A dozen years ago, director Sam Henry Kass approached me.
We’d collaborated on an acclaimed Showtime flick “Body and Soul,” a remake of the John Garfield classic that was selected to open the prestigious Palm Springs International Film Festival.
In the interim, I’d produced “Shadow Hours” which had proven (according to the New York Times) that year’s victor at the Sundance Film Festival (cost: $1.9 million; return $6.5 million).
I was looking for my next picture and Sam had an idea: “I’ve got $12,000,” he told me, money he’d tucked away writing “Seinfeld” and helping create a few other shows.
“Can we make a movie for that?” he wondered.
“Sure,” I said. “What do you have in mind?”
Now no one but a fool says no to cash-on-the-barrel head money, no matter how miniscule. I was intrigued. “What I want,” he said, in answer to my thought bubble, “is a movie about making a movie, using everyone we know!
“You know,” he continued, “‘Hollywood at home,’ what it’s like to live here and survive!”
These thoughts came back as I watched “This is the End,” an entertaining riff on Sam’s idea. In our movie, a bunch of filmmakers including director Kass (think Seth Rogen), producer Peter McAlevey (James Franco), actors Michael Badalucco (“The Practice” — think Danny McBride) and Lou Diamond Phillips — gather to celebrate an independent film, only to have a sinkhole (financial viability) suck in the unwary… like soft-core porn star Tane McClure (the late Doug McClure’s daughter, think Emma Watson).
In the end, “Saint Peter” appears, only it’s Andy Dick as the “porn king of L.A.” who saves everyone by giving them production deals.
Andy is the only actor other than the incredible Tori Spelling (Sam’s agent) who plays someone other than themselves. Now is that (as the Los Angeles Times said) a bit of “movie heaven”?
Or is it hell?
I was confused and so was the audience. We sold the film for more than it cost, so like the filmmakers in “This is the End,” we “got out.” The day before a $20,000 payroll was due, we closed a deal with an Anglo-Irish, Malibu-based “wannabe” film company for a quarter-million dollars. Not bad for three months playing oneself on screen.
The title of this gem?
As “Joe Head Goes Hollywood,” it was a tip of the hat to Michael Badalucco, who had begun his career in Kass’ film, “The Search for One Eye Jimmy” opposite John Turturro, Nick Turturro, Jennifer Beals and Steve Buscemi. But by the time we finished the film had morphed into another movie.
The new title? It came from a conversation Sam and I had one day with Herschel Savage, the world’s sole Jewish porn star who played the world’s sole Jewish porn star in the movie. When we asked him what he told his family when he went to work each morning, he said, “I’m going to make ‘naked movies.’”
Our eyes lit up. We may not be geniuses but we knew a title when we heard one: “Naked Movie,” like “This is the End,” exposes the foibles and fakes of Hollywood as life comes crashing down…and if you don’t believe me, look it up. All these years later, “Naked Movie” is still available on the Internet.
Here’s the trailer: