Ballad of the Blind Gunman
By Rodger Jacobs
“What did the blind gunman do before he became a blind gunman?” the producer asked.
“Well, it’s not like a blind gunman is an occupation in and of itself,” I said with a thin smile.
“Of course not. Who’d want to hire a blind gunman?”
“But if it was this blind gunman you’d want to hire him because he’s the best.”
It was too early into the pitch meeting to gauge how well things were going but at least I had sold him on the blind assassin pitch. The producer was at least ten years younger than me and he wore his arrogance like an overcoat that was two sizes too large and ten years out of style. Not one of the four films he had produced to date had recouped their initial investment. His college degree was in business management, a field that rarely produces literary minds, but the entertainment industry is a business when all is said and done. In a meeting like this it’s really a matter of convincing an auto manufacturer that the nuts and bolts in a writer’s mind will create next year’s best-selling model.
“His blindness is an asset, not a handicap.” I explained. “He compensates for his lack of sight with other heightened senses.”
“Maybe he was a blind jazz musician before he became a blind gunman,” the producer enthused.
Outside of the movies I have never seen a blind jazz musician and although I know they must exist I felt we were already veering precariously into the valley of cinematic cliches. But who cares what I think? The producer had already grabbed the ball and was running far afield with it.
“We could set the movie in New Orleans.” There was a hint of excitement in his voice. “Lots of jazz history there.”
“And Gothic architecture and voodoo and Mardi Gras.”
“Maybe do some sort of a hallucinatory graveyard scene like in Easy Rider.”
A movie producer with a familiarity of films made before 1990. A rare bird indeed.
“What if his blindness was caused by a horrific explosion during a firefight and it left him with crippling pain, really horrific pain, that he sometimes uses drugs to combat?” I was in free fall. “And while he’s on the drugs – think something hallucinatory like peyote – he has visions that give him an edge over his opponents.”
“So,” the producer leaned forward in his chair, another hint that he was getting more deeply involved in the story, “you’re saying he was a sighted gunman before he was a blind gunman?”
“This is getting kinda superhero-ish. Like Daredevil.”
“Yeah, but I’m thinking more like Samuel Jackson instead of Ben Affleck.”
“So he’s black?”
“A black blind jazz musician turned black blind gunman?”
The producer rested his elbows on the desk, clasped both hands together and rested his chin upon them. “Smart. Do you know how many black people buy movie tickets every year?”
“Not off hand.”
“Me either. But it’s a lot. Now, if he’s a hired gunman before he got blinded – is it got blinded or gets blinded? – how does the blind jazz musician thing fit in now?”
“That’s his cover, a jazz musician, a saxophonist that plays in a band down in the Latin Quarter.”
Now I had him confused.
“If he’s black, why does he play in the Latin Quarter?”
“Because that’s where the jazz is?” I ventured. I could see a lot of research on New Orleans in my future.
“What if he’s Latin then?”
“Too pretty. I don’t see him as a blind gunman.”
“Musician and actor. 'Bringing Out The Dead'.”
“Tanked at the box office.”
And then, I swear, we both said it at the same time:
A huge smile from the producer. A winning smile. This is going to be a done deal, I’m thinking, steak tonight instead of Burger King. But then the producer shifted in his chair in a reasonable facsimile of severe discomfort.
“Wait a minute,” the producer cautioned. “Banderas was in that 'Once Upon A Time in Mexico'. Didn’t Johnny Depp play a blind gunman in that?”
“Well, yeah, he gets blinded in the third act – I mean, way close to the climax, right? – but his character is not a blind gunman, per se.”
“But he is.”
“He is what?”
“A blind gunman.”
“Okay.” I threw the next hook in the water. “What if he’s a deaf gunman instead?”
© 2004, Rodger Jacobs
All Rights Reserved