Behind “Full Grown Men”

23Jun08

Xandra Castleton '91, writer/producerVH1 and other TV shows often give us the “Behind the Scenes” retrospective of how movies are made. But that’s just it— they’re retrospectives. It’s so rare to get a chance to read, in near-to-real time, how an idea is born, pushed, shoved, and molded into a film, without all the after-editing.

Thanks to Xandra Castleton ’91, writer/producer of the forthcoming film “Full Grown Men,” you can. In a special edition to the San Francisco Chronicle, she and writer/director David Munro took turns documenting how a film goes from shopping to Sundance.

The columns are all archived here, but here’s an excerpt:

Sensational news! Philip Seymour Hoffman, arguably the greatest character actor of our generation, the guy you adored in “Almost Famous” and “Boogie Nights,” the guy who always delivers a fresh and unexpected gem of a performance in every single film he graces, absolutely loves our script! Pause for effect. And he passed on the part.

Philip (or PSH, as we refer to him in top secret, inter-office e-mails) had, since the very beginning, been our No. 1, pie-in-the-sky, “if you could have anyone in the whole world who would it be?” choice for the co-starring role of Alby’s friend Elias. We had no idea we could get him the script, let alone get him to read it. But our little-film-that-could has taken on a certain cachet, what with the talent already attached and high-level fans up and down the industry, and it happens that our casting director has a longtime New York theater relationship with him. So get it to him, we did.

He passed.

PSH so loved “Full Grown Men” that he requested my reel and additional information about the project. He loved it so much that he got back to us in two days — two days! — a Guinness world record for A-list talent responding to one of our peanuts-for-pay offers. He loved that Dallas Roberts was our lead. He thought that was a truly inspired choice. He laughed out loud in all the right places, and thought our supporting cast was top-notch.

Did I mention he passed?

It’s not a mortal blow — far from it. […] But Hoffman passed. Damn it! Which brings us to the second ironclad law of independent filmmaking (if you recall, the first was “get an MBA”): Prepare yourself for rejection.

I’m not talking about occasional rejection. I’m not talking about the infrequent, takes-you-by-surprise “Nah.” I’m talking about cold, bloodless, roundhouse-to-the-stomach rejection every single day you show up to work. Sometimes two and three times in the same 9-to-whenever time period. Sometimes more.

And it’s not just actors giving us the proverbial high hat. It’s investors intrigued by the offering but they’re installing a new backyard pool. It’s location managers who would love to but they just got hired to scout for big evil “Miami Vice” (OK, it’s directed by Michael Mann … but still!). When I got out of college, I remember taping rejection letters from potential employers to my wall. That was a kiddie ride compared to this. This is a never- ending gantlet of straight-up, Southern fried ass-whupping.

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