Success in Hollywood is a risky — and insecure — business.
As a Minnesota transplant growing up in L.A., I never wanted to be anything but an actor. As a kid, I remember watching “Hollywood Palace” with a friend, and during a production number, he told me that his dream was to be one of those dancers. “Why?” I asked. “Just think of how close you get to the stars!” he replied.
“Why not just be one of the stars?” I said. And I’ve had that same attitude ever since.
Following my dream, I entered the UCLA Theatre Arts program as an actor — and came out a playwright. The playwriting class, taught by the brilliant Gary Gardner, changed my life. Five of my one-acts were produced during my undergraduate years, plus two at a small theatre in Hollywood — and the course of my life was set.
But once you realize that you’re a playwright, the rest of your life is the search for the ultimate day job. Still enamored of the film biz, I decided that my day job should be in the movie business. Bad idea.
After three years of reading film and TV scripts and writing cast breakdowns that went out to agents so they could submit their clients for roles, I became aware of the Hollywood pyramid. The largest group is actors, desperately vying for the attention of agents and casting directors.
As the assistant to an agent in the film department of the William Morris Agency, I realized that agents are desperately vying for the attention of casting directors, directors and producers. While these big-time agents represented the biggest stars in the world, they were driven by the fear of losing their big-name clients — and were every bit as desperate as the actors who languished below them in the pyramid.
Moving up the pyramid, I took a job as assistant to a heavyweight film producer. I figured that the more powerful and famous the producer was, the more secure he’d be, right? Wrong. From day one I realized that this big shot was just as desperate to please the current studio chiefs as the lowly actors who toiled at the base of the pyramid.
I fled L.A. for San Francisco, where I’ve been writing plays, and living a real life, ever since. When I first saw “The Devil Wears Prada,” I turned to my kids and said, “I had that job!” I was Anne Hathaway to the last detail.
Hollywood has portrayed itself in many films, but no film has nailed the real Hollywood, with its desperation, insecurities, and with more accuracy, than Robert Altman’s 1992 film “The Player.”
If you want to know what the real Hollywood is like — rent it, Netflix it, see it. I lived it.