By Mike Stevens
Silence, nothing but silence; for over six months; nothing. Talent agent Hamilton ‘Ham’ Pounder was getting edgy. As the new agent for Rex Stout, “Hunk of the Silver Screen”, it had been on his advice the fee for Stout’s services had gone up to over 20 million per picture. Maybe he’d misjudged the market for his client’s services. He was starting to worry, when at that very moment, the phone rang. At long last!, he thought to himself.
“The Offices of actor Rex Stout, how may we help you?”
“Yeah, hello Ham, it’s just me.”
“Oh, hello Rex.”
“I’m just checking in; any new offers?”
“Oh, there was an offer to star in a remake of “Dirty Lovers” but their offer was way short of our asking price, so I told them no,” Pounder lied.
“Oh, that’s disappointing. You know, I’m running a little low on money, so hopefully something will come up soon. Maybe we ought to think about dropping the asking price a little.”
“Oh, we shouldn’t do anything hasty. I’ve got an appointment with Legacy, and let me see what they’ve got to say first.”
Stout immediately perked up. “Maybe it’s the lead in ‘Fountain of Doom’.”
“Fountain of Doom” was Legacy Pictures highly-anticipated romantic swimming epic.
“Ah, yeah, maybe, Rex. I tell you what, the meeting’s set for tomorrow, so I’ll be calling you with news by tomorrow evening.”
“Great, good work, Ham. I knew it was just a matter of time before you came through for me, buddy!”
Pounder answered with a confidence he did not feel, “Okay, buddy, until tomorrow.” They both hung up, and Pounder began to form his strategy for getting into see Harry Drake, President of Legacy Pictures. Why had he told Rex he had a meeting tomorrow?
He finally got up the nerve to call Legacy Pictures, and was put through to Harry Drake’s office. “Hello, this is Harry Drake, how may I help you?”
Pounder almost floundered to find the words, “Yes, Mr. Drake, this is Ham Pounder. You may not remember me, but we were introduced at a cocktail party.”
Drake replied, “If you say so. What’s this call about, Pounder?”
Oh s**t, he’s p****d! “Well, Mr. Drake, I represent Rex Stout, and I’d like to give Legacy the chance to work out a deal.”
Drake answered, “Rex Stout? Why, he’s yesterday’s news.”
“He’s very much in demand. If you’re not interested, that’s your loss. I’m sure other studios would jump at the chance to have his name in association with one of their movies.”
“Well call them, then, and good luck with that,” Drake replied.
“Wait, Mr. Drake, before you hang up,” pleaded a very-desperate Ham Pounder “I’d like to offer you a deal: He’ll work for considerably less that our asking price, just to prove to you he’s still bankable.”
Drake responded, “Considerably less? What’s your client’s asking price?”
Pounder would be glad for any offer at this point. “Around $20 million per picture, but like I said, we’ll take less.”
All Pounder could do was endure the laughter. “$20 million, for him? Eh, ha, ha! I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ve got a small, but important role in my new low-budget slasher movie “The Hacker”. If he’ll take the role for, say, $2000, the part is his.”
“Rex, good news! Legacy wants you for a role. The only thing is, it doesn’t exactly pay what we were asking,” said Ham Pounder, upon calling Stout.
Rex Stout replied, “How much is not exactly?”
Pounder was scared to tell him, “Just keep in mind, it’s your chance to play a meaty character the audience will identify with.”
“$2,000” replied Ham, meekly.
“$2,000 what, as a down payment on the rest of my fee?” Stout then said.
“No, $2,000 dollars, total.”
“Your fricking kidding me. You must be kidding me. $2,000 fricking dollars? Eh, ha, ha!”
“I’m not kidding, and I think you should do it, for the prestige,” replied Pounder.
“Prestige, prestige, s***w prestige, I want money. Don’t they see what a huge star I am? $2,000 dollars? Ha!”
Pounder tried to break it to him gently. “They seem to think you’re past your prime. They think you’re too expensive for this level of movie.”
Stout yelled, “Why, what level is this movie? It must be horse-s**t if they’re on the cheap!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say horse-s**t exactly, but it doesn’t have a huge budget.”
“They can shove this cheap-a** movie up their back-lot. I’m way bigger than this c**p!”
“Which is precisely why you should do this movie; prove them wrong, call their bluff; see, they don’t think a big star like you would stoop so low as to take this movie. You’ll be so good in this part, they’re going to hire you for another, at a much higher salary, say $20 million.”
Stout responded, “Oh, I don’t know, $2,000 dollars?”
“Think of this roll as a springboard to incredible riches.”
Rex mulled that over, and replied, “Hey, when you look at it that way, it makes good sense. By gumbo, I’ll do it.
When Rex Stout learned the part he’d be playing, he screamed, “What kind of part is “Extra # 3?"
Pounder explained, “Believe me, you’ll take this part and make it your own. Sure, it doesn’t sound or look like much on paper, but it’s a critical role. Without “Extra # 3”, there is no movie!”