Someday I will make a film of that story.

—Patrick Mulvihill, in response to hearing Kennedy read his story,
“Drive, Dive, Dance & Fight” at a writing seminar in 1994

Movies


Filmscript in Progress: Drive, Dive, Dance & Fight

Over the years, Kennedy has had queries from film-makers about the availability of movie rights to some of his works — primarily to the rights for “The Book of Angels,” but nothing concrete has yet come of those queries.

In 1994, when Kennedy was teaching at the Emerson College/Ploughshares International Writing Seminar in Castle Well, the Netherlands, he read a new story he had just completed — “Drive Dive Dance & Fight.” It is a story about a man in his late twenties who has just been jilted by his fiancé who tells him, “At first I thought you seemed so sweet, Daniel … But in truth, you’re just a wimp.” Abandoned — not only is his fiancé gone, but his parents are dead, his brother has moved away, even the cat ran off — Daniel Twomey gets to brooding about all the things he can’t do. In his wallet he carries a yellowed scrap of paper on which he has written the things he wishes he could learn: Drive, dive, dance, and fight. His fiancé’s challenge ringing in his ears, he decides to pull himself together and take action. The story is about the courage it takes for a timid man to manage even the simplest of achievements in the world; he fulfills his life list and triumphs over his timidity, but ends in harrowing danger, experiencing a vision of cosmic mortality.

When Kennedy had read the story, one of the students in the program told him, “Someday I will make a film of that story.” Kennedy was flattered but had no great expectations — until a decade later, when his former student, Patrick Mulvihill, wrote to him from Hollywood and told him he had not forgotten his resolve. Mulvihill was now a staff writer for Warner, but his plan was to write a filmscript with a view to making an independent movie which he also intended to use for his own directorial debut.

Mulvihill is currently working on the filmscript.

The realization of film projects is a long, slow process full of dead ends, which too often prove impassable. Kennedy has witnessed many examples of this with friends and colleagues. Gordon Weaver’s first novel, Count a Lonely Cadence, published in 1967, was optioned for film, reoptioned year after year, picked up and put down by various celebreties until finally Martin Sheen latched onto it in the 1980s; and, after a further few years delay, actually filmed it, starring himself, Charlie Sheen, and Emilio Estevez, with a debut role for Morris Fishburne whose performance in the movie is stellar. The final product, titled Cadence, was never released as a feature film in the United States but went directly into video sales and thus did not give Weaver’s career the boost he justly expected and fully deserved — though if you check out the link on Amazon.com, you will see a score of excellent reviews.

A similar thing happened with Carolyn Chute’s wonderful debut novel, The Beans of Egypt, Maine, made into a film — a good film, too, in fact — but then for inexplicable reasons shuttled into the video market with a new title, Forbidden Choices. (Apparently, when a film goes into video, the standard contract allows retitling at the discretion of the distributor.) Needless to say, the film was lost in the shuffle.

Duff Brenna’s fabulous novel Too Cool was ready in filmscript, the film casted, sets created, contracts signed, financing obtained, and the day before shooting was to begin, the project was dropped because of a leaky economic arrangement. Brenna is still waiting for the realization of that film and of a film of his first, blockbuster novel, The Book of Mamie — both of which would make dynamite movies.

More recently, Kennedy’s former partner had a rather unsavory contact with a film maker who exploited her goodwill. However, fortunately, another more serious and mature film maker is currently working on the project — so it may yet be realized.

Of course, there are also stories with happy endings — Kennedy was delighted to see the excellent and successful, both critically and commercially, films made from Andre Dubus II’s wonderful short story, “Killings,” filmed as In the Bedroom, an excellent film; as was the film version of the most recent novel by his son, Andre Dubus III, House of Sand and Fog.

But despite the success stories, on this general background, Kennedy is not holding his breath about the “Drive Dive Dance & Fight” project. But there is something about Mulvihill — something about the way he quietly maintained his initial determination throughout the ensuing decade — that continues to have Kennedy thinking, Maybe, just maybe…

The story “Drive Dive Dance & Fight” appeared originally in New Letters magazine, published by the University of Missouri-Kansas City (Vol 61, No 4), and was reprinted in Kennedy’s collection of the same title (BkMk Press, 1997).

About “Drive Dive Dance & Fight,” Andre Dubus II wrote, “Kennedy’s stories are as good as any I’ve been reading in the past ten years or more. His characters are full, alive, and each story is rich and deep. He writes with wisdom and it is perhaps that wisdom which turns some of his stories of great sorrow into something triumphant. The title story is worth the book’s price. It is funny, gloomy, terrifying and joyful.”

This book can be sampled at Amazon.com.


Patrick Mulvihill, Screenwriter

Patrick Mulvihill is a screenwriter and the recipient of a prestigious, exclusive contract as a staff writer in the feature film division of Warner Brothers Pictures, the first position of its kind since Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland manned a similar post in the 1970s.

Mr. Mulvihill is currently writing Four Corners, a character-driven thriller set in the southwestern United States that, along with Erased (a political action thriller) and Time Bomb (stripped down sci-fi action), will be specked out in the spring of 2007. His project Chicago Fire is still in active development at Warner Brothers.

Before signing his deal with Warner Brothers, Mr. Mulvihill was a finalist for the IFP Director’s Lab with his script, So Long, Superman, and the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab with his script, Leaving. He is currently represented by Ragna Nervik.

Prior to embarking on a screenwriting career, Mr. Mulvihill worked for Russell Schwartz, President of Domestic Marketing for New Line Cinema and President of USA Films. During his tenure, Mr. Mulvihill worked on such films as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, About Schmidt, Goldmember, I Am Sam, Vera Drake, Maria Full of Grace, Elf, American Splendor, Elephant, Life as a House, The Notebook, and Traffic. Mr. Mulvihill was also a Development Executive for Neil LaBute’s Contemptible Entertainment and producer Stephen Pevner’s Stephen Pevner, Inc.

Mr. Mulvihill is a former college professor, who taught beginning and advanced composition, contemporary short fiction, creative writing, and screenwriting. Mr. Mulvihill holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Emerson College and a BA in Political Science from the University of Washington.