Legend has it that in 1977 during a five day cocaine and whiskey fueled session. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro discussed the possibility of bringing the story of De Niro’s idol, Fray Bentos, to the big screen.
Paul Schrader was hired to write a first draft and after six weeks he delivered the script to Scorsese who claimed it had the potential to be ” The Citizen Kane of baked dish movies”.
Unfortunately during one of his many fights with his then girlfriend Liza Minelli, the script was destroyed and after Schrader informed Scorsese that was the only copy in existence, the project was abandoned.
Cut to 2003 and Schrader found another copy of the script in the basement whilst looking for his old freebasing equipment.
” I can’t remember writing it” said Schrader. ” The 70’s are a bit of a blank. I vaguely recall writing a slapstick comedy called Taxi Driver but they tell me Marty cut out all the funny scenes.”
With the script rediscovered Scorsese was keen to pick up where he left off but Schrader refused.
” That Wop motherfucker might have fucking fucked me once but there ain’t no fucking way he’s going to fucking fuck me twice ”
Schrader offered the script to Micheal Bay who passed claiming it wasn’t ‘High octane’ enough and after it passed through the hands of most of the directors in Hollywood. It eventually landed on the desk of Ang Lee.
” I loved it” said a misty eyed Ang
” On the surface it’s a simple story about the rise and fall of a Pie Maker but when I removed the puff pastry crust and sifted through the processed meat. I discovered generous chunks of metaphors in a rich spiritual gravy”.
Lee worked with Schrader to adapt the script for a modern audience and utilize 3D technology.
” Paul was very generous. I showed him some storyboards of how we would use 3D to highlight some of the major events in Fray’s life such as the discovery of his famous chicken and mushroom filling, the affair with Goldie Hawn and his ill fated exhibition match with Bruce Lee.”
Ang was worried the Bentos family would object to some scenes. Particularly those that portray Fray’s descent into drug abuse and sadomasochism but after showing them a private screening, they gave the movie their blessing.
” The Bentos family gave me a box of Steak and Ale as a thank you present. I’ve been eating like a king for the last two weeks!. Unfortunately I’ve had to cut down as my doctor informed me my cholesterol level is off the scale but as soon as I sort that out. I’ll be hitting those pies with a vengeance”
Ang Lee’s the ‘Life of Pie: The Fray Bentos Story’ is due for release in December 2012