Monday, January 26, 2009


I just finished watching the movie "Sunset Boulevard." It's an oldie from way back in 1950, black & white, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson. A classic. I would imagine most people nowadays haven't seen the movie but have probably heard the closing line and may have even used it while either taking someone's picture or having their picture taken. Or maybe just the fact that I was a photographer I heard it a lot. The line is used quite regularly on TV shows and movies today, although it's often used with humor as opposed to the irony of it in the movie.

They don't write movies like they used to. The dialogue in "Sunset Boulevard" is gritty, direct, yet theatrical.

"It's funny how gentle people get with you once you're dead. They beached me like a harpooned baby whale." — Joe Gillis about being fished out of the swimming pool.

"Sunset Boulevard" is a story written by Billy Wilder. In a loose description, it's about a Hollywood screenwriter who weasels his way into living with a rich, aging, outdated silent-film actress. The screenwriter character (William Holden) narrates the final weeks leading up to his murder and then what happens immediately afterward. On the flip side, it's a story about an aging, forgotten actress waiting on a call from the studio that would never come.

"So they were turning after all ... those cameras. Life, which can be strangely merciful had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her."
— Joe Gillis narrating as his killer is filmed by paparazzi as she leaves her house.

I watch that movie, listening to the dialogue, and it ignites my old dream of being a screenwriter and makes me want to pull out my old projects (one of which this blog was originally named) and start working on them again. But with something like 75,000 screenplays being submitted to studios each year, and only about 500 of those getting serious consideration and only a hundred or so of those 500 actually getting produced, it's just an exercise in futility.

I guess it would be kinda like me thinking if I trained hard enough I could win Ironman. Not going to happen. Kinda like the character in "Sunset Boulevard," Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) waiting on that call from the studio. It ain't gonna come.

But still, like doing triathlon, it's not about the end result, but about the journey. That's what's fun. That's what's important. Like in triathlon, getting up off the couch and becoming a completely different person, pushing beyond what you thought you were able to do, getting creative with your workouts and taking this incredible journey just to see where it will lead to.

Writing a screenplay, creating characters that are so much different from yourself, bringing them to life, giving them a voice and letting them take you on a journey to who knows where, getting to know them, becoming friends — or enemies — cheering them on, creating something that is way beyond what you thought you were able, it's all so similar to triathlon training to me, except I tend to gain weight when writing. Why can't you lose weight when you exercise your brain?

"You see, this is my life. It always will be. There's nothing else. Just us and the cameras and those wonderful people out there in the dark." — Norma Desmond talking to what she delusionally thinks is her film crew.

Not today, or even tomorrow, but maybe one day I just may pull out one of those unfinished screenplays and get reacquainted with some old friends, and their antagonists, and begin anew that journey into the dark abyss that is writing. Getting lost in a world full of adventure and fraught with danger. A world where you face challenges head on and come out the other side a better, stronger person, where you must experience the inevitable heartbreak and maybe even find a happy ending or two. That's life in the movies — oh, and in triathlon, too ...

Oh, about that last line in the movie? Check it out below in this video of the final scene of "Sunset Boulevard." (1950)


ndtriguy said...

I love that movie, just found your site through Blogger. Great post.

debbie said...

I needed some popcorn! What a great story Randy. Really good ending. I hope you get your shot someday at telling your story "A Triathaloners Story" It would be good, really good, you have away with words. They make you feel like you are part of the action. Thanks for the adventure into your head.


How many times in your life have you installed seat covers in our vehicles? I've probably installed 20 or more sets of seat covers ...