Sterling Van Wagenen called recently to bring us up to date on his film projects.
As you may recall, Van Wagenen was producer of the low-budget winner "The Trip to Bountiful," scripted by Horton Foote and starring Geraldine Page, who won an Oscar for her rich portrait of an elderly woman trying to go home again.Since then Van Wagenen has been attempting to get a second project off the ground, which, given the success of his first, shouldn't be that difficult - right?
"You sort of think after you get one that's moderately successful like `Trip to Bountiful' that it's easier for the next one," Van Wagenen said. "But unless you have access to a huge line of credit, if you have to depend on going out and getting the money through investors, it's as difficult for the second as the first.
"It's the same with a lot of producers. It just takes a lot of time. It really is like starting all over again. It's certainly been eye-opening and discouraging at times. But we're getting the momentum going now and two or three other things may emerge."
The momentum is really getting under way for that second film, which is scheduled to begin shooting this fall. It's another Horton Foote script, "Convicts," to star Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones and Lukas Haas. Peter Masterson, who directed "The Trip to Bountiful" and followed it with the less successful "Full Moon on Blue Water," is scheduled to direct "Convicts" as well.
Van Wagenen, through his Del Rio Films company, will produce the film, a period piece set at the turn of the century and budgeted at about $4 million. Production is scheduled to start in Louisiana Oct. 9. Some interiors may later be shot in Utah.
The story has a young boy (Haas) forced to move to the home of a senile, 78-year-old distant relative (Duvall) who lives on a convict farm off the gulf of Texas and is subject to delusions that dead convicts are out to steal his money.
"This role is something he's (Duvall) wanted to do for three or four years now. He's magnificent, of course, and we're very happy to have him."
Oscar-winner Duvall (for another Foote screenplay, "Tender Mercies") is also a very hot property at the moment, coming off the enormously successful "Lonesome Dove" TV miniseries. "He's getting up in the category now where he makes a lot of money, but he's still willing to go with smaller independent productions."
Van Wagenen has two other pictures in development as well, one a project with Disney's Touchstone division, a remake of a classic French thriller called "Eyes Without a Face" (released in this country as "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus"), the other a black comedy called "Border Radio," about outlaw radio stations on the Texas-Mexico border in the '30s and '40s, this one for Robert Redford's Wildwood Productions.
A personal film Van Wagenen had hoped would be his second, but which now looks like it will be a bit farther down the road, is "The Giant Joshua," based on the novel by Maurine Whipple about three generations in a pioneer Mormon family.
"I've got my fingers crossed for `Giant Joshua,' maybe a year from now. Next spring I hope. It's a very important film for me."
-QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Peter Boyle, who plays an inmate in a New Jersey mental institution who is set loose on the streets of Manhattan in "The Dream Team," from an interview with Richard Freedman of New-house News Service:
"The asylum was actually outside Toronto. In fact much of the movie was shot there, which made me a little sad. Toronto is so clean we had to import garbage."
-QUOTE OF THE WEEK II: John Cusack, star of "Say Anything," from an interview with the L.A. Times' Jay Sharbutt:
"(The scripts offered) are just kind of devoid of any integrity or creativity. They're just a genre film. `Genre' to me means making money off someone else's original idea."
-QUOTE OF THE WEEK III: Jeff Bridges, star of the divorce/re-marriage drama "I'll See You in the Morning," from an interview with UPI's Vernon Scott:
"I did the film because of my gut response to the script. Being a father and happily married, it was almost like a horror film to me, having my character go through a divorce and lose his children.
"Divorce is one of the worst things I can imagine. I watched my brother (actor Beau Bridges) go through it and saw how tough it was.
"My parents have been an example of how great marriage can be. They've been married for 50 years."