By Billy Gil | Posted: 28 Nov 2008
William H. Macy is a rare bird. As one of the most likable — and hardest working — actors, everyone knows his name and can name at least one Macy film, even as he’s nowhere to be found in newsstand tabloids. But his talents stretch farther than playing downtrodden schleps in films such as Fargo, Magnolia and The Cooler.
“I wish they were all $100 million budgeted films, but it’s been my cross to bear that a lot of the scripts I respond to have been these independent films, a lot of times with first time directors. … But every once in a while I get to do one of the big ones, and boy do I love it,” Macy said, citing Jurassic Park 3 and Wild Hogs as particularly fun films to make.
Macy’s film acting credits stretch past the 100 mark, and he has produced and written several TV films, with his feature film directorial debut on the way (Keep Coming Back, due in 2010). His latest offering falls squarely in the indie category, as co-screenwriter and star of the direct-to-video feature The Deal, a Hollywood spoof coming to DVD Jan. 20, 2009 (prebook Dec. 16), from Peace Arch Entertainment.
The Deal originates from a novel by Peter Lefcourt. Longtime associates all around, Macy and director and co-screenwriter Steven Schachter thought Lefcourt’s novel would work well as a romantic comedy.
So Lefcourt’s The Deal: A Novel of Hollywood became The Deal, a film starring Macy as Charlie Berns, a suicidal, washed-up movie producer whose nephew, played by Jason Ritter (son of John Ritter), comes to him with a script about Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Seeing an opportunity arise when reading about Bobby Mason (LL Cool J), an action star who recently converted to Judaism, Berns seeks to take his nephew’s thoughtful indie and make it into a dumb, gory smash — all for his own amusement.
“I think it’s based on a lot of producers,” Macy explained. “But I didn’t copy one in particular. There are moments in the screenplay that have happened to us (Macy and Schachter).”
Enter Deidre Hearn, a beautiful studio exec played by Meg Ryan basically tasked to hound Berns, which he in turn doesn’t mind.
“In the novel, they don’t get together,” Macy explained of the love story between the two leads. “One of the first things we said is, ‘this is dying to be a ’30s-style romantic comedy.’
“She’s so good looking and smart and carries herself with such dignity,” Macy said of Ryan. “She’s the real deal, a rootin’ tootin’ movie star. … She did some rewrites, and she’s smart as a whip.”
“She helped us craft the romance part, especially,” Schacter explained.
The twists that ensue are sure to please anyone who voraciously reads Daily Variety or enjoys seeing Hollywood get a playful skewering, as well as fans of old school romantic romps.
“At its core there’s a bigger question, which I found to be delicious,” Macy said. “Here’s a guy who’s got nothing to lose, and he has this great power. And he meets this woman, Deidre, and she’s attracted to his power, his audacity. … The second he falls in love, fear comes back into his life, because he indeed has something to lose.”
Near the end of the film, when the film has gone from Bill and Ben to Ben Disraeli: Freedom Fighter and back again, Ryan has this appraisal of the fictional film: “May not be a total piece of crap. Worst case, straight-to-video.”
“I think that’s going to be the avenue of the future,” Schachter said of direct-to-video. “The tentpole movies will go to the multiplex, but for smaller movies, it’s not cost-effective.
“We have absolutely embraced the DVD market. The relationship between the DVD markets and people who make films is pretty much in its nascent stage, but it’s going to grow. There are disconnects all over the place, but I think that will change in a year or two. … I also think that as the home screens and sound systems are getting better, people are just as happy to sit down [with a DVD].”
“It certainly is [that way] for me,” Macy added. “It takes dynamite for me and my wife (Felicity Huffman) to get out of the house.”
The Deal DVD ($29.99) includes a making-of featurette with interviews with Macy, Ryan, LL Cool J and more; and a digital copy. The film is also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.99).
Additionally, Macy created a video diary of the film for Cadillac, a sponsor of the film, that they sent to South Africa, where the film was made. Several cars were made to drive on the left-hand-side of the road. Clips can be seen at mycadillacstory.com.