It had been a couple of months since Douglas had missed the London premiere for ‘Death within us’, the fictional account of a murder mystery/thriller set in a submarine during the height of the cold war. It had been praised by critics and maintained an outstanding score of 92% (certified fresh) on the review website Rotten Tomatoes. Harry Lennon said in his review that ‘…Nicole Freeland’s vivid take on the world of submarine warfare comes up smelling of roses with a great sense of originality being spun from a concept everyone has heard before. Good performances come from the likes of James Lester but the film’s star has given himself his best ever chance of winning an Oscar as Douglas Bower plays his role using his experience as an actor to make even the smallest moments of the film into a forthcoming demonstration of his talent in cinematic acting.
If Douglas fails to win his first ever Oscar for this performance then the Academy will have to have a hard long look at themselves.’
‘According to this you and dad should go down to the bookies and deposit ten grand on me right now,’ Douglas said to his mum through the webcam and microphone that was hooked up to his slim laptop delicately.
‘Now, now Douglas,’ Douglas’ mum said in her usual patient tone that her only son sometimes despised or liked, ‘don’t go being complacent just because some critics say you’re the best thing since sliced bread. The worst day of your father’s life was when he was up for that Emmy, you remember? Overwhelming favourite but he lost to Alex Day. He was tearing himself up for weeks over that because he had never thought about not winning his Emmy – he’d even memorised his acceptance speech if you remember – so don’t make the same mistakes he did. You’re not an Oscar winner until your name’s read out from that golden envelope and you’re holding the statue in your little hands.’
‘Thank you for your confidence in me mum,’ Douglas replied dryly.
‘It’s only common sense darling,’ Douglas’ mum told him. Douglas was one of those people who visualised the conversations he had over the phone in person. His mum was stood in front of his fridge, where he was grabbing the milk for his morning tea. She was shorter than him, as all mothers are shorter than their sons with short grey hair and a calm look on her face. When both of them were younger he was a victim many times of the mother knows best look but now, as a man not far off from his middle age crises, they were now using each other as a shoulder to cry on.
‘Is dad there?’ Douglas asked over his father.
‘He’s in San Diego Douglas, you know that,’ he was reminded.
‘Oh yeah, is he still talking about that pilot to NBC? He’s 64 years old now; does he want to produce, write, direct or star?’
‘You know your dad; he’ll retire on his deathbed. Besides, Liam says that NBC are showing very positive signs that they want to pick up his show,’ Liam was his dad’s agent and someone who had been trying for years to add the younger Bower to his assets.
‘This recent positivity has had absolutely nothing to do with a certain Oscar nomination for a close relation of his, does it?’
‘You said it – not me,’ his mum said.
‘Okay, I need to go mum or I’ll be late for my meeting with Walt,’ he took his tea quickly and cringed, promising himself that he’d never eat scolding hot tea again.
‘Give my love to Walt.’
‘I always do, love you mum.’
‘See you later,’ Douglas’ mum bid farewell and they both ended the conversation.
‘And how’s my favourite client?’ Walt got to his feet to welcome Douglas with a hearty hug. His favourite client responded with suspicion as he settled into his seat. They were sat in Walt’s London office on the North Bank, a little way from Carnaby Street.
‘I’ve been a lot better in the last couple of weeks, since the nominations were announced especially,’ he said.
‘That sounds really good Douggie. Anyhow now that we’ve got the – small talk – out of the way we can review some of the recent calls I’ve been gettin’ from everyone in Hollywood.’
‘I like the sound of that,’ Douglas stated. Walt sized him up.
‘You sure you’re all right?’ He said and his favourite client nodded, ‘okay in which case The Academy phoned me yesterday-’
‘Why were they calling?’ Douglas scratched his nose and took a sip from a cup of water on the desk.
‘They’ve asked me to ask you if you were willing to present the Oscar for best director next month. I take you’ll be happy to present it?’
‘I’ll be ecstatic,’ Douglas said.
‘That’s good as I’ve already told them you’ll be very pleased to present that one – and you don’t need to worry about any speeches or whatever – they’ll just use a teleprompter so instead of spending a couple of hours learning a crappy script you can just spend a minute reading a crappy script,’ Walt said in the way Walt liked to say things, ‘but I’ve also got a couple of scripts sent over from Warner Bros. and Fox and Disney you know.’
‘What sort of offers? You know I just wanna press on and get my teeth into a new role. Who’s up for the films and what are they?’
‘Disney wants you to test for one of their Superhero movies. It’s a meaty role Douggie but the pay’s less than the offers from Warner Bros. and Fox,’ Walt said.
‘Get me a meeting with the director and I’ll consider it. I don’t want to piss off a company like Disney at any stage in my career. Who’s doing the Fox movie?’
‘20th Century Fox have, according to The Guardian, slated Ron Howard to direct the new Edmund Hilary biopic and he wants you to test for him. Can you still do an Aussie impression?’
‘Of course I can Walt,’ Douglas said in a competent Australian accent. The office was one of those fashionably modern buildings in Los Angeles with some so called modern art in the way outside of the main building. They weren’t too far from Burbank which certainly helped Walt to get many of his clients’ decent parts for films being made over that way.
On the desk there was the customary framed picture of Walt’s family (a younger wife and two girls who didn’t look to be much younger than Wendy, their tart of a step mum) as well as a framed photo of Walt’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame which Douglas had once tried to find on a day off in LA. But he couldn’t find it anywhere down the golden mile.
‘So the Universal Film looks good too,’ Walt turned a page in the folder he was peering across, ‘Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence – it’s an all-star cast for an all-star film Douggie. The script’s good as well and it’s all about alcoholism and stuff like that, real deep.’
‘Who’s directing?’ Was the only question Douglas asked straight away. After working with a bad director early on in his career he had veered his career plans quickly to become more picky when he chose a role, not wanting to be stuck with some arse with a megaphone for a two month shoot.
‘You don’t know?’ Walt raised an eyebrow in a Walter-ish way, ‘Nicole Freedland. Didn’t she tell you after the last one?’ Douglas felt his heart drop and he zoned out, becoming slightly obsessed with a small mark on the wall behind his agent.
‘No I didn’t.’ Douglas sunk back in his chair and sighed. Why would Nicole not tell him about this project. They were close, weren’t they? Why wouldn’t she mention a project like this?
‘So do you want me to say yeah or try again later?’ Walt said.
‘Tell Nicole no…I can’t work with her again so soon after the last one,’ Walt raised an eyebrow at this statement.
‘You want to sleep with her don’t you?’
‘I beg your pardon?’ Douglas replied just a bit too quickly.
‘You asked Nicole out didn’t you and she said no. Come on Douggie I know everything about everyone in show business. You’re a stupid bastard Douggie; I’ll tell Nicole you’re interested.’
‘No you won’t, I’m not interested Walt,’ Douglas said without a shade of doubt in his complexion – which had become more pale in the recent couple of months.
‘Don’t be a crazy fool Douggie,’ Walt warned, ‘don’t turn down a million dollar offer just because the chick who’s directing doesn’t fancy you.’
‘I may be a fool who’s turned down a million dollar offer because Nicole Freedland didn’t say she loved me, but that’s not your fucking business,’ Douglas said and he rose and walked out of the room. He wasn’t ever going to do that. Never. Ever. Ever. Not even leaving Walt enough time to shout at him that it was his business as his agent to advise him and tell him to take a million dollar offer. Walt looked down at the printed email sent to him by Nicole Freedland and he only read the number of zeroes that trickled along the page before removing the document from his folder and putting it into the shredder.