Norman Mailer versus Rip Torn: genuine fight footage.

Hard to believe that this concludes one of Mailer’s experimental movies, a knock down, drag out fight between the director and the young and gorgeous Rip Torn (Artie in Larry Sanders, recently star of blockbuster movies such as Men in Black etc). They had run out of script at this point so the crazed actor decided to intervene. It’s harrowing, once Mailer’s family are involved and children are crying. His wife is admirably ‘feisty’, a word sometimes overused, she looks easily capable of fulfilling her threat to kill the younger man.

Speaking of embarrassing egotists, I’ve just written a novel that was either too ambitious or too confused, trying to get meta fictional on the Victorian ass of Rochester in Kent, where Charles Dickens once resided, exploring the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was narrated by a narcissist serial killer who captured a blond American Goth girl by mistake. Is she also a killer? Will they become accomplices or even lovers? How can he trust someone who may just be seducing him to get out of his dungeon? Plus we have Mi6 torture and rogue undercover Police, Islamism and far right street gangs. Which is sort of interesting but then I set it in two different time zones. Great plan, Stan. Was it entirely wise to keep adding more and more supposed hooks or high concept ballast? Rather than trusting to beginning, middle and end? Thesis, antithesis, synthesis? Which works.

This was probably over ambitious, especially for an insomniac alcoholic addict, a man with more syndromes and personality disorders than Heinz has varieties, after completing a particularly painful divorce, if you can complete a divorce. ‘Marriages may end, divorces last forever.’

The manuscript needs fixing but I no longer have the insane confidence of youth. Just insanity. Which may be the right word for the concluding a film with a genuine brawl. Those were the days. Oh to have been around when ‘experimental’ didn’t mean ‘sloppy, pretentious BS’. As in ‘avant garde a clue’. Still, write bestsellers, as Mailer did, and I never will, and you can fight half of New York, stab your wife and finance some of the worst films ever made, all the confused boredom of Jean Luc Godard with none of the style. He was not bothered by critical and commercial failure, this existential hero who was beaten up defending his poodle’s honour, after someone thought it looked gay. This all may have been overcompensation for being short or because he was an only child and had a mother who worshiped him or…who knows? He got away with it somehow. I’m just glad we can watch Rip Torn kicking his ass.

ps My favourite Mailer was Tough Guys Don’t Dance, something he wrote quickly to pay his enormous alimony bill. Maybe he should have written a sequel: Short Jews Can’t Fight.


One thought on “Norman Mailer versus Rip Torn: genuine fight footage.

  1. ‘Noir Writers Can’t Type’ might be more applicable what with the endless revisions I had to do on this. You’re better off doing a Mailer: getting a camera, getting pissed, getting stoned. Although you have to be famous.

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