the exec buzzes his secretary.
“Miss Tomlin, is that young screenwriter gone? He is? Good. See if you can get Tom Cruise on the phone. I want to see if he can do an Alabama accent.”
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