RARA-AVIS: Re:Movies based on Ross Thomas?

From: Dick Lochte (dlochte@gmail.com)
Date: 13 Dec 2008

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    Posted by: "jacquesdebierue" jacquesdebierue@yahoo.com jacquesdebierue Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:59 pm (PST) I got curious and looked at IMDB. I found no movies based on the work of Thomas. This strikes me as very strange, since he had a long career with many filmable stories and characters. Am I missing or is IMDB missing some movies? And I confess: I opened a box and got trapped in Chinaman's Chance. Damn, this guy was good. That one would make a great movie, for example.


    Thomas wrote an original script for the interesting, very noir crime movie Bad Company. Lawrence Fishburn is narrator and anti-hero.

    As for why Chinaman's Chance never became a movie, I can offer some information. A few years after the novel was published, I met with the executive of a production company that will remain nameless, about adapting what I consider to be Thomas' best novel. Also at the meeting were the two people who had optioned the film rights and would be the co-executive producers of the movie. (They'd also optioned the rights to The Mordida Man.) There were introductions all around. Then I was asked my plans for turning the fairly complex Chinaman's Chance into a somewhat simpler two-hour movie. By then I'd done enough of those painful pitches to know you had to feel out the crowd a little to avoid making a serious mistake. Richard Matheson once told me he met with Alfred Hitchcock to discuss adapting Daphne du Maurier's short story The Birds. The first thing Matheson said to the director was that it would be a terrible mistake to show the birds, that it would be more frightening if you never saw them. End of interview. So I asked the two exec producers what they liked about the novel. One went on and on about the characters, how great they were, their relationships, their backstories. During all this, the other co-producer began shifting on the chair, showing signs of impatience and finally blurting out that no, the only way the movie would work is if we did it James Bond style. Let the actors supply the character depth, forget back story, streamline the plot, have lots of action and snappy dialogue, and on and on. I tried to interrupt to suggest that we could combine the best of both concepts, but the two people who owned the rights had apparently never discussed their concepts of the film before and really went after each other. Shouting, some verbal abuse. Finally, the production company executive turned to me and suggested that perhaps I should give them time to resolve their "little" disagreement. He would call me to re-convene the meeting when they did. I never heard from him again. The movie was never made.

    Dick Lochte


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