The Player II

   I was early for my meeting with a well-known movie executive (who I'll call Griffin Mill), so early that the two people scheduled ahead of me came in after I did. One looked familiar, but I couldn't remember his name. The other, dressed slickly and carrying an attaché case, was an agent, I assumed. They approached the receptionist, who had to tear herself away from a game of Tetris.
   "Your names?" she asked.
   "Richard Rosenberg," the agent type answered, "and Stacey Koon."
   "Ah, yes. Mr. Mill will see you in a moment. Please have a seat."
   Shortly after they sat down it hit me. Of course! Sergeant Stacey Koon! One of the cops who beat up Rodney King! I remembered reading how Koon had written a book, and how he was hoping to turn it into a movie. And now here he was, out of uniform, agent in tow, ready to make his "pitch" to Griffin Mill.
   "Mr. Rosenberg, Mr. Koon -- you can go in now." The receptionist escorted them into Mill's office, closed the door and went back to her desk. Oh, to be a fly on the wall, I thought. And then -- a miracle! The door swung back open -- just a crack, mind you -- but enough for me to (over)hear the following:
   "What's this?" Mill asked, as something was handed to him. "It's heavy," he joked. They laughed, nervously.
   "It's based on notes, anecdotes, and real-life experiences from my years on the force," Koon said, somewhat defensively. "It's all true."
   "He's not a professional writer, of course," the agent pointed out.
   There was a pause as Mill thumbed through the weighty tome. "And you see this as a movie?" he asked.
   "Yes. I think it can be an exciting action-adventure movie."
   "Like a 'Lethal Weapon 3'?"
   "I haven't seen that one."
   "I have," the agent chimed in. "Sure, sure. 'Lethal Weapon 3'. Sure."
   "Because the public loves action," Mill pointed out.
   "There's plenty of action," Koon came back. "Real police action. The kind of stuff the media never shows."
   "Good, good... " Mill was getting impatient. "Now, in a nutshell, what's the story, the plot, the hook? What's the point? What makes this different from, say, 'Die Hard', or 'Die Hard 2'? What makes me want to go see this movie, let alone rent it for the weekend?"
   I figured this barrage would sink Team Koon, but the Sergeant came prepared.
   "This is a real story about real cops," he began, "cops on the beat, cops facing danger all the time."
   "Take me through it -- briefly," Mill prodded.
   "Okay. We start out, it's late at night. Two CHP officers, a married couple, are on patrol in the San Fernando Valley... "
   "Married cops -- nice touch," Mill interjected.
   "It's the graveyard shift," Koon continued, "and not much is happening. Then, all of a sudden, two black guys in a Hyundai go by at about a hundred and ten miles an hour."
   "A hundred and ten? A Hyundai can go that fast?"
   "Well... " Koon stumbled.
   "That's all right -- it's a movie." Mill let him off the hook.
   "They begin a high-speed pursuit... "
   "Good, good... "
   "... and after a prolonged chase they finally stop the car, but the driver won't cooperate. They can't handcuff him. He's belligerent, defiant, crazy, berserk -- like he's on PCP or something."
   "Angel dust. Elephant tranquilizer."
   "You can drive on that stuff?"
   "It's just a movie, remember?" Touché, Sergeant Koon!
   "Sure, sure. Go on."
   "Other units are called in, but nobody can control this guy. They even tase him -- twice -- but he keeps on coming."
   "Tase him?"
   "They shoot him with a taser gun. Fifty thousand volts."
   "And the guy's still conscious?"
   "Well, you know these black guys. He keeps charging, attacking, threatening..."
   "And how many cops are we talking about here?"
   "Oh, maybe nine or ten."
   "Ten against one?"
   "Nobody can control him. He's like... Mandingo... a gorilla in the mist."
   "Both of those films did solid business," Mill mused.
   "Meanwhile," Koon continued, "a disgruntled, publicity-seeking bastard called George of the Jungle is videotaping the whole thing from across the street. He gives the tape to TV and they run it over and over again -- showing only the bad parts -- making it seem like the police were at fault, completely distorting the facts."
   "Wait a second," Mill interrupted. "Was this ever done as a TV movie?"
   "I don't think so."
   "Sorry -- go ahead."
   Koon cleared his throat, then resumed. "Because of the media coverage four of the officers are suspended from the force, indicted, and put on trial. The trial is televised, live, around the world..."
   "A big trial -- I like it." Mill sounded genuinely interested.
   "And then, after all the evidence is presented to a jury, we -- I mean they -- are acquitted."
   "Acquitted? Innocent?"
   "Of all but one minor charge."
   There's a long pause.
   "Well, what do you think?" the agent jumped in, breaking the silence.
   "I think I love it," Mill answered. "But we have to change the ending. A guilty verdict works much better, dramatically."
   "Guilty?" Koon shot back.
   "It builds sympathy," Mill explained. "Plus, we'll make it a murder charge. That way they can be sentenced to die in the gas chamber -- a last-minute reprieve saves their lives -- and everybody's happy! That's it!"
   Koon was fit to be tased, but Mill wasn't finished with his revisions.
   "And then there's the married couple. Here's what I think: We make the two black guys in the Hyundai the married couple."
   "The two black guys are married?" Koon asked.
   "No, no. We make the two people in the Hyundai a married couple, like Alec Baldwin and Julia Roberts. And we make the cops who beat them up -- black. That's it! We make the cops black!"
   "The cops... black?"
   "Excuse me, African-American." Mill hit the intercom, startling the receptionist, who was way over ten thousand points in Tetris. "Get me the name of Eddie Murphy's agent," he barked.
   I could see Koon's agent practically salivating. "Eddie Murphy?"
   "Yeah. You like him?"
   "But he's a comedian," Koon protested, "and this isn't a comedy." The agent, panicking, gestured to Koon as if to say, "Please -- don't argue!"
   "Now," Mill went on, "as for the director. If we can't get a Scorcese -- and I think we can -- we can always go in a different direction and get a John Singleton or a Spike Lee. You haven't talked to Larry Levy over at Paramount yet, have you?"
   "No," the agent answered immediately. "You're the first person we've taken this to."
   "Good, good... " It sounded like Mill had had about enough. "Do either of you need to be validated? My secretary has the stickers." Suddenly the door opened. I held up a magazine so they couldn't see my grinning face.
   "We're going to make a lot of money," Mill assured them, shaking their hands. And then, as they exited, Mill turned and noticed me -- the guy reading People Magazine upside down. "Hi. Come on in."
   I went in.

(This originally appeared in The Realist.)

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