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Going From Power Lines to Power Lunches at Work

Movies * Electrician Rick Recco enters a different world as the screenwriter for the bloody '3000 Miles to Graceland.'

February 23, 2001|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every day, Hollywood acts as a magnet, pulling people from every corner of the world to its tattered streets, palm-lined drives and studio gates with dreams of breaking into movies. Most of those dreams evaporate like steam from a Starbucks latte, but some manage to come true.

Just ask Rick Recco.

Who would have thought that this card-carrying member of Local 3 of the Electrician's Union in Brooklyn, N.Y., who strung wiring in New York skyscrapers for a paycheck, would write a screenplay, sell it for six figures, and now sit back and watch Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell portray the characters he invented on the big screen? The Warner Bros. release is called "3000 Miles to Graceland" and it opens today nationwide--in the face of some brutal reviews.

"It's not gonna win an Oscar," admits the 31-year-old Recco, "but the whole movie is designed for me to get in the door and create some excitement. Hopefully, it will be something to remember."

To succeed at screenwriting, Recco had some obstacles to overcome first. Such as? "I was terrible at spelling," he admits. "I failed English a couple of times."

On a recent afternoon, Recco is sitting in Jerry's Famous Deli on Ventura Boulevard wearing an aqua-colored knit shirt unbuttoned to the waist, exposing a white T-shirt like an early Sylvester Stallone. His arms are tanned and so buffed that the sleeves of his shirt strain at the seams. Chewing a wad of gum and speaking with a vintage "GoodFellas" accent, Recco needs no prompting when listing his favorite movie of all time.

" 'Rocky'--without a doubt, without a doubt. Not two, three or four. First one."

Recco admits he hasn't had much time to soak in the laid-back L.A. atmosphere after arriving from the wintry East Coast, but already he is collecting stories to tell his buddies back home.

"I get off the plane and a half-hour later, bags still in my car, I get introduced to Sean Penn," Recco says. "That's Hollywood."

At the Crunch Gym, where he works out during his L.A. stay, Recco gets in the elevator and a boy spots him and runs to tell his friends, "Hey, that's Joey from 'Friends!' "

Recco, who shares screenwriting credit on the film with director Demian Lichtenstein, says he got the idea for "3000 Miles to Graceland" a couple years ago when he was reading an article about how Elvis' will provided for anyone who could prove that Elvis was his or her father.

"And all these people came forward," Recco recalls. "Tons of people."

In the film, Costner plays an ex-con named Murphy, who believes in his heart that he is the illegitimate son of the King and is resentful for not being recognized as such. Accompanied by a gang of offbeat thieves portrayed by Russell, Christian Slater, David Arquette and Bokeem Woodbine, Murphy stages a daring heist inside a Las Vegas casino against the backdrop of International Elvis Week, which has drawn thousands of Elvis impersonators to the desert oasis for their shot at glory.

Dressed as the King himself in their sequined jumpsuits, with bushy sideburns and oversize, tinted glasses, the gang tries to make off with $3.2 million but finds itself spotted by casino security. A raging gun battle ensues inside the casino as gamblers dive to the floor next to slot machines and casino guards get wasted in an orgy of blood, bullets and shattered mirrors.

Make no mistake, the R-rated "3000 Miles to Graceland" is one of the more violent movies released in recent months. Costner's character in particular seems to relish killing people who tick him off or get in his way. He casually blows up a gas station, draws down on a cop "Gunsmoke" style, slaughters a man and woman with a bow-and-arrow, and terrorizes a mother (Courteney Cox) and her young son--all the while wearing his Elvis sideburns and tinted glasses.

"It's a movie, that's all," Recco says of the high-octane violence he scripted. "It's not violence for the sake of violence. They are robbers. They are crooks. The bad guys get it. As long as the bad guys get it, it makes sense to America. I don't think people take it too seriously [although] politicians do. It's up on the screen. It's not real. That actor who is shot is in another movie somewhere. He's still alive. He's not dead.

"If violence does well [in movies], it's because people don't see it in everyday life," he adds. "They need a little bit of mystery in their life. They need a little bit of excitement in their life."

Recco says one reason he wrote the movie was to tap into the Elvis craze.

"I thought of the most intriguing thing I could think of, so it would make people leave their homes and want to go to the movies and I thought, 'Elvis,' " Recco recalls. "Is he alive or is he dead? That whole Elvis mystique is bigger than him. That whole humor and just seeing a guy in this day and age in that big collar and the glasses and the sequins and the jacket--it's hysterical."

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