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This New Yorker has Montana Values, But Sometimes He Wished He Didn’t

Montana values are 99% my values. I just found that out after talking to people all week. Every Montana value is the same as mine…and get this: I was born in New York City, lived in California, Las Vegas, Denver and on and on. Good values are just that – my handshake is my bond.

The Montana value – my handshake is my bond – is something my Italian father taught me. But some values are hard.

In California, I was directing a film. When I gave my word to a young unknown actor that he was getting the role in my movie, his agent was happy. I was happy. He would be great in the film.

What? Someone’s on the phone? The agent of a “name.” A “name” is an actor who is famous enough to add value to the movie. The actor liked the script and wanted to do it. The other producers came into my office. This was great news. A small-budget film like ours and having a “name” would mean more sales and money.

Here is something people don’t know about actors: at least some actors who’ve done TV, soaps, movies, all have a number. The number isn’t for the United States, but it is for international markets. Most actors don’t even know this list really exists. Not all producers have the list, but we did. Actor X who starred on a soap will mean an automatic sale to some countries. So if you know before making the film you will already have a sale to say Mexico or Israel, that is great. The more famous the name, the higher the number.

Okay, I am going to tell about another film I directed and produced. It was called Hard Rock Nightmare It was a movie about a bunch of young teenagers who get attacked by a werewolf. Oh and when I say “teenagers,” while the script says 16- and 17-year-olds, we only hire over 18 because it’s cheaper. I had a 28-year-old guy playing a 17-year-old kid.

If you use a real 17-year-old, you need a teacher on the set, a welfare worker, and they can only work a few hours and have to go to school. They need to rest. It’s hard with overtime.

With a 28-year-old playing a kid, you can work them 20 hours a day.

So, we are going to do Hard Rock Nightmare. I get a call an agent, an old-time actor named Troy Donahue can do the film. The last thing he did was in was The Godfather Part II with a small part.  He was a star in the 50s. My mother knew who he was. He did a movie called A Summer Place. Girls would scream for him. He was in the teen magazines.

Now he was maybe 64, and he was right for the role as the evil uncle. No one remembered him in America, but the list said we would have sales in Asia and the Philippians. We hire him. A week before we start shooting a little story about our film is in The Hollywood Reporter. Hard Rock Nightmare with Troy Donahue and directed by, etc. will be shooting next week.

Sitting in the office, we get a call. It is a film distributor in the Philippians. He asked: have we sold the rights to his country yet? No, we haven’t even had all the sets built. He said he wanted to make a deal and buy the rights before we even made the film. Wow, it was a good investment hiring this actor.

Why is he famous in the Philippians? Why could his name sell seats in that country?

When the country first got television, the station didn’t have a lot of programming. They had maybe 30 films they could show. Well, A Summer Place with 20-year-old romantic lead Troy Donahue was shown almost once a day. Now, everybody there wanted anything with Troy Donahue.

“They ladies love him here!”  So an actor we don’t consider a star could be big in other places.

So, you see, having a “name” is money.

Back to my Montana values. I am sitting in the office. The other producers are happy a “name” wants to be in the film. BUT remember, I gave my word to this unknown actor. It was my Montana handshake. My values told me I had to pass on the “name” actor. The other producers, who didn’t have Montana values, starred screaming: “You’re a schmuck!”

Call the agent. That unknown actor is going to cost us money.

“You didn’t sign anything. Don’t be a fool, Dominick.”

The yelling went on for about 30 minutes. Luckily it was my script, and I was the director.

My Montana values won…or my New York, or Denver or Las Vegas values. The actor got the job. He starred in the film.

Now a great ending would be something like that unknown actor turned out to be Leo DiCaprio. No, it wasn’t. That only happens in the Hollywood movies. The actor was okay. He turned out to be a real jerk. I almost had Screen Actors Guild problems because of his complaining. The film did little business.

I now understand.

I have Montana values, but I am also a schmuck.

Dominick

‘Titanic’ (1997)
20th Century Fox/Paramount

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