I want to be so famous that movie stars hang out with me and talk about what
a bummer their lives are. I want to beat up photographers who catch me in
hotel lobbies with Winona Ryder. I want to be implicated in vicious rumors
about Drew Barrymore's sex parties. And, finally, I want to be pronounced
DOA in a small, tired LA hospital after doing speedballs with Matt Damon.
I want it all. I want the American dream.
The average person has three million-dollar ideas per year.
Scat, an unemployed marketing graduate who knows you don't get noticed
calling yourself Michael, has
had his first. It's a sure-fire ticket to the
life of shallow fame and fleeting celebrity he craves.
But first he has
to deal with 6, who is possibly the love of Scat's
life or possibly ripping him off, and
Sneaky Pete, marketing genius, refugee from Tokyo, and
Scat's best friend—as far as Scat knows.
(Unless you want to completely avoid spoilers. As in, you
haven’t read the book. And you don’t intend to. But you really want to see
the movie. And you’re browsing my site. You’re a strange person.)
Amber Heard as 6, Shiloh Fernandez as Scat:
Scat gazes skyward while a machine lurks ominously in the background:
Kellan Lutz as Sneaky Pete:
Now for some ANSWERS to COMMON QUESTIONS.
I don’t believe there’s an official release date yet, but it can’t
be too far away now, can it? Not with these STILLS. So I’m guessing
within the next six months.
seen the film; I am waiting until I can see it in a cinema.
Because having a novel turned into a feature film, that’s
kind of a big deal. I don’t want to watch the end result of that on a DVD.
I want to sit in a theater and crane my neck and eat popcorn. Right?
The movie doesn’t strictly follow the plot of the book. I can say that
without seeing it because I wrote many screenplay drafts,
and they didn’t strictly follow the plot of the book. I don’t think movies
should be like books only with all the parts you’d normally imagine filled in.
I think they should do their own thing. They should be true to the core
of the book but express that in whichever ways work best.
Also, you know how I rewrite my novels to death? Oh. Well, I do. I change
a lot in each new draft. So imagine me adapting my own novel. It’s a miracle
If you missed it before, here is
I think it’s awesome. I was so happy when I saw this. I watched it
about thirty times in a row.
Somehow an Amber Heard fansite got hold of a “Syrup” teaser that
had been made up for distribution people, and posted it to YouTube.
This is the same teaser I saw in February but wasn’t allowed to show
anyone. But now it’s out there!
If you want a second-by-second analysis of exactly which lines are from
the book and which I wrote for the screenplay and which they added and
where I was standing when they filmed what, I am totally prepared to do that.
Lately I’ve been feeling sympathy for actors. I never used to feel that. I
used to think actors deserved NOTHING, because they’re already
beautiful and adored. And people are swoon over how clever
and cool they must be in real life, because apparently they improvised
their best lines and YOU KNOW WHAT NO THEY DID NOT. They played
the damn character that was written for them, that’s what they did.
The alternative only gets play because people believe in their hearts that
movies are real.*
Essentially, I viewed actors as mindless automatons waiting to be
filled with words. Attractive automatons, to be sure. They’re a fine
looking bunch. And they’re good at pretending. But that’s not a
particularly impressive skill. I mean, kids do it. So I’ve never
really rated actors as more deserving of respect than, say,
jugglers. Especially jugglers who can balance on things while they
juggle. That shit is not easy.
But this was before I actually spent time on a film set. I found that
educational in a few ways. For one thing, I had to act.
Only a little. I’m kind of abusing the term here. I mostly had to
stand in one place and not sneeze. But there was a time when I had
to move parts of my body in a coherent way while fifty people and
a very expensive camera stared at me, and that turned out to be
harder than I expected. There is a pressure element. So I concede
that acting, or doing anything, really, is more challenging
when a lot of people’s time and money is riding on you not screwing it up.
But the real eye-opener was how actors have to do what they’re told.
Not always. Sometimes actors can say, “I’m not really feeling that line,”
and the director will say, “Let’s try it both ways,” and the actor can
perform a take differently while knowing in their soul that it will never
be seen again. Actors are also free to perform minor on-the-fly
sentence surgery, so long as they get the essence right. In some cases,
they really can propose something different, and if the director
agrees, they get to do it. But mostly they have to say the lines.
So if I write, “6 looks surprised,” then Amber Heard has to go ahead and look
surprised. I want you to take a moment to think about how much you
would enjoy it if you were world famous and had to look surprised just
because I wanted you to. Because I would hate it. I would be all, “I tell
you what, how about you go fuck yourself?” Now, okay, this probably just
means I would make a crappy actor. I already knew that. And I knew
actors had to say the lines. That is the most fundamental part
of their job. If they weren’t prepared to do it,
they would find something else to do, like juggle while balancing on things.
But still. I realize more and more how spoiled I am to own the entire
process of creating a novel. I don’t need anyone’s permission to start
writing. I don’t need to convince people
to sign off on doing a part of the story a particular way. I just do it. You might argue
that this isn’t a good thing. And I might argue, why don’t you get off my
site, if you hate me so much. But for better or worse, I enjoy the ability to determine how I do
Actors don’t have that. They have to give themselves to a role no matter how
shitty. They’re totally dependent on being offered good scripts, and if
they’re not, they have to perform bad ones. When they perform bad roles,
even when they do a good job, people think they’re bad actors, because
people think movies are real.* An actor might never once get the chance to
perform a role at their best. Which is kind of horrifying.
Of course, they can console themselves with their immense beauty.
On Tuesday I had my Syrup cameo. I was not as nervous about this as I’d expected,
until it came time to do it, at which point I was seized with terror. This was because
everyone around me seemed to know exactly what they were doing and be
very good at doing it, while I’m a writer who can’t act. I knew that whenever
something went wrong during a shot, people would shout out, “RESET, RESET,”
or “CUT” or “MAX BARRY GODDAMMIT HOW HARD IS IT TO TAKE ONE STEP
TO YOUR RIGHT” (probably), and did not want to waste everyone’s time.
They were doing such an incredible job; why was I making it harder? My very
presence was an insult, implying that anyone could do this. If an actor
wanted to insert a few sentences into a novel I was writing, how would I feel about that?
Like no freaking way was that happening, that’s how.
So I felt indulgent. But of course every person I spoke to was
completely encouraging and happy for me, so it may have been all in my head.
Anyway, I completely nailed the “neurotic” part of actor right off the bat.
I was a waiter. In an earlier blog I said I was going to be an exec in a strip
club—which I really should have mentioned to my wife before
the day I was leaving, I discovered—but the schedule changed so instead I
was a waiter. I had a line but convinced the director to drop it, because I
lost confidence in being able to make recognizable sounds out of my talking
hole. Instead I mostly just stood next to Amber Heard and gave her things
while she delivered a monologue about feminism in the
workplace. This was a good match of roles to talents. I was like the
caddy of a great golfer, if the golfer was world-class and beautiful and
at one point wearing a corset, and the caddy had never held a club before
and was concentrating on not swallowing his own tongue.
Here’s me paying intent attention to the director, Aram:
Beside me is Shane, a very cool guy who I talked to a lot on set; he’s a producer
who in this moment is standing in for Amber. I must be standing on
a box or something because no way is Shane this short. That’s some kind
of film trickery. The ear belongs to Scott, whose job is to herd people into the
right positions at the right time by bellowing instructions. He is awesome.
Everyone is awesome. Julio Macat, the cinematographer, who I wish I got
a pic with but never did, is flat-out brilliant and a genuinely lovely human being.
Every day I was on set I learned more about what these people do
and how good they are at doing it.
A lot of exterior shots were filmed that day and next, so the internet filled with
paparazzi pics. I think I am supposed to be disappointed at, you know,
these vultures suckling at the teat of celebrity, but come on, HOW COOL DO THESE LOOK.
No-one felt a need to take a paparazzi shots of me, for some reason. I had to
do it myself. So here is
me in my trailer
on the day of my cameo. (I don’t know why I
got a trailer.)
Then I flew home to Melbourne, Australia. Which was heartbreaking, because I want to live on
that film set for the rest of my life, but also wonderful, because I got to hold
my girls (three new teeth for Matilda. Three!) and sleep for longer than five hours
and get back to writing things.
This trip was amongst the most hands-down incredible things I’ve ever
experienced. It was astonishing on many levels: hearing actors delivering
lines I wrote, seeing characters and locations I’d imagined coming to life,
being embraced so warmly by the cast and crew, watching how films actually
get made, surviving a cameo. I’m so grateful to every person involved.
And I know nothing will ever beat it: that even if I’m fortunate enough to have more
work produced, it won’t be like this first time, where reality smashed through
the ceiling of my expectations and kept heading up. I went over there fully
prepared to be disappointed, at least in some respects. And I was wrong.
This is going to be a good movie.
I woke at 3:35am and couldn’t find sleep so decided to get up and walk 30 or 40 blocks to location. At dawn, Manhattan was astonishingly still.
City That Never Sleeps? I thought. More like City That Never Gets Up. This seemed funny because it was my fifth day in a row with less than four hours sleep. I’m basically only functional thanks to to the adrenaline of having my book turned into a movie. I walked through the Flower District, which is what I assume that street with nothing but flower shops is called, and Madison Square Park, where I once saw an outdoor film, and, without warning, found myself in Union Square, staring at the bookstore where I gave my first ever book reading from Syrup in July 1999.
(Edit: I am mixing up my locations. In the comments, Nic Woolf informs me that my first reading was at Astor Place,
not Union Square. I think this is right. Union Square was where my first agent, Todd Keithley, had his office
when he sold Syrup to a publisher.)
Today began in pure joy, with no trepidation about what to expect. I knew it was going to be awesome and just felt happy to be exactly where I was.
In the morning, we shot some footage of Scat being dragged into a corporate office:
I then had my costume fitting for my cameo role on Tuesday. But I am skipping right over that because I want to talk about what happened in the afternoon. And please forgive for indulging in detail, but I want to get this all down, because it is so very important to me.
The afternoon was Amber Heard’s first scene. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Amber in anything much before, and what I did see, she was not very 6-like. Aram, the director, had sworn to me that she was perfect for this role, but I was still anxious, because, like I mentioned yesterday, 6 is special to me. I was bracing myself for the inevitable realization that she was not going to be portrayed just like I had imagined.
We were shooting at the top of the Met-Life building, where thick mist turned what should have been a glorious vista over Central Park into an otherworldly diffuse light that was actually far more interesting.
I didn’t know what the hell we were doing here, because when I wrote this scene it was set in an office corridor.
In it, 6 is fuming about a character trying to usurp her (named @ in the book, Three in the movie). 6 fumes a lot in Syrup. It is a core part of her. And what I was most afraid of was an actress interpreting this as a weakness. A flavor of helpless frustration, instead of honest anger. This is important to me not only because it goes to the heart of who 6 is, but also because the way women are demeaned in the workplace for showing emotion drives me fucking insane. (Latest example: here.) 6’s dismissal of male expectations of female behavior is one of her best qualities.
So anyway. Amber Heard turns up. She is blond. I struggle a little with that. But I’m prepared to go with it. It’s a very severe blonde. Then they set up the scene and Amber starts pacing. She radiates fury and is fearsome and so, so 6.
Then she and Scat exchange a series of lines that I first wrote in the book and reworked into their current form over five drafts and four years. Writing those drafts involved more bullshit than I can possibly describe. For a long time I wrote all day and ate dinner then went back and wrote more, seeing my family for a grand total of about thirty minutes a day, in the service of those drafts. And after enough of this, I decided it was all for nothing, because it was probably never going to be produced.
This scene looks astonishingly beautiful, because instead of the simple office corridor I imagined, it’s taking place in this striking corporate-industrial cavern. And watching this, where everything was either exactly as I imagined or else better, which I had given up hope of seeing, just broke me. I cried. Later, when I went out to call Jen and tell her what had happened, how all that shit hadn’t been for nothing, I cried again.
I’m sleep-deprived. I’m a little weepy about everything. But I will never forget this day.