Back in college, an actor friend of mine approached me to write a one-man show in which he would play Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk from the moment of his conception to his iconic home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. "Fiskie lived life the way it should be lived," he said, knocking back his eighth shot of Turkey. "We do this right, we save the world from itself." Two days later, he was dead. I miss my friend.
Maybe Chris McQuarrie had a friend like that, the kind who could inspire you to be your very best at your absolute drunkest; the kind of guy who could crash his Toyota Tercel into the side of your house at four in the morning and blame it on Carl Lewis. Or maybe he’s just looking for another way to get his screenplays made after experiencing a bit of a drought since taking down the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1995 for The Usual Suspects.
Whatever McQuarrie’s motive is, I like the idea of B-list writers banding together (at reduced rates) to help B-list movie stars realize their dream projects (the A-list guys generally have A-list scenarists making nine figures per whim to do that for them). It’s actually incredibly selfless if you don’t factor in the fact that the writer will a) receive their usual quote and a percentage of the dream project’s gross if it gets made, and b) essentially have more power over the final cut than the folks whose dreams they’re leaching off of. That’s a very fair and equitable deal that I’m sure will go down great with actors, the most egoless of all artists. As a result, McQuarrie’s company, called 1.3.9., has attracted the following eleven writers: John Lee Hancock (A Perfect World), John Ridley (Undercover Brother), Graham Yost (Hard Rain), Howard A. Rodman (Takedown), Ron Nyswaner (Gross Anatomy), E. Max Frye (Amos & Andrew), Erik Jendresen (Aloft), Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (Maggie and Jake), Stephen Chbosky (Jericho), Barbara Benedick (Immediate Family) and an anonymous scribe to be named later when he teams with Larry the Cable Guy on Wallace: Friend to the Negro.
Though reminiscent of John Wells’s Writers Co-Op announced last March, McQuarrie explains that 1.3.9 is more about bringing personal projects to the screen than attaining a greater degree of power in the studio development process. If this means bigger budgets for vital works like Chapter 27, then, damn it, art has triumphed here today.