Before she could get down to the business of ruining Andy, however, Ronnie had to determine exactly how he had managed to strike this latest death blow to Trouble Town. Andy had no direct connection to Brad Pitt's people that she was aware of, so he had to have sabotaged the actor's participation in the film via a back door of some kind. But what could a junior production exec do or say to make an A-list actor's agent back her client out of a project only six hours after verbally committing him to it?
Usually, Ronnie knew, a little dirt on another major player attached to the project would do the trick-"Not sure if you heard this, but we thought you might like to know: Joe (the director/co-star/writer) Blow's rehab just took a major turn for the worse...."-but in this case, there was no such dirt to dish. Both the writer and director attached to Trouble Town were rock-solid citizens; neither had a history of chemical dependency, and each was coming off a big box-office hit. And Pitt had allegedly read the Trouble Town script weeks ago and loved it; his people would never have committed him to the film otherwise. If neither the associated talent nor the script had scared him off...Maybe he hadn't been scared off at all. Maybe he'd just opted out because something better had come along.
"Shit," Ronnie said. That was it.
Every major star of Pitt's caliber had at least one pet project on the back burner that he or she was dying to get green-lit, and Pitt was no exception. Thinking back on it now, Ronnie recalled that, less than a year earlier, the trades had been following the trials and tribulations of a film Pitt was desperate to star in, a sweeping historical romance that would be based on a best-selling novel he'd fallen in love with and optioned with his own money. Ordinarily, a major star and a best-selling novel were combination enough to earn a film deal somewhere, but not in this case; because of the unusual setting of the story (Istanbul at the turn of the nineteenth century), there were only three A-list directors the studios felt comfortable putting at the helm of the project, and all were going to be contractually unavailable for months. So, forced to shelve the film indefinitely until one of the three golden boys became free, Pitt had moved on to other projects, one of which ultimately became Ronnie's beloved Trouble Town.
Ronnie ran the names of the three key directors the studios wanted for Pitt's movie off in her head: Spencer Landis, Walter Wolfe...and Adrian Cummings. The three-time Oscar nominee who was presently attached to another Velocity Pictures project, The Whites of Their Eyes.
Andy Gleason's The Whites of Their Eyes.
Ronnie knocked back the last of a bottled beer, watching the Tiki Shack's bartender work the cash register without really seeing him, and made a silent wager with herself that, by some incredible coincidence, Adrian Cummings wasn't attached to Andy's picture anymore.
And there you had it. The sudden demise of Trouble Town.
It was going to be Ronnie's breakout film, the box-office smash that would elevate her from the ranks of the promising-but-unproven to the must-do-business-with. The script was an action-adventure cop drama (with the requisite "twist," of course) that had summer blockbuster written all over it, and with Brad Pitt attached to star, its crossover appeal to both men and women promised to be unlimited. It had taken Ronnie almost a year to put the whole package together; she had worked countless fourteen-hour days and made dozens of new enemies guiding all the pieces into place. And now that she was finally going to see it all pay off...
The film was in jeopardy, but it wasn't dead. No project of Ronnie's ever was. She lived by a personal motto-"Never let bad news surprise you"-and what it signified was that she was always prepared for the worst. She didn't always have a ready answer for it, perhaps, but the framework of a back-up plan was at least in place, so that disaster recovery was never a completely improvisational proposition. Brad Pitt was gone, and she hadn't seen that coming, but maybe things were still okay, because Ronnie already had a potential replacement for Pitt-give or take some hurried negotiations-waiting in the wings.
From Man Eater by Ray Shannon, Copyright © 2003 by Gar Anthony Haywood, Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher.
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