Miles Kington: How railways almost landed me a job in Hollywood

Share
Related Topics

The other day I was sitting with a group of friends watching a film they wanted us to watch, called Little Miss Sunshine, and I am glad they did, and we did, because it was very good and very funny, but the really funny thing was that right at the very end while we were still idly watching the credits the name of the producer was flashed up and it was Ron Yerxa, and I said, "My God! Ron Yerxa! I know that name! In fact, I have met him! Now, where did I meet him... I know! He was the young man who came across from Hollywood..."

At which point I realised that any explanation I would give would not be nearly as interesting as I thought it would be, nor nearly as short as it should be, so I shut up right there and then. But as you and I have a few moments to spend together today, and as I think I can now make it a lot snappier, I'd like to venture to tell you about the time I met Ron Yerxa.

I'm taking you back now to the 1980s, at a time when I was doing a bit of television. In fact, I had been asked to present one of the programmes in Great Railway Journeys of the World, and had the great good luck to be given the chance to go to Peru and up the Andes, to explore the top of the highest railway in the world, whereas Michael Frayn got the longest straightest railway (in Australia) and Michael Palin got the wiggliest, most Scottish railway line – well, I am sure that is not how they allocated them, but that is how it came out.

Anyway, some time in the early 1980s I got a mysterious phone call from Hollywood, from a man who claimed to be a movie executive, and who was interested in talking to me about getting a script written. It was to be based on a novel by Irwin Shaw, called Nightwork.

"Why me?" I said.

He said it was rather difficult to explain over the phone and he would like to fly over to Britain and talk me through it. Which he did several weeks later, and took me out to Claridge's, together with a young American sidekick called Ron Yerxa, and explained that his studio, which was CBS, I think, owned the film rights to this novel by Irwin Shaw called Nightwork, which was all about an airline pilot down on his luck who finds $20m in cash, takes it all to Europe with him and becomes a kind of engaging master-criminal.

"The trouble is," said the older movie man, whose name I can't remember," is that Irwin Shaw is now dead, and before we can get the movie made, we have to get script approval from the widow, Mrs Irwin Shaw. And she doesn't like anyone we suggest. Until the other day, when she rang us up in great excitement, and said she had seen this British rail documentary, about a guy going up the Andes, and she was absolutely convinced that the presenter would be the right guy to do the script for Nightwork."

"That's me?" I said.

"That's you," he said.

I thought about it.

"That doesn't make sense," I said.

"No," he said. "It doesn't make sense. The talent for making train films is not the same as the talent for turning a novel into a script. Nevertheless, she has the whip hand and seems to have fallen for your pretty face."

Ron and he briefly surveyed my pretty face.

"So how do you feel about coming across to Hollywood and doing a script for us?"

And making a mess of it, he meant, and proving to her that I was the wrong man, and then getting a proper writer in on the job, and clearing the whole thing up. Nice idea. But I didn't go to Hollywood. And they never made the film. And I don't know what else happened, except that young Ron Yerxa, whose name I do remember because it was so unusual, went on to become a full-time producer of not bad films (Cold Mountain, etc, etc).

Hi, Ron!

Got any jobs going?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back