Anne Bancroft, Mel Brooks And Me – Manifesting A Dream
The year was January 2005. My
marriage of twenty years was over. My parents who I had been a caregiver
to in their later years were dead. My son was grown and no longer needed
me like he did when he was young. Suddenly, I was at a crossroads in my
It was at this time that I read an
interview by the actress Anne Bancroft.
Anne talked about there being few
roles for older actresses.
At first I was surprised by what I
was reading. To me it was simply inconceivable that an actress such as
Anne Bancroft, who had garnered five Oscar nominations during her illustrious
career, and had won one Oscar, two Tonys, two Golden Globes and an Emmy, was no
longer being offered leading roles. That smacked completely of ageism in
Hollywood against older actresses.
Right then I decided that I would
take my writing talents and I would write strong character-driven screenplays
for older actresses.
In January of 2005 I sat down
determined to write an incredible screenplay for Anne Bancroft. I even
thought that if this age bias against older actresses was as prevalent as I was
beginning to suspect it was, that my screenplay could very well be Anne
Bancroft’s swan song — and if it was I wanted to send a powerful message to
Hollywood that older actresses could, indeed, open a film!
I was so irate by the injustice that
older actresses, who had worked a lifetime at perfecting their acting skills
and honing their craft — and were now at the top of their game, were being
blackballed by Hollywood just because they had reached a certain age.
It angered me so much, that never once did it dawn upon me to think, “Hey, wait
a second! Who the heck are you to think that you can write a screenplay
for Anne Bancroft?”
Nevertheless, I kept fantasizing
just how excited Anne Bancroft was going to be when her agent called and
informed Anne that she had read the most brilliant screenplay written just for
And then I fantasized Anne
Bancroft’s reaction upon hearing the news. “Really? You mean
somebody remembered that I was once a star?”
But my fantasy did not end
there. Instead, I would go on to fantasize that Anne Bancroft’s agent
would pdf my screenplay to Anne to read, but somehow by mistake she ended up
e-mailing it to Mel Brooks.
Then Mel Brooks would read my
screenplay and he would be totally captivated by it.
The next thing that would happen in
my fantasy was that my telephone rang and it was Mel Brooks calling me.
“Hello, this is Mel Brooks.
I’d like to speak to Joan Oshatz.”
My God! Could it be
true? Was Mel Brooks really calling me? My inner voice screamed,
“Say something! Do you want him to think that you’re dumb?” I
struggled to remember my name.
“Joan, I have just read your
I felt like fainting! Mel
Brooks had read my screenplay! But I didn’t faint, because I needed to
know what he thought of it! If he hated it, I was going to give up
“This is the most brilliant
screenplay I have ever read, outside of my screenplays, of course. My
screenplays are the most brilliant screenplays ever written!” Mel Brooks said.
Phew, I didn’t have to give up
writing after all!
“I only have one criticism,” Mel
I was ready to burst into
tears. Mel Brooks didn’t like my screenplay after all. He was just
being polite when he called it brilliant. He hated it! What made me
think I was a writer and that I could write a screenplay for Anne
Bancroft? I was being totally delusional.
“Your screenplay needs to be
funnier. It is missing that one element that would make it really funny,”
Mel Brooks said.
“Me! You need to have me in
your screenplay,” Mel Brooks said.
“But, Mr. Brooks, I wrote it for
your wife. I didn’t write it for you,” I tried to say tactfully.
“Precisely, and that’s why it’s not
as funny as it can be. Can you imagine having me, Mel Brooks, in your screenplay?
Now that would be funny!”
I tried to imagine having Mel Brooks
in my screenplay, but not even my imagination could stretch that far.
“Mr. Brooks, am I understanding you
correctly? You want me to rewrite my screenplay and add a role in it for
“That’s exactly what I’m saying —
and preferably a leading role so that I can co-star in it with my wife — and
then maybe I’ll even consider producing it and throwing in my directing talents
Holy Toledo! Mel Brooks was
offering to co-star, produce and direct my screenplay! Golly, this would
really be phenomenal if it happened! The only thing that had me a little
nervous was I was hoping Mel Brooks didn’t suggest that he would rewrite my
“I’ll tell you what, Joan — you
don’t mind if I call you Joan?”
“Or do you like Joanie better?’
“My family and friends call me
“So this is the thing, Joanie.
I think you may have something here. In fact, I know you have something
here — especially if I’m in it! This can turn out to be a very funny
“Oh, it definitely will be funny if
you’re in it, Mr. Brooks!”
“So this is the thing — can you
“Well, when I was in film school my
writing professor said that I was the female version of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks
and Neil Simon all rolled into one.”
“Your writing professor said that?”
“So if your writing professor said
that, who do you think is the funniest — Woody Allen, Neil Simon or me?”
I decided it was time to hang up on
my imaginary conversation with Mel Brooks.
Four months went by. I had
incorporated Mel Brooks into my screenplay and I was working on perfecting my
script. It was now April of 2005. My imaginary telephone rang.
“Hello, Joanie — it’s Mel Brooks.”
“Hello, Mr. Brooks!” I said
“Joanie, I think you know me well
enough that you can start calling me Mel.”
“So, how’s my role coming along?”
“Oh, it’s coming along just fine.”
“Are you making me funny?”
“I’m making you laugh out loud funny.”
“Are you making me funnier than
Woody Allen and Neil Simon?”
Since this was an imaginary
conversation, I decided it was time, once again, to hang up on Mel Brooks,
which is something that I would never do in real life.
I continued working on my screenplay
and I received no more imaginary phone calls from Mel Brooks, which kind of
disappointed me, because I actually enjoyed talking to him.
And then my phone rang on June 8th,
2005. By now I had been working six months on the screenplay and it was
just about finished. However, this time it was not an imaginary phone
call. It was my sister-in-law calling to tell me that she had just heard
on the news that Anne Bancroft had died of uterine cancer.
I took Anne Bancroft’s death very
hard. It was inconceivable for me to think that this consummate actress
had been silenced forever. Yet, I knew that her legacy would continue to
live on in all the wonderful films that she left behind.
I had so wanted to surprise Anne
Bancroft with a screenplay that had been written just for her. Now she
would never know that there was somebody out there who had been writing a
screenplay for her.
What does this story have to do with
manifesting? Well, as it turns out it has a lot to do with
manifesting. I had a dream and I went for it. I did not let my fear
of being an unknown writer stop me from writing a screenplay for a world