Wednesday 21 December 2005 @ 2:45 pm
From time to time, I’m asked “Why doesn’t Chevy Chase like you?” It’s a question usually prompted by someone seeing an interview with Chase, like the one with Laker Jim found at www.fletchwon.net.
In the interest of fairness, here’s my side of that story…
True. Here’s how it happened…
Mid ’97, after the success of “Amy”, Universal asked me to come in and discuss working there again. I met with Stacy Snider and told her the only thing Universal would have that I might be interested in would be “Fletch.” She said she didn’t realize they even had the rights still. I told her I’d like to do an original script called “Son of Fletch”, which was to star Chevy as Fletch, Joey Adams as his daughter (the titular “Son of”), and Jason Lee as her boyfriend, with a cameo by Goldie Hawn as Joey’s Mom/Fletch’s one-time love (I was a big fan of the Chevy/Goldie starrers “Foul Play” and “Seems Like Old Times”). Stacy said yes, and sent me over to meet Brian Grazer, who she wanted as a producer on the flick.
So I head over to Imagine, meet Grazer, and tell him about my idea for the Chevy-starring flick. He says “Chevy Chase? Why him?” I remind him that Chevy has played Fletch twice already. Brian points out that Chevy hasn’t had an audience in years, and he’s legendarily hard to work with. Still, I back Chevy. Brian relents, and suggests I meet with Chevy. So a few days later, I go to Jerry’s Famous Deli on Beverly with one of my all-time heroes, Chevy Chase.
Not true. I told him the ideas I had for “Son of Fletch”, but not that I’d started writing it.
I haven’t spoken to him since that lunch, yes. Here’s why…
At the lunch, Chevy went on to claim he invented every funny thing that ever happened in the history of not just comedy, but also the known world. I made the mistake of telling him my favorite moment in “Fletch Lives” – when Fletch enters the faith healer’s service.
“What’s your name?”
The “Seven” line was what I focused on, and he then offered, rather enthusiastically, that he wrote that – that he says that kind of thing all the time. The waitress was bringing us the charge receipt at that point, and he said to her “Ask me what my credit card number is.” She obliged, and he said “Seven.” Then turned to me, smiling widely, with a Krusty-like “Funny? Right? Funny?” expression.
You ever sat down with somebody who claimed responsibility for stuff he did AND didn’t do? It’s really off-putting.
But, whatever. When the lunch (mercifully) ended, we exchanged numbers, and I was off. I told him I’d call him when I had some pages to read.
Over the course of the next few months, Joey and I broke up, my Grandmother died, and I learned Jason Mewes was a heroin addict. Naturally, Jason became my priority. So he moved in with me and we started the methadone/12 inch Greedo dolls program (that’s a whole different story), which pretty much took up the entire day – leaving little writing time.
Six months later, we were off to Pittsburgh to make “Dogma.” During two months of rehearsal and pre-production, I didn’t write any scripts, and just concentrated on making “Dogma”.
By the end of production (two more months), I still hadn’t written anything. Phil, my agent, called me while I was on set doing the third act church-front finale and says “Universal and Grazer wanna know where the ‘Fletch’ script is and when it’s coming?” I told him I hadn’t written anything yet. He asked if I was gonna start after we wrapped “Dogma” and I told him I was immediately going into edit mode after “Dogma” wrapped. Phil suggested, rather than let this go on any further and anger Universal to the point of never being able to work there in the future, I let “Fletch” go for the time being, because I wasn’t gonna get to it for at least a year. I thought it over, and then agreed. Phil then told Universal and Grazer that “Son of Fletch” was a no-go for now.
It’d been almost a year since my initial meeting with Universal. During that time, I hadn’t spoken to Chevy again – certainly not because I was “Hollywood”; more because I was in the midst of making a very un-”Hollywood” movie.
Alan Greisman was a producer on the first two “Fletch” flicks. He was gonna be taking third chair on “Son of Fletch” behind Grazer and Mosier. I guess Alan was called about the no-go after Grazer.
However, it wasn’t two years since my Chevy meeting. It hadn’t yet been a year, really.
Look, I’m sorry the flick didn’t happen. However, I wasn’t lying to the guy. I did want to make that flick. But I was dedicated to “Dogma”, and I had to make a choice. I chose “Dogma.” I didn’t “rudely deceive” the inventor of all things comedic since the start of time; I wanted to make a movie and it didn’t pan out. That meeting certainly didn’t prevent him from taking other jobs if they were available. It’s not like I said to the man “Do absolutely nothing until this flick happens! NOTHING!”
I mean, shit – at least my heart was in the right place. I was pulling for the guy when both Universal and Imagine were like “That guy? Are you sure?”
Because of all the many hours of entertainment Chevy Chase has given me over the years, I’ll give it a shot and “shove it up” my “hole.” Hold on.
Nope. Didn’t fit.
Here was the kharma in question: back in 2000, I got a fax on my desk from a David List – the book agent for Gregory McDonald. He was letting me know that the entire “Fletch” library (with the exception of the two that feature Flynn) was up for grabs, as Universal let the option lapse. I called him and we spoke about it for ten minutes, after which I called Harvey and filled him in on the details. He asked me if I wanted to make a “Fletch” film from one of the books in the library. I told him I’d love to make “Fletch Won” – the origin story, and the best book in the bunch. Harvey was like “So Chevy wouldn’t have to play Fletch?” I said no, the role would require a younger Fletch – like Jason Lee. He said “We’ll get into it with List now.” Less than five hours later, the deal was struck. While I was sitting in on a test screening of “Bounce”, Harvey leaned forward and whispered “Congrats. We’re in the Fletch business.” It was the fastest deal made in Miramax history, according to Harvey and the Miramax legal team.
Six years later, that “Fletch” film has never come to pass, either. I spent all that time trying to convince Harvey and David List that Jason Lee was the young Irwin Fletcher. I adapted the book into first a 170 page draft (which “Fletch” author Gregory McDonald had called the best adaptation of his work he’d ever seen), and subsequently, a more manageable 125 page draft, pulling for Lee all the way, and constantly being shot down. During that time, I’ve worked on the “Clerks” cartoon and wrote and shot “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”, “Jersey Girl” and “Clerks II”… and still, I was told “Lee’s not big enough to play the lead.”
Then, when “My Name is Earl” made Jason Lee a household name, I went back for one last shot at getting a Lee-led “Fletch Won” made… at which point, I was told “He’s too old now.”
So, Chevy? If I there was any karmic debt to be paid, I guess I’ve paid it – because I never got to make a “Fletch” flick at all, with or without you.
Like I’ve ever been “hot”…
But I owe that guy nothing. A few years after things went south on “Son of Fletch”, I read a story about the fifteen year anniversary of “Fletch” in the NY Post. Chevy’s all over the story, naturally, and he took the same “Hollywood” pot-shots at me. At that point, I kinda lost all interest in Chevy Chase.
Well, apparently, not anymore. If Harvey has his way, Fletch is Zach Braff.
But I’ll never have as much enmity in my heart for Chevy Chase as he seemingly has for me. Aside from “Foul Play”, “Seems Like Old Times”, “Caddyshack”, the first “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, and “Fletch”, Chevy was in one of the most influential four minutes of media of my teenage years: the music video for Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.”
I was still in high school when that video was in heavy rotation, and man, did I take a verbal beating by folks for liking that song (or any Paul Simon, for that matter). Then, I’d show folks the video for “You Can Call Me Al”…
And I’d still take a verbal beating. Didn’t matter, though – I thought that clip was pure genius (so much so that I cribbed the idea for the Soul Asylum “Can’t Even Tell” video I directed for “Clerks” years later).
Here’s how nuts I was for that video: I tried desperately to buy an off-white suit jacket for months. And I recall, one specific shopping trip with my parents to a Mervyn’s in Shrewsbury, when my Mom was looking for dress pants for me. I always hated clothes shopping with a passion – when you’re a fat kid, it’s never as simple as going to the Gap and grabbing a pair of cords or something. So while wandering the aisles, dreading having to try on multiple pairs of slacks, I stumbled across an off-white suit jacket. Excitedly, I tried it on, and while it was a little snug, I didn’t care – I was gonna convince my Mom to buy it.
So I track her and my Dad down, and insist this jacket must be bought. My Mom’s like “A white suit jacket? That goes with nothing. And you can’t wear it after labor day.” To which I countered “I’d wear this all the time, I promise.” Then, she looked at the price tag.
I think the jacket in question was between $50 and $75 – a pretty sizeable amount of loot to our one-income, $30,000 a year family. My Mother’s eyes bugged and she said “Did you see how much this cost?! You can get a whole suit for that!” Certainly, one could, indeed, get a polyester suit at K-Mart for $75 in those days (maybe still; I don’t know – I don’t buy suits), but I didn’t want a whole suit; I just wanted this jacket. And sensing I was losing ground in the fight for the off-white jacket, I pleaded “If you buy it, I’ll pay you back for it, with my bussing tips this month! Please?!?” My Mom was starting to get suspicious, and hit me with “Why do you want this so badly anyway?”
That’s when my Old Man stepped in.
My Father was a man of few words. He never really spoke unless he had some sort of coup de grace to deliver – either comedically or as a conversation closer. My Sister, in recent years, has suggested that, in many ways, Dad was my model for Silent Bob – a theory I disagree with, but can still see the relevancy of the correlation between. Regardless, point being, when Pop spoke, folks tended to listen.
“He just wants it because it’s like the one Chevy Chase wears in that music video.”
My Mom shot me that look which instantly communicated that any chance I had of convincing her to purchase the off-white jacket for me had just flown out the window.
“Oh, no way,” she said, hanging the jacket on a nearby rack. “You’re not Chevy Chase.”
At the time, I was devastated. As I drove home with a new pair of Navy Blue poly-weave slacks in my near-future, I was pretty resentful of Dad for tipping my hand, and Mom for the utter insult of saying I wasn’t Chevy Chase. I mean, who didn’t want to be Chevy Chase?
Years later, after having met and dealt with the man, my Mother’s sentiment was about as unintentionally complimentary a thing as anyone’s ever said to me.
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