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Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Altman almost ended career with a 'Hard Body' in Texas
UPDATE: Harrigan tells me they angled to have the film shot in Texas, but it still likely would have ended up filmed in California.
I'd heard the story before of how Robert Altman was set to do a fictional version of the documentary Hands on a Hard Body. The location was to be a car lot in either Hutto or Texas, just outside of Austin, Texas.
But now noted author Stephen Harrigan, who wrote the script for Altman, reveals in Slate that the cast would likely have included Meryl Steep, Hillary Swank, Billy Bob Thornton, Jack Black, Chris Rock, John C. Reilly, and Steve Buscemi. Wow!
And to think that these days the 1997 documentary Hands on a Hard Body by S.R. Bindler (a high school buddy of Matthew McConaughey who also directed MM in Surfer, Dude) is out of print. It tells of a contest to see who can be the last to have their hand on a car. The winner gets the car. Too bad we didn't get Altman's version.
My articles and essays have appeared in Texas Monthly, Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, Austin Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine and Variety. My novel Evacuation Plan is about life/death in a residential hospice and is inspired by time spent observing an actual hospice. My photographs have appeared widely in print and in Texas shows. I'm a member of the Elephant Gun photo collective. In my spare time, ahem, I also teach writing to graduate students at St. Edward's University and to undergrads at Austin Community College.
"Tales alternately gentle, dramatic, surrealistic, that collectively affirm the beauty of being alive, even as they acknowledge that all of us face the necessity of making our own 'evacuation plan.' " -- Brad Buchholz, Austin American-Statesman
" The chapters about Matt and the short stories demonstrate O’Connell’s ability to develop sympathetic, true-to-life characters using intriguing details and compelling dialogue. The stories remind us of those times when a brief encounter with a stranger left us wondering about that person’s past. In Evacuation Plan, O’Connell satisfies that curiosity. " -- The Texas Observer
"It was very hard for me to put this book down. It carries us through the deepest meaning in life and most painful, most hopeful memories for a wide range of fascinating characters. Based in a hospice, this book could have easily resorted to cheap sensationalism, or whacked us upside the head with stereotypic melodrama, but instead it was respectful, honest, and tender. The characters will stay with you - you may even recognize some of them within your own life. " -- Award-winning author Carmen Tafolla
"An excellent, thought-provoking diversion from our own inevitable plummet toward the grave, and we highly recommend it to you, the living." -- Wayne Alan Brenner, The Austin Chronicle
"O’Connell has drawn some colourful and believable characters. The material relating to the hospice and terminal care rings true, all the way to reconciliation and forgiving." -- Dr. Roger Woodruff, International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care
"The tales are nicely written, and some are quite compelling; “The Male Nurse,” for one, is a dreamlike reverie." -- Texas Monthly
“Evacuation Plan: A Novel From The Hospice by Joe M. O'Connell is nothing short of remarkable … a novel that walks hand-in-hand with death and yet, somehow, the reader finishes the book feeling inspired to live.” – The Paisano
"A wonderful blend of lives ordinary but with sometimes extraordinary elements. We all share these stories of life in some way, despite moments of harshness or unforgiving pain. There is always a common thread of humanity and ultimately forgiveness to be found, even if it's in the last moment of life." -- Elaine Williams, author of A Journey Well Taken
"Reading Evacuation Plan is akin to unwrapping a series of small perfectly-chosen presents. Both human and humane, The book resembles a modern Spoon River Anthology with its vivid, touching glimpses into the lives of those in and around a hospice." -- Tim McCanlies, screenwriter The Iron Giant, writer/director Secondhand Lions
"In Evacuation Plan Joe O'Connell does for the process of dying what Sherwood Anderson did for middle America in Winesburg, Ohio--he shows us in brief flashes the aching beauty of the grotesque, and shows us how extraordinary small lives and quiet deaths can be." --John Blair, Drue Heinz Literature Prize winning author of American Standard
"Here's a book so rich with stories of the living, so filled with people's bountiful problems, as well as incidents of wry forgiveness, one realizes over and over the circling forces of life's completeness. It's not a sad tale nor a needless feel-good account but a balanced, sometimes comic, affirmation of what is here and what we all know is waiting." -- Carolyn Osborn, award-winning short story writer
"The broken, the hopeful, the frustrated, the clueless, and the forgiving touch one another with words, remembrances, and hands. Inevitably, readers will quietly wonder about their own evacuation plan." -- Will's Texana Monthly
O'Connell's protagonist skillfully navigates under the guise of a writer seeking raw materials for his craft in the stories of the dying, but mines and refines instead the stuff we're all made of. In this finely crafted novel, we come away with much more than the astute observation that many of the best stories begin at the end. But, then again, that notion is also worth a lot. --Jesse Sublett, cancer survivor, rocker and author of Never the Same Again
"Joe O'Connell's Evacuation Plan--this Decameron of the hospice--encompasses a paradox. Death comes for everyone, but death is the only human universal because everyone dies, and witnesses dying, with private, unspeakable shame. Yet there are a few minutes left to speak. As people die, they tell stories which spawn new stories, which remind us that death is agony, a violent struggle, but so is living." -- Debra Monroe, Flannery O'Connor Award winning author of Newfangled and Shambles