Directed by Adam Collis
Screenplay by Randall Jahnson and Russell DeGrazier
Story by Randall Jahnson
Produced by Art Linson and John Linson
Starring Simon Baker, Anna Friel, Nick Stahl, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Jared Leto, Tommy J. Flanagan
Released in 2000
The lives of a photographer, clothing designer, songwriter, and an aspiring rocker intersect on LA’s legendary boulevard in 1972.
We often think about what might have been.
What might have been had we married our high school sweethearts. What might have been had we chosen a different career. What might have been had we zigged instead of zagged….
And in my case what might have been had a film called Sunset Strip turned out differently.
It was one of the easiest gigs I ever landed; producer Art Linson (Fast Times at Ridgemont
High, The Untouchables) hired me after just two brief meetings. He had the notion to do a movie vaguely based on his earliest experiences in the entertainment biz – working for record producer Lou Adler (the guy with the long beard and sunglasses who sits next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games).
Adler produced the Mamas and the Papas, Spirit, and a host of other artists in the late ’60s, and Art was his assistant. He saw a lot. Surreal, funny, twisted stuff. And because I was a music junkie and had grown up listening to and reading the liner notes of my older brothers’ record albums, I knew what he was talking about. When Art said Robbie Robertson was his best friend, I replied that Music from Big Pink was on my Desert Island List; when he mentioned in passing if I knew who David Briggs (another pal, recently deceased) was, I answered, “Neil Young’s long-time
producer. He also produced one of the greatest most-underrated albums ever – Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus by Spirit.” Art seemed to be impressed.
Working for Art wasn’t easy. He was blunt, gruff, intimidating, impatient, and exacting. I liked him a lot. He was smart and said what he meant. He hammered me hard (“This dialogue is awful – do it again!”) and I became a better writer as a result.
I still remember coming home and hearing his message on my answering machine after he’d read my final draft. His voice was uncharacteristically calm. He said he wanted the script kept under guard, make certain it didn’t leak out on the Internet. As he went on I realized he was trying to contain his excitement. He was stoked.
Few moments in my career have made me happier.
That’s why I still scratch my head over what ultimately went down and wound up on the screen. Apparently Art does too. He devoted an entertaining chapter to it – “Sunset Stripped Naked” – in his 2002 book, What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line.
But even after reading What Just Happened? I can’t say I understand what happened on Sunset Strip. And sometimes, usually late at night when the doubts and demons like to take flight, my mind wonders about what might have been…
What might have been had Art not been in production on The Fight Club and Pushing Tin at the same time as Sunset Strip; what might have been if he hadn’t clashed with execs at Fox 2000; what might have been if he hadn’t hired a rookie director straight out of film school; what might have been had I been more assertive and pushed to direct the film myself; what might have been had the director shot the script that Art got stoked over in the first place; what might have been had the amazing cast had some rehearsal time; what might have been if Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous hadn’t come out at almost the same time; what might have been… what might have been…
Who knows what might have been.
Sunset Strip opened for one week in one theater in LA. The tag line for the poster read, “The Ultimate Address For A Dream.”
Too bad the Dream was dead on arrival.