Mailer’s Movie

The New Yorker has a story this week about nabe legend Norman Mailer and his brush with the movie business:

070521_talksngrillu_p233.jpgThe New Yorker: Tough Guy: Late on a recent Saturday afternoon, Norman Mailer, equipped with two canes, willed his eighty-four-year-old hips and knees up three flights of stairs in his Brooklyn Heights brownstone. He’d just flown down from Provincetown, and within the hour about fifty people were due for a cocktail party. A tactical error, Mailer realized. He should have travelled a day earlier. Given more time, he said, “I could have studied a list of names of everyone who’s coming,” but he was too immersed in the research for his next novel.

In Provincetown, in the fall of 1986, Mailer directed a film adaptation of his novel “Tough Guys Don’t Dance.” When it was released, the reviews tended not to flatter. (The Washington Post: “hysterical, incoherent and blasphemously original. . . . You never know if you’re laughing with, or at, the movie.”) No matter—the virtually unanimous opinion of the “Tough Guys” cast and crew was that working on the picture had been a great adventure, and they adored the director. There had been serious complications with a couple of labor unions (including Teamsters of the gun-toting variety), memorable night shoots (of the freezing-asses-off variety), the usual on-location romances and hotel-room trashings, and an amusing vagueness about whether the end product would be a noirish mystery or perhaps an inadvertently surreal comedy. (“Tarantino before its time,” according to the film’s producer, Tom Luddy. “Long, florid dialogue punctuated by grotesque violence followed by more long, florid dialogue and then more grotesque violence.”) After the filming ended, it was agreed that, at some future date, a reunion should take place. This happened in 1991, in Los Angeles. Last year, Luddy and Caroline Baron, who had been a production coördinator in 1986, started tracking down “Tough Guys” alumni for a twentieth-anniversary get-together.

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  • Bklyn Native

    Back in the early ’90’s I observed Norm reading the front page of the NYT from a coin-op newspaper dispenser on Montague Street. Perhaps he didn’t have change to purchase the paper, but he also happend to be blatently and somewhat obliviously scratching his posterior. Amusing.