Since Nichols took the risky--and highly unusual--step of buying the rights himself, however, no studio is yet involved. By summer's end, however, he has to decide who will finance the shoot that he hopes will begin in January. His alternatives: going with any of a host of interested studios (all but one have expressed interest, he said) or financing the movie in Europe or Asia and selecting a U.S. distributor down the road.
"If I financed it abroad, I'd own the movie but be involved in a huge Monopoly game during the shoot, lining up nine countries for the production, then two more for prints and advertising," Nichols said. "Besides, there's something cleaner and simpler about the guys you know. If MGM/UA hadn't just been sold, I'd go with my old friend [United Artists chief] John Calley, a guy who knows what's his job and what's yours. But it will take some time before we see where everyone lands."
For all the hassles Hollywood can pose, Winkler maintained, it's the better alternative by far. "I've made about 40 movies, 38 of them financed by majors," he said. "If you think the studios are tough, you should see the guy buying video rights for Bangkok giving you notes on the script . . . not to mention eunuchs advising you on casting."
During his phone conversation with Klein, Nichols discussed the "technical" end--among other things, how to cut the plot so the movie doesn't rival "The Sorrow and the Pity" in length. Deleting some of the prominent politicos shouldn't pose problems, the director said, since the tale isn't tied to the current political scene.
"Even if Clinton isn't reelected, you have the story of a man continually endangered by feet--if not other organs--of clay, someone managing to battle on because he wants something honorable to get done," Nichols said. "That's a good story for us at this minute. If a politician does something against the American canon, everyone knows about it six hours later. And, in the absence of heroes such as FDR or Jefferson, we have to move forward with what we've got."