Touching the Billionaire by Holly Jaymes

My Life on the Line





Theo

The car dropped me off in front of the studio in midtown Manhattan. Normally, arriving to start filming a movie was no big deal. Not anymore. Sure, I might have been excited about the new project, but rarely did I have nerves.

Today, I had nerves in spades. This movie wasn’t just any movie. This was the first project from my production company and there was a lot riding on its success. Sure, I was a blockbuster goldmine, at least that was what the movie mags said. And yes, I did feel slighted that I wasn’t nominated for an academy award for my work in the movie about adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews, but I was pleased that others noticed the slight as well. I was successful and considered a good, if not great actor, but all that could go to shit if this production failed. I’d lose a significant amount of my own wealth, and quite possibly my reputation.

And two weeks before we were to start filming, our lead actor, Rich Kipling broke his pelvis in a drunken fall in Las Vegas. This project wasn’t one that we could prop him somewhere and make a movie. It was a heist movie that involved running and jumping, and sex scenes, all of which he couldn’t do without a functioning pelvis.

I met with the production team right after we got word about his accident about finding a new actor. I had a list ready, but my team made it clear that they felt I needed to step in. There was a reason I chose not to be in the film. I had enough pressure on this project as it was. But also, I wanted to show my chops as someone who could create great movies, not just act in them. I had good looks and a strong body now, but someday that would go and I needed to be able to have a plan for when that happened.

As I walked in the door of the studio, I wondered what my father would think of the fact that I had a backup plan after all. I shook the thought away. He wouldn’t give a shit.

I took the elevator up to the offices where I planned to meet the director and executive producer for today’s meeting. As I rode up, I rethought my idea of owning my own production company. Perhaps the loss of my lead actor was a sign that this type of business wasn’t for me. If that wasn’t a sign, then sure as hell having Maddie Fox as my leading lady was like a hit upside the head. This movie had disaster written all over it and we hadn’t even started.

I never wanted Maddie Fox for the part of Nicolette Vane, but everyone else insisted her audition was great and her screen test with Rich Kipling was off the charts. I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. Maddie Fox was good as a child star, no doubt. But the part of Nicolette required a woman, not a scrappy kid, with uneven pigtails and buck teeth. If I was filming this in the eighties, I’d have wanted someone like Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. A woman with a smoky voice, sexy as hell body, who was smart and clever in a dangerous way. A way that made a man feel like he was probably in the presence of a black widow, but didn’t give a shit because of the pleasures she promised.

“There he is,” Corrine Daily, the director of Take It or Leave It, the working title of the film said as I made my way to the large conference room.

“Right on time,” Jon Laken, the producer added as he sat a hip on the edge of the long table.

“Is she here?” I asked, grabbing a donut from the plate on the table, hoping either Corrine or Jon had brought them and they weren’t left over from some meeting yesterday.

“Not yet. We told her nine-thirty.” Corrine sat at the table with a binder of papers. Behind her on the wall, was the shooting schedule for the movie.

“Why? Let’s get this over with.” I wasn’t wanting to dilly dally. We needed to figure out if Maddie could pull this off with me and if not, figure out who we could get into the role asap.

While they’d already signed a contract with Maddie, there was no way I was going to agree to film with her without my own screen test. She might have been fantastic with Rich, but I wasn’t him. And considering that I was certain she was a has-been actress, I wasn’t sure we’d have the necessary chemistry.

There were some films in which chemistry between the leads was crucial in carrying off the film. Take It Or Leave It was a cross between Oceans Eleven, Monuments Men, and The Thomas Crown Affair. Sophistication and sex appeal were as big characters as the actual people. Maddie Fox? I couldn’t picture her as sexy or sophisticated. Hell, I couldn’t picture her as being grown up.

“Because we’re hoping that you will go into this with an open mind,” Jon said.

“And not be an asshole,” Corrine added.

“I’m never an asshole.”

She pursed her lips while Jon coughed. Okay, so sometimes I was an asshole, but I had everything riding on this movie. If I had to be a jerk, so be it.

“I’ll try to not be an asshole, but Jesus, this role is part Jessica Rabbit and part Veronica Lake-”

“Jessica Rabbit is modeled after Veronica Lake,” Jon pointed out.

“I thought it was Vikki Dougan, you know, the lady who wore the backless dresses down to her butt crack,” Corrine mused. Then she shook her head. “Nevermind, Jessica Rabbit is a cartoon.”

I pointed to her. “So is Maddie Fox. She’s a kid star who made a couple of fun kid movies. What has she done in the last fifteen years or so?”

“She was a good kid actress. Plus, it’s in her DNA. Her dad is doing good work in the West End of London and her mom won a Golden Globe this year.” Jon reached over and grabbed a donut too. He was constantly on some sort of gimmick diet. I guessed his current one wasn’t gluten-free or sugar-free.