Once again the Oscar season hoves into view over the entertainment horizon. An event so sparkly, so spectacular that it seems the whole world revolves less expeditiously about its axis, slowing down to admire the preening peacocks parading on the silvery screen. Oh the glamour, the politics, the applause, the awards, the fixed grimaces on the faces of the losers; high drama indeed.
The Oscars are also a place to hobnob, to see and be seen, to network and to plan the next winning project. And to this end Steven Spielberg has been stealing a march and gathering support, raising hopes and funds for his exciting new blockbuster - working title ‘To Hell and Bach’ - an action-packed, pacey biopic of Johann Sebastian Bach set against the backdrop of the turmoil of the early years of the Kingdom of Prussia under Frederick I. He hopes to have contracts signed in a ceremony at the Academy Awards themselves.
Backers were lined up – who wouldn’t want a slice of Spielberg’s next opus? And King Frederick was already cast to stalwart English actor Tom Wilkinson. The problem was who to choose to pay the lead? A number of names had been brainstormed and a couple had made their own overtures to Speilberg’s people but none really had the ‘weight’ to carry the role. Steven Seagal was quickly rejected because, well, he was Steven Seagal. Anthony Hopkins would make a superb serious Bach, but could he really ‘do’ action? And Sylvester Stallone, although he put up a plucky screen test failed utterly on the accent. I mean “Adrieeeeenne!”?
The shortlist was narrowed down to two; Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis. Steven favoured Neeson for the gravitas but felt Bruce had the edge when it came to the torn tee-shirt scenes. Also there was the tricky negotiation over fees and availability, with both men provisionally slated to appear in a number of projects in the coming year. To Hell and Bach was expected to take the best part of the year to film, so exclusivity was paramount.
Spielberg called the two in to discuss the situation and decided, in a break with Hollywood protocol, to meet with them both at the same time and without the presence or support of their agents. Thus it was, earlier this week, that the three met in a nondescript Los Angeles hotel room to thrash out a deal. It was a long and fraught session. After four hours no agreement had been reached but one thing was certain – if Willis wasn’t especially keen on the part he was damned if Neeson was getting it. And while Neeson might have a better German accent, he argued, why couldn’t they just do it in American? After all it worked on Mary Poppins!
Steven Spielberg was getting pissed off. Far from arriving at a decision he was now becoming convinced that neither of them was the lad he was after. He wished he’d brought Tom along, or anybody for that matter to intercede. “I vill be playink Johann Sebastian Bach,” insisted Liam with an impeccable Teutonic inflection. “The hell you will, motherfucker!” spat back Bruce. Spielberg stood up to intercede but before he could stop the bickering superstars the door to the suite flew open with a loud crash.
Brandenburg, my ass, muthafuckas!
Framed in the doorway was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh shit, thought the three of them simultaneously, how the hell had HE got to hear about it? Arnie strode into the room with a sneer on his famously unsmiling face. Into the silence he glared at the three in turn before facing Spielberg and saying slowly and deliberately, “I’LL be Bach.”