Apparently it's Throwback Thursday again? I didn't realize that was a weekly thing, but apparently it is. Do you all know anything about this? Is it a real thing? I'm pretty sure Avery just made it up, actually. Well, anyway, I guess it's a good opportunity to reminisce and share fun stories. Last week I talked about every woman's worst nightmare: having to kiss George Clooney. You can read that one by clicking HERE. Today I thought I would talk about a couple of different times when I channeled the drama from my real life into the scripts I was writing and movies I was starring in.
Some scenes in movies were literally stolen from my life. Like this one... Okay, so if you haven't read the book (WHY haven't you read the book?) here's a little bit of background: It was the summer of 1988 and it really should have been the best time in my life. Sergei Grinkov and I had just won the gold medal in pairs skating at the Calgary Olympics and had turned pro. Of course, Christopher Dean and I had already won gold in ice dancing in 1984, but then we had gone our separate ways. At the Calgary Olympics, we had found each other again when he knocked me flat on my rear coming around a corridor backstage at the arena. He, of course, was there with the Duchesnays. So, after the Olympics, I convinced him to skate with me again. I was skating, for the first time, with both Chris and Sergei. On the romantic front, I was back with John Kennedy Jr. All was well. Until John agreed to introduce his uncle (your friend and mine Ted Kennedy) at the Democratic National Convention. We had long known that a life with me and a life in politics could not both happen for John. It was always going to be one or the other for countless reasons - most of them relating to Ted. Well, that night at the DNC he was crowned the political future of the party, and he loved every minute of it. It was looking like Ted was going to win after all. So...I may or may not have slept with one of my skating partners, which may or may not have resulted in a very unplanned pregnancy. (Hey, I can't give away all of the secrets! Read the book!) After all of that, I couldn't keep playing with fire, not expecting anyone to get burned. So I walked away. From all of it. I retired from skating, Chris worked with the Duchesnays exclusively, Sergei went back to Moscow, and John moved on to Daryl Hannah for a time. I moved to L.A. to live with George, and it was George who encouraged me to start writing screenplays, when he just couldn't stand my weeping anymore!
I was determined not to mope, but after a few days of just enjoying time with George and a few days of sightseeing, I was bored out of my mind and always on the verge of calling Chris and saying that I had made a terrible mistake.
One Tuesday evening, George walked in the living room as I watched "thirtysomething" on TV. On one side of the couch next to me was a bag of potato chips and on the other side, a pile of used tissues. I was bawling my eyes out.
“What? What now?” George was patient and loving, but also used to my crying over nothing.
“'thirtysomething'!” I cried. Now, if you never saw the television show "thirtysomething," you need to know that it was quite often a tearjerker. But not that particular episode. “That’s us, George! The prime of our lives...gone! And I’m going to be forty soon.”
George moved the chips and sat beside me, grabbing a clean tissue to wipe my tears. “When?”
“In thirteen years!” he laughed.
“But it’s there. It’s just sitting there like this big dead end.”
“Abby, you have to find something to do. What do you want to do?” He grabbed a bag and started disposing of the mess all around me.
“I want to skate,” I cried.
“Besides skate. What do you want to do that isn’t skating, and that doesn’t involve Chris or Sergei or John, or really anyone besides you? What do you want to do, Abby? Something as far away as you can get from everything that you have done so far in your life.”
Harry and Sally were the first therapeutic creations of mine, but they were far from the last. Okay, so if the "I'm going to be 40" scene is an example of a time I literally stole lines from my life, I should probably give an example of a time when the writing was a little more abstract. May I present My Best Friend's Wedding and, specifically, The Singing Duchesnays.
Back story: When Harry Met Sally... (which, incidentally, I only agreed to star in so that Daryl Hannah didn't get the role) was a big hit, and it was at that point that I became a pretty big movie star. Pretty Woman, in which I merely acted, was next. But one day I received an invitation to the 1991 wedding of Christopher Dean and Isabelle Duchesnay, and the creative juices started flowing once more. Chris and I hadn't spoken since going our separate ways in 1988, and there is nothing like receiving an invitation to the wedding of a man you have loved to a woman you can't stand to bring all of the emotions out once more. I went to Paris for the wedding, and also the huge reception two days before the wedding.
He spotted me and smiled, and then walked away from people who were demanding his attention and made a beeline to where I was standing, soaking in the sight of him, like I had been wandering in the desert for years and finally I had reached water.
I laughed. “You wouldn’t know what to do if I was ever on time.”
“True.” He pulled me to him, and I couldn’t help but hope that Isabelle wasn’t watching, and yet somehow, irresponsibly, hope that she was. “It is good to see you.”
He smelled the same and he felt the same, and I was filled with regret. “It’s good to see you, too.”
“So, isn’t this quite the occasion? My soon-to-be in-laws are driving me insane already, Sergei is delayed and I’m just hoping he makes it before the wedding, and Isabelle is determined it’s all doomed because some blackbird flew into the church earlier, or some such nonsense. I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you, a port in the storm.”
“What can I do to help?” I was determined to be a good friend to him and not get lost in the regret and the longing and the what-might-have-beens.
“Just don’t leave my side!”
Chris had made a request. He asked that when I inevitably wrote the film version of the events which had taken place, that I find a way to make it not hurt quite so badly. So, I did. I made it a comedy. And even though you might be pulling for the female lead to get the guy in the end, I created a worthy adversary who you could pull for to replace Isabelle Duchesnay, who no one - apart from Isabelle herself - thought should actually be with Chris in the end. My Best Friend's Wedding is hilarious at times, but it breaks my heart more than anything I have ever written. But there was this...
Sleep deprivation was kicking in. I was jet lagged and had worked on My Best Friend's Wedding all night long, and I had just written a version of Chris’s wedding weekend dinner party in which all of the guests joined together in singing Burt Bacharach’s “I Say A Little Prayer For You.” The scene made me laugh, and I knew there was no way it would actually make it into the film (what do I know?), but there was something very satisfying about picturing the Duchesnays with lobster bibs on, doing their best Dionne Warwick imitations. My writing had become my therapy.