My agent called me with a rewrite project the other day. When I heard that it was for my producer buddy Moishe I said no immediately, because I’m still pissed off at Moishe for some pills he sold me that left me sick for a week. Then my agent told me that Justin Bieber was attached to the project. I totally didn’t believe him but what are you going to do?
Moishe told me that the project was The Sweet Hereafter meets Superbad. Going for the parent and tweener demo both. The bus – no, a bunch of SUVs – crash, go up in flames instead of into the lake. All the middle-schoolers and high school freshmen in town are killed horribly. The parents are crushed. The ambulance chasers – McConaughey, say, and a sleazy Kevin Spacey – move in. So do the corrupt insurance adjusters. The parents fight, get divorced in some cases, although let’s say some of them are swingers, too. Keys in the bowl scene, but with mourning. Keys in the bowl at a mass wake? But with toilet humor, a la Death at a Funeral. There is also a serious MILF factor here. You know how sex can be more intense just before the meteor hits or the missles arrive or whatever? It’s like that, definitely not something like Rabbit Hole, where the mom cuts off the dad because she’s too sad to do it anymore. Boxoffice poison! No, here the parents grieve all the way through the movie, of course, for the gravitas, but let’s not get carried away. They’ve still got to fornicate once in a while. It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody. Everybody has a dead kid. Get over it. Life goes on.
Meanwhile, all the dead kids are ghosts. Young ghosts, and the older ghost kids are planning a big party, the kind you always see in these movies, and the young ghosts are desperate to go! It turns out you can still get drunk and have sex and so on when you’re dead, even if you’re a kid and still a virgin.
Moishe’s cousin Aaron had done a treatment, but Moishe said that Aaron was out of action at the moment and I should punch it up. I said, you don’t have draft one? “Punch it up”? Nerts. I’ll punch you up for the bad drugs that you sold me. But he calmed me down by promising me the dollars meant for Aaron, who was too sick to care, probably for the same reason I had been.
Right off I told Moe, the cast looked huge. Should I pare down the numbers a little?
“Nah. We’ll go over to the Valley. Hire some of the guys and gals there to be the parents.”
“Clean ’em up, nobody will know. Take off the hardware, hide the tats, use some small-town wigs. They work cheap. Then post a casting call at ten or twenty of the acting schools over there to find the kids. Those schools, they’re becoming the biggest scam this side of the Grapevine. Forget filmmaking. I might start one myself.”
“What about Beiber? A little old for this project?”
“Beiber could play a high-school freshman in his sleep. He wouldn’t even be acting.”
“Which way do I go with the Judd Apatow ghost kids? They go buy beer at a ghost liquor store?”
“Don’t be stupid. They walk down their neighborhood street – we’ll be filming in Rancho Cucamonga where they did that Friday sequel – walking down the street going through the recycle bins. See, it turns out there’s a ghost for everything, even a can of beer. Somebody drinks a beer, a ghost comes along and pops the ghost top off the can and drinks the ghost beer. Get it?”
I guess I looked puzzled or worried or something. Probably just thinking about the paycheck and how I was going to be holding my screenplay in one hand, with my other hand out for the check, telling him that if the check bounced I’d come back and twist the nose on his face till his toupee jumped off his cheating head.
“This is not rocket science,” Moe said. “Say Beiber comes home, he’s twelve, he’s dead, he comes in the house, his parents are crying, he rolls his eyes. Parents. There’s always something. Drama queens. He goes to his room. Sits looking out the window. Over next door is, say, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, playing a twelve-year-old girl, the one he wants bad. You know Astrid? One of the vampire mermaids in POTC 4? Maybe we ought to make her thirteen or fourteen instead of twelve.”
“Astrid’s got to be twenty-five, twenty-six.”
“Look, I don’t want to risk getting charged. After last time, I swore to the judge I’d never cast anybody under thirty again. Anyway, Beiber’s looking over and, you know, she’s disrobing. She’s going to take a frigging ghost shower or something. You see where I’m going here? Hello? Do I have to draw you a picture? Who’s the writer around here? Me? What am I paying you for?”
I told him I’d do it. I told him I already had it up here. All planned out. Apatow himself would think I was swiping ideas from his brain.
“Ok,” Moe said. “In that case, let’s run down to The Well on Sunset and have a few drinks. Let me call my wife first and tell her I’m running late.”