Breaking In to the Movies

This sneak preview by a UT film student stole more than the show at Sony Studios

He went to the Sidney Poitier building, an office structure that houses Sony's story department. When Southan walked in, the first thing that caught his eye was a staircase marked "roof access."

"I was into roofs at the time," he says, referring to his urban exploration. So he boldly walked up the stairs of the five-story building.

"I was very nervous about the roof hatch. But it wasn't alarmed," he says. He emerged onto the roof, and then ducked to keep from being seen. Above him, a large American flag hung on a pole.

Southan had used his earlier documentaries to savage his subjects.
John Anderson
Southan had used his earlier documentaries to savage his subjects.
Subtitles were needed to overcome poor sound quality in some sections of the film.
Subtitles were needed to overcome poor sound quality in some sections of the film.

"I guess I'll take it," he remembers thinking to himself, and says it as if it were the most natural thought in the world.

Southan waited several hours for the sun to set to make his theft less visible. Eventually, he made a grab for Old Glory.

"Once I got the flag, I felt really confident about walking around the Sony lot. It no longer seemed like such a behemoth to me."

With the flag, he decided not to skate or do anything else to draw attention to himself. Southan says he just started walking and wound up in the story department. Seeing stacks of screenplays, he picked up seven of them and left.

"It didn't even feel like I was doing something wrong. It was like I'd earned it for walking in there," he says. "It didn't really occur to me that I'd done something wrong until I talked to Sara about it."

Riding to the Orange County screening, Southan told her about the theft and got an earful. But Southan also mentioned that he planned to return the scripts. "She made me feel guilty about it, but then she was fine with it as long as I put them back."

Then Rimensnyder had an inspiration -- that would be their documentary. They would film themselves sneaking the scripts back. Southan added another wrinkle: Before they did, he wanted to rewrite them all. Realizing that would take a monumental effort, they decided to choose the most insipid one to rewrite, since that, they reasoned, would be the most likely to be made into a movie.

Which script deserved that honor? All seven of them were bad, Southan says.

There was Cutmaster Slide: DJ to the FBI, for example, which seemed so ridiculous they couldn't imagine it being made. But at least its premise amused them: A nightclub DJ spots a terrorist, sizes him up through a Holmesian assessment of his appearance and puts just the right record on his turntable. It so affects the terrorist that he breaks down into tears and drops his weapons. The FBI agents who had been trailing the suspect are so impressed, they hire the DJ to be their new secret weapon.

"It was a really cheesy plot, but it was the most well written of the scripts. I actually thought it was pretty funny. Sara thought so, too."

So Cutmaster Slide was out.

They also didn't want to touch the most dreadful of the seven, a script with the title Sean Connery Babysitter Project: Babysitter's a Spy. That screenplay had Connery as a spy who moves in with a woman and her children to keep an eye on his quarry, who lives across the street. While he's maintaining surveillance, he's forced to baby-sit the children when the woman gets a job.

Sony estimated the "developmental cost" of the script at $474,528.25.

"It's the most clichéd story you can imagine," Southan says. "He teaches one little girl ballet moves. Then, of course, it looks like he isn't going to make her recital later in the film, but he just makes it in time, slipping into the back of the room." Naturally, all of the kids end up getting kidnapped by the suspect Connery was supposed to be watching.

Southan says they had no desire to write a script that was so boring and predictable, so they chose another Connery project.

Sean Connery Golf Project was written by Peter Steinfeld, whose other credits include 2000's Drowning Mona and Analyze That, the upcoming sequel to Analyze This.

Southan says it opens with Connery's character being released from prison. He's a golf hustler who decides that it's time to go straight. But when he finds out his girl has been stolen by his best friend and that he's lost his house, Connery's character feels forced to go back to his criminal ways. (Sony's estimate of the script's worth: $513,598.69.)

"This, the ultimate cookie-cutter script, had about as much courage as a platter of Oreos," writes Rimensnyder in a Salon magazine article penned before her legal troubles. Steinfeld's agent, CAA's Scott Greenberg, tells the Press that the writer was too busy to comment on the matter.

Southan and Rimensnyder's rewrite was partly an effort at improvement, but mostly it was pure prank. They chose individual pages, added surreal elements and then made sure that the new pages still fit in place. Besides taking lines away from Connery's hustler and giving them to minor characters, they also gave Connery's golfer a yen for yoga.

"The film's ingenue was transformed from a poor waitress into a bad performance artist with a talent for balancing a stove on her head. She and her fiancé went from a couple who had sex so often they annoyed Sean Connery, to a pair of virgins who pretended to have sex just to annoy Sean Connery. We fulfilled the life of a bitter gangster by showing him the love of a mail-order bride. A storybook wedding -- the film's finale -- became a Vegas affair presided over by a Tiger Woods impersonator who moonlighted as a justice of the peace," Rimensnyder writes in her Salon piece.

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