Giving Osama the Hollywood treatment

Picture this: To help the war effort, studio bosses decide to make Osama an offer he can't refuse.

Memo From La-la Land

November 14, 2001

Viacom Studios

Nov. 13, 2001

For Internal Use Only

To: Richard

Re: "Get Osama"

Lunch was great, thanks, although don't you think vertical foie gras with the big rosemary sprig sticking up is really so '90s? Who says everything has changed? Hey, if we don't have the duck liver appetizer with a nice glass of Merlot, the terrorists win, no?

So to follow up re: Operation Enduring Receipts. Here's what's gone on since the request from Bush's guy Rove vis a vis Hollywood taking part in the war effort. Strictly classified. A regular put-the-cyanide-in Castro's-beard thing. The short answer is: There's plenty the industry can do - like put Osama in development hell, for one.

I understand with these GS-15s in Washington everything has to be in triplicate with enough detail for the space program. You have your report to do for the get-together in D.C. Wednesday, so draw from this stuff on the last three days of complete madness here. Some of the times are probably off. It's been totally nuts.


10:30 a.m. The usual bunch from project development gathers in Robbie's office to look at what we might as well think of as Osama's demo tapes - you know, the stuff they've been showing on the news with the cave wall backdrop. Looks like he's working a really hip club from the '60s.

I thought Ollie Stone was in love with himself until I saw this guy. The pious look, the messianic schtick, the Kalashnikov as a fashion accessory. Between the benedictory gestures and the dreamy look on the face I couldn't tell if I was thinking a remake of Sunset Boulevard or The Greatest Story Ever Told. Either way, the guy's a natural: melodramatic, grandiose and truly desperate for adulation.

Jen says she figures a three-picture deal, easy. Whatever. The point is to tie him up for years with meetings, canceled lunches, deals falling through, firing a hundred writers - the full drill. Pretty soon al-Qaida's chief cook and fund-raiser is too busy for international terrorism and the world's a happier place.

2:10 p.m. After considerable hemming and hawing from NSA, CIA, FBI about getting a phone number for Osama, Lauren in marketing comes up with a contact through an ex-boyfriend. Lunch tentatively set a week hence. He'll pick the place.

3:33 p.m. Bill is thinking out loud again, wandering into my office to suggest maybe something with the Farrelly Bros.: There's Something About Mamoud.


2:45 p.m. Lunch with Mike at Rosario's disappoints in the risotto dept., but you probably don't want to hear about it. Meanwhile back on OpER, Osama cancels lunch. Eugene's trying to reach his people, keeps being referred to some Egyptian surgeon. "Now, must go now, very busy," they keep saying. Who are his people?

3:10 p.m. Press relations pitches a good idea for a story to cover the operation, something about Stallone making a comeback as Rambo taking on the Taliban. It's just idiotic enough to get some ink.

4 p.m. Marla submits a report from our cultural liaison people who suggest a few sensitivities on language. "My people," for example, probably has a very different meaning in the Islamic world than in, say, Burbank. Fine.

6 p.m. Bill stumbles in. Just blue-skying, he says, but isn't it about time for a remake of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?


10: 20 a.m. Osama's people call back to set lunch, but the phone goes out right before we get a location. Eugene says he thought they said, "Tapas, you like tapas?" Then the line goes dead.

1:50 p.m. Phone contact resumes. Forget the tapas. And forget lunch, too, unless they get script approval. Things are going nicely. Phone goes dead.

2:20 p.m. Lunch is on, a nice fish place in Kandahar. Stallone's agent calls, leaves anxious and poignantly upbeat message.

4:45 p.m. Eugene calls Osama's people, leaves message canceling lunch.

6:50 p.m. For two hours Osama's people have been leaving messages to reschedule. They have concepts to discuss. Turns out the Egyptian surgeon's been working on a screenplay for a biopic. The last message crackles like mad. I make out something about "share of the gross?" Then the phone goes dead.- Arthur Hirsch

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