Iconic film producer Robert Evans is no slouch when it comes to dramatic structure. It’s inherent in all of his projects: “Chinatown”, “The Godfather”, “Rosemary’s Baby“, “Marathon Man”, “Harold and Maude”, “The Odd Couple” to name a few of my favorites. His latest memoir “The Fat Lady Sang” opens with probably the most dramatic moment of his life, the night he experienced three strokes and flatlined. In true Evans style, he shares this intensely personal chapter of his life with raw, self-deprecating humor, and thus, it is a brilliant opening to where his first published memoir “The Kid Stays in the Picture” concluded.
What struck me the most reading “The Fat Lady Sang” is Evans sheer will. The man has kryptonite running in his veins. Given exceedingly dire predictions for a full recovery after the strokes, he attacked his physical and occupational therapies with a vengeance. Here he is talking about the rehabilitation process:
❝Without exception, the specialists prognosticated a future that scared the shit out of me, but it only made my resolve stronger. the more they kept telling me about my somber future, the stronger my will and the more I kept telling myself, Fuck ‘em.❞ Robert Evans
What is unique about Evans is that in a town obsessed with youth and image, he transparently and intimately talks about his physical, emotional and spiritual challenges. Reading “The Fat Lady Sang” one can imagine what it would feel like to visit with Evans at his residence, Woodland (or as I think of it, Wonderland, especially after reading one particular passage about one of America’s most iconic former leading men) and hear these stories first hand. His writing is personal and intuitive, as seen here:
❝First time out, I’m dumped at the altar. Depressed? Yeah — but for the wrong reasons. Not over love lost, but over ego crushed.❞ Robert Evans
Like his media interviews and “The Kids Stays in the Picture”, “The Fat Lady Sang” has insightful advice for business, life and of course, anyone interested in pursuing a career in entertainment. He manages to sneak in a lot of wisdom without coming across as an, out-of-touch old fogey. Hence, his seductive appeal to the new generation of filmmakers.
Film department chairs would do well to add this, as well as his “The Kid Stays in the Picture” to their required reading lists for his shrewd advice is timeless. His business savvy is also worthy of emulation. It reflects decades of survival cutting deals with the likes of Darryl Zanuck, Charles Bludhorn, Nicholson, Polanski, Pacino, Sharon Stone, Warren Beatty, Mia Farrow, Matthew McConaughey, the list beyond these names are equally impressive, culminating in his award of the coveted David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers Guild of America. Evans may not have acquired a formal education, but his lifetime of experience is the equivalent of a MFA, and he’s magnanimous with it, as well as sharing more kick ass photographs from his personal collection.
Evans personal lifestyle is the stuff of legend and in today’s PR conscious world his level of candor while sharing stories in “The Fat Lady Sang” is refreshing and seemingly guileless. Without being a spoiler, my personal favorites are what I would summarize as “Stalag 13 or How We Escaped The Kempner Institute” and “Cary Grant, The Man Behind The Foster Grants.” You’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m talking about, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s a fast read that I finished in one night, but that no doubt, I’ll be referring to for years to come.
It was disappointing, however, that he didn’t include a chapter of two of specific advice tailored for aspiring filmmakers and/or scriptwriters. He’s unequivocally qualified. Who knows? Maybe he’s saving that for something in the future. One can only imagine what his next writing project will be. Write on, Mr. Evans. Write on!
Speaking of future projects, “Deadline Hollywood” reports that Evans has partnered with his tight friend, Brett Ratner. This time it’s episodic television. The highly anticipated series will air on 21ST Century Fox’s cable division Fox 21, and will be loosely based on Evans’ wheeling and dealing in Hollywood during the game changing 1970s. No surprise, it sounds like “The Kid” will have another hit on his hands.
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