Halle Berry stepped into the spotlight. Her voice was as clear and as beautiful as ever.
‘And the nominations for Best Original Screenplay are: Steven Spielberg for The Life and Times of Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky and his dog. Quentin Tarantino for Nunnery Apocalypse. Who’s a Cheeky Boy Then, based on the recently discovered screenplay by John Wayne. And finally, Vampire Midwives by James Redfern Chartwell.’
Halle was handed the golden envelope. She held it in front of her. The TV broadcaster’s switchboard was inundated with complaints that the envelope was blocking the view of her cleavage.
Unaware of the nationwide upset she was causing, she nervously opened the envelope. The audience was pin-drop quiet. This was particularly true of table 47 and two of its occupants, video cameraman, Michael Selwyn Barton, and the aforementioned, sound man turned scriptwriting sensation, James Redfern Chartwell.
At any event lasting three and a half hours with free champagne, they would normally have only been able to hazard a guess as to which continent they were on. But tonight was different. Tonight they were drinking chilled water. Even so, their mouths were dry. Because this was it.
Halle looked at the audience of Hollywood’s finest, and her eyes sparkled. ‘And the winner is - James…’
The rest of her sentence was drowned out in a roar of approval from the 3000-strong audience. Jim stood up. His mouth hung open. Mick hugged him and the cameras flashed. They both had tears streaming down their cheeks. As Jim made his way to the stage, Robert de Niro jumped out, pumped Jim’s hand and slapped him on the back.
‘Thanks Bob,’ said Jim. ‘Anytime, Jimbo,’ said Robert.
There was no doubt that a large part of the success of Vampire Midwives was down to Robert’s powerful portrayal of the bearded, transsexual matron, Cydney.
Jim walked on towards the stage. As he looked up, he could see they were playing the opening scene on a huge screen. The Yorkshire night nurse, played by Cameron Diaz, was speaking the immortal lines, ‘Ee bah gum, sithee matron, another of them gradely little, no-year-old snacks just popped out of yon lass’s belly’.
As he continued to thread his spotlit way through the tables, the cheers rang in his ears, the backslapping and handshakes continued, and his mind raced through the amazing events that had lead to what he hoped would be the first of many Oscars.
Six months’ earlier both Mick and Jim had agreed that Vampire Midwives was a dud. They’d half-heartedly hawked it around London agents, but the responses varied from sincerely-felt indifference to hysterically aggressive.
Three months later, they were still trying, but only quarter-heartedly. One evening, after three rapid refusals in a row, they retired to a pub, where their Slade tribute band, Flayed, had played when they were younger. They had drunk a lot, and Jim became particularly upset about the script’s effect on one of the agent’s secretaries, who was now having regular sessions with a Harley Street psychotherapist.
And so it was that, after an evening over-indulging in cheap brandy laced with creative despair, the script got left behind on the counter of a chip shop in Battersea.
Two months later, covered in postmarks and obscene abuse in a variety of languages, it arrived on the desk of the director of Hollywood’s leading abattoir, Cows R Us. His son was a freelance assistant editor at a major studio. He found the script discarded in one of the slaughterhouse’s drainage channels, and after washing it under the tap and drying it with a hair dryer, he’d taken it home to read. He laughed until he cried, and firmly believed he was looking at the greatest example of off-beat satire since Catch 22. He rushed into work, and the next day it was up for executive consideration.
Despite the bad spelling, and a few remaining bovine bloodstains, they agreed the script was exceptional. Two days later, Jim got the call. He was smart enough not to mention that the script was supposed to be deadly serious. The deal was unbelievable. A month later, production started. First week box office returns hit $50 million and it had ballooned, worldwide from there.
James Chartwell had arrived. A 20-acre mansion in Beverley Park, a 35-metre 116 Sunseeker superyacht moored in Barbados, a private jet, three additional homes - Sardinia, Monte Carlo, Malibu and, of course, the two-story apartment overlooking Central Park.
Jim walked past the orchestra who were busy playing the Vampire Midwives theme (now an iTunes phenomenon) and on up the red-carpeted steps to the left of the stage. As he appeared in full view, the cheering became ecstatic, the volume unbelievable. Halle threw her arms out wide and bounced up and down with excitement. Her diamond-encrusted evening gown flashed and dazzled in the spotlights. The TV company stopped receiving complaints.
Jim looked into the audience to see if he could see his life-long best friend, Mick. But he was hidden by the adulation.
He walked towards Halle. She looked fabulous. She placed her hands on his shoulders, leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
Although Jim was excited, truly, beyond his wildest dreams, he couldn’t help noticing that for a gorgeous, international movie star, she smelt rather strongly of pilchards.
Sex, Violence & Straddled Chainsaws