How director Paul Schrader gets maximum exposure at minimum cost

lindsay.jpgJust hire Lindsay Lohan and then allow a writer for the NYT magazine to follow everybody around during production of Schrader's sex-filled movie called "The Canyons." Stephen Rodrick's piece centers on the hoops that Schrader and producer Braxton Pope went through to get Lohan, followed by the tumultuous few weeks of Lohan's shoot. The whole thing is stunningly calculated and kind of sad - Schrader is closing out a career that's been off the radar for many years, screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis is looking to reestablish himself as more than a curiosity on Twitter (his condo is underwater, according to the piece), and Lohan is perhaps the saddest of the bunch. Schrader says again and again that her looks on screen make up for the unmitigated jerk she seems to be in real life (or whatever passes for that in her world). Left unsaid (at least I didn't spot it) is the instant buzz that Lohan's presence provides the film, which was so minimally financed that they resorted to Kickstarter as a funding source. Doesn't that cloud Schrader's judgment - or the judgment of any director or producer who signs her on?

Schrader thinks she's perfect for the role. Not everyone agrees. Schrader wrote "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" and has directed 17 films. Still, some fear Lohan will end him. There have been house arrests, car crashes and ingested white powders. His own daughter begs him not to use her. A casting-director friend stops their conversation whenever he mentions her name. And then there's the film's explicit subject matter. Full nudity and lots of sex. Definitely NC-17. His wife, the actress Mary Beth Hurt, didn't even finish the script, dismissing it as pornography after 50 pages. She couldn't understand why he wanted it so badly. But Schrader was running out of chances. His last major opportunity was about a decade ago, when he was picked to direct a reboot of "The Exorcist." He told an interviewer, "If I don't completely screw that up, it might be possible for me to end my career standing on my own feet rather than groveling for coins." A few months later, he was replaced by the blockbuster director Renny Harlin, who reshot the film. Renny Harlin! Schrader is now 65 and still begging for coins.


Schrader, Pope and Lohan talk details. The film, "The Canyons," has a microbudget, maybe $250,000. Ellis, Pope and Schrader are putting up $30,000 apiece. The rest will be raised on Kickstarter with promises of cameos, script reviews and -- for the low, low price of $10,000 -- the money clip that Robert DeNiro gave Schrader on the set of "Taxi Driver." There will be no studio looking over their shoulders offering idiot notes. The actress will get $100 a day and an equal share of the profits, but no vote in decision-making. This last clause is nonnegotiable. Schrader goes over some ground rules; no trailers on set and one contractually obligated, four-way sex scene. Oh, another thing, Schrader adds: he will not try to sleep with her. This was probably a more relevant point in 1982, but no matter. Lohan stands up and says goodbye, telling everyone how excited she is to be working with them.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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