Kings of the Hill

28 Jun

“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”

Clint Eastwood, talking about the movie business

There’s a lot of tension in the air. Tom and Michael are both sweating, wondering how Uzumbe Boys’ financing will shake out, now that the contracts are signed. I’ve been using this time to rewrite African and research Drum. Maybe I fall under the rubric “too clueless to be scared.” Then again, that could be the story of my life.

Michael and Tom met with the key players last week. Gene Burton told Henry Lassiter of Ground Zero that he wants in on Uzumbe Boys.

Henry said, “That’s easy. Write a check.”

Burton said, “That’s not the way I work. You put up three million, and I get the South African government to come in with another three for a 49 percent share in the film.”

Burton is presently prepping a $100 million Will Smith film in South Africa. Part of his tax deal is to bring other projects to South Africa. The timing for Umzumbe Boys couldn’t be better, even though Burton says, “The budget for Umzumbe Boys is what we pay for salad on Will’s film.”

After that meeting, Michael and Tom met with John Weller, president of Ground Zero, a supposed billionaire heir to a logging fortune. To Weller’s credit he took his inheritance and doubled it with savvy investments. Weller may worry that Burton will eclipse him if he comes on board. Also, Weller might want to make his own deal withSouth Africa, create his own clout.

Weller gave Michael and Tom Ground Zero ball caps, served pretzels and drinks in his swankySanta Monicahotel suite. Michael said it was like hanging out with Howard Hughes.

By Michael’s accounts, Burton seems like the guy to know. He advised us to get a South African director – that it would go a long way to squelching resentment about three white boys bringing a South African story to the world.

Michael cracked Burton up when he told him, “I want to have a relationship with you–but not the kind where I take you to a motel room and fuck you.” Once Burton stopped laughing, Michael said, “But I would like to run my fingers through your salt-and-pepper hair.”



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