Peter Coyote and Rod Lurie Chat

The movie trailer voice over in my head presently sounds like this: “He thought he had left Hollywood behind for a quiet life as a wine country newspaperman… But Hollywood had another idea…” An orchestra spike, of course, follows as does the freeze frame, which I achieve but suddenly, inexplicably standing still. In Nomaville, this is harder than one would think, especially after I’ve emptied my billfold at the Fig, save a ten spot for Verne’s, and wobble while I wait. At least this is what I hoped would happen this week while celebrating my biennial anniversary of having escaped Lo-Cal. Instead, Hollywood has come to town en masse such that one might think it surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds Sonoma together. Yeah, it’s like the Force – or to invoke the legalese I once glanced on the “standard rich and famous contract” – a force majeure (I’ve always associated machinations of H’wood with the impending apocalypse thanks to an adolescent fixation on Nathanael West’s “Day of the Locust”). Luckily, this is not the case locally, where the stars are grounded and mere earthlings become stars.

Homegrown feature “Bottleshock,” the ’76 Paris tasting saga Made in Sonoma by film fest doyenne Brenda Lohrmer among others, accounts for many of the celeb sightings of late. This is how I came to purchase actor Dennis Farina a Coke. The “Get Shorty” star and his party sauntered into Café La Haye where Flash Lely, Gary Saperstein and I were dining and, feeling magnanimous (or half-way through a bottle of Stag’s Leap), I thought I’d send Farina a drink. I asked the waitress to send whatever he was drinking compliments of Flash and I (Saperstein wisely demurred) and within a beat, a small bottle of Coca-Cola was whisked across the room atop a serving tray. Upon receiving his Coke, Farina sat up, eyes darting across the room with an expression that seemed to ask “Who the hell would buy me a Coke?” That would be we, sir, I thought as we stupidly grinned. Quite the mensch, Farina later took pains to shake our hands so we didn’t feel like complete schmucks.

Last Sunday, while my pals were busy dining with Snape, I was on a junket for “Resurrecting the Champ,” in which an up-and-coming sports reporter (Josh Hartnett) discovers that a homeless man (Samuel L. Jackson) is a former boxing champ thought to be deceased and attempts to break his story. The Ledson Hotel hosted a bevy of us journos, local socialites, actor Peter Coyote (whose stunning wife Stefanie helms the San Francisco Film Commission) and director Rod Lurie. I sipped sauvignon blanc while chatting with the filmmakers, making note that Lurie, a former newspaperman, has long been something of folk hero among journos since jumping the thin blue line into moviedom. Alas, the circle is complete, I thought – but in his case on a much more lucrative scale. It wasn’t long before we were onto my favorite subject of late – the subtle difference between truth and fact (which accounts for my schizoid tendency to identify as both a writer and a reporter).

“I think that as long you’re telling the truth, you’re okay. So long as no facts are being defamed, it’s okay. This movie, for example, is based on a true story. The movie is truthful, but it’s not factual at all,” Lurie averred in a matter of fact tone. “The great crisis of the film, the big mistake that the reporter makes, the ‘Absence of Malice’ type of mistake that is made in it never happened to the real reporter. The real reporter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, perfect reporter. The movie is factually inaccurate, but the truth of what we’re trying to say about journalism and about fathers and sons is very important.” Here, here. Resurrecting the Champ is playing at Sonoma Cinemas.

Coyote concurred and sagely elaborated: “Journalism is sometimes about facts, depending on whether the sources are named or unnamed and depending on the inventiveness of the reporter. By the same token, you might have read in the newspapers, maybe every six months, of some deeply respected figure that has been outed for lying – about the medals he won in combat, what he did in the war. Wonderful men – historians, generals – and you think to yourself, ‘How does this happen? How does a man who is a qualified, decent guy get caught up in the lie? I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say the film kind of explores this territory too.”