And The Oscar Goes To... The Muppet In The Corner

Added on 01 July 2011

On Wednesday my fellow Crimefest panelist Helen Fitzgerald wrote a blog about having her Oscar acceptance speech prepared and ready, long before having a film produced. I started to leave a comment, and then at some stage realised that my comment was going to be just about longer than her initial blog, and I thought, I probably ought not to do that as it's not about me. So here it is, here, because this page is about me.

THE LONG MIDNIGHT OF BARNEY THOMSON was optioned for film before it was published. I've written about this before, so won't go into huge detail. There was an exciting moment when my agent talked wonderfully about Bobby De Niro reading it at that very second, and we all sat around a phone like people in black and white during the Second World War waiting for the latest news from the Normandy landings. That was in late 1998. Bobby never called, and look at all the shit movies he's made since then. Someone else from Hollywood bought the rights, and the rest is history.


Nothing happened.

When the book was published a couple of months later my publisher put it out on the press feeds about the film rights being sold and how it was terribly exciting and blah blah blah. I had to speak to someone from the Daily Mail. I felt duty-bound to go along with some of the lies and exaggerations my publisher was peddling about the film deal, which bothered me greatly, but in retrospect, why on earth should I have cared about lying to a crapulent sack of disingenuous shite like the Mail?

The publisher was keen to promote the vague notion of the six-figure deal, because a six-figure deal could be £950,000, which is pretty damn exciting. My six-figure deal was going to be about £125,000, which isn't that exciting, and anyway, it was dependent on the film being made, and as everyone knows, FILMS DON'T GET MADE. Perhaps you're reading this and you're thinking, what the fuck are you talking about dickweed, of course films get made, I just watched one. There are lots of films.

Well, compared to the amount of films that are conceived, planned, optioned, treatmented, developed, written and generally thought up in the shower, the number of films that actually finally get produced is so low that those films become the exception to prove the rule that FILMS DON'T GET MADE.

Then I got a call from BBC South West asking if we could do a slot for the local news. They'd read about the six-figure deal in the Daily Mail. Or the Express. Or on the Press Association wire thing. I would rather chew my leg off than appear on BBC South West, but I had the voice of my publisher in my ear demanding that I whore myself at the slavering media beast, so I reluctantly agreed.

The BBC turned up at my house. It was John Kay, off the tele. I didn't recognise him, but then it was a while ago. He's on the tele all the time now. Back then he wasn't John Kay off the tele, he was just a bloke. He spoke to me. He spoke to my wife. He did a telephone interview with the producer. In the report that appeared on BBC South West that evening, I got third billing out of the three of us, being the least erudite. They obviously quickly recognised that my wife was a sentient human being capable of regular communication, and that the film producer was a film producer, while I was one of the Muppets who never talked, but sat in the background occasionally grunting and lolling about from side to side like I still had several evolutionary steps to take before I became Kermit.

The low point of the whole sorry affair resided on the mantelshelf.

My brother had, in a moment of high comedy, sent me a plastic Oscar statuette. I'd put it on the mantelshelf, never thinking that the BBC were going to arrive. Given fair warning that the BBC would be arriving, I somehow managed to forget all about the stupid plastic Oscar. John Kay, the man off the tele, saw the stupid plastic Oscar on the mantelshelf before he saw me, and that was the fuck that. As part of the report, they filmed me holding a cheap piece of plastic crap that had been manufactured to the highest international standards by four year-old children in China. In the end there were about two seconds of me talking, and at least ten times that of me holding the stupid plastic fucking Oscar.

My career has never recovered. And I've never even bothered writing the speech.