Somewhere in Time – A BOX OFFICE DISASTER BECOMES A CULT FAVORITE

October 14, 2010

As we woke up this morning at The Grand Hotel, my mind drifted back almost 35 years ago when my own love affair with Somewhere in Time began. The excerpt below is from Bringing Back The Old Hollywood.

CHAPTER NINE

SOMEWHERE IN TIME

A BOX OFFICE DISASTER BECOMES A CULT FAVORITE

“Is it you?”

Somewhere in Time (1980)

Amidst the mistakes and ego trips of my career, there were also moments of grace and wonder.

Immediately after Ray Stark hired me, I sought out Richard Matheson, who had written Bid Time Return, the novel that had propelled me to beg Ray for a job.

I contacted Rick Ray who was the agent representing Richard at the time. Using Ray Stark’s name was a no-limit credit card with almost everyone in Hollywood and a lunch with Matheson was quickly arranged.

I adored Richard from the minute I met him, he agreed to option the novel to us, and a lifelong friendship began.

Even though Ray had allowed me to option the rights to the project from Richard Matheson right after he hired me in 1976, Ray never had even the slightest interest in the project.

I realized that all I could do for the time being was bide my time on Bid Time Return. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Fortunately, fate stepped in to push the project along.

Universal had, of course, been thrilled with the results of Smokey and the Bandit and Ned Tanen, the production head at the time, was extremely gracious to me.

One day, Ned mentioned a director named Jeannot Szwarc who had come in during production to replace the director of Jaws 2. Universal was very happy with Jeannot and the film.

When I mentioned the conversation to Ray, he immediately suggested that I set up a meeting with Jeannot to see if we could all find a project to do together.

“Way ahead of you, boss. He’s coming in tomorrow,” I was happy to respond.

The next day, we met with Jeannot, who turned out to be an outgoing, utterly charming guy.

When Ray asked Jeannot what kind of film he would like to do next, Jeannot got a wistful look on his face and said “What I would really love to be able to make is an old-fashioned romantic love story like Portrait of Jennie in the 1940s.”

“Boy, do I have a book for you!” I yelled out while Ray’s eyes rolled back into his head. This was not the direction he had wanted the meeting to take.

The die, however, was cast.

Jeannot read and loved Bid Time Return. Ray didn’t want to develop the script at Columbia so we made the deal with Universal.

We were still developing the script when Ray fired me and agreed finally to settle my contract. The only project that I was allowed to take with me was the film adaptation of Bid Time Return, which had not yet been titled Somewhere in Time.

All my producing eggs were, so to speak, in that one basket.

Ray, however, was hell-bent to smash all the eggs and burn the basket.

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