How did the novel and movie Sideways change the wine market in North America? In the book, the character Miles is portrayed as a wine snob, but what really defines a wine snob? What do you need to know if you want to become a successful writer?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Rex Pickett, author of the mega-hit wine book and movie Sideways.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- How has time been a great friend to Sideways?
- What is it about the characters in Sideways that makes them feel unique to you?
- How did wine and California wine country become an important part of Rex’s life?
- Why does Rex start out with honing in on character and setting in his writing?
- What is Rex telling you when he talks about wine snobs?
- What is the key difference you can see in the depth of the wine world versus other types of alcohol?
- How can you enjoy the purple prose of wine writing?
- What change can you see in the red wine market as a result of Sideways?
- Why does Rex believe Merlot needed a market correction after it’s 1990s popularity?
- What can you expect from a bottle of Hitching Post Pinot Noir?
- Can you expect a different experience from the Sideways play in comparison to the movie and book?
- Where does Vertical fit in with Rex’s personal story?
- What are Rex’s best tips for you as an aspiring writer?
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About Rex Pickett
Rex Pickett is the author of the novel Sideways, the multiple award-winning Alexander Payne film of the same title. Sideways captured over 350 critics and awards organization plaudits, including 2 Golden Globes, an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, the prestigious Writers Guild Award, 6 Indie Spirit Awards … and the list goes on. Rex has written and directed two independent feature films, California Without End and From Hollywood to Deadwood (Island Pictures). He wrote the 2000 Academy Award-winning Best Live Action Short My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York.
His Sideways sequel Vertical won the Gold Medal for Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2012. His Sideways 3 Chile forms the final leg of the trilogy. In 2012, Rex adapted his novel into Sideways: the Play. He staged four record-breaking runs, first at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica where it ran for 6 months, then the La Jolla Playhouse, where it broke all attendance records for a non-musical in their 35-year history, with 3-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff directing.
In 2017, in collaboration with composer Anthony Adams, Rex turned his attention to the musical version of Sideways. Two years later the Book for the musical is finished, half the songs are composed and recorded, and a 3-time Tony Award-winning musical theater director (to be announced soon) has come on board. There is every likelihood that the “workshop” (or premiere) production will happen in the latter part of 2020.
Rex grew up in southern California, matriculated from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). He was a Special Projects major, specializing in literary and film criticism, and creative writing. A member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatists Guild, and now ASCAP, Rex has enjoyed success in long-form fiction, screenwriting, independent film, and now stage. The Rex Pickett Papers are now enshrined at his alma mater UCSD in Geisel Library’s Special Collections & Archives.
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 85!
How did the mega-hit movie and novel Sideways change the wine market in North America? In the book, the character Miles is portrayed as a wine snob, but what really defines a wine snob? What do you need to know if you want to become a successful writer?
That’s exactly what we’ll learn in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. We’re chatting with Rex Pickett, the author of the novel Sideways, and the multiple award-winning Alexander Payne film of the same title. He joins me from his home in California.
This conversation took place several years ago, so keep that in mind as the context for Rex’s comments.
I’ll include a link as to where you can find the video version of this conversation and the wines we tasted in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/85.
If you want to discover mouth-watering juicy wines and what to pair with them, sign up for my free, online video wine class the 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
Go to nataliemaclean.com/class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you inside the class!
Okay, on with the show!
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Rex Pickett.
Here are my takeaways:
- It’s amazing that Rex’s book may have boosted the market for Pinot Noir from 1% to 5% in North America while depressing Merlot from 18% to 10%.
- I agree that wine snobbery is more about being flashy with expensive cult bottles than being highly educated about wine unless you flaunt that knowledge as you would those expensive cult bottles.
- Like Rex, I also don’t consider myself a wine critic, but rather a story-teller. In fact, I’ll always consider myself an enthusiastic amateur on the journey of learning more and sharing that with you.
- Now that I’m writing my third book, which is a deeply personal memoir about being a woman in the wine world, I was fascinated with his observation that “If you bare your soul as a writer and it doesn’t work, you’re going to come across looking narcissistic or solipsistic. If you have success with it, then people feel like oh my gosh, he went to this really honest place.”
- I love his line: The wonderful thing about wine is, it’s a bottomless ocean of mystery.
You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Dr. Tim Dodd, Professor of Hospitality Management, and Director of the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute at Texas Tech University. We chat about what would surprise you about the way you buy wine and techniques that wine retailers use to trigger impulse buys in the store? What are the biggest differences between the way men and women buy wine and why is a direct to consumer sales model the best for you as a buyer? Dr. Dodd joins me from Texas next week.
In the meantime, if you missed episode 64 where we talk with another writer on a journey, Mike Veseth, author of Around the World in 80 Wines, go back and take a listen. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine and writing tips that Rex shared. You’ll find links to the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation, the video version of this chat and where you can find us on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, at nataliemaclean.com/85.
And if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.
Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a cool climate Pinot Noir!
Natalie MacLean 0:00
Oscar award winning movies sideways is more than just a buddy road trip to California Wine Country with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden church. The film also touches on themes of love, friendship, career, disappointment, loyalty, loss, and of course, you know, an alarm. But before the movie, there was the book, a best seller sideways has been translated into a dozen languages. And it is my privilege today to talk to the author of that phenomenal novel, Rex Pickett. Welcome Rex, and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today. Sure, I didn’t have to leave my house that way.
Natalie MacLean 0:34
That’s the beauty of it just like writing. So what is it that you thought really drew people to your book and the movie I mean, had such success but what was the core element that you think people really resonated with?
Rex Pickett 0:48
There’s a lot of people weren’t drawn to the book until the movie came out. And even then, St. Martin’s Press to publish the book didn’t do any publicity or nothing. So people only slowly started to kind of come to the book. They’re coming to it a lot. More because we’re doing sideways to play right now seven and a half years after the movie and we’ve been sold out every night. So small equity waiver theatre so they are coming more and more to the book. So now to answer your question, certainly they came to the movie in droves. I was saying to somebody today that time is usually the enemy of most content or art, if I may, at the risk of immodesty. It really is the enemy most it is ephemeral. Time has been the friend to sideways still, to this day, it’s as if the film came out yesterday. I get it every day. I’m on Twitter, and I’m kind of a big presence now. I mean, oh my god, sideways author following the Oh my god, Mr. Genius, whatever, you know, whatever. But from a movie standpoint, they really don’t make films like sideways today at all. There’s something very real about those characters. They have a certain three dimensionality. They’re incredibly flawed. We’re so used to invincible superheroes or, you know, if they have a flaw they kill 20 people in the UK or something. There’s something vulnerable about those characters. And I think that’s what they relate to and I I think that that has endured with time. And I think one of the things is it goes back to the guy who wrote it sideways is written in first person from the standpoint of miles. So I guess in way you’re looking at miles. And really, even though the book is a fictionalised account of what I was going through my life, it really was what I was going through in my life. I’d written a novel that I couldn’t get published. That’s miles, we can’t publish this novel. To this day still on publishers a mystery novel. If I published it, by the way, there never would have been a sideways. You know, I was divorced. I was destitute. I was nowhere I went to a very personal place. I went to a very deep place and a very honest place I bared my soul. It’s hard to do if you bury your soul as a writer and it doesn’t work. You’re going to come across looking narcissistic or solipsistic. If you have success with it, then people feel like oh my gosh, he went to this really honest place. I mean, certainly we’re going to talk about wine wine was really the backdrop for it. And while certainly Rex has a passion for wine and peanut butter in particular, but that I don’t think would have helped it endure. I think what makes it inver is the believability They have those characters they feel lived in. They almost feel like they just walked in off the street onto the screen in some ways at the time. I mean, now that Paul Giamatti not so much Thomas is a big movie star at the time nobody knew who he was really right right. Okay and so is that who you start with are the characters the beautifully flawed characters I must say rather than say the plot or the ending or the dialogue. You know, I started going up to the sun as Valley which is the setting of sideways just to get away from my life. I’ve made two feature films with my now ex wife that was eight years out of our life. It was brutal. And the second one was theatrically released didn’t do well for reasons I won’t go into and I was really pretty much nowhere with myself with my career. And I started going up north, it’s only about two and a half hours from where I live Natalie, and it just such a beautiful place. The tasting rooms are empty. The golf course I love to play action not for golf, not wine, you know, exempting I would stay overnight. It was an inexpensive getaway from LA which can feel very oppressive, especially when your agent has died of AIDS and your mother’s had a stroke and your and your brother stole all our money and All the other horrible things that were going on in my life. At the time, I would just get my car and go up especially midweek there was nobody out there. Now, of course, it’s a sideways theme park practice. I mean, yes, you’ve made it that you’ve helped. Well, more than help. I mean, of course, you know, the movie did of course, but you know, it wasn’t the Immaculate Conception. There was a novel and it was a personal novel. And like I said, I wrote a mystery novel. It got me a new agent after my other agent had died of AIDS. And so I felt like there was some hope I was ready to pretty much pull down the shade. It was pretty much all over for my career. And that novel wasn’t selling and so I I started taking friends up to the Santa Ynez Valley, because it was such a lovely place. It was just a beautiful drive up there. First 50 miles isn’t but after that it’s long. The ocean is beautiful. And I took up once back in 97, or something a friend of mine, Roy getting’s, and he is the jack character. It’s very lovable, very buoyant, and I can make him laugh and we’re going from tasting room to tasting room and he said, Rex, you should write this as a screenplay. And so I came back and I thought about I wrote as a screenplay. It didn’t work that you know, I never showed anybody. I was also going to wine tastings on Saturday. There was a small little group of people on Saturday, it was really the only social outlet I had for four hours, you could taste a lot of different wines and I met a lot of wine snobs. That’s when I got into wine on that level. And I started to write a short story based on that. And it was written in first person from the standpoint of miles, this guy named miles goes to this. And he’s describing this whole thing. I’m just writing a short story and I got to the end of it. I’ll never forget, I literally stood up from my desk and said, Oh, my God. That’s the prologue to sideways. I will write it as a novel in first person, but bear in mind, Natalie been building up in me for years going up to the standard as Valley. I mean, when I walked into the hitching post with my friend, Roy, who is jack, I’m in that place. So you know, I did have a journey, whatever, but it starts with me with character and setting.
Natalie MacLean 5:51
Do you think miles is misunderstood as a wine snob?
Rex Pickett 5:55
Absolutely. Without question, I mean, I kind of make fun of it. First of all, let me describe What my definition of wine snobbery is wine snobbery is very simply tantamount to how much money you have. It really is. I mean, if people have a lot of money, they can try wines that other people can’t have. Let me give you one example. The play just and I’m not something the player because this is going to go out all over the world and has to be people here but we pour high end peanut bar for free every night by a different winemaker. And the cast when they come out after the play. They’re really pumped and they all have some wine. Oh my god. One night we ran out and they opened the bottle of Lockwood Pino, this $15 swill, and they went, What is this stubborn, you know? I mean, within one month, their palates have gone. So you know, wine really is for everybody. And I don’t like the fact that just because somebody has a reshoot board or the truce in their cellar that they can that snobbery when you look down your nose and I can’t drink those wines because I can’t afford them. snobbery isn’t the knowledge part of wine. I learned more about wine from James Robinson. I learned wine for reading your book, Natalie I’ve learned more about wine from reading about it than tasting it. I didn’t have any money, these tastings. You’re only on Saturday, my friend Julian Davies, who worked at the store. When the owner left he kind of took out his animus on what he considered his insufficient salary on the inventory. Instead, he would open up some pretty nice bottles, and I got to try some of them, but snobbery is about money, you know, you can look down at people and and say, Well, have you tried that William? William, you know, 1994 x? Well, no, because I can’t afford $500 You know, that’s snobbery to want to like wine in want to understand it on an educational level or even be erudite about it. I don’t find that to be snobbery. I think that just like being passionate about anything, and one, such as you can and the wonderful thing about wine is actually I’m quoting the play now. It’s a bottomless ocean of mystery.
Unknown Speaker 7:49
Great way to put it,
Rex Pickett 7:51
Swamis can’t even master it. And then every year is different Natalie yes, no, and you can’t master it. And I love that fact about it. So yeah, when I went to the tastings are a bunch of doctors More because I live right on the border here of a very wealthy neighbourhood in Brentwood. I’m in rent control but you know, Brett was, you know, they used to play those kind of snop games with me and I wanted to educate myself because I didn’t like being put down in the ways you know, they get it to get a joke or laugh or arise or whatever they like they liked me and they like my participation. There is a cliquishness, there’s an elite isn’t
Natalie MacLean 8:20
and how did you touched on this a bit Rex, but what are your prime sources of learning about why you talked about that store Epicurious? And then Janice Robertson, who is just about everybody’s heroines is Robinson,
Rex Pickett 8:31
Janice Robinson Janssen from Canyon to wine. I haven’t read the whole thing. I actually got the interview the other day, we’re doing the thing. I’m Rudy Kearney alum. I’m now the wine columnist for kind of country magazine, which is so fine. I’m not a wine critic. Okay. I haven’t tasted the great Wines of the World. I turned down many many big events interview because I don’t consider myself a wine critic. I’m just a wine appreciator who’s taken to the level of wanting to understand it much as I can because it is an interesting world. It’s not To me, I’m sure the craft beer people are going to hate me. But frankly, there is still water, barley, wheat, yeast, and hops. That’s it. I’m sorry. It’s a narrow window. So is vodka. So is whatever, yes, it can be one. But wine is not. There’s so many great varieties, so many countries of origin every year is different. that intrigues me in the way wine is made and the beauty of the wine world all of that combined makes me want to know it or understand it in a way that you know, I don’t think has anything to do with whether I can call a 82 Latour out of a brown bag like, right,
Natalie MacLean 9:33
the wine wine tasting
Rex Pickett 9:34
games, the Carter tricks, I think you can approach one from so many different levels.
Natalie MacLean 9:38
So okay, we all bow down to Jan says she’s fantastic and erudite and terrific. But do you think largely wine writing is purple prose?
Rex Pickett 9:48
Yes, it is. I mean, and that’s a great question, Natalie. A lot of the purple prose actually kind of like because I’m kind of a wordsmith. I like the fact that they reach for the polysyllabic and the hyperbolic words. actually like it, I think it’s ludicrous. But actually kind of like I get a kind of a gleeful pneus or something like that it sort of makes, you know, like Parker saying, and I, by the way, I don’t read those kind of things for the most part. And in fact, I’m in business with a guy and we’re going to come out with hopefully these one shelf talkers or neck hangers for bottles. And we’re in negotiations with a number of wine outlet retailers. I’m so sick of seeing Oh, notes of casino, black bears, whatever, it gets mind numbing, and but now, I would rather have it be a little more humorous, a little more educational recommendation within that little 50 word context. And we’re having a lot of success with the potential for and with that just only been going on for so you know, the purple prose, it’s funny to me, but at a certain point, it becomes meaningless and banal, because it’s so repetitive it what does it really mean? I mean, are you really going to read those words, and then take those words, go find that Baba and come back and try to compare, you know, I mean, it’s, they need to evolve and grow or whatever. But in general, I like the fact that People are using language to describe this phenomenon, this wonderful thing called wine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it ludicrous as it often is.
Natalie MacLean 11:11
Have you heard any statistics or anything to indicate just how much peanut bar itself took off after the success of the book and movie?
Rex Pickett 11:21
Well, I’ve heard a lot of statistics and they’re a little conflicting. And you have to look at it for a number of different ways. I mean, a lot of people were able to raise their prices on their wine, but I know that PNR before sideways was only 1% of the total market and I believe that with a red wine, I think it went to 5%. Below of course was 18% of the market and they plummeted to 10% and it was well deserved in that correction. So number one question I have to answer it’s the number one thing I have to inscribe on books no effing or low I mean, they they go oh, my god, oh my god. It’s a number one thing and I don’t mind answering it. My first column for town country magazine was called how morale Can you go and I quote, Heavily Dan, Dan Berger he’s a very fine wine writer. And he said that ultimately sideways was good for a low because what happened was in 1991 60 minutes of the thing on the French paradox drink red wine you live longer, you can eat all the fatty foods. So people rushed to the liquor store or wine store to get red wine. And they would often find themselves with a bottle of Cabernet but Cabernet can be too canik for a lot of you know, new palates. So then they gravitated to Morocco which is a little more approachable more around whatever. And it became the vitamin D in the 90s. This is a fact I credit this to Dan Berger. buttonwillow happens to be unlike peignoir a grape you can over crop. Next thing you know cut to eight years later, there’s a $5 bottle of wine with you know, electrical harvesters shaking in and this would be a travesty to the people like Dan corn, you know in Napa or Schaefer or buying rice of sunstone a very fine winemaker because I have to say that because I’m coming out with a merleau it’s called the apostate. They call it irony but
Natalie MacLean 12:55
I think that’s already taken.
Rex Pickett 12:57
Yeah, that is taken. Thank you Matt Austin, I’m pretty excited about so it was good. So the people who really took the grapes seriously have been left standing in the people who were just in it for crass profit. They left you know, they still are 10% of the market, there’s still more than p more but Pinot Noir is expensive. As far as I’m concerned, it’s actually been actually bad in some sense for peanuts or I mean ultimately was good, but it brought cheaper pianos onto the market. It’s like oh, let’s cash in on this sideways love opinion or phenomenon. But ultimately, it was good for them but keynote for me doesn’t start until $25 I hate to say it fortunate now I can afford I have to afford it. They just send it to me for free now,
Natalie MacLean 13:34
miles Have you
Rex Pickett 13:36
but here’s the thing and this is this is in the play. It’s dialogue in the play. And again, I’m not promoting the player but because we’re sold out every week they are having problems but I like in the making the identifying the pain and war to art. you struggle and you suffer against these climatic odds because as we all know, human wars grown kind of on that edge of cold and hot that Bordeaux base wines aren’t You can have some bad years and you know there’s not a lot of money you do it for the love and that to me is an analogue to art you know you do it for the love you don’t do it for the money and you hope maybe one day you’ll have the money, but you know you suffer for it. One thing I do love Peter Warner I think it’s a singular great variety compared to all others. But I like all you know, gives it to you like this. Now, I like all great Fridays, but to me it is a singular. I’ve also found it to be the most disappointing in many ways, Arpino that I bring price expectations to a bottle of wine. And if I bring 50 or $100 price expectation to a wine, it’s better levitate me.
Natalie MacLean 14:35
Well, speaking of levitation, we’re going to taste the hitching post feed on the wire that is pivotal in the book in the movie, or at least it’s the featured wine. Couldn’t have better
Rex Pickett 14:44
product placement. Could you
Natalie MacLean 14:46
know you couldn’t Yeah, you can’t pay for this. At least I’m not getting paid. Let’s hear what you think. Now this bottle I have to be honest, is already open for a reason. I just couldn’t keep out of it. But I’d love to hear what you think. I’ve got the 2007 I think You’ve got the 2008 highlighter hitching post. You know, Mark.
Rex Pickett 15:03
Yeah. Okay. You have different coughs going in here.
Natalie MacLean 15:06
Yeah, absolutely. We span the the vintages here, but Oh my, this is so good. I had to do the pre research before we started recording. What do you think Rex?
Rex Pickett 15:17
I’m a little more trenchant of the critic in some ways, you know, okay. For some reason, the Oh a, it seems to be losing a little bit of fruit to me just a little bit. I’m being tough. They’re gonna hate me and hitching post, I have a lifetime certificate there. So I’m probably going to revoke it. I don’t want to be the wine critic, because you’re much more of a wine critic and I and I’m not that person. I think it’s a lovely one. I really do. But you know, Frankenstein, grey Hartley, who I know very well, they really got into the making a peanut to sell it at their restaurant. And then of course, because the revenue stream is so much greater to do that then bringing in other wines. They’ve been really good to me. We I poured this at the play, and I really do think this is really terrific. But then they got hit by a meteor called sideways the movie and suddenly, you know, they started making A lot of keen on getting grapes wherever they could get grapes and slapping labels on whatever. But I think grey is a very fine wine maker. I think that this piano is great does it blow me away? Not really. Bear in mind is highlighters going to set you back 40 or $50, maybe as much as 100 on a wine list in a restaurant. So, right,
Natalie MacLean 16:21
that context matters. Price matters, don’t you?
Rex Pickett 16:24
I mean, if I’m spending $1 and this is why I hate with our wine shop talker thing that we’re going to do with a with a major retailer. I don’t want to do numerical scores. I just wanted to be recommendations because, you know, like 8987 that’s the kiss of death score. But if it’s an $8 bottle of wine, it could be marvellous, and you give a 90 a 91, which seems you know, that 8990 level, but you give a 90 to $100 wine, frankly, I would be disappointed if I was at wine maker. Exactly. People do
Natalie MacLean 16:53
the math QPR like quality price ratio, they’re doing the
Rex Pickett 16:57
second I don’t want I don’t want to name names here. And now I want to name a retailer but not Robert Parker, you know, but somebody else who I happen to know and I grew, you know who does stuff for a major retailer he does shelf talkers. He gets it done it. He sits there and dickering with the people. Well, don’t you think maybe we should give this a nine year and at you know, those numbers have gotten pretty meaningless. And yet in the wine world, I think we’re the numbers maybe matter is when you get to really high end wines Richebourg with Tosh, the tour’s the premier gronk cruise, then I want to know about a 98 or 100. I’m not Yes,
Natalie MacLean 17:31
you want some relief of that cognitive dissonance after paying 100 bucks
Rex Pickett 17:35
or whatever. So So what’s your score on this one now? My gosh, I’m gonna give a 89 Plus, what do you think?
Natalie MacLean 17:44
You’re tough. Wow. And I’m influenced by everything, including Who?
Rex Pickett 17:48
You know the person. Where am I? Now? I’m drinking the Kool Aid. You’re having the oh seven.
Natalie MacLean 17:53
Oh, there you go. That’s the reason. I’ll give it a 91 I love this. I love it. But you know what? 91 is not extraordinary. Really high for a $50 bottle?
Rex Pickett 18:02
You know, you’re underscoring my point naturally, if I’m a consumer and it gets only 91 points, I mean, I can find a $50 bottle of wine that gets 95 points. A tensley. SRA, for example, absolutely.
Natalie MacLean 18:13
RX tell us a little bit about how the play is different from the movie and the book.
Rex Pickett 18:17
Well, the movie is Alexander Payne’s version of my novel. And the play is my version of my novel, The movies very faithful to my book. When I first met Alexander Payne in person after talking on the phone once and he’d read my then unpublished novel, we’re talking about 2000. Now we’re 12 years ago, I met him he hugged me said, Oh, you’re a genius and all that stuff. And then he said, bear in mind, folks, sideways was written in first person from the standpoint of miles. So he said, you know what I loved about your novel so much, Rex. I said, Why? He goes, your characters are so effin pathetic. And I went, Oh, my God, I felt like a carotid artery hit me in the chest or something. You know what? All right, well, okay. Just make the You know, I’m not, I need some money. But that’s how he saw the characters. He saw them as more pathetic. I mean clearly what they do. You could see it that way, you know Jack’s transgressive behaviour, certainly. But what we did is when I was approached, you don’t have to go to do the play wasn’t my idea, somebody else’s idea. What I decided was is that while for legal reasons I have to base it on the novel is based almost exclusively on the novel, but there are scenes in the movie that I could have used in the play. But I have elected not to I elected to kind of skew more to the novel. And I have a lot of choices, Natalie, I mean, their offices, a lot of compression, there’s only a few things I can use. The main difference is that the play jack is not quite the remorseless sex crazed Terminator, imitating church place and as he is, he still does his bad things, but he shows more contrition. By the way this is coming from people come out of the theatre. I’ve had people come out of the theatre telling me they love it better than the movie. When I say Look, don’t quote me on that. A and B. They’re three entirely different mediums. book which is sort of a private experience of one on one, you know, movie, which is a two dimensional experience, and theatre, which is alive, it’s three dimensional, like the characters came out of the screen and walk right down in your living room. So it’s a very intimate space. It’s less than 99 seat theatre, so very, very intimate space. But I think there the relationship is emotionally deeper and richer in some ways. And it is in the movie. There are a couple scenes in the second act that really take you away from the movie and more into the novel places that Alexander really were out of his comfort zone. The first scene of the second act is after Myles and Maya, you know, go to bed together in the movie, as everyone remembers are sitting under a little walnut tree. And it’s like, oops, we have a rehearsal dinner to go to there’s a little argument you never see her again. Well, in the novel, that’s not how it goes down there in bed in the windmill, and of course, and she’s going on and on about how her friend Tara, not Stephanie is so in love with his friend jack and he can’t take anyone confesses, but those who know the scene and you’re watching It’s 15 feet 20 feet away from you, Natalie. It is powerful. Well then, and I kind of don’t want to give it away. She has something to confess to, and it’s in a novel.
Natalie MacLean 21:09
Oh, and it’s not in the movie.
Rex Pickett 21:11
It’s not in the movie at all. Maybe I can say there’s maybe a lot of people have read the novel, but act one. The final scene ends at a hot tub. We’re all for them go to this hot tub scene, which is in the novel in Maya opens these Richebourg and Latasha says that she got from her husband in their divorce. Ah, but it
Natalie MacLean 21:29
didn’t get the wine cellar.
Rex Pickett 21:31
miles doesn’t want to continue this thing anymore. He’s got a train wreck. He’s trying to stop. Well, jack gave her money to open those bottles. Oh, and she gives miles the money back. It’s a very powerful seed. It’s not anywhere in the movie, and it is out of Alexander Payne’s comfort zone completely. So you still get the movie. And you still get miles and jack, whatever. And the ending, that ending I don’t want to give away for people but you know the ending in the novel is a much more. I wouldn’t call it a happier ending, but it’s definitely more redemptive. And it’s more cathartic. And there is miles and a mile. And it’s not just on an answering machine. It’s not just a guy knocking on a door. Alexander Payne, the director and co writer, gave me every draft of the screenplay. And just to give you an example, and then I’ll shut up, but he gave me every draft of the screenplay in the first three drafts of the screenplay. The movie ended with Myles getting Maya’s message on his answering machine and went to black. After the third draft of it, said, Alexander, that’s neither fish nor fowl. I mean, I know you don’t want to do my ending because you said it was to Hollywood, really. There was too high bias shows up at the wedding, in the book and in the play, but it’s what she says. It’s not like we’re gonna walk off in the sunset and get married. There’s a forgiveness in it. People cry. At the end of the movie, people don’t cry. There’s a little bit of a downbeat up the end of the play people going out. It’s in the novel and it’s earned and I said okay, Dinner. I understand that but I mean, could you, you know, I’m just letting you know this ending is neither fish nor fowl. So then he wrote in we’re miles drives up and there’s a little bit of a voiceover and he knocks on the door,
Natalie MacLean 23:10
and it has to be raining.
Rex Pickett 23:12
Well, that’s great that it’s raining because it shows that it’s, you know, some time has passed. I love that little ending, but it’s not the ending in the play or in the book. And I said, Alexander’s. I hate sentimentality. I said, I do too. When it’s slathered on like Laura fron or one of those, you know, horrible filmmakers. He just, you know, they do it blatantly, or whatever. But if you earn sentimentality, if you earn it, I mean, miles takes a beating in this movie, and he takes even more of a beating in the play. You know, he finds out his ex wife has gotten remarried, and she’s going to be at the wedding. He finds out later she’s pregnant. Much later, he finds out his novels not getting published and his best friend here is cheating on him and ruining his whole week. You know, I mean, especially when he finds out his novels not going to get published. I mean, you know, he needs some scintilla of But so those are some of the ways. Look, I love the movie. I want to go on record saying that it did so much for me. It’s a great movie, but it is Alexander’s pain slant on the book. For example, in the movie, people don’t probably remember a little scenes like that I do. miles goes and buys a porno magazine. I mean, that’s not me. That’s not in the book. It’s not in the play. Again, I don’t even probably people read porn or whatever. It just isn’t me, but it makes miles of kind of pathetic. Here’s another major thing, Natalie, and then I’ll try to shut up but I know it’s hard to even Shut up. You know, again, first person standpoint of me, miles in the book is a funny guy. He’s not an eighth grade school teacher. He’s an artwork screenwriter and he makes light. I’ll be it in a sardonic and often Morton way. He makes light of his current state of destitution. You know, he’s a funny guy in the movie. Paul Giamatti is not a funny guy. You know, you laugh at him, but you never laugh at anything. He says. If you go back and watch a movie, you’ll see that you laugh at the situation’s the physical comedy that you don’t laugh at anything. If you laugh at some of Jack’s dumb ass stuff about Yeah, let’s move up and get out of Wiener. I’m going to call it the way that you really don’t laugh at any mile says you laugh at things at mile says in the book. And of course I drew so much of the dialogue from the book, which is one of the reasons I did the play is because the book is so dialogue driven, which is one of the reasons the publishing industry I have over 100 rejection letters they thought read too much like a screenplay. But that dialogue now is in the play, and miles, it can be a pretty funny guy at times, you know, admits everything else. That’s the long winded answer to your question. I think for people who saw the movie, if they were to go in and see the play, we were very careful about this. And I was really careful. If they went in and saw the play and just saw the highlights of the movie. You know, you’re sort of selling out really, in my opinion, you’ve got to give them something richer, something more than what the movie gave them which was something richer and more. These be its own medium. Hello, I’m at the theatre every night when they’re pouring the line. Hi NP no before every performance from a different winemaker, they’re glad to come down and I’m there At the close of every performance, I don’t go and see it anymore because I only see the mistakes and few little words I’d like to cut. I guess in some ways, you know, here’s a little bit of a downbeat note. That’s when cyclists came out the movie, it was all about the director and the actors or whatever I mean a lot of people again to repeat myself thought it was the Immaculate Conception you know, they just sprung from nowhere Well, it’s sprung from a guy’s 10 years of his life nine years was a horrible decade of mine and I blogged about this extensively my life on spec the writing sideways on stage 32 dot com for anyone who wants to go there and read that 15,000 word there, Jeremiah, link
Natalie MacLean 26:35
Rex Pickett 26:36
30 to 50,000 word German, but they’ll get a real good sense of when you’re going to ask about writing. I would just say go there. You want to know what it’s like to try to be a writer read that my life on spec the writing sideways, but I didn’t get really I don’t think the respect or attention I deserved for what I did there. You know, on the other hand, I give all the credit Alexander Payne, but nobody else the producer and the actors, they never want to thank me in any award speech. Never either At one point Virginia maps and thank everyone including her dog and didn’t say my name. I’m not joking. I’m out. You know what’s kind of neat when I look at the poster for the plates as Rex Pickett sideways. It is my story it really is, you know, and and had it not worked it’s been a bummer I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. First of all, the fact that it works in there’s so much love for those characters. I feel like at the risk of modesty is a tribute to what I suffered and what I ultimately dared to go and put mean I that’s my personal life up on the screen finding about your wife or staggering out of the hitching post or whatever, that’s my personal life. That’s how I that’s how I was sort of the 90s you know,
Natalie MacLean 27:36
so and so is vertical circa the early 2000s for you I think, miles go to Oregon, the piano bar festival,
Rex Pickett 27:44
well, in this vertical is literally my life in sideways hit, I was just turned upside down. I mean, suddenly now even though I was saying a moment ago that maybe I didn’t get the respect. I certainly still thought it was a celebrity. I’d go to wine festivals every 300 people waiting to sign the book. So Really vertical. It’s seven years later miles has written a novel. He’s gotten it published and it’s been made into a movie and he’s a success. And his mother’s had a stroke and she’s in assisted living in San Diego jack is divorced and on the skids and has a kid as my friend Roy ultimately happened to him. And so miles gets offered to be the master of ceremonies at the International keynote or celebration in the great lemon valley of Oregon, which is planted in over 80% pain and war as I was so miles and miles. His mother wants to be with her sister in Wisconsin, so he hatches his plan he leases this luxury Deluxe handicap equip ramp man give roles in his wheelchair dependent mother or pot smoking Filipina nurse made her a little Yorkie terrier, a depressed jack and 12 cases of lammott Valley pain on the head off Oregon and route to Wisconsin. I write from a very personal place and then I fictionalised I go out from there. You know for me vertical is the flip side of the same coin sideways was about failure. Right verticals about success in a sense Same coin never.
Natalie MacLean 29:01
Oh, yeah, no, this is great. We evolve along with you and now you’ve got Book Three in the works. Yes. And I hear via the grapevine miles and jack are off to another country. But we’re not revealing which one yet
Rex Pickett 29:14
Are we not? We’re not we’re not gonna reveal Yeah, I wasn’t going to write a part three vertical which I won’t give away does leave you hanging. I grew up in San Diego I’ve been living in Santa Monica here in Los Angeles for a number of years. I’ve written so much about Southern California the Pacific Coast I sort of really kind of depleted you know, I really need something new I need miles and jack see because when you say miles and jackets really miles because vertical really it is miles and jack but it really becomes more miles and his mother. The last third of the story becomes more about the two of them in some ways. And it’s really my journey. Sideways is my journey. It’s not so much Jack’s and vertical is even more my journey and jack will definitely be in there because he’s such a wonderful foil, but I feel like I need to discover a new place. So yes, I am going to go to another contrary I can’t disclose it and I will be there with a writer in residence at a university and it will be a major wine region. And I will say that and I will be there for probably anywhere from eight months to a year because that’s how I write Natalie I don’t just go for a month and then I come back and I Oh, I got enough Peter. No, it has to seep in my soul but thing that made sideways so successful as a movie and as a book and Alexander This is what I love about the guy is he wanted to shoot it the hitching post. He wanted to shoot it all but he didn’t get everyone that he wanted and then we can we can tell stories about that. But he wanted to shoot in the setting he couldn’t set at Napa Sonoma. It has been another director. It could have been two guys doing jello shots in Cabo. I mean, this is Hollywood. You don’t know what they’re going to do to your work. So there similitude is a word I used to writer verisimilitude, Baron, you know, the ring of truth. Give me authenticity. Give me three dimensional. Give me a character that you know that I believe, you know, and I think you’re off to the races.
Natalie MacLean 30:55
You know, I was thinking if, if, hypothetically jack and miles go to Australia you could call it down under which would fit directionally with,
Natalie MacLean 31:04
you know, vertical like that. Natalie, you’re a writer. Yeah, I don’t I don’t
Natalie MacLean 31:09
Rex Pickett 31:12
you tell me I blurbed the book that was a hack job. No, oh, no, no, no. No, honestly, and that that is a potential. I don’t want to give it away. But I like your title.
Natalie MacLean 31:22
Get down under you gotta have a directional thing, you know, anyway, on to the broader world of aspiring writers and everybody who would like to be you. What tips do you have for me? Okay, well, your success What? What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Rex Pickett 31:39
Gosh, Well, one thing you can follow me on Twitter because I do hashtag writing. I have over 1000 tweets, and they want me to put them together. And I’m actually I’ve done a couple of workshops and I’m going to start doing some workshops. There’s an old saying, because I could talk about this for ages and the internet is changing a lot of things. So verticals are much longer novel, and sideways. It’s been getting a little harder for people to read. It’s 150,000 words. So I was only at 5000 words. In my day when I read a lot in my 20s 150,000 word 400 page novel would be a medium sized book today, it’s like Warren Piece. So I think you have to do have to be a little mindful of the market, but I’m not mindful the market. And there is an old saying, write what you know, and I know it’s a cliche, and it was a read, but it was when I started to write things that happened to me, and things that I was going through in my life and fictionalising and then working myself through those things. You know, for instance, when I wrote sideways I was in a state of total despair. I was totally destitute. I’ve often joked that if I could have afforded a gun or would have shot myself, you know, but I couldn’t sell that I was smart enough. No, unless I laced it with humour. I think the key is, is character and I think the key is is conflict with character. So for me, jack is the opposite of miles. And it comes from my reading of you, you know, which I and I also say read a lot you Do you want to write read a lot if you’re reading movies, see the best movies, read the best screenplays, don’t just go out and see the director or whatever, just educate yourself, I would steer away from how to books on writing, I would try to find my own unique and singular voice. Because even if agents and I’ve had quite a few in my career, I’ve gotten to know them, even if they think that that work is unique, or whatever, and they can’t sell it. They liked the fact that you have a new and singular voice and you aren’t just writing the next rip off high concept. And this is gonna sound cliche, but write what you know, be unique. Find your own singular voice, and don’t just wait for this thing to sell or I’m going to get an agent or whatever. Don’t tell me about your whining, because when I wrote sideways, you know, I mean, I Process Servers knocking at the door. I mean, it was unbirth. Well, my advice there is just don’t answer because they’re not allowed. And just keep writing. And you know, I’ve often said to people, how low can you go and still turn on your laptop? Don’t whine to me, because it went years admittedly, in the 80s. I made a couple of independent feature films and the second one was released and it didn’t fare well. I could have walked away and maybe got In a job, I don’t know what teaching or something. And I didn’t I just kept at it. It’s really about drive and passion and dedication and how how low how deep Can you go if you’re in a state of despair? I don’t know if you’re drunk at write about that, because that’s something you know, intimately, you know, and don’t just make up cops you’ve never met in firemen and space monsters and sci fi creatures. And you know what if you do and you make it good luck, but I am who I am in sideways endures to this day, and it really does, you know, again, at the risk of in modesty, because I wrote these indelible, iconic archetypal characters who have a certain universality to them that lives to this day, every Friday and Saturday and Sunday to play the bow validation. Be yourself. Go bury your soul. Go deep. Hey, I went so deep. My ex wife who I adore, she produced and acted in both my feature film, she now teaches at NYU, she won an Academy Award for a short film that I wrote, that’s live action short 2000 Oscar Yeah, I get custody rights to works well in a wine bar. By the way. She told me Bone cyclists. Wow, it’s too personal for her. She almost didn’t happen. I love her to death. We’re very close to her and she told me to burn it.
Natalie MacLean 35:07
Well, that is a remarkable story. I mean, you richly deserve all your success and I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and all the folks More importantly, who are listening and watching this and looking to you for inspiration, and all those who found a lot of enjoyment and pleasure in reading your books and watching the movies. So thank you and I raise my glass to you. Alright, thank you now