Writer George Gallo was on Paramount’s lot yesterday; he’s an old collaborator of one of our EPs, Russ Krasnoff. You might know I tweeted a few nights ago while watching a movie he wrote, Midnight Run, for the millionth time.
Russ texted me that he was in the office so I ran down there to say hi, and to say, once again, thanks for writing Midnight Run. Russ probably mentioned my tweet or something because Gallo was giving me a hug and saying thank you before I could talk.
He’s flattered by praise of this movie in a way that is neither falsely modest nor presumptuous. I sense that he loves it sincerely and selflessly, like the father of a son that became a fireman. I’m not going to say “all writers should have this attitude toward their stuff,” because, well, have the personality you want, but thank God, for my sake, that George Gallo doesn’t respond to “Midnight Run is great” with “so what, I’ve written other stuff.”
Or the classic Harmon response of “yeah, but it could have been so much better.”
In the short time we talked, here are the tidbits I recalled that I wanted to get down before I forgot them:
He thinks he still has a copy of the first coverage the script received by a professional “reader,” who roasted the script for its boring story, which hinges on the “flimsy” premise that you can’t transport a aviaphobic criminal on a plane (not only is this a fact, which Gallo learned from a friend in law enforcement, but more importantly, I have never once, from the age of 16 to 38, watched this movie and disbelieved it).
The “chorizo and eggs” diner waitress wasn’t an actor, she was a waitress at the diner in which they were [shooting and/or eating], and the special that day was, indeed, chorizo and eggs, and listening to her describe the dish, the crew pulled her into the movie. The bartender at Red’s Corner Bar - not Red, but his bartender - was also not an actor, he was a bartender at that location.
Best for last: the scene on the bus, in which Grodin pesters DeNiro about smoking, and keeps asking him “why aren’t you popular with the Chicago police department,” ends with “why aren’t you popular with the Chicago police department” NOT because that’s how it’s written. What we’re seeing is a “warm up take” in which DeNiro and Grodin are basically running their lines - and THAT’s why Grodin mistakenly thinks DeNiro is putting his cigarette out. Then the pause, then Grodin repeating the classic line…because the actor is actually starting again, from the top of the scene. That blew my mind. My favorite line from my favorite scene in my favorite movie, one that formed my sense of comedic timing…it was an outtake, a blooper, a director and/or editor’s decision. Not a writer’s.
I now have a signed copy of Gallo’s draft of Midnight Run. The movie that, from hearing his stories, so few people believed in, that I feel like I could write for another twenty years, because, the scariest thing about creative work is also its greatest strength: nobody ever really knows what the fuck they’re doing. We are puppets, all of us, waiting for invisible hands to violate and pleasure us.
Gallo signed it, “why are you not popular with the Chicago police department?”
I choose to interpret it in many ways, but the most important interpretation, this morning, is WHO CARES ABOUT A FUCKING NOMINATION, right?!
Time to get a new watch.
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