LEE MARVIN BIOPIC: BACKGROUND & POSSIBILITIES

A Lee Marvin biopic would seem like a natural following the surprise success (except to me, of course) of the publication of Lee Marvin Point Blank in 2013.  Why? Well, one would just naturally assume that any non-fiction title that made the NY Times, Publisher’s Weekly and Wall Street Journal’s best seller list in the top five would have studios and executive producers just scrambling for the rights. Sadly, that has not been the case (yet) but it can be rectified with a little background info.
I have written about the possibility previously on this blog, as readers may have noticed. I’ve brought up the subject based on lead actors, young and old, possible directors, even casting ideas for supporting characters.

Schaffner Press decided to include the sunburst image and green banner highlight for Lee Marvin Point Blank’s paperback release in 2014.

Why have I written about it? A couple of reasons. First and foremost, the market for biopics has gained enormous interest lately, as detailed earlier this year in Market Watch.
Secondly, I would be less than an honest if I said the idea of a Lee Marvin biopic based on my book had not crossed my mind while I was working on it. It took me nearly 20 years to get a publisher interested in my book and the idea of a biopic existed even then.
My agent, Mike Hamilburg and I were constantly being told that the proposal is well-written but that there wasn’t a market for a Lee Marvin bio. Then Tim Schaffner of Schaffner Press agreed to publish it on almost a whim in 2013. It won several awards when it came out and, as previously mentioned, in June of 2014, the e-book made the NY Times bestseller list at #4. Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, too! So much for there not being any interest in the project.
Okay, all that said, it was my agent, Mike, Hamilburg, who first suggested I write a film treatment based on the book.

I did just that, submitted it to him and was told that he would then shop it around as he thought it was one of the best he had ever come across. This, coming from the guy who helped put together the film American Hustle (!) Unfortunately, Mike fell into a coma around the holidays and died New Year’s Day, 2016. The project has been in free fall ever since, with no agent and no way to contact anyone to pitch it to for a possible option, which is a VERY frustrating situation.

One of the rare times Lee Marvin himself played a real-life character on film was RCMP’s Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.

Lee Marvin as Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.

I feel without a doubt Marvin’s PTSD and how he dealt with it is a major selling point. The time period it encompasses is also a popular aspect. I like to think of it as sort of The Hurt Locker meets “Mad Men.”
A good example of success in this area is FX Channel’s show about Bette Davis & Joan Crawford called “Feud” which was extremely popular and dealt with the same time period as the bulk of my Marvin bio. It too, was based on a popular book (by Shaun Considine that came out in 1989). I hope I won’t have to wait that long for an option but you get the point I’m making:
There is an audience for a great biopic just waiting to be seen and I own the copyright and the registration with the Writer’s Guild.
So, with that in mind, I unabashedly state that if anybody reading this has possible industry connections and likes the idea of a Lee Marvin biopic, do not hesitate to contact me here and we can definitely work out a deal. Seriously. Let me know and we can get the ball rolling. Until then, here’s hoping some clear thinking investor/producer/entrepreneur reads this and does indeed make contact. Fingers crossed.

Title page with logline, tagline, copyright & WGA registration for the film treatment FROM HELL TO HOLLYWOOD based on LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK.

-Dwayne Epstein

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‘FEUD’S ROBERT ALDRICH, JOAN CRAWFORD & LEE MARVIN

From the NY Times, March 12, 2016: After a tough day shooting “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” director Robert Aldrich complains to his wife (Molly Price) that his two stars — Bette Davis and Joan Crawford — have ganged up on him, undermining his power on the set. He seethes that Jack Palance and Lee Marvin would never have resorted to such maneuvers. His wife replies flatly: “They don’t have to. They’re men.”

The original cast of “Feud” (L-R): Bette Davis, Jack Warner, Joan Crawford and Robert Aldrich.

That line is one of the points of this week’s episode of “Feud: Bette and Joan.” The show so far is at its best when it examines the different ways in which power operates, and the different ways in which power is perceived. As Aldrich’s wife observes, when men fight for something (or fight with one another), it’s perceived as business as usual. When women fight, they’re perceived as being difficult, petty, or “catty.”

I’ve been fascinated with this original cable series and the Lee Marvin reference in the second episode got me to thinking. In Lee Marvin Point Blank readers are fully aware of the connection between Lee Marvin and Robert Aldrich. He directed Lee in 3 different decades and the films Attack! (1956), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Emperor of the North (1973) are fully explored. However, there’s one anecdote from Attack! costar Eddie Albert that shows a side of Robert Aldrich not yet mentioned on the series that so far has portrayed him as rather dominated and put-upon. From my interview with the late, great Eddie Albert:

Director Robert Aldrich’s ATTACK! co-stars Lee Marvin and the ‘late’ William Smithers.

“I remember one thing about him. We were just starting Attack! We had rehearsed for a week. I think it was a Monday and we were all there. But the kid from New York, I’ve forgotten his name…he was a leading part. He played the main solider. …William Smithers! Anyway, he was about 15-20 minutes late and Aldrich didn’t say anything. Tuesday came and he was 20 minutes late again. Aldrich said, ‘I want to have a conference.’ He said, ‘Now, this is very difficult. We have problems. We have all got to work together…’ He went on very beautifully and then stopped, pointed to the actor and yelled, ‘Now you cocksuckers that come in late, I am going to kick the shit right out of you!’ I never heard him explode like that. The kid was never late again. ‘I’ll run your ass right out of this town…!’

To my knowledge, Marvin never encountered Jack Warner but he did almost work with Bette Davis on a film called Bunny O’ Hare (1971that was made instead with his frequent costar, Ernest Borgnine.
However, he did have a memorable run-in with Joan Crawford. According to Lee’s first wife, Betty Marvin, who had worked for Crawford as her nanny (the Mommie Dearest stories are true, by the way), the run-in took place at the premiere of Lee’s film, Raintree County (1957). In Betty’s own words:

“At the the premiere Lee and I were lined up. Big joke in those days. So there we were, and who’s behind us? Joan Crawford. She, in her wonderfull style, looks right through me… Because Lee was like the next big star on the horizon and on, and on..The next day, comes this script. I thought, “Oh isn’t this interesting.” She wants him to co-star in her next film and would he please read the script and set up an appointment at MCA. I said to myself, ‘Here we go.’ She calls. Talks right through me. ‘Is Lee there? Why don’t you come over. We’ll go over the script in my office and read it together.’ He said, ‘Okay.’ He left about one o’clock. You know, I was a young wife. It made me very uncomfortable.

Newlyweds Betty and Lee Marvin around the time Lee was offered a ‘role’ opposite Betty’s former employer, Joan Crawford.

What’s going on here? The whole afternoon, it was difficult for me. When he came back, he was laughing. I said, ‘How did he go? Are you going to co-star with Joan Crawford?’ He said, ‘Oh, hardly.’ I asked if he read the script. He was a very slow reader, as I told you. He had went into a room with the script and she was waiting. After about two hours, she said, ‘Well?’ He said, ‘Listen, it takes a long time to get through this crap.’ Once again, you know? He was like, ‘Give me a break.’ Oh she was livid! That was Lee’s lovely way. And I’m not saying out of respect for me. He didn’t like her crappy script because she was doing a lot of garbage.”

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