Saturday, November 28, 2009
Alejandro González Iñárritu sits at his desk, looking pensively at a screenplay he's just read. After taking a few deep breaths, he picks up the phone and calls Guillermo Arriaga. The phone barely rings once before a voice answers.
Guillermo Arriaga: Alejandro?
Alejandro González Iñárritu: Guillermo? I just finished reading your script.
GA: What did you think?
AGI: Well, that's what I'm calling about. Um -- oh Christ I don't know how to say this -- Ar--are you kidding me?
GA: Wha--what's the problem?
AGI: Are you serious? This is the exact same script you gave me six years ago.
The sound in Iñárittu's phone suddenly drops to a low hiss. He strains his ear and hears a faintly whispered, "¡coño!" Suddenly the sound of Arriaga's breathing intensifies.
GA: I don't--I don't know what you're talking about.
AGI: Really? A script about the lives of separate people all joined by an unlikely root? Doesn't ring any bells?
GA: I think you're being kind of childish about this.
AGI: I think you're trying to end me! We've already made this movie. Twice. If we do this again the townspeople are going to ignore us crying wolf.
GA: I'm telling you, these movies are different.
AGI: [hissing through the eroded barriers of patience] How?
Iñárittu absent-mindedly fingers his scarf, wondering if its stretching wool could conceivably asphyxiate someone.
GA: I keep broadening the scope. We started in the Mexican underworld, expanded to America, and now we're traveling the world.
AGI: Expanding the stories doesn't make them different!
GA: It does, though! Amores Perros was about surviving into adulthood, 21 Grams was a romance, and this is about couples becoming parents and their relationships with their children, who will then grow up and start the cycle anew. It's a logical progression of my cartography of the human condition.
This time, Iñárittu pauses. He swears he can hear the writer holding his breath.
AGI: [calming] Wel-um, fine then. That does sound interesting. Why don't we cut out one or two of these plotlines though and focus on the rest.
GA: Absolutely not! We have to do all of them!
GA: B--because the multiple stories show how the generation gap is universal and that we're always at a crossroads with our children and unsure in which direction to continue.
AGI: Yeah, but it's overly repetitive and it gets bogged down at multiple intervals to openly discuss the same message. And I don't even see the point of putting the Jones family in the story at all. The parents do absolutely nothing and the kids only serve to set up the story of the maid. Her part is nice, so you should separate her story from the Joneses and just throw them away all together.
GA: Have you gone insane?! If I take one element out the stories lose their connection.
AGI: What connection? This is the most contrived bit of nonsense I've ever seen. A rifle links 4 families from across the globe? Are you kidding me? Why not just write in a precocious Scottish child called MacGuffin while you're at it?
GA: The rifle gives the story meaning! You don't think it's interesting that the object that links the world together is a deadly weapon?
AGI: NO! You can't just throw in a symbol without any connection to the story and expect anyone to pick up on it or care. It is pretentious, freshman-year-at-film-school bullshit and I'm better than this. Let's cut back a bit and just make them vignettes, like Jim Jarmusch films.
GA: I will not change a word. The connection is solid and it's genius. We'll get Brad Pitt for the star power, throw in some nudity and ride that critical wave to Oscar gold.
AGI: You have truly lost your mind. This is barely passable and contrived and stilted and preaching. I have worked too hard and come too far to let myself make this. This is outright self-parody and none of the pros overcomes its matching con. I can't take this anymore; you and I are done professionally.
Iñárittu goes to slam the phone, but stops. He thinks for a moment, the hand holding the receiver moving closer and farther away from the base as if literally weighing his options through it. Finally, he brings the phone back to his ear.
AGI: You really think we can get Brad Pitt?