By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
And as noted, on the strength of previous horror adaptations of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company, in conjunction with Rogue, the horror division of Universal’s independent arm Focus Features, is currently developing a remake of The Hitcher for a proposed 2007 release. Red sold at least the sequel rights, if not the remake rights (the two are usually but not always bundled together), to Hitcher producer Charles R. Meeker some time after the 2000 accident, and Meeker produced the straight-to-video Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting in 2003, written by one Molly Meeker. The elder Meeker is listed as a producer on the Hitcher remake, and the script appears to be based on Red’s original screenplay, although it is unclear whether or how much he will prosper financially. Both Platinum Dunes and Focus Features refused to comment.
Red also declined to comment on his current projects. But one script appears striking in the context of his car wreck and ensuing civil trial. Fenderbent, written by Eric Red and Meredith Casey, in a draft dated May 1, 2003, is the story of a group of high school students on their way to a concert who run out of gas in a small town in central Texas. There, they encounter not just the anticipated killer trucks and car-related mayhem of Red’s signature oeuvre — “the SOUND of the DEAFENING REVVING ROARS of the ENGINES and the SMASHING of METAL against FLESH and BONE,” as the screenplay imperatively puts it — but an actual society of miscreants who target and run down pedestrians for fun, as part of an elaborate sport. Driving souped-up GTOs, dragsters and funny cars, featuring Ed “Big Daddy” Roth-style cartoon murals and tricked out with chainsaws, harpoons and razor-sharp rotor blades, these chicken-fried road warriors refer to themselves as the Fenderbents and collect points for every unsuspecting victim they can tally.
This is reminiscent of the plot of Death Race 2000, Paul Bartel’s mid-’70s drive-in opus starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, crossed with the inbred remoteness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It also carries with it a kind of gallows-humor defiance. Despite its absence from Red’s list of active properties in the Creative Directory, Scott Penney, his agent, continued to shop the project through at least 2004. What exactly are we to make of this?
But even that is not the most bizarre aspect of this increasingly bizarre story. Because according to Red’s testimony at trial, his own father, Cornelius Gerard Durdaller, known as Neil, was killed by a drunken driver at age 46 in New Jersey, when Red was 16. However, it was only after his own auto-fatality experience that his mother told him the man who killed his father claimed to have passed out at the wheel, and the man was convicted and served time in prison. According to a relative, the other vehicle struck his father's car, which was just then stopped at a traffic light, head on.
“It was a tragic accident,” Red said in an e-mail response to 20 questions he agreed to answer 15 months ago — none of them concerning the circumstances of the accident or its immediate aftermath. “There’s nothing I can do to undo it. Although every day I wish I could. I know what it is like to lose a family member in a car accident. In the late ’70s my father died in New Jersey as the result of a driver who lost control of his vehicle, and I sympathize with the Baums’ and Roos’ loss. You want someone to blame, you need there to be a reason, but I’ve had to accept that sometimes tragedies happen where there is no reason. .?.?. My heart goes out to these families and I hope they find a way to move on, as we all must do.” (More recently, Red has threatened to sue the L.A. Weekly if it prints this story about him, and in court filings in December claimed plaintiffs Baum and Roos “paid a freelance reporter to write a biased article that deliberately presented a very negative portrait of me.” During the summer, private investigators contacted me, my parents, ex-wife and former neighbors about this matter.)
As Barbara Casey succinctly puts it: “Eric lives with his pain every day.”
Brandon Baum, for one, takes no comfort in Red’s statement. “It’s amazing what the mind can do; it’s very protective of the individual. I’m sure Red considers himself a victim. You can’t change people’s hearts and minds; it doesn’t happen. But if he becomes a big success, he can donate some of the money so that somebody can get an education and maybe do a little bit of what Noah wanted to do."
And who’s to say he won’t? There have been celebrity hit-and-runs, even involving egregious death or bodily injury. In 2001, actress Rebecca Gayheart pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after killing a 9-year-old boy who chased a soccer ball into the street. She paid a $2,800 fine, was sentenced to three years’ probation and 750 hours of community service and had her license suspended for a year. (In addition, she paid all hospital and funeral expenses for the little boy and settled a wrongful-death suit with the family for an undisclosed sum.) Fox executive vice president Dylan Sellers served three months of a one-year sentence for gross vehicular manslaughter after a 1996 accident that killed fellow Fox employee Lewis Cherot. Halle Berry pleaded no contest to hit-and-run charges in 2000 and performed 200 hours of community service, as did Andy Dick, who entered a two-year drug treatment program. Even first lady Laura Bush killed a classmate after running a stop sign at age 17. Each of these paid for their mistake, made restitution where necessary and accepted their fate.
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