‘Your future is in Hollywood. I can make you the next Bela Lugosi,’ said James Toback, looking me straight in the eye. Jimmy Toback is a hell of a fellow. An obsessive with an encyclopedic knowledge of sport and other data, he directed such great films as The Gambler, Fingers (it made Harvey Keitel into a star), wrote the screenplay for Bugsy, and has just wrapped Seduced and Abandoned, starring Taki and Alec Baldwin, not necessarily in that order. S&A is going to Sundance and our hopes are high. Jimmy says that I came out fine, ‘the only man in Cannes among the movie crowd with some dignity’. A bit like calling someone an intellectual because his bookcase is bigger than his TV.
Jimmy was a tennis player before he became a film director. He came up against Arthur Ashe at a junior tournament and broke Arthur’s serve right away and held his own. Then Jimmy dropped 12 games in a row. Shaking hands at the net, he asked the 1975 Wimbledon champ if he was worried when down two love. ‘Not at all,’ said Ashe. Jimmy decided the movies were his future. Talking tennis at the Norman Mailer awards last week, I told him about having played Dick Raskind twice, beating him on clay and losing to him on cement, as hard courts were called back then. Raskind was an ophthalmologist who went to Yale and then played
on the circuit for a while. He then changed sex and played under the name Renée
Richards. ‘He did it for the rankings,’ said Jimmy.
Toback has lost a fortune on the green tables but, as I said, he’s a walking encyclopedia and when he enters a room his presence turns it into a crowded cocktail party.