Blood on the Tracks
US: 17 Jan 1975
Scene: the expansive office of a Hollywood studio mogul. Two men sit around a glass table with a pitcher of water in the center. The new Sade album plays softly in the background.
MOGUL: I’ve heard about you. They tell me you’re an Idea Man.
IDEA MAN: And have I got an idea for you!
MOGUL: I hear you, I hear you. Whaddaya got?
IDEA MAN: You’ve heard of this guy, Bob Dylan? Voice of a generation. Some kind of poet slash musician. Well, back in ’75—the year Spielberg made Jaws, to put it in some kind of perspective—he came out with this album called Blood on the Tracks. The critics loved it. One of the songs, “Tangled Up in Blue”, even got played on the radio.
MOGUL: Never heard of it.
IDEA MAN: Of course not. That doesn’t matter. What’s important is that this album is about love and loss and heartbreak. People call it Dylan’s “divorce album”, but that’s putting a negative spin on it.
MOGUL: What’s the plot?
IDEA MAN: Well, it’s about Bob and his wife Sara. They meet cute, they fall in love, and then things turn sour—the timeless arc of a relationship.
MOGUL: I’m listening, I’m listening.
IDEA MAN: There’s also a subplot about a bank heist with these three wacky supporting characters: Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts. For some reason, this part of the story takes place in the old west.
MOGUL: I don’t like subplots. They’re distracting.
IDEA MAN: Well, boss, I think we have to keep this one. The song takes up almost nine minutes on the damn album.
MOGUL: Speaking of music, do you have the rights to use the songs from the album in the movie?
IDEA MAN: No, no, no. Don’t even go there. We’re not gonna drag this down with his sad-sack crooning. But some of the lyrics give us an insight into the characters. We learn this about the blonde: “She was working in a topless place/And I stopped in for a beer/I just kept looking at the side of her face/In the spotlight so clear.”
MOGUL: She’s in a topless bar and he’s looking at the side of her face? What a loser!
IDEA MAN: I know, right? Those sensitive artists! But I’m sure we can spice up that scene and still get an NC-17.
MOGUL: Casting. It’s all about casting.
IDEA MAN: I’ve given that some serious thought. I’m picturing Sara as a ditzy blonde, a kindhearted small-town girl who got in over her head. How about that chick from Legally Blonde?
MOGUL: Yes! She totally rocked it in that Johnny Cash movie.
IDEA MAN: And for Dylan, how ‘bout that kid who played Frodo in The Lord of the Rings? Girls love him. Sweet and tender, just like Dylan. Getting him and the blonde on board will guarantee a huge opening-weekend box office. We’ll recoup our investment in two days.
MOGUL: Speaking of investment, what kind of budget are we talking about here?
IDEA MAN: That’s the best part! Hardly anybody gets shot in this movie and we won’t need much CGI at all. There’s one big car chase at the end, but I think we can do this picture for about 80 large.
MOGUL: Who could direct? Got anybody in mind?
IDEA MAN: James Cameron. He’s in between projects right now and I’m pretty sure we could sell him on this. Enough with the aliens, already!
MOGUL: Who will write the script?
IDEA MAN: Don’t worry about that. This thing will write itself. The lyrics will help us story-board. It’s kind of a travelogue. For example, at one point he says:
“I had a job in the great north woods/Working as a cook for a spell/But I never did like it all that much/And one day the ax just fell/So I drifted down to New Orleans/Where I happened to be employed/Working for a while on a fishing boat/Right outside of Delacroix.”
MOGUL: Sound like we’ll have to scout a lot of different locations. That’s expensive.
IDEA MAN: No, no. We can do it all here on a studio set, the one we used for Land of the Lost. We’ll have the computer geeks layer on some external shots for texture.
MOGUL: (rubbing his chin and nodding his head)
IDEA MAN: So what do you think?
MOGUL: You know what, pal? This might work. Could we do it in 3-D?
// Notes from the Road
"Powerful Chicago soul-singer dips into the '60s and '70s while dabbling in Urdu, Punjabi and Italian.READ the article