“Okay, Shyamalan,” Frank Baumgartner says with a mix of aggravation and disdain, “You better have something good for us this time. The studio took a bath on that Glass film of yours and I’m catching heat for being the idiot exec who greenlit the thing. The finance guys are doing their best Rumpelstiltskin impression to turn that pile of shit into gold, but they’d have to be the love child of Bernie Madoff and the Oracle of Omaha to pull that off. Unfortunately for us, the studio isn’t allowed to hire anyone that corrupt and they definitely won’t pay anyone that smart what they’re worth. In other words, we’re fucked.”
Night Shyamalan and Frank Baumgartner sit across from each other, separated by an expansive wood desk. Baumgartner likes to brag that the desk is made out of something called “Burnished Black Antarctic Oak.” Though many find it hard to let this idiocy go (Who the fuck thinks there are trees in Antarctica?), it never pays to be the schlub who tells the many self-proclaimed Hollywood emperors that they’re naked. The smart people shut their mouths and get their projects developed. The smartasses deliver coffee or become movie critics.
“You convinced me that people would come out to see that piece of nepotistic tripe with Will Smith and his son,” Baumgartner says, making over-emphasized air quotes with his hands as he says the word “actor.” Shyamalan doesn’t move, but maintains unbroken eye contact with Baumgartner. In contrast to Baumgartner’s volcanic displays of emotion, Shyamalan sits with a sense of serenity that the Dali Lama would envy.
“You somehow managed to con me into spending tens of millions of dollars turning a stupid cartoon into a live-action picture about wizards bending air,” Baumgartner yells. “It got a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes! Five fucking percent! I could turn my 7-year-old son’s ‘What I Did on My Summer Vacation’ essay into a movie and get 5% on Rotten Tomatoes!”
As he ticks off each cinematic flop, his face turns a deeper shade of red and his voice rises to octaves rivaling the vocal cords of Pavarotti. “I swear to God, Shyamalan,” Baumgartner plows on, “One more flop like that and you’re done in this town. I don’t care if you wrote The Sixth Sense or Casa-fuckin-blanca.”
After he’s sure that Baumgartner has worn himself out, Shyamalan leans forward and in a low, almost conspiratorial tone says, “Casablanca has nothing on what I’ve got for you.”
This catches Baumgartner off balance and – like an angry toddler who has been distracted by an ice cream cone – he seems to instantly forget what he had just been upsetting him.
“Picture this,” Shyamalan says leaning forward. “We follow the story of an up-and-coming botanist who discovers that an extremely aggressive species of violet flower is killing off all of the other plants around the world at an incredible rate. As the violets destroy one species of plant after the other, our hero botanist desperately tries to convince the world of the impending doom to the biosphere, but no one will believe him because of how ridiculous it sounds. The film ends with our hero standing in a field of violets strewn with the bodies of dead animals and people.”
“Wait… that’s it? That’s not a plot. That’s not even a half-baked idea.” Baumgartner says incredulously. “What’s the point?”
“The point is that the violets are really pretty and so no one would expect them to be the source of such violence and destruction. Don’t you see? I’m subverting people’s expectations!” Shyamalan says with the delusional self-assuredness possessed only by a financially secure artist..
Baumgartner shakes his head, slowly at first, but then with increasing vigor as the reality of Shyamalan’s pitch settles in. “No. No fucking way. No fucking way am I going to let you make another movie about killer plants. I still can’t go to the Riviera Country Club without people giving me shit for The Happening.”
“But wait,” Shyamalan says, “You haven’t heard what the title of the film is going to be yet.”
“Why would that matter? What is it?”, Baumgartner asks incredulously.
Shyamalan stands up and spreads his arms wide as if he is conjuring a marquee out of thin air. “I’ll call it: ‘Random Acts of Violets,’” he declares with finality.
Baumgartner doesn’t react at first. He just sits there looking at Shyamalan. Baumgartner knows that these are the moments that make and break careers, the moments that separate the “Could Have Beens” from the “Have Everythings.” It doesn’t take him long to recognize which of these moment now stands in front of him.
“I honestly can’t believe it… It’s fucking brilliant!!” Baumgartner exclaims as he jumps up. “‘Random Acts of Violets’! I love it! M. Night, my boy, you’ve done it again!”
In theatres 2020.
GOTCHA WITH THAT TURN AT THE END, DIDN’T WE??? JUST LIKE ALL OF M. NIGHT’S MOVIES, THIS STORY, TOO, HAD AN INCREDIBLE TWIST!
ALSO. WE SEE DEAD PEOPLE.