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So Towne refinanced the picture to get it away from Warner's and it became an independent production. He was then able to deal with the actors union, agreeing in advance to meet whatever terms it won from the whole industry.
The money to continue, $11 million, came from record producer David Geffen, who was John Lennon's manager. Geffen told Towne that since he, Geffen, had no commitment from a major distributor to market the film once it was done, he was taking a significant risk. In return he extracted a price. "Against going overbudget, I was asked to put up my house and my car," said Towne. He seemed to do so almost blithely. "I'd have paid to finish this film. I never realized the depth of my own insanity."
Shooting resumed in Eugene in September. The weather held. Towne had taken advantage of the hiatus to do some hiring and firing. The new director of photography was Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver), a bristly, red-haired Bostonian. The classic Towne vignette, enacted daily, would begin with the director calling loudly for someone, taking the subject aside and commencing a sotto voce revelation, which would fade out until Towne was staring agitatedly into the sky or at the grass or the crowd, finally wandering off, possessed by some unshareable but surely lightning succession of internal images which had obscured what he wanted to say. By contrast, Chapman was quick, efficient and had an infectious, erudite sense of humor that reached Towne in his internal debates. Things began to hum.
The town where the fictional Chris Cahill and Tory Skinner live and train is the very real San Luis Obispo, Calif. We were six weeks there. On the second day Hemingway and I did a scene in a restaurant, Chris and Denny getting to know each other. I'd always wondered whether in movies it was real beer the actors were drinking. It was in this one. Coors for Chris, Dos Equis for Denny. After a morning's takes I was tanked. Towne fooled around, letting the camera run after the scene stopped, forcing us to improvise, his rule being that you never, ever, came out of character until you heard "cut." Despite my debilitation, things went well, and one of our lines was added to the scene. I staggered to the hotel quite pleased, thinking this acting business was a piece of cake.
That lasted about a day and a half, until a scene in the street at night. In the script, Denny has walked in on Chris and Tory in what seems a compromising situation. Thinking Chris lied to him when she had said her relationship with Tory was over, Denny stalks out, wounded. Chris runs after him, trying to drag him back. He is cold with her. She rages at him for believing that she would lie. He turns away. She hits him in the back, driving him once again into the night. This was going to be trouble.
After a fairly encouraging rehearsal, Towne booted me from his trailer. "Walk around out there," he said. "Get cold."
We were in a residential neighborhood of old houses and large trees, dark and quiet now at 11 p.m. For some reason it entered my mind to really feel the shock and loss Denny was to experience. I paced and grieved over old hurts until I eventually worked myself into a state of sour desolation. I didn't want to be dragged back, I didn't want to even see her, she's lied to me....
We began, the arc lights blazing, a crowd gathering. But it was wrong. My movements didn't fit the sense of the words. My emotional state, overdone, made it practically impossible for me to respond, either to Hemingway or to Towne's attempts to fix the scene. He cast about for some alternate structure to hang the action on. "Try it like this," he said. "Inside, you're wild for her, the experience has made you want her more powerfully.... " But I couldn't. After a while I just felt lost inside. When Hemingway, so perfectly acting the ripped, hungry lover, grabbed me, I didn't react at all, except with distaste and stiffness.
At four in the morning the lights went down and the crew went home, not one good take achieved, $50,000 burned up for nothing. In the sudden darkness I was disoriented, flooded with remorse. I threw down the car keys I'd had to carry, feeling I'd horribly abused Towne's trust, but I couldn't understand why.
Later, Glenn said. "It happens." (It would happen to him in San Luis Obispo, too. He and Towne would endure 21 takes to get a scene right.) "It happens. But it's not your fault."