Stephen Metcalfe’s career has touched all forms of dramatic writing —screen, television and stage. His first screenplay was “Jacknife” starring Robert De Niro, Ed Harris and Kathy Bates directed by David Jones. The adaptation of French director Jean-Claude Tachella’s “Cousin-Cousine” followed, directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Ted Danson, Isabella Rossellini, William Peterson, Sean Young and Lloyd Bridges.
In the early ‘90s, Metcalfe took the darkly realistic, “3000” and turned it into “Pretty Woman” starring Julia Robert and Richard Gere directed by Garry Marshall.
Numerous rewrites followed. Among them “Arachnophobia,” “It Could Happen to You,” “The Air Up There,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “The Marrying Man” and “Dangerous Minds.”
Metcalfe has adopted both stage plays and novels. His play, “Emily,” was done for Paramount Pictures. “Time Flies,” by Paul Link, was adopted for producer Laura Ziskin. A.R. Gurney’s “The Old Boy,” was written for Touchstone Pictures, and Peter Mayle’s comic novel, “Anything Considered,” was done for producer Stanley Jaffe and Sony Pictures.
In 2002, Metcalfe wrote and directed the independent film “Beautiful Joe” starring Sharon Stone and Billy Connolly.
His stage plays include “Loves & Hours,” “Vikings,” “Strange Snow,” “Sorrows and Sons,” “Pilgrims,” “Half a Lifetime,” “Emily,” “White Linen,” “Divirtimenti,” “The Incredibly Famous Willy Rivers,” and “White Man Dancing.” His television credits are also numerous.
What brought you to La Jolla?
I first came to San Diego in the spring of 1985 to work on a play at the Old Globe Theatre. They put me up in a cottage in Ocean Beach. I was taken on a lobster run to Puerto Nuevo. Someone bought me a Hawaiian shirt. Needlesstosay it was just a little bit different from Connecticut where I’d grown up and from New York City where I’d spent the last nine years.
I fell in love with the weather, the ocean, carne asada. I had a production at the Globe each year for the next several years and the love affair continued.
In 1987, my wife and I rented a small backyard cottage in La Jolla; one tiny bedroom, wooden deck bigger than the house, pepper tree that dropped a ton of pods on the house and deck every day.
Rumor had it the place had once been a getaway of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. I think this was a rumor started by the owner. This cottage was intended to be an interim stop on our way to Los Angeles where I was now working in the film industry.
We’d begun looking for places in L.A. when my wife suggested we look around La Jolla as well, “just to see what’s here,” she said. I think she’d already found the house we live in to this day.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?
I miss that great old movie theater that used to be on Girard. I’d like it back. It would be a wonderful second-run house; a place where movies of all kinds that had finished their initial run at the multiplex could come and hang out for a while.
Like Del Mar, I wish La Jolla had incorporated as a town two decades ago. Better streets, better building codes, better schools.
I’d like to see fewer signs. I’d like to see a ban on eyesore buildings. I’d like to establish a small resident theater company in the village devoted to new plays. Of course, for that I would have to snap my fingers and create vast, invisible, eco-friendly underground parking.
And not to ruffle feathers, but I really wish the seals would move their butts out of children’s pool and go back to the big rock where they were 20 years ago.
Who or what inspires you?
I began teaching about six years ago; playwriting and screenwriting at UCSD and USD. It started as a lark and has turned into something I enjoy very much. I find the enthusiasm, idealism and commitment of the young people I work with very inspirational.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?
Sir Lawrence Olivier, Paul Newman, William Shakespeare, Ingrid Bergman, My neighbor Colin Haggerty (but only if he brings the wine), Hugh Hefner (but only if he brings dates), Bruce Springsteen (if he’ll bring his guitar), and Arthur Ashe. Of course, my wife Claudia would have to host it with me; 1) because she’s an incredible host and 2) I couldn’t host my own funeral.
Tell us about what you are currently reading.
The play, “Jerusalem,” by Jez Butterworth; the screenplay, “Chinatown,” by Robert Towne; the weekly output of some 20 writing students at UCSD; and for the morning constitutional, “Shogun,” by James Clavell. Heads roll, geishas flutter and people scream things like – “Kasigi!!! Row!! Row for your lives!”
What are your five all-time favorite films?
“Cinema Paradiso,” “Godfather I and II,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “Annie Hall.” (I could name 50.)
What is your most-prized possession?
I’m not big on possessions. I’m very big on friends and family.
What do you do for fun?
I am a tennis fanatic. I used to be a golf fanatic but, thank God, came to my senses. I recently began a blog — only semi-serious, mostly fictional, hopefully, a little bit funny. http://thedesperateman.blogspot.com/
Please describe your greatest accomplishment.
Hopefully, my next one.
What is your motto or philosophy of life?
“Life has meaning in the living. Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved. It is in the being, not in the becoming.” —Anonymous