Monday, October 4, 2010

Karin Gillespie: True Hollywood Story

The Girlfriend Book Club has gone through an entire cycle and now it’s time to start again. Our topics this cycle are two-fold: Hurray for Hollywood! (Some of us will discuss film deals and options, forays into screen-writing, and our favorite films based on books.) The other topic is book covers, the good, the bad, the cringe-worthy… It should be an interesting couple of months so stay tuned. Thanks for reading and following the blog.
Here’s my True Hollywood Story:

All my life I’ve had stars in my eyes. When I was nine, after a successful turn as the lead in a local theater production of Alice in Wonderland , I told my mother she needed to take me to California immediately where I could fulfill my destiny as an actress. She refused (there was a little matter of leaving my father and two brothers behind). Thus, for years, my only connection with the limelight was my weekly purchase of People magazine.

One day, however, I was thrust out of my humble, ordinary existence. One afternoon, out of the blue, I had a close encounter with one of the beautiful people.

It was a typical workday for me: Stare blankly at the computer monitor. Type a couple of words. Check e-mails. Eat chocolate. Repeat.

The phone rang. Generally I screen my calls so as to not distract myself from my daydreams and chocolate consumption, but for this afternoon I answered on the second ring.

"Hello! This is James Woods," said the voice on the other end of the phone. "The movie actor. Do you know who I am?"

I was momentarily befuddled. First of all, I have to admit that movie stars don't call me every day. In fact, this was my very first call from a movie star. Secondly, I couldn't figure out why he was calling me. Was he trying to sell me something? Was James Woods the actor now James Woods the telemarketer? Had I missed news of his downfall?

"My mother was reading the large-print edition of your book Bet Your Bottom Dollar," he continued, "and she was laughing so much that I asked her if I could read it, too. After I finished, I thought it would make a great movie. Have you ever thought about who would play some of the characters in your book?"

Finally. My chance to be in the spotlight.

"Mr. Woods. It just so happens that when I was eight, I starred in Alice in Wonderland ..."

"Actually, I was thinking Meryl might be ideal for one of the parts," he interrupted. “We’re friends from way back; I’ll call her.

"Meryl? As in Meryl Streep? Well, yes, I suppose she is probably a little more experienced.”

Long story short, James Woods' people got in touch with my agent and the papers were drawn up for the movie option. After it happened, friends kept asking me when I was buying a Greek island. Truthfully the money would only purchase a few Greek salads, but I had big dreams. How much was Crete going for, I wondered.

After the papers were inked, James Wood called me on the phone and we had a long talk about his vision for the film. He also sent me a dozen red American Beauty roses; the card read, “Can’t wait to make a film with you, Best wishes, Jimmy.”

That was it. I never heard from him again. My Hollywood hopes dashed like a dinghy on the merciless rocks of a craggy shore.

Not really.

I’m a practical sort and had always seen as the film option as a fun story more than an actual reality. Since then Hollywood has sniffed around my door several times. I had a flurry of interest in Earthly Pleasures the story of a greeter in Heaven who falls in love with a mortal, but nothing came out of it… yet.


  1. What fun! Sorry your book didn't get made into a movie, but look at the bright side: Isn't it great to get money (and roses!) for nothing?

  2. What a great story, Karen! My mother and I loved your books too! That could have been me calling you, only I'm not a Hollywoodite. Still. They should make a movie from your book. What a thrill to get that kind of interest! And what fun!

  3. OMG, hilarious. Especially, "It's James Woods, the movie actor."

  4. Thanks for the laugh this morning, Karin!
    How exciting to get a phone call from James Woods! I love that he was inspired to read the book by his mother's reaction to it. It speaks well of him (as well as his calling you in person) :)

  5. Karin, can we be best friends? Your humor and warmth always come through in your posts. Today's inspired me to post about my own dream telephone call. You are such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing your wonderful story!

  6. i remember this day so well - you came to one of the creative goddesses gatherings right after and had us all aflutter. :D

    i still firmly believe any of your novels would make a kickass movie. Hopefully someday some hollywood bigwig will see the juicy tale ripe for the big screen plucking. love ya! xxxx

  7. So true, Karen. And I'll be telling this story with my last breath.

    Actually Melissa, maybe he said film star, who can remember? I was so freaked out.

    Maria, my books have a small-town flavor and he said, "I knew someone who wrote books like these was probably in the phone book." He was right.

    Yes, Jill. We can be best friends. I need more like you :) You should put a link to your dream phone call. I want to read it.


    I don't doubt it'll happen on day and hopefully with George Clooney instead of James W. (nothing against him, of course). See ya Sunday I hope.

  8. Here you go, Karin! :)

  9. What a riot, Karin! I would have been a babbling idiot, I fear, if I'd gotten a phone call like that. How cool, though.

    I always think it's fun to get those recorded calls from famous people during big elections . . .

  10. Karin, he's a fool not to have made the movie with Meryl (but you know how long things take in Hollywood...perhaps it'll still happen one of these days, and then he'll call again and say, "It's James Woods, the movie actor, 'member me?"). What a great story! Thanks for sharing and starting my Tuesday morning off with a grin.

  11. Great post, Karin! James Woods called you!! I want a movie star to call me now!!

  12. Jill, that's hysterical. I especially like the part about your assistant reviving you with smelling salts when Gerard Butler calls. (He is very hot.)

    Judy, I was a babbling idiot. He asked for my address and I went blank.

    Susan, right afterwards he got that part in Shark so I think he lost interest. Plus there was no real good part for him in it.

    Thanks, Brenda. It was definitely a surreal experience.

  13. if you get George Clooney I DEFINITELY get a role as an extra just to make sure my drooling rights are reserved. :P And hell yeah i'll be there sunday. with pages. maybe not good pages - but they'll be offered up in sacrifice. :P

  14. I've known a lot of writers who had acting dreams (or careers). We love to create characters, whether on paper or on stage. I followed the Brady Bunch around King's Island for an entire day while they filmed an episode on-site. I was so hopeful of being discovered.

  15. Very funny and true, Karin! I think many authors have had similar stories - a phone call (not necessarily from a film star, though - lucky you!), an option, a few dollars in the pocket, big dreams and then - nothing. That's the typical Hollywood option story these days!

  16. ROTFL...""Meryl? As in Meryl Streep? Well, yes, I suppose she is probably a little more experienced.”

    Sorry he disappeared after the mind-blowing phone call and the delivery of roses, but that's Hollywood for ya. And you never know what tomorrow might bring!

  17. No drooling on Clooney allowed, Rhi.

    You're right, Cindy. I know a lot of writers who wanted to be actors at one point. So funny about trailing after the Brady Kids.

    Melanie, so true. Wink.

    Beth, I agree. If I write enough books one might just might see the silver screen. Speaking of books, I got your pb in the mail today. Penguin is really working on your behalf. Fingers crossed this one will make the list too.

  18. Karin, I'm sure one of your books (past, present or future) will make it to film!

  19. Love this post! The Bottom Dollar books would make a great movie and Earthly Pleasures too.

  20. How fabulous that he phoned you personally!

    It's too bad so few options pan out. Have you ever heard Claire Cook's story on how MUST LOVE DOGS finally got optioned/sold/made? And now that movie is on TV practically every day!

    Here's hoping your next Hollywood call is fruitful!

  21. Thanks, Wendy and Melissa. Sending the good wishes back at cha. (Although Melissa has already seen a book in film.)

  22. Yes, Therese, I know about Claire's story. In fact, I think I'll email her and see if she wants to tell her story for our Hollywood celebration. That would be so much fun.

  23. Oh, Karin, this is a GREAT story!! I would love to have a phone call like that happen to me sometime... In my fantasy, Johnny Depp is the one calling me up and saying, "Hey, you know that hot neighbor you have in that second book of yours? Let me take on that role for ya. You're good with that, right?" LOL. Someday it'll happen!

  24. That would be fabulous, Marilyn. Johnny Depp. Yummo!

  25. Marian! I somehow missed your comment. Thanks for the kind words.

  26. Even though I know from personal experience that getting optioned isn't what most people think it cool! How cool to get roses (in addition to the little bit of $)! How cool that an actor found your book through his mom!