Dear Steven Spielberg,
Years ago my wife Briggs and I went out to L.A. on the back of an Off-Broadway play of ours about a journalist and a suffragette going up against a presidential aspirant in 1917. We'd been hired to write a fact-based screenplay. While there, we made a film that we wrote, a 'romantic drama of loss' set in 1650. We shot it on location in Loveland Castle, just outside Cincinnati. I imagine most people don't know, as we didn't, that you were born in Cinci.
Briggs produced and designed the costumes and I directed and played a swashbuckling soldier-for-hire (for the right causes). I talked Briggs into a cameo as his wife, who may be a ghost in his castle. She was reluctant because of producing but she'd started out as an actress and I thought it would be her one moment on film. In a cruel irony, while I as the soldier spent the film coming to terms with the loss of Briggs, as his wife, we didn't know it yet but Briggs had cancer. This was the trailer: youtube/LivesNoLongerOurs
In Briggs's memory, the Petition for Briggs for Immunotherapy for All has been signed by 20 stars including Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, and Emily Blunt, 6 professors, and public figures such as Billie Jean King, Ken Burns, and Meredith Vieira. In 2018 one of the professors, the Chair of Immunology at MD Anderson, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his advances in immunotherapy. Using the immune system, it's now worked in terminal breast cancer, John McCain's previously incurable brain cancer, and President Carter's stage IV melanoma, but it needs funding.
While in L.A., we also polished a spec script we'd written in New York that we called a 'pacifist actioner'. A Warner Bros.-based director didn't want to change a word, calling it "a character study too," and our managers at the time loved it. So did an A-list star's agent. After she said to use her name to get an offer made, the production arm of our managers' company made a substantial offer. Briggs and I stood to make $1.35 million if it went into production. The day before the offer went over, a Beverly Hills lawyer told me this particular star would never say yes without a studio directly involved. He was proved right.
I mention all that as background to a new action-thriller I've written that has a subplot related to Briggs's petition. I lost Briggs after fighting her cancer together through four centres in Manhattan. After moving back to Sydney to get away from memories everywhere, good as well as bad, I did a rewrite of a play of ours, a comedy about Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris's era of hellraising actor. Alan Rickman had read it at one point, to co-star, generously calling it "beautifully constructed and brilliantly written."
A Broadway/West End director is now attached. When the producer of an iconic film franchise liked it (she also produces theatre), a premise for a new actioner with that lead character came to me. Then I thought how much more it could be. I made the female lead the equal of the male lead and gave her a hidden agenda aimed at Congress, the same as my petition. She's just a lot less polite about it — which can figure into reviews, interviews, etc. The raised awareness alone will save lives.
I've been pretty much a hermit since losing Briggs, so I don't have anyone I can go to for a referral (which has become so mandatory now). I wanted to avoid sending it out as a spec anyway, so I sat down and worked out what an ideal for it would be. I came up with you directing Captain America and Captain Marvel aka Chris Evans and Brie Larson. Brie, as a free-spirited UCLA researcher, could capture her brilliance and determination. The male lead, the FBI's most valued independent counter-terrorist, is described as having a "deep moral code that he always sticks to," and Chris's favorite charity is Christopher's Haven, which lends support to families of children with cancer.
That description of the male lead comes from 'studio coverage' by an L.A. script-tracking site that's followed by a good few agents, managers, and development execs. I decided to get it after I couldn't get a response from two of Brie and Chris's reps. These are excerpts below. I hope they'll sway you to take a read:
"THE 29TH OF NEVER is a riveting thriller with a strong sense of high stakes and suspense. The story's anchored by the likable, charismatic and admirably shrewd hero Morgan Ranes, and he has palpable chemistry with the female lead and his love interest Phyllis Reynolds. Ranes is highly experienced in tracking down and apprehending terrorist cells across the world.
As the story begins, RANES gets an unusual new assignment: beautiful, brilliant scientist and cancer researcher PHYLLIS REYNOLDS has hired him to stop her billionaire inventor father JOHN REYNOLDS from carrying out his own domestic terrorist plot. Reynolds is compellingly complex and layered, especially with his tragic backstory involving the death of his beloved wife Jessie.
He believes that the world needs to be saved from itself and its own self-destructive tendencies.
The script takes a number of intriguing twists and turns as Ranes races to stop Reynolds. The big twist-reveal that Phyllis has her own murderous plan…is effectively surprising and dramatically impactful, as well.
The secret scheming and maneuvering of government agents adds even more intrigue to the story, as does the ongoing investigation by LA police detective Joe De Vos.
The climactic desert showdown between Ranes, Phyllis, Reynolds and the various government operatives is momentous and exciting. [It] ultimately provides a poignant, bittersweet end to this taut, twisty thriller. As a tense, suspenseful action-thriller with high stakes and dynamic action, THE 29TH OF NEVER will find an enthusiastic audience seeking out smart, dynamic crime thrillers.
Especially by casting some well-known talent in the lead roles, the film could expect to make well over $70–80 million." (That's without Chris and Brie together and being a Steven Spielberg film. They also referred to it as a "wild and riveting ride.")