By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"After writing Swingers, I ended up where I thought I'd have to work a whole career to get to," Favreau says, without a trace of braggadocio. "And it was like, 'Where do you wanna go from here now?'"
But success, for some, is as fleeting as the common cold or the high school girlfriend. You go from nobody to household name to direct-to-video has-been in the time it takes to drive to LAX and catch a plane back home. After Swingers, Favreau found himself with two options: He could parlay his cult-and-then-some status into a career as an actor, as Vaughn had, or he could become a writer who took occasional acting gigs to pay the rent. He chose the latter, so his filmography isn't terribly cluttered: He played 12th fiddle to the asteroid in Deep Impact, starred in Peter Berg's dark bachelor-party debacle Very Bad Things, tightened up to play Rocky Marciano for cable and marked time in a few indies, among them the prescient and funny, if familiar, Love & Sex. Then came The Replacements, a film he now says "I had no business doing." It was an excruciating experience, he says of making the Warner Bros. film, but if nothing else, it proved to him how little interest he had in working with the major studios.
"I wanted to do it because it was fun, and then the reality of it was so painful," he says. "Dealing with the politics of being an Indian on a big studio film just wore me down. It took a lot of time out of my life."
So, too, have all the projects Favreau has been involved in that you will never see. He has written and directed three discarded TV pilots. One, an hour-long drama-comedy Good Cop, Bad Cop, was about two police officers who, among them, have lost 11 partners in the line of duty. "No matter how much they say they're along for the ride, when push comes to shove," Favreau says of his experience dealing with the networks, "TV studios and TV networks are very frightened." He has also penned a number of rejected screenplays, chief among them the script that was to be his follow-up to Swingers: The Marshal of Revelation, a Western about a gunslinger who happens to be a Hasidic Jew. Artisan, which is distributing Made, was to have financed the movie, but it backed out when it had trouble getting commitments from overseas distributors, who loathe Westerns.
He was then hired to adapt Po Bronson's 1997 set-in-Silicon-Valley novel The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardestfor 20th Century Fox.Though his name remains on the film, which will be released next year, it bears little resemblance to his first draft, which was rewritten when director Mick Jackson brought in his own people. "It could have been a nicersituation," Favreau says, "but ultimately the director comes along, he has a vision and a writer, and that's just part of it. A golfer's gonna bring his caddy with him."
There are a handful of other films to which his name has been attached (with worn-out Velcro), including one he wrote for Kevin James and Ray Romano--the kings of CBS--called Bridge & Tunnel. But the one that really irritates him is Guam Goes to the Moon, about an astronaut hired by Guam for an outer-space flight. It's "one of those projects that really is a microcosm for the industry," Favreau says, explaining that every filmmaker standing anywhere near the Paramount lot gets asked to come in and rewrite the damned thing. His is but one of a dozen names attached to the film, along with men who've written the likes of The Family Man, Evolution, American Pie and Happy, Texas.
Swingerswas the movie Favreau got for free--the first-timer, striking gold without ever breaking a sweat. Everything since then has come with its own cost. Imagine what it would be like to work for years and have nothing to show for it. Imagine the bitterness, the regret, the emptiness. Favreau, perhaps flush with the success of Madeas it rolls across the country, insists he harbors none of those things. He says he is content with his dealings with the studios; he says he is happier than he's ever been. So what if he's written scripts in invisible ink and gotten paid well for his time? So what if he shot TV pilots on someone else's dime? There are worse ways to spend five years.
"See, if I had taken what the world was ready to give me, I could be very, very wealthy right now," Favreau says. "I could have a lot of power right now. I could have had three shows on the air, if I had made certain changes to them. But it's human nature, especially for somebody like me, who's overcome a lot of odds and had to fight hard to get to where I'm at, to want to push it a little further than what comes easily. The good news is I'm not living in a one-room apartment, like in Swingers, anymore.
"I have a wife, I have a kid on the way, we have two cars in the driveway--two new cars leased--and everything I could ever hope for is paid for. Everything else from now on is security and numbers in a bank book, and so I would rather take my chances and not have it come through half the time, knowing that I'm really pushing it as far as I can, as opposed to being complacent and making sequels to the films I did before and taking roles that are paying me the most. Man, I'm still sowing seeds."