Aaron Sorkin, the talented writer of multiple mediums, was the recent subject of an ongoing project dedicated to creative inspirations. The entertainment news website Deadline Hollywood started an interesting series of video interviews entitled “The Film That Lit My Fuse,” with such previous subjects as Russell Crowe, Edward James Olmos and Oliver Stone. I like the concept as well as many of the responses I’ve seen. However, the recent one with Aaron Sorkin bears special mention here.
Why the special mention? Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are aware of several of the bibliographies I constructed in the back of the book and one of the ones that I was most proud of was “Films Lee Marvin Could Have Made” in which I speculate on roles he would have played had he lived. Since Aaron Sorkin had his breakout success with the stage and film version of A Few Good Men (1992), I could not help but speculate what Marvin would have been like in the role of Marine Col. Nathan R. Jessup.

Lee Marvin n THE DIRTY DOZEN, or how he might have looked in A FEW GOOD MEN.

Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessup in director Rob Reiner’s film version Aaron Sorkin’s AFEW GOOD MEN.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Nicholson was superb in the role. I just think it would have been interesting to see what Marvin would have done with it. When I saw it in the theater when it first came out, I remember thinking that I could easily hear Marvin bark that famous line: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
In the video, which I’ve linked below, Sorkin’s response to the questions and his anecdotal remembrances are fascinating. Like him, I enjoy a good courtroom drama and also consider the T.V. show “M*A*S*H” to be the best of the best. I also consider William Goldman one of the all-time greats and was pleasantly surprised to discover he was a coach and mentor to Sorkin.
One minor quibble, though. He’s incorrect when he says 12 Angry Men (1957) has only one set consisting of the jury room throughout the film. The film opens in the courtroom with the jury receiving their instructions from the judge and closes with an exterior shot of the courthouse with two jurors exchanging good byes. Minor quibble, I grant you but worth mentioning.
Oh, and speaking of courtroom dramas, Lee Marvin was no stranger to the genre, having taken the witness stand in The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Rack (1956) and as the title subject seen below……

Lee Marvin as Korean War era defendant Paul Ryker in SGT. RYKER.

  • Dwayne Epstein.


The Film That Lit My Fuse: ‘The Trial Of The Chicago 7’ Writer-Director Aaron Sorkin

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Jack Nicholson once came this close to directing Lee Marvin in a film Nicholson considered a dream project for years. The iconic film legend just turned 82 years old, supplying the perfect reason to blog about the project that almost was. I discovered this near-miss while researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, one of several frustratingly close projects the actor almost made that I put in a separate appendix in the back of the book.

Lee Marvin on location in Malta for SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, around the time Jack Nicholson wanted him for MOONTRAP.

Jack Nicholson, circa 1977, at the time, the hottest property in Hollywood.

The project was entitled Moontrap, based on a novel by Don Berry. It was part of the author’s “Oregon Trilogy,” and, according to Amazon:
“The year is 1850, a transitional period in the new Oregon Territory, with settlers and lawmakers working to subdue the untamed region. Johnson Monday, a former mountain man, has been living on a bend of the Willamette River near Oregon City for seven years with his Shoshone Indian wife, struggling to make a place in settled society. One day, Webster T. Webster, a raucous, unrepentant trapper, arrives for an unexpected visit. With his earthy humor and stubborn adherence to the simple life, “Webb” leads Monday through adventures that flirt dangerously close to lawlessness, while helping him to rediscover his moral center. Through defiance, triumph, and tragedy, Moontrap follows Johnson Monday as he realizes that relinquishing the stark honesty of mountain life for the compromises of civilization may be too high a price to pay.”

As hot a property as Nicholson was at the time, he was unable to get the financing he wanted to get the film made. A major sticking point was the fact that he only wanted to direct it, not star in it. Several investors were approached, almost agreed, and then walked when Nicholson declined to get in front of the camera. It’s a shame really, as it would have made a fascinating and worthy project had it come to pass. Not sure which role would’ve been played by Marvin, but the character’s situation of Johnson Monday sounds like the original plot to the stage play Paint Your Wagon. However, the description of Webster T. Webster sounds more like Lee Marvin’s screen persona.
We’ll never know now, of course. We can merely wish the great Nicholson a most happy birthday and recall the immortal words of John Greenleaf Whittier: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ “

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Films of 1982
The best films of 1982 on this blog? Well, long before I even thought of writing NY Times Bestseller, Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was lucky enough to land a freelance gig on a local paper (thanks to a grade school friend of mine) that allowed me to write film reviews on a regular basis. Amazingly, without any formal training or education, my reviews were popular enough to warrant an end of the year “Best Of” article, resulting in the piece you can read below.
It was a strange existence. My part-time job paying my bills was as a union housekeeper at Kaiser Hospital in Downey, Calif. So, and this is no exaggeration, I led a superhero’s existence for a few years. By day I was scrubbing toilets and by night I was attending film previews with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Timothy Hutton. Ya just can’t make this stuff up!
The reviews were popular enough to be syndicated through the company’s several local papers (the company was called SCCN: Southern Calif. Community Newspapers), which included my own city, of Cerritos. Unfortunately, it did not prove popular enough to sustain my employment when I new managing editor was hired requiring all employees to have a degree in journalism. I was sent back to scrubbing toilets…full-time.
What both amazes and amuses me as I reread what I wrote so many years ago, is how cock sure I was in my opinion, without anything to really back up said opinion. Ahh, youth. It might be worth noting that my pugnacious aside, what I wrote in reference to the films below I think still holds true. Oh, and if it matters, I did eventually get to see E.T. still wasn’t all that impressed….
-Dwayne Epstein

This young punk’s take on the Best Films of 1982 as published and syndicated in SCCN.

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