Friday, February 14, 2014

"Johnny Walker" & Jim DeFelice's "Code Name: Johnny Walker"

"Johnny Walker" and Jim DeFelice are the authors of Code Name: Johnny Walker: The Extraordinary Story of the Iraqi Who Risked Everything to Fight with the U.S. Navy SEALs.

Here DeFelice shares a tale about casting an adaptation of the new book:
There was a time when I thought getting a book optioned for a movie was an event to be unanimously cheered, hoped for, and dreamed of. It was like winning the lottery, or finding a hundred dollar bill on the way into the bar: something without a downside, a thing every writer should fervently hope for.

Oh, what a naïve waif was I.

Having been through the various ups and downs, disasters and near misses that define a writer’s relationship with the vampire-zombie dream-killing complex that calls itself Hollywood, you’d think I’d be a little more hip to reality by now. But if hope springs eternal, then naiveté is the weed that grows right alongside it.

There are pitfalls to everything, especially for a writer. The ones you don’t fall into find a way to morph into trolls with teeth that will bite you when least expect it.

Take, for instance, my recent book, Code Name Johnny Walker (mandatory plug: it’s published by William Morrow and comes out this week).

My co-author and the book’s subject, Johnny Walker, and I were at a “session” with a marketing type, the movie producer who claims he has a piece of our project, and what is known in polite circles as representatives of the media. Right off, you realize the problem, I’m sure – that is a mix of individuals that should never be allowed to meet in the same city, let alone the same place. I can assure you that I, if not Johnny, would have greatly preferred to have stayed in the bar down the street. But I digress.

At some point, a media type tossed what to all the world seemed like a softball question: Who do you see playing the part of Johnny in the movie?

The producer demurred; there are many names in the pot. Johnny, who is an Iraqi, did likewise, claiming that he knew absolutely nothing about American movie stars.

Which of course left me.

I glanced at the marketing person, who was grinning broadly, as marketing people are wont to do when you’re about to get headlines by making a fool of yourself. I knew what that grin meant: Go for it!

As I started to open my mouth, I saw that the producer was having something akin to an epileptic fit. Not taking the hint, I continued. “Well I think that –”

“Arg!” yelled the producer, jumping from his seat and promptly falling on the floor.

“Medical emergency!” yelled his assistant. “Call 9-1-1!”

She leapt to her feet and ran to call 9-1-1. Her suitably short dress and plunging neckline – mandatory requirements for a Hollywood assistant – got more attention than her boss, who was writhing on the floor. Confusion ensued.

The press “opportunity” was, naturally over. The media types left, and we huddled around the producer, wondering whether to administer CPR or simply drive a stake through his heart.

“Gone,” said the assistant when the media had disappeared.

The producer’s color returned. He rose from the floor and dusted himself off.

“Are you O-OK?” I stuttered. “What happened?”

“Never, ever, answer that question with actual names,” he told me, in a tone that implied that I had nearly admitted to having axe-murdered my wife.

“But [redacted] would be great in the movie,” I answered. “And he’s close to signing. And if not him, [redacted]. Or even [redacted].”

“And what do we do if they pass?” asked the producer, shaking his head. “Every other actor in the world will think they’re our second choice.”

“But –”

“Worse – what if they hear what you said and realize they have the upper hand? Do you think we’d ever get a suitable deal?”

There were some other words sprinkled in there, very short words of the Anglo-Saxon variety. In fact, there were so many of them that you might even say that together they amounted to a harangue. I must say they flowed very poetically, even if they were less than complimentary. Finally, the assistant put an end to the tirade.

“Boss, why are you getting worked up?” she asked. “He’s only the author. No one’s going to pay attention to anything he says. Ever.”

An apology followed. I think it was sincere, because it included an offer to pay for dinner. I’m sure it was just an innocent coincidence that both he and his assistant turned out to have left their wallets back at the hotel that day...
Learn more about the book and author at Jim DeFelice's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue