Tommy Tantrum was a dead man. On the movie I’d been hired to fix—an uncredited production rewrite—he’d found a way to exclude me from a couple hours of rehearsal. During his window alone with the cast, he suggested our three star amigos try on a pair of new scenes he’d generated the night before. He’d thrown me under the bus by telling the angry trio that the new (very poorly written) scenes had been penned by me.

“Go fuck yourself,” was all I said to Tommy when he’d approached me moments after the rehearsal had ended.

On the hike back to my production hovel, I found myself suddenly flanked by producer Wong Fu and studio executive, Marty Maybe.

“What he did is inexcusable,” said Wong Fu. “You have every right to blow a gasket.”

“Just don’t walk,” begged Marty. “We all need to calm down.”

“You know what’s in my room safe?” I said. “First class ticket back to LA. I’m packing up my shit and going home.”

“You can’t leave the movie,” urged Marty.

“Watch me,” I said. “You and I both know I have no deal.”

I wasn’t lying. My initial agreement with the company called for a mutual guarantee of a few weeks. I was more than a five days into the netherworld of a new negotiation.

As hard as they tried, I wouldn’t be swayed. I recall that I was packing up my laptop when the duo returned, shut and stood sentry inside my office door.

“Okay, hear us out,” calmed Wong. “We just talked to Tommy and he wants to straighten things out.”

“Nothing to straighten out,” I said. “I’m outta here.”

“He knows he fucked up bad,” said Wong. “He wants to apologize.”

“I really don’t care anymore.”

“Look. You have every reason to quit. And nobody will blame you cuz he’s a big, sucking a-hole. But hear him out, okay? Let him apologize. Then quit.”

“Swear to God if I see his face I’m gonna run my fist through it.”

“Just let him apologize,” pleaded Marty.

“Seriously, Marty,” I said. “You don’t want me in the same room with the prick.”

For about ten minutes they blocked my exit, pulling out all stops for me to hear the bastard out. They promised me Tommy wanted to rectify his horrible act. Somehow the pistons driving my anger were eventually deprived of oxygen, throttling my engine back to somewhere short of actual director-cide. Thusly I allowed myself to be walked three doors down to Tommy’s office.

“Listen, Doug,” began Tommy, the moment I arrived at his threshold. “Lemme explain–“

“This is your apology?” I interrupted. Tommy began to get up from behind his desk. I made two steps forward and balled my right fist. “So help me, Tommy. If you get outta that chair I’m gonna pound you to hell!”

“I just wanted to tell you–“ whined the director before I took a step even closer, fist cocked and ready to drop it like Thor’s legendary hammer.

“Shut the fuck up!” I barked at him, watching him cower back into his swiveling seat. “You don’t get to apologize to me you brainless fuck! You get to sit there and listen to what I have to say!”

As Tommy spread his hands in sudden surrender, so began my screaming tirade. I practically shattered my vocal cords while excoriating him for the spineless lie of telling the cast that I’d written those unreadable pages of excrement that he’d obviously produced himself. But I didn’t stop there. I leapt into a litany of acts he’d perpetrated on cast and crew over the past month. From the abusive to the unexplainably moronic. I think I even told him he had so far proven uniquely unqualified to direct any movie and that he’d have failed or been fired if the production team hadn’t already saved his ass so many times.

Every so often, in the midst of my moral blast, Tommy would try to stand and interject. Each time, I’d take another step closer, raise my fist and repeat the promise to bloody him into next week.

All the while, both Wong Fu and Marty Maybe sat back, smugly enjoying the oh-so-rare sight of a writer teeing off on a narcissistic, ass-clown of a film director. How it all would end, they hadn’t a clue. But in that moment, I could see they were digging the show.

Eventually, I allowed Tommy Tantrum to depart from his seat and attempt his apology. It was, as one might expect, lamer than an old tin of instant coffee left to rot in back of my mother’s pantry.

“I made a mistake,” he proclaimed as if his message was sermonic. “I thought I’d written something funny and it sucked, okay?”

“After which you told actors I wrote it!” I slammed home.

“What can I say? I panicked,” Tommy shamelessly admitted. “I didn’t want ‘em to lose trust in me, their director.”

“Whoops,” sounded Wong Fu from the cheap seats.

“I’m gonna make this right,” said Tommy. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re the writer. You’re the writer. You’re the writer.”

Of course, I didn’t believe a word of it and trusted the douchebag as far as I could shake a flea. I recall walking out of his office to a sea of production staff, their faces charting everything from discomfort to sheer amusement. Clearly, they’d heard nearly every word of my high-volume rant.

Wong Fu patted my back as I walked back to my writer’s hole.

“That was somethin’,” he said. “Bet nobody’s ever talked to him like that.”

“Whatever,” I replied, hardly sated. But sanguine enough to know I wasn’t going to unlock that first class ticket in my room safe. At least, not that day.

The picture started rolling film and, soon after, I’d written enough that they allowed me to return home, sending polished pages from my home office.

There’s an obvious dissatisfaction that comes with writing on a movie without credit. Yet there’s something strangely satisfying about the anonymity that comes from being the one who helped work such a movie into success. Between the two poles is the knowledge that, despite my silent efforts, most of the credit is usually accrued to the director whose reps surely parlayed the box office into more money and power for their less-than-deserving client.

I’d like to tell you that karma caught up with Tommy Tantrum. And maybe, in some abstract way it has. A caustic, antibiotic-resistant venereal disease, perhaps? But I really wouldn’t know. Nor care for that matter. I haven’t spoken to him in ages. Have no plans to. Nor do I give a tinker’s whit.

Enjoy the blog? Then help keep the pirate ship afloat by clicking on a link and buying one of my thrillers. And they’re cheap. Not tawdry. Just inexpensive. And you could buy two for less than your average cocktail!

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Doug Richardson
Doug Richardson
Author and screenwriter. Books: THE LUCKY DEY THRILLERS: BLOOD MONEY, 99 PERCENT KILL, AND REAPER, THE SAFETY EXPERT, AND THE SMOKING GUN. Movies: HOSTAGE, BAD BOYS, DIE HARD 2.
  • Waves of Gray

    I’m not sure whether you found speaking your mind (to say the least) in that moment to be as satisfying an experience as us reading about it now, but standing up on principle is very inspiring, so thank you!

    • Doug Richardson

      Waves. Speaking my mind in that moment wasn’t at all satisfying. It’s as angry as I’ve ever been and that never feels good. Glad you enjoyed.

  • paul

    How did the movie do? And how did TT’s career go after that?

    • Aaron Clow

      My questions exactly… Along with, “why did you allow yourself to be walked to his office? I would have insisted he come to you…”

      • Doug Richardson

        Because, Aaron, if there was going to be blood, I didn’t want it to be all over my stuff.

        • Jack Calvert

          BWAH-Ha-ha-ha! *Great* answer, Doug! (lmao)

        • Aaron Clow

          If this is true, kudos to you for thinking so clearly in the moment. If this is not true, and you just made that up, it clearly shows why you get paid the big bucks. 🙂

    • Doug Richardson

      The movie made money. Tommy continues to direct.

  • david kessler

    you are my hero. I was wished I had stood up for myself in situations like that in the past.

    • Doug Richardson

      Well, David. I’d like to think if you’d been as angry as I you would’ve done the same.

  • Doug Kissock

    You’re lucky you had a power-base — at least the producers sounded as though they had their heads on properly. And the three amigos knew the difference between shirt buttons and Shinola!

    • Doug Richardson

      I’d still say Tommy was luckier that I didn’t break his face. I was that close.

  • Bill

    You clearly do give a whit.

    • Doug Richardson

      True, true.

  • wonder

    That was extremely exciting. He almost got a Die-Hard-Doug beatdown for his bullshit! Maddening to have been put in that position, but how satisfying to get to tell someone to their face that their actions are, uh, incorrect.

    • Doug Richardson

      Satisfying, maybe. But I’m afraid my words didn’t get through as much as my threat of violence. Thanks Wonder.

  • Jack Calvert

    Great article! Made me want to do a fist pump and one of those little end zone victory dances!

    • Doug Richardson

      Thanks Jack. Glad you didn’t get called for excessive celebration.

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  • Stacy Chambers

    Wow. Not sure I would have reacted all that differently. Gotta wonder why he’d want to write new scenes in the first place.

  • GM52246

    Massively satisfying to read, Doug. I like the stories where you win. Do you ever feel a desire to direct yourself?

  • JazzyJZ7

    You probably heard me Doug. I was loudly cheering you as I read this
    part. This question remains, though, did the film make money? Somehow
    between your words and the trio of talent, I suspect you guys pulled it
    off in spite of Señor Douche.