"The next thing I knew, it had gone from Paramount to Fred Dryer to NBC, and suddenly we had a deal," Silliphant said last spring when "Day of Reckoning" was still in production. As Silliphant sat sipping his tropical drink in Trader Vic's, filming was taking place several hundred yards away in the luxurious lobby of the Royal Garden Riverside hotel. He was available for consultation, but he was so disheartened that he wouldn't appear on the set.
"When I heard this, I was not only unhappy, I was very upset," Silliphant continued. "And what I knew would happen has happened. Number one, the budget went from $1.5 to $4 million. And number two, we totally lost control of the project. We sold the house. And then it went into the Hollywood system. What is the Hollywood system? The Hollywood system is to come to a place like this and just use it as a background."
He gestured out the hotel window to the Chao Phraya--a busy waterway of commerce and trade in Bangkok and the best way to avoid the snarling traffic jams that transform stifling city streets into a virtual parking lot during the day. Along the exotic green shores, beautiful resort hotels stand between rotting, wooden dwellings where naked children play in dirty water.
"And that's not what I intended," Silliphant said. "What we're getting is money. Period. We're not getting what we set out to do--which is to control the film, to invest it with the culture and the attitudes of Thailand, to make an essentially Thai-produced film. I felt a sense of great personal failure, having said 'Screw off' five years ago, 'I don't need you bastards.' Here I was back selling them something, and it was a total denial of everything I wanted to do."
Silliphant said he bears no resentment toward Ginty, who ended up with a supporting role in "Day of Reckoning" as Dryer's partner in his travel business, Eco Tours. Ginty said he was simply fed up with shopping the movie around when he made the deal with Paramount.
"I've seen this development process go on for years, having worked in independent films," Ginty said. "But you've got to get it made. You can talk about it forever. There are guys out there in Morton's who are constantly talking about it, and guys in Spago constantly talking about it. I got impatient. I wasn't going to wait any longer, because I knew it would sell. Between Stirling's name and this location, I knew the story would sell."
Early last year, the plans Dryer carefully devised for his career were collapsing like a house of cards. When "Hunter" was nearing the end of its seven-year run on NBC, Dryer signed a three-year contract at Paramount with Brandon Tartikoff, who had recently resigned as chairman of NBC Entertainment to run the studio.
One brainchild of Tartikoff's was to put popular TV stars, who are seen in living rooms across America in tens of millions of households, into moderately budgeted movies and watch the cash roll in. Dryer was poised to launch his feature-film career in a movie called "And Justice for One."
But before the cameras were ready to roll, Tartikoff abruptly left Paramount, Sherry Lansing replaced him, and she put Dryer's film into turnaround.
"Brandon loved the movie, and he wanted to do it," said Dryer, 48. "We had it all ready to go and then he left. When he did, the impending storm hit us: the new regime. And they said, 'We're not interested. We're not interested in you, and we're not interested in the project.' I was pretty much dead in the water theatrically."
Paramount's television division tried desperately to get Dryer to do a TV series, either a half-hour comedy or an hour drama. But he refused, choosing instead to focus his energy on developing his own production company. If he was going to star in television, he wanted to produce and own the programming, making sure it could play in foreign markets to address his huge overseas following.
"I do know that television drives the world," Dryer said. "It's a software business, and those who have a library to supply that need in the coming years will be the ones in good shape. I want to be a part of that future."
That's when "Day of Reckoning" was presented to him.
Although Paramount would own "Day of Reckoning," the internationally flavored production offered Dryer a solid first project for his new company to produce and supply to NBC, where he has a three-movie deal. Dryer became executive producer, along with his partner, Victor Schiro.
The pairing of Silliphant and Dryer seemed a natural. In "Hunter," Dryer played a maverick cop with a female partner, incompetent superiors and a massive Magnum revolver. "Hunter" was crafted after Clint Eastwood's successful "Dirty Harry" movies, specifically "The Enforcer," the only one to pair Eastwood with a female partner. Silliphant wrote "The Enforcer."