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I had a great time with the cast during my two weeks on the film. Jason Miller was a really nice man. He some wonderful stories that he shared with me about strange happenings on the set of The Exorcist including a couple of stories that he told me that he had not shared before. And seeing him retell the stories first hand and how they still bothered him, I definitely believed him. Some people don't know that in addition to being nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Father Karris in "The Exorcist", he won a Pulitzer Prize for writing his own play, "That Championship Season." A couple of his sons are talented actors as well. We had stayed in contact after filming and planned on working together again. Sadly Jason Miller passed away from a heart attack in 2001.
The suit story is a personal favorite and shows how a director has to work with his actors. In the film, Lt. March is at a formal dance with his wife. Jason had to wear a suit for the scene. I got word from wardrobe that he didn't want to wear it and was absolutely refusing to wear one. So I went over and spoke to him. He explained to me how he felt the character wouldn't wear a suit. It was very obvious to me, that this was well thought through by him and not a spur of the moment decision.
I told him, "You're right. Lt. March wouldn't wear the suit." Jason looked surprised. I went on and explained, "In fact, he wouldn't even go to this event. He went to the event to please his wife. She is the one who dressed him much to his reluctance." He looked at me and I could see a light go on before he snapped his finger, "You're right. His wife would have dressed him for this dance." And that's how I got Jason Miller into a suit for the scene. Funny part was that after the scene was filmed, Jason liked the suit so much that he asked me if he could keep it after production. We worked it out so he could.
I was getting asked repeatedly to sign another actor in the role who I even knew but thought was too young for the part. I decided to find a better fit for the character and try to cast Jason as all he could tell me was no. When I received the final call from his agent, I was told there one perk that was needed. I braced for the worse and asked what it was - was it a 50 foot trailer, private plane, a mansion?...She said that Jason wants to bring his dog Shane with him to Iowa. Since I love dogs myself, I was relieved and we worked that out so Shane could come to Iowa. After that, Jason called me and we talked for quite a while. I discovered he was worried that I wouldn't allow him to bring his dog and I told him what I was worried about. We had a good laugh. When Jason arrived with Shane in Iowa, I had dog snacks waiting in their hotel room. We became friends and I really enjoyed working him. He had the type of face that tells a thousand stories as soon as you point the camera at him. Combined with that wonderful voice, you had to look at him when he was on screen of any film. Very compelling actor.
Also Jason Miller wasn't my first choice in the role of Lt. March. I originally approached an actor from one of my favorite films, Star Wars (Mark Hamill). A script was sent to his agent along with a preliminary offer. Shortly after a scheduling conflict arose with Hamill needing to do voice over work on a project. This would have required me to change the shooting dates for Lt. March from having all of his scenes filmed in the first two weeks of the schedule to the last two weeks in the schedule. This was something I wasn't willing to do as the schedule would have been too tight in case of bad weather/unexpected problems with little time left over at the end to do pick up shots (extra shooting). Someone who I had always wanted to work with was Jason Miller (The Exorcist, Exorcist III, The Ninth Configuration, Rudy).
Some trivia - Originally another actress was being considered for the part of Beth. I went to meet that actress at one of her convention appearances. But when I went to meet her, I ended up accidently meeting Brinke at the same event who I cast in the role instead as I thought the character was very different from any other parts she had played up to that point.
As for production on the film - Jason Miller was only there for the first two weeks of filming and I directed his scenes, Mickey Spillane's only Scene, and Majel Barrett Roddenbery's only classroom scene. Again, I had nothing to do with the editing of those scenes. Directing Majel was a lot of fun as I grew up watching the original Star Trek Television series and never thought I'd be directing her on set one day. She was wonderful to work with and always up for anything. She even brought me a special gift which I have to this day. Such a kind woman. Sadly she died in 2008.
This film has a interesting behind the scenes story to it as I was the original director and producer on the four week shoot. After the first two weeks, I was fired for what was alleged to be creative differences with the writer/producer Max Allan Collins who took over directing. As my attorney said at the time, "How can someone be fired for creative differences when they have creative control in the contract?" From that day forward I had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the movie for the remainder two weeks of filming and all of post production. I filed a lawsuit and as we prepared to go to trial, I received an out of court settlement which I accepted. The timing was perfect as the trial would have interrupted the filming on my next film - something I was willing to do at the time. I also had them remove my credit from the film after a crew member supplied my attorney with a early copy of the film as they were crediting me as "associate producer" - a role I never had since I was actually a "producer" on it in addition to directing.
My departure left the writer Max Allan Collins directing and his childhood friend James Hoffman (who had never been in film production at any level prior to this movie) producing. A few years later, one of the crew sent me an article from the Muscatine Journal (February 20, 1998) which reported that "...a district court judge threw out a sentencing agreement that would have kept admitted embezzler James Hoffman out of prison. Hoffman, 50, pleaded guilty last month to withdrawing $28,412 from IRAs owned by both Max Allan and Barb Collins and transferring the funds into a cashiers check payable to himself." Later in the same newspaper article it stated that the Judge commented "The offense took place over an extended period of time and because he committed another crime while this was being deliberated, I believe a period of incarceration is warranted. Because the agreement was thrown out, Hoffman withdrew his guilty plea. A trial date will later be set by the court." The only other thing I heard after this was that Hoffman died in October of 2008.