A once successful film director suffers flop sweat as he starts shooting a high-profile reboot. 2,173 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.
News of the retrieval of Sidney Ames out of the A-list directors’ dumpster to direct Zenith Studio’s reboot of Casablanca was greeted with puzzled expressions, tongue-clucking sighs and god-what-are-they-thinking gasps in the creative community. Even though these same people were long enured to the inanities of the movie business.
Sidney was 57, hadn’t directed a major film in 30 years and had last helmed a series of ten consecutive mega-hits that ignited audiences like Chinese firecrackers through the eighties. But his last film was a nuclear bomb, an epic $100 million biopic of Jesse Livermore, the American investor famous for short selling during the stock market crash of 1929 and committing suicide not long after. It detonated on 3,000 screens and posted a twenty million dollar loss on the studio’s books that year. Ever since, Sid shed fifty pounds and two wives, spent a half million keeping a drug-dealing son out of the can, and found plenty of time to markedly improve his tennis backhand. Everyone figured his career was done, fade to black, the answer to where-are-they-now questions on movie nostalgia websites. He was rarely seen in public, ate mostly at home, watched his granddaughter’s swimming lessons in his vintage manor pool overlooking the Pacific and squired under-age-thirty five ladies on ski trips to Lake Tahoe.
Fortune does indeed follow the brave, but it also follows the lucky. And in one aspect of his crazy quilt life, Sidney had proven gifted in the genetic lottery. He’d been born with the right brother. In his case, Hal Ames, a Harvard MBA investor with an impeccable stock market track record. Thanks to Hal slapping Sid’s wrists over money issues, Sid became a multi-millionaire and stayed one. Thus he was recused from the humiliating process of having to sit through endless meetings with development people while proposing film projects he knew would evoke little more than suppressed yawns or head-shaking titters after he’d left the room.
But not his Casablanca obsession. It was Sid’s pet project for decades: a reboot of the 1942 masterpiece. So he erupted into a euphoric scream on December 26th last year when Jack Terranova texted: “Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah. The Casablanca project is go. Meet me tomorrow morning at eight.