Sam Wiebe and Eric Beetner got together to discuss some of their favorite crime novels’ opening lines.
It’s interesting reading and while we’re at it, here are three of my favs…
“They threw me off the hay truck about noon.” – James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
“I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should have put some plastic down.” – Victor Gischler, Gun Monkeys
“I poisoned your drink.” – Duane Swierczynski, The Blonde
1. Even though the novel had been a bestseller, nobody wanted to make the movie.
Tom Clancy’s book is a complicated story with a lot of technical jargon, which made Hollywood executives antsy. It also made the movie hard to summarize. “In Hollywood, because of time constraints, very few people in a position to say yes to a project like this read the book,” admitted producer Mace Neufeld. “They generally read the reader’s report. [And] this book doesn’t condense well into two or three pages.” Neufeld got the project off the ground by getting a Paramount executive to read the novel—not just the book report—and see for himself how cinematic it could be.
3. Sean Connery was a last-minute replacement.
The film had been under production for two weeks when word came that Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out of Africa), the Austrian actor who’d been signed to play the rogue Soviet sub commander Marko Ramius, couldn’t do it after all because of a prior commitment. Connery took the part instead, needing only one day for rehearsal. Coincidentally, he and Brandauer had acted together in 1983’s Never Say Never Again and would reunite again for 1990’s The Russia House, which was shot shortly after The Hunt for Red October.
9. Alec Baldwin wanted to return for the sequels but was edged out when Paramount learned they could get Harrison Ford.
It’s complicated, and there are at least two sides to every story, but here’s the gist: While negotiations with Baldwin were still ongoing, Paramount allegedly offered the part to Ford, who was a bigger box office draw and to whom the studio owed money anyway because of a previous project that had fallen through. Baldwin had been dithering over the specifics of his deal, and now a Paramount executive used that indecision to force his hand: either commit right now to an open-ended contract for Patriot Games and whatever came next, or the offer would be withdrawn. Not wanting to give up a chance to appear in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway, Baldwin left Jack Ryan behind.
5. KIRK DOUGLAS WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY COLONEL TRAUTMAN.
The veteran movie star actually made it to set and appeared in early advertisements for First Blood, but left the production when he demanded the right to rewrite the script. Douglas favored the ending of the book, and felt that Rambo should die in the end. The actor gave the filmmakers an ultimatum: if the production didn’t let him do what he wanted with the script he’d quit. Kotcheff and Stallone wanted to leave the door open for the possibility for Rambo to live or die at the end of the movie, so they let Douglas quit.
Actor Richard Crenna was then cast with a single day’s notice to fill Douglas’ shoes as Rambo’s mentor and father figure, Colonel Trautman. Crenna would reprise his role in two more Rambo movies before he passed away in 2003. He is the only actor besides Stallone to appear in multiple Rambo movies.
The unused alternate ending of First Blood, in which Trautman shoots and kills Rambo, can be seen briefly in the dream sequence in the fourth film, Rambo.
7. FOR RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, JAMES CAMERON WROTE THE ACTION AND STALLONE WROTE THE POLITICS.
Initial drafts of the screenplay for the sequel to First Blood were written by James Cameron, who at the time was still looking for his big break. Cameron’s script, which was titled First Blood II: The Mission and was written simultaneously with the scripts for The Terminator and Aliens (two movies which ultimately gave him that big break), differed substantially from what ended up on screen.
According to Cameron: “I was trying to create a semi-realistic, haunted character, the quintessential Vietnam returnee, not a political statement.” Cameron’s draft picked up with Colonel Trautman finding Rambo in a psychiatric ward (a concept Cameron would recycle for his Sarah Connor character in Terminator 2), and also featured a sidekick role named Lieutenant Brewer that producers hoped would be filled by John Travolta, who Stallone had recently directed in the 1983 Saturday Night Fever sequel, Staying Alive (yes, you read that correctly, Sly directed the sequel to Saturday Night Fever). Eventually Stallone took over scriptwriting duties, and excised the first half of Cameron’s screenplay to add the film’s prominent POW/MIA message and the love story beats with the character Co-Bao.
Rambo: First Blood Part II is the only Rambo movie to be nominated for an Oscar. It received a nod for Best Sound Effects Editing in 1986 but lost to Back to the Future.
10. TO BECOME RAMBO, STALLONE HAD A RIDICULOUS WORKOUT SCHEDULE.
First Blood required Stallone to be ripped (he shot Rocky III shortly before starring in the first Rambo movie, which helped), but for the second outing he really needed to pump some iron. The actor trained for eight months prior to the film’s start date in late 1984, but he maintained a strict regimen during shooting as well.
He would begin with a two- to three-hour morning workout, then he’d move on to the 10- to 12-hour shooting day on the movie. After that, instead of going home like the rest of the cast and crew, he’d cap off the day with another two- to three-hour workout. After six hours of sleep or so he’d be up and ready to do it all again. Maintaining that physique definitely helped Stallone for his next movie as well: he began shooting Rocky IV immediately after First Blood Part II.
My guess is that next week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly will sell out in a lot of locations. Not only does the cover feature Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful 8, but the issue contains an excerpt from Stephen King’s new novel.
I am so glad I subscribe.
6. Christian Radio Made a Contribution As Well
King revealed a third inspiration for The Stand in Danse Macabre: A single line he heard in a radio broadcast of a sermon when he was living in Colorado. The line “Once in every generation the plague will fall among them” made such an impression on King that he wrote it down and pinned it over his typewriter. Later, when the author was struggling to write a fictionalized account of the Patty Hearst kidnapping (the unpublished The House on Value Street), he saw the gloomy quote and found the inspiration to start a new project that became The Stand.
8. The Extreme Length Led to Logistical Problems
The 1,200-page novel presented a serious problem – King’s publisher, Doubleday, couldn’t print a novel that long. Literally. In addition to whatever qualms the publisher might have had about trying to sell such a hefty book, its printing presses couldn’t create it. As King explained to Time in 2009, “Doubleday had a physically limiting factor in those days because they used a glue binding instead of a cloth binding, and the way it was explained to me was that they had so much of a thickness they could do before the glue just fell apart.”
10. The Cut Pages Weren’t Lost
Of course, when your fans are as rabid as King’s, it’s hard for lost pages to stay lost. In 1990 King restored the text he had hacked away to create The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition. King didn’t just slip all the cut pages back into the original manuscript, though – he retyped each one. He told Time he “had the manuscript on one side of an IBM Selectric typewriter and I had the pages of a book that I had torn out of the binding on the other side.” The restored edition had another quirk – King also updated the setting of the novel to the then-present day and included references to cultural touchstones like Freddy Krueger that had not existed in 1978.
The Arkansas Times has posted a nice profile of Jake Hinkson written by Matt Baker.
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian by Andy Weir is one of the most unique and enjoyable novels that I’ve read in years. Weir’s stranded [on Mars!] astronaut, Mark Watney, is intelligent, witty, and just enough of a wise guy.
I loved how real science was used. I loved how Weir widened the scope of the story to include not only the people on Earth [who’ve learned of Watney’s plight] but also the only astronauts in a position to attempt a rescue.
I’m a huge fan of Greg Rucka. I really enjoyed Alpha and was hoping that Bravo would be as good or better. Alpha was an action-packed page turner and I was expecting more of the same.
Rucka shifted gears and created more of a psychological thriller with Bravo. It was slow-going for me. I kept waiting for the action.
Hate to rate Rucka’s work so low because he’s always been an author that greatly entertained… but Bravo just didn’t work for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Congrats to Max Allan Collins. Collins’ fictional hit man, Quarry, the star of several novels, is going to become a tv star as well.
Cinemax has given the go-ahead for eight episodes with Logan Marshall-Green in the title role.
Now if only someone would give Collins’ Nate Heller the same treatment!
The trailer for Child 44 does it’s job really well. Not only do I want to see the movie, I’m interested in reading the novel it was based on.