Read an excerpt from Tom Hanks’s new novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece!
More about the book!
Hold on to your popcorn, folks! Academy Award-winning actor and bestselling author Tom Hanks is back with a thrilling new book that takes you behind the scenes of the biggest superhero action film of all time.
Funny, touching, and wonderfully thought-provoking, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece offers an insider’s take on the momentous efforts it takes to make a film. At once a reflection on America’s past and present, on the world of show business and the real world we all live in.
It all starts with a humble comic book … but what follows is a wild and ambitious story that will blow your mind!
Pre-order your copy now and get ready to be swept away on a cinematic adventure like no other.
About the book
A wildly ambitious story of the making of a colossal, star-studded, multimillion-dollar superhero action film, and the humble comic book that inspired it all.
Spanning 80 years of a changing America and culminating in the opening of the film, we meet a colourful cast of characters including a troubled soldier returning from war, a young boy with an artistic gift, an inspired and eccentric director, a pompous film star on the rise, a tireless production assistant and countless film crew members that together create Hollywood magic.
Read an excerpt:
“What would be wrong with another franchise?” asked Fred Schiller—a.k.a. the Instigator—of the Fred Schiller Agency. He had once again flown into Albuquerque for a dinner with his distinguished client Bill Johnson. As usual, they were at Los Poblanos—one of Albuquerque’s better restaurants.
It was July of 2017, and Bill was about to head into the shooting of A Cellar Full of Sound, for which he had also written the screenplay. As was their tradition, the client and agent met to talk about what would come after the present picture was done; the deep look into their future that kept a career going with forward momentum. There was no talk of the movie about to be made, just the options for future enterprises.
“Franchises are killers,” Bill said, speaking from well-known experience. The pressures to have Horizon of Eden match the quality and popular success of Border of Eden and then Darkness of Eden—all “written and directed by”—had been like holding on to political office. By the final day of shooting on Horizon, Bill had lost twenty-five pounds, stopped shaving to save time in the mornings, drank three shots of ZzzQuil every night to sleep, and had survived the last two weeks of Principal Photography running on the fumes of triple espressos. Bill Johnson, who once typed out this one sentence on his 1939 Smith-Corona Sterling—MAKING FILMS IS MORE FUN THAN FUN—had had none whatsoever completing that last chapter of Eden, which took nearly two years of his life.
In his three-decade run of films, Bill was firmly—to the envy of many—in the win column, save a couple of so-so performers and the one unmitigated disaster. Bill now developed his own material, turning down big works that would have replenished his coffers, and with his 10 percent made the Instigator happier, too. A Cellar Full of Sound had been a relative pleasure to write, a pain in the ass to prep, and could go any way in the shoot.
But since Pocket Rockets had brought Bill back from the disaster that had been Albatross, the Instigator saw that the filmmaker was at the top of his game, and he wanted that to remain the case.
“Franchises become cruel masters. I don’t want to work for a cruel master,” Bill said. “I don’t like being the cruel master, except in meetings with marketing.”
“Audiences have so many options for entertainment,” Fred said over grass-fed veal medallions and garden sunchokes. “They need a reason to exchange their money for a ticket to a movie. Bill Johnson is a reason. A superhero franchise is coin of the realm, like westerns were in the ’50s and ’60s and action movies in the ’80s. The Comic-Con fans go to see everything.”
“If only to hate it. Just ask Lazlo Shiviski.” Bill leaned back. “I like the antiheroes, the flawed and haunted ones.”
“Marvel would give you the next Thor.”
“Tell them I’m Thorry, but no.”
“D.C. would give you anything on their slate.”
“The Batman, the X-Men, Spider-Boy, Green Giant, Lady Kick-Your-Ass … You don’t see a glut?”
“Dynamo will back up a truckload of cash and drop it on your driveway if you said yes to one of their Ultra movies.”
“Superheroes saving the galaxy and kitty cats stuck in trees. Hohum.” Bill finished his Blue Sky cola in the tall glass of ice, no straw. “I’m not against the genre, just the tropes in them. Evil lords from other galaxies who speak English. Super guys and girls that want to kiss but never do. Whole cities being destroyed, but we never see the corpses.” Bill waved to the waiter and pointed to his glass for another Blue Sky. “And Pat is on me to do a boy-meets-girl movie. A movie for her.”
“What’s wrong with that idea?”
“A girl-meets-boy story depends on two things. The girl, the boy, and why they need each other. Three things.”
“The world is waiting for another Bill Johnson motion picture,” the Instigator said.
“It will be called A Cellar Full of Sound and should be in a theatre near them in twelve months, give or take.”
“The future is not next year. It’s three years from now.”
“I’ll ponder.” That had always been Bill’s process. He’d land on some source material by accident, which would spark an idea, which he would then turn into another major motion picture masterpiece.
2 SOURCE MATERIAL
On the morning of the seventh of July, the sun, a full disk in a bald, cloudless sky, was beginning to sear Lone Butte, California—population 5,417, officially—a rural town in the North Valley, not far from the capital of Sacramento, less than a day on the road from the city of Oakland, a bit longer to the Babylon that was San Francisco. In the heat of summer, with temperatures always hovering at the century mark, the place was more akin in pace and temperament to the small towns in Kansas or Nebraska or Ohio, in Iowa or Indiana. Few of its citizenry chose to live in Lone Butte; many left and never came back. Granted, the town was the county seat, but by default, because of its location on the Big Iron Bend River, which had been the main route of commerce during the gold rush. In 1947, there wasn’t even a train depot in Lone Butte.
Like most boys his age, Robby Andersen, who would be celebrating his fifth birthday on the eleventh of September, greeted every morning, especially those on another hot summer day, as twenty-four hours of ripe, carefree living. He would start his kindergarten schooling after the Labor Day holiday, but already knew his ABC’s, and his father had explained to him the differences between uppercase and lowercase letters. So, he would surely spell living with a capital L.
He knew to make his bed first thing every morning right after going potty. Then he’d change out of his pj’s and into his playclothes, before coming downstairs. His father would already be off to the shop when his mother set a breakfast down for him—usually toast, milk, and a fruit, often the plums picked off the trees in the backyard. Robby wanted to taste coffee, to find out why grownups drank the stuff all the time, but he was told he was too young. His morning tasks were to put his own dishes on the counter, see if the trash pail needed emptying, give a good sweep to the floor of the screened-in porch and, outside, the back steps that led to the gravel driveway and, just beyond it, those four plum trees. His chores done, he would get out his crayons, coloring pencils, coloring books, and newsprint tablets and, lying on the braided rug in the living room, lose himself in drawing whatever was in his head.
Everyone who had a look at Robby’s drawings—artwork, even at his age—saw a natural ability, an instinct for dimension, space, and movement. There was abandon in his drawings, too; there was joy. The boy drew for fun.
At 10:00 a.m. on most days, he would put his drawings and supplies away in a drawer of the living room cabinet—the chifforobe—and leave the house through the screened-in porch, having learned
to keep the spring-closing door from slamming behind him. Beyond the plum trees was a short hedge with a small gap worn through it, a passageway used by Robby to cross into the Burns family’s backyard, which also had a quartet of plum trees; the property line had split what had been a small orchard. Their daughter, Jill Burns, was already six years old and the best friend Robby Andersen had in his life. The two played together almost every day, with neither kid bothered nor hampered by Jill’s slight clubfoot. At lunchtime, Jill would come home with Robby to eat—a routine agreed upon by both sets of parents. Then, they kept themselves busy until the three o’clock snack time when the radio could be turned on for the shows meant for kids. At four Jill passed back through the gap in the hedge for home.
Robby’s mother, Lulu Andersen, had worked out this routine with Mrs. Burns and loved the arrangement, for it allowed a slow windup to her long day of work work work. Her mornings were calm, unlike those of so many of her gal pals, young women (still) who all had kids and working husbands and the never-ceasing regimen that was homemaking and housekeeping and child-rearing. Work work work and work. Some of those women were raising monsters, little hellions, so Lulu thanked God and the rhythm method for Robby, who did his chores and kept himself busy with crayons and, too, for the baby, Nora, who had been a colicky infant but was turning a year old in two days. It seemed that Nora just might be settling into a female version of her contented, easy-natured older brother. Who in Lone Butte had two kids who caused such little hassle?
Lucille Mavis Falls was called Lulu right from the get-go, after her father had first laid eyes on his daughter and hollered, “What a lulu of a baby girl!” from the other side of the maternity ward window. Twenty-plus years later, Lulu Falls became Lulu Andersen on January 18, 1942, just weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the Second World War had ruthlessly, finally ensnared America. Every house in California was blacked out at night against the next air attack, including those in Lone Butte should enemy bombs be dropped on the rural towns of the North Valley of California.
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