INT. ROOM - DAY
A luxury room with Classic Greek decoration. Two MEN in ancient Greek clothes sit opposite each other. The younger man waves a parchment.
I love your script, Sophocles. It has all the elements. Sex, violence, philosophy, laughs…
It doesn’t have laughs. It’s a tragedy.
Right, right. But just because it’s a tragedy doesn’t mean it has to be depressing, huh? Anyway, I have just one question. And I’m thinking aloud here…. Does he have to tear off his own eyes?
Of course he does! That’s how the story goes! Everybody knows that!
Exactly: they expect it. That’s why we have to go in another direction and surprise them.
Surprise them? How?
So glad you asked. One word: pirates. We’ll reach two more quadrants if we throw in a few pirates.
Pirates?!!! There are no pirates in the story!
How do you know? Were you there? Why couldn’t he, feeling guilty and disgusted, decide that the only way out for him was a life of piracy?
That’s ridiculous! I’ve never been more insulted in my life!
Sophocles rises to leave.
All right, all right. You’re the writer. We want to respect your vision. Please sit down. You’d like some water?
The executive presses a button. A small cabinet underneath the desk opens and a little BOY with a slave collar around his neck darts off the room.
Reluctantly, Sophocles sits down again. The executive caresses the parchment on the desk.
What else can I say? Your script is perfect. Not a single comma out of place.
Sophocles seems to relax. The young executive flashes a smile.
Just one tiiiny little note: Does she have to be his mother?
Sophocles stares at the young man. He blinks and drops to the floor.
The slave boy returns with a small amphora full of water. He stops besides Sophocles’ body, puzzled. He pours the water on the man’s face, but it’s useless. The old man is dead.
The executive sighs.
Go find Aristophanes. Ask him if he’s available for rewrites…
I wrote this sketch a few years back for Shaula Evans‘ sadly missed Black Board.
All images here are in public domain or under a Creative Commons licence.
The gentleman sharing the top of the post with Sophocles is Irving Thalberg, the young producer who ran Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for a few years back in the 1930s. During his tenure he influenced the movie business almost as much as Steve Jobs influenced the computer/smartphone business. Thalberg enjoys an aura of infallibility, a reputation for having Midas touch in all the projects he supervised. In recent years this portrait has been qualified by some authors, who suggest a heavy case of mythmaking surrounds Thalberg, similar to other cases of celebrities who departed this world too soon, like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe. In a few words, he simply didn’t have enough time to experience failure.
Thalberg raised the average quality level of the MGM productions, but the price was a standardization which smothered originality and the uniqueness of certain creative types. Case in point: the Marx Brothers. Thalberg tamed the anarchic tendencies of the trio and provided the films they made for the company with coherent storylines and love subplots with pretty girls and handsome boys. The commercial success of those films was way superior to everything the Marx Brothers had made to that date. Even Groucho considered those films the best he’d ever made.
I have my doubts. And I guess so does everyone who prefers Duck Soup to A Night at the Opera.