Strange that there should a mere two degrees of Kevin Bacon between this legend and me.
Filbert Steps‘ (RIP) follow up to RUNAWAY was TRUMBO, a documentary based on letters Dalton Trumbo wrote from prison, courtesy of McCarthy-era blacklisting. The letters were assembled by his son, Christopher, who got a who’s who of Hollywood to read them on stage during a very successful Off-Broadway run.
My good friends Al Klingenstein and David Viola met Christopher and his directing partner, Peter Askin, at Sundance in 2006. I don’t think the guys were thinking their next movie was going to be a documentary, but life takes you in strange directions. One of the draws, I believe, was that they were going to be able to attract a stellar cast (which they did, as many of the actors who did the play in NYC signed on to the movie) and make a movie that had an upfront chance at a decent distribution deal for a change.
Sitting on the sidelines of this production, I had an interesting vantage point. There was more than one pound of flesh sacrificed to the cinema gods in the name of bringing the letters of Dalton Trumbo to the screen, but none of it was mine.
Well, that’s not entirely true. My "sacrifice" for this movie was that the guys were so distracted once the shit hit the fan that they pretty much had to forget that RUNAWAY existed for a year or so. Any and all of the progress we’d made in late-2005/early-2006 to get the thing released was abandoned. And there I was, just the guy who wrote the thing, screaming in an empty yard. Eventually, I stopped screaming. RUNAWAY’s prospects sort of vanished after that.
On a side note–someday I will share the whole "RUNAWAY release that never was" story. If you’ve ever read Peter Biskind’s book, Down and Dirty Pictures, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the RUNAWAY distribution saga could be a chapter in the book. I am not certain what medium is best for sharing this tale, though, and for now I keep it pretty close to my chest because blabbing it to the world when I am still feeling a little bent outta shape about the whole affair feels like a career limiting move.
The silver lining in all of this (though I am not certain I am supposed to spill the beans…so keep it to yourself, please) is that I have been reassured as recently as last Friday that the company managing rights for RUNAWAY is on the home stretch in finalizing a deal to get the movie out in the world–where it belongs.
Anyway…I admit that for awhile I was upset over the whole "TRUMBO supplants RUNAWAY" business. But I was happy for my friends and even happier when the movie started getting rave reviews. Made my "sacrifice" feel worth it. A least a little bit. The spotlight was gonna shine on this amazing man who is not only one of the great screenwriting talents of all time, but a bonafide hero who put it all on the line to do the right thing.
Now, I have the honor of announcing that TRUMBO is playing in limited release around the country. It either is or will be in most major markets at some point over the next 3-4 months. Here is a link to the cities, dates, and theatres where it is/will be playing.
There’s Oscar buzz on this one, folks. You’re going to want to make a point to see it.
Good job, Al and David! Congrats!