Henry felt a sense of foreboding as he was ushered into Grant’s office. His conscience was less than pleased with this situation and logic was telling him that at the end of the day this couldn’t be about anything other than Holly Woods, and it was getting harder to ignore both voices the closer the meeting came.
Grant beamed as he saw him and ushered him over to a pair of comfortable, leather armchairs. The chairs were low and the cushions were soft and deep and as Henry sat down first there was one split second when he was craning his neck to look up at Grant and he felt very insignificant. But than Grant sat and Henry brushed it off.
“Would you like something to drink?” asked Grant, gesturing towards his drinks cart. “I have some excellent vodka which I remember you like.”
“Thank you but I’m driving.”
“Of course. So, Henry, how have you been?”
“Fine thanks. And you?”
“I’m good but why wouldn’t I be? Montell Connected Studios is finally a reality, one I’ve been working on for years. But you. I know last year must have been a roller coaster for you.”
“Of course. Peter and Alan. I can only imagine how tough that must have been. And of course people don’t think to ask how you’re dealing when you’re not the one they see being directly impacted.”
“Right, well…” Henry shifted in his seat, suddenly wishing he could take that vodka. “Peter’s really the one whose got the lion’s share to deal with.”
“Yes but everyone is probably already asking him how he’s doing. I bet not a lot of people have asked you.”
There was an awkward pause and than Henry cleared his throat and changed the subject. “You said you wanted to talk about a project.”
“Yes! It’s actually about a project you mentioned to me before. The biopic of the last emperor of Byzantium.”
“Really?” Henry stared at him in surprise. “I mentioned that project to you years ago and you didn’t show any interest.”
“But I was listening. You’ll find, Henry, that I’m always listening.” Grant smiled. “At the time I wasn’t in a position to pursue the project but with the backing of the Montell Connected Studios I feel we can now do the story the justice it deserves.”
“I’m…frankly kind of speechless. I’ve been trying to interest people in that movie for years. It’s the project I’m most keen to work on as a director and producer. This is a story I’ve wanted to tell since I first read it. So many people have turned it down. You’re really interested?”
“Absolutely. I think it’s an epic story and the market is just right for it, with a couple of historical films already generating a lot of hype. But we’ll need to move quickly. It’s going to be a huge project and we want to strike while the iron is hot.”
“Of course. I’ve been working on the project as much as I can without funding for years now. I have a lot of ideas. I even have a rough draft of a script. Obviously I’m not a writer but it’s more of an idea of where I’d like to see the story going. If you like it, we could hire a couple of screenwriters, they could look it over and than build something off the back of it. I already have some names lined up for people I think would be great to work on the script with.”
“Brilliant. Additionally Turkey is pretty friendly towards Hollywood at the moment so we might be able to film on location there which would be exciting.”
“Absolutely! That would be brilliant.”
“Of course there is the issue of how the Muslims are represented in the script. We’ll have to decide how we want to handle that. They’re unlikely to want us filming there if we don’t shed a fair light on both sides of the conflict, however I think with the current political situation in America, it would be a mistake to demonize the Ottoman empire anyways.”
“No and I wouldn’t want to. I think Mehmed was a fascinating ruler and while I do want the film to focus on Constantine XI, I think it would be a serious missed opportunity if we didn’t give some screen time to exploring Mehmed’s character. I mean do you know he was twenty-one when he conquered Constantinople? Twenty-one! Just imagine. Of course it was different era, but still. It’s mind-blowing.”
“I think regardless of where we film,” said Grant, “you should certainly fly out to Turkey for research.”
“And quite honestly I’d like to go with you. I’m quite excited about this project and I’d like to see it to completion.”
“That would be great.”
“Excellent. Well as I said, we need to strike while the iron is hot. And since I think seeing Turkey, particularly Istanbul will help determine the flavor of the film we should probably fly out there before making final decisions on a script.”
“That sounds wise.”
“I have some meetings I can’t cancel right away but how about next week?”
“What?” Henry blinked. “Next week? So soon?”
Grant smiled. “I said strike while the iron is hot.”
“I know I just-, I’ve been trying to get this movie made since I started directing and now suddenly you’re suggesting starting work next week. It’s pretty exciting. Like a dream come true. But um, I can’t go next week. I’m working on Antigone. There’s a few weeks left of filming to do on that. And then the editing. Most of the editing I think I could coordinate online though. So late next month I should be good to go-”
“I think next month is too late.”
There was beat and Henry digested this.
Oh. He didn’t say it out loud but suddenly this conversation clicked into place. He should have seen this coming the second Grant started talking.
“I don’t see why next month couldn’t work,” he said, even though he knew Grant was going to shoot down any suggestion he made that didn’t evolve him leaving Antigone. “We could send out the screenwriters to Istanbul for research and then meet them out there.”
“I want your full attention on this film,” said Grant simply.
“And it will be. Once I’ve wrapped Antigone. We’re already halfway through filming. And I’m providing the funding out of my own pocket. I can’t really afford to close down shop just to resume filming a few months down the road.”
Grant nodded. “Understandable. I’ll tell you what I’ll do…I’ll purchase all the film rights off of you. That way everyone gets paid, you get the money back you’ve already invested in it and you can work on the film you’ve always wanted to work on.”
“But…filming would still stop on Antigone?”
“Well yes of course. I don’t think Greek plays are really a winning proposition do you? I mean I’m sure it’ll make a good showing at some small indie film festival but it’s hardly worth the extra time that would have to be put into replacing you as a director. That would just up the cost after all. This way, everyone wins.”
“Right. Everyone wins.” Except Holly. “It’s just that the cast are counting on this movie.”
They both knew exactly which cast member he was referring to but neither of them were going to say her name.
“Actors have projects fall through all the time,” said Grant, a little less genially than before. “The ones that can make it in this business learn to toughen up and deal with it.”
“I just…don’t know Malcolm. I have responsibilities to these people.”
Grant nodded. “I understand. But please remember that Constantine is a historical figure. And we’re not even working off a script yet. You have some rough draft that I’ve never even seen. There’s no copyright involved.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying this film is going to be made. Now, do you want to be involved in your dream project? Or do you want to make Antigone which has already had plenty of trouble? Personally if I were you, I’d take this opportunity. How many films about Constantine do you think the market has room for? I’d say one. This is a once in a lifetime film. Do you want to be the one making it or don’t you?”