Thanks to the magic of high-tech surveillance equipment and a murky sense of ethics, we’re able to spy on the boardrooms of Hollywood and bring you the germs of ideas that lead to full-blown outbreaks of movies. Why, look, here’s an example now of the thing I was just talking about. Here is a transcript of:
The Pitch Meeting for ‘Last Vegas’
PRODUCER: I can pitch my idea in however many words this is: “The Hangover” but with old guys.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Love it.
STUDIO EXEC #2: Love it more.
STUDIO EXEC #3: Like it, don’t love it. Could it be “The Hangover” but with young guys?
STUDIO EXEC #2: Ooh, yes! Like “The Hangover”! It could be a third “Hangover” movie.
STUDIO EXEC #3: You mean fourth. There was already a third “Hangover” movie.
STUDIO EXEC #2: Uh, I’m pretty sure I’d remember if there was a third “Hangover” movie.
STUDIO EXEC #1: The problem with putting old men in it is that it will attract old audiences, and old audiences don’t like that kind of humor.
PRODUCER: Not a problem. We make it a watered-down, PG-13 version of “The Hangover” to appeal to a wider audience, and add a maudlin side to the plot so our grown-up viewers will feel like they’ve seen a real, honest-to-goodness film, not a crappy throwaway.
STUDIO EXEC #2: But it would still be a crappy throwaway, right?
PRODUCER: Yes. But one with delusions of adequacy.
STUDIO EXEC #3: What’s the maudlin side? One of them doesn’t die, does he?
STUDIO EXEC #1: Please say no.
STUDIO EXEC #3: I only want someone to die in a comedy if the other characters are going to carry his body around and pretend he’s alive.
PRODUCER: No, no, nothing serious like that. Two of the guys have an old grudge between them that they’ll have to hash out by the end of the movie. That way there’s some conflict built into the story, and it’s a chance for old men to be cranky.
STUDIO EXEC #2: What’s their disagreement about?
PRODUCER: Does it matter?
STUDIO EXEC #2: It doesn’t. That was a test. You passed.
STUDIO EXEC #3: Sounds like adults will go for it, but what about the “Hangover” crowd? Will it be dirty enough for young males?
PRODUCER: No, but we’ll sell it like it is. The trailers will play up the “horny old men leer at hot chicks” angle.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Which is not an inaccurate depiction of Las Vegas.
STUDIO EXEC #2: OK, so who’s in it besides Robert De Niro?
PRODUCER: Wait, how did you know De Niro was attached?
STUDIO EXEC #2: A lowbrow comedy that gives old actors a chance to humiliate themselves? Maybe do some Viagra jokes? Of course De Niro’s attached. I’m 25 years old. As far as I know, that’s all he’s ever done.
STUDIO EXEC #3: My dad says he used to be a legend.
STUDIO EXEC #1: I heard that in history class.
PRODUCER: Yeah, we have De Niro. We also have — are you ready for this? — fellow Oscars winners Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline.
STUDIO EXEC #2: Wow!
STUDIO EXEC #3: What a cast!
STUDIO EXEC #2: You know, I heard you say out in the lobby that you had four Oscar winners attached, and I just assumed it was, like, Cuba Gooding Jr., Marisa Tomei, Geena Davis, and Mo’Nique.
PRODUCER: You’re not the first person to tell me that.
STUDIO EXEC #3: So what are these old men in Vegas for?
PRODUCER: They’re friends since childhood, the Michael Douglas character is getting married, and the other three join him for a bachelor party.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Question.
PRODUCER: Don’t worry, the woman he’s marrying is less than half his age.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Carry on.
PRODUCER: I have worked in Hollywood before, you know.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Of course. I’m sorry.
STUDIO EXEC #2: So it sounds like: they get to Vegas, they gamble, they drink, they play grab-ass for 90 minutes, they resolve their old issues, one of them cries, it makes a hundred and fifty million dollars, maybe there’s a Supporting Actor nomination, everybody goes home a winner. What’s not to love?
PRODUCER: I’m glad you feel that way. Let me add that one of the characters has been given permission by his wife of 40 years to have sex with a stranger in Las Vegas in the hopes that it will spice up their own marriage.
STUDIO EXEC #3: That plot device has always worked well for us.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Audiences love stories based on a 15-year-old boy’s conception of what marriage is like.
PRODUCER: Oh, and the guy who played Turtle in “Entourage,” he’s in it too, for some reason.
STUDIO EXEC #2: Sure, why not.
STUDIO EXEC #3: Kid’s gotta work.