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Rex Pickett on the Making of ‘Sideways,’ 20 Years Later

The real life of Sideways author Rex Pickett wasn’t that far off from his book’s main character, Miles Raymond, who is his alter ego. Both were underappreciated writers in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Like Raymond, played by Paul Giamatti in director Alexander Payne’s Oscar-winning film adaptation, Pickett was an unpublished author trying to scrape by in Los Angeles when he wrote a short story that blossomed into a manuscript. But every publisher who read it rejected it—then it landed on Payne’s desk. Hot off the success of Election, Payne was eager to adapt the story into a film. When Pickett returned home to a flashing message on his answering machine about striking a deal, he’d just had his credit card declined for a $6 charge at Baja Fresh.  

While it seemed like it would be smooth sailing from there, as you’ll hear from Rex, it wasn’t all easy going after that. The making of Sideways didn’t immediately change his fortunes, but it afforded him two decades of adventure through the wine world—and a certain amount of malice from Merlot producers. 

Pickett has just published Sideways: New Zealand and is currently at work on the fifth book in the series. The original novel has recently been released in hardcover for the first time to mark the film’s 20th Anniversary. Find it at RexPickettbooks.com.  

You May Also Like: Rex Pickett and the Church of Pinot

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Rex Pickett, Samantha Sette, John Capone

Samantha Sette  00:00

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John Capone  00:48

Hi. I’m John Capone, executive editor of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Joining me today is author Rex Pickett wrote the novel sideway. Sideways that served as the basis for the award winning movie directed by Alexander Payne. This year marks the 20th anniversary of its release. And much like Myles Raymond the character he created, played by Paul Giamatti in the film ticket was an unpublished author trying to scrape by in Los Angeles when he wrote what was first a short story that blossomed into a manuscript, one that was soundly rejected by every publisher who read it. Then that unpublished manuscript made its way to Payne’s desk. When Pickett returned home to his rent controlled Santa Monica apartment to a flashing message on his answering machine one day that contain the news Alexander Payne wanted to option sideways for his next project. He just had his credit card declined for a $6 charge at Baja Fresh. As you’ll hear from Rex in a moment, the making of sideways might not have immediately changed his fortunes. But it afforded him two decades of traveling through the wine world and a vital role in the creation of a beloved cinema classic, as well as, of course, a good deal of malice from mirlo producer. So my first question, Rex is I want to start at the beginning. If we go back 20 years ago, I guess maybe even more than 20 years ago, when you got the call that sideways was being optioned for a movie, it had not even been sold as a novel yet. You got the call from Alexander Payne, where were you emotionally and physically?

Rex Pickett  02:24

Well, emotionally, I was in a very bad place. So let’s just go back to 99. I wrote Sideways and that’s a long story in itself. But my agent went nuts for it. And in fact, my agent who was at Endeavor now, William Morris, Endeavor just tailors his name. He had come out from a small literary agent see in New York, and they had he had signed me for a mystery novel I’d written called La Purisima, which is also set in the Santa Ynez Valley. And he came out to endeavor to be a book to film agent with I bring that up because without that, there would be no sideways. And so now I had a book to film agent add endeavor, because I had no agent. My life was total shit in the 90s. And I now had a new publishing agent, so I’m feeling kind of good, even though I’m living on fumes, whatever. And he was really excited when he read sideways and we went out to publishing they all turn it down and I mean, scathingly, and, and film, you don’t get rejection letters, but they all turned it down. Nobody wanted it. And six months into the submissions, my new publishing agent pulled it just tailor my film to TV agent. He had a nervous breakdown left the business. So now I’m nowhere I write the novel. There’s great excitement. The mystery novel, La Purisima isn’t getting published, although hadn’t been published, they would have signed me for two more books because they would want to buy a series, there would have been no sideways either. And he had nervous breakdown I was I had nothing at that point. So I did get a new agent at Endeavor, there wasn’t a lot of excitement. And I’m just sinking deeper and deeper into poverty and destitution. I living in a rent control house in Santa Monica. And I was at a Baja Fresh on Wilshire Boulevard, and my credit card was declined on a $6 order. I came home and on my ancient answering machine I saw to the letter, you know, the number two, I usually see zero, you know, I figure okay, it’s creditors. Now. It was my new agent calling. And then Alexander Payne calling saying, Mike, I just, you know, well, my agent said Alexander Payne just got off a plane sideways. This is gonna be his next novel. I’m like completely freaking out. calls came out of nowhere and people were screaming on the phone. So it took from the time it was submitted to him by Jeff Taylor at endeavor. So he also was at Endeavor. It took a year before he read it and he only read it because his assistant Brian Barry, read it and loved it and gave it to him with a ringing endorsement. So Alexander is hot after a Election the Reese Witherspoon. Matthew Broderick film he’s hot. He is getting tons of submissions. And because he does adaptations, not always but a lot. He’s getting a lot of novels, big novels, the corrections by Jonathan Franzen getting big offers. And he reads this unpublished novel because Brian Berry who doesn’t get enough credit, gave it to him with a ringing endorsement. He read it on a plane, from the Edinburg Film Festival, all the way to LA got off the plane went straight to a payphone called his agent said, I just read. I just read my next movie. I just read my next one. So that’s the excitement and it came. John, it just came out of nowhere. I mean, I went from the depths of despair. I was really nowhere and to suddenly being hoisted. I know credible heights, but the story has vicissitudes there.

John Capone  05:52

How rare is it that an unpublished novel gets optioned for film?

Rex Pickett  05:57

It is it is rare. It’s really rare. It does happen because they’ll get advanced copies, you know, for agents and whatever. But usually, you know, they’re published novels. It’s very rare.

John Capone  06:10

And can you take us back a little bit to how even the manuscript came about? Because you were first going up to Santa Ynez? Not for one.

Rex Pickett  06:20

No, you know, I made I made two independent feature films in the 90s took 10 years out of my life with my now ex wife, but she’s a professor at NYU Tisch School, the graduate film and, and we fell apart. My mother had a massive stroke. My younger brother took over care stole our money. I did take over care. The 90s was a brutal, brutal decade for me, I crawled, I had sublet my rent control house in Santa Monica and I crawled my way back to Santa Monica. And, you know, I always kept writing, you know, even though I directed two features, I always kept riding. And a couple things I started going up to the Senate as Valley, which is about two and a half hours north of LA. And there was a golf course there, I’d gotten back into the game of golf, and, you know, I’m pretty good at two handicap or was and there was a course called La Purisima. So that’s the name of the mystery novel. And there was nobody on it, and it’s hard and it’s like, oh my god, this is nirvana. This it was worth the drive because you can’t play golf in LA unless you’re a member of private country club. So that so I kept going up like every two or three weeks play golf, you know, I’d go midweek and I’d always stay at the Wynn Milian. And which is now by the way, the sideways then, and because it was cheap, and I would, I’d need a restaurant, so I wanted what place it was close, I trundled down to at first AJ spurs, which is in the in the movie, but then eventually hitching posts and I just once I went in there, I loved it was kind of dark and, and that pinos and I’m sitting at the bar, and there’s nobody in there, now you can’t get in. And so there’s that. And then I also was just very alienated, isolated and alone in Santa Monica where I lived. But I was going to these wine tastings every Saturday, it was my only social outlet, John, it literally I look forward to it was only $4 A rep would come down and pour wines. And I realized I always drank wine but I knew nothing about I never got into the educational side of it. And there are people there who knew a lot and I said you know this is something I want to know. You know, I want to know about it. And so I started reading Oxford Companion to wine because I couldn’t afford you know the, the money these people had to drink. You know the high end Burgundy’s and Bordeaux’s. They were drinking, and Napa cabs and other things. And so it was a combination and also the I met a guy there, Julian, who was the main sales guy, they’re the only two people at the small store. And he you know, he was a little liberal with the inventory. Let’s just put it that way. And, and he liked me and so he would open bottles. And so it’s a combination of that, and a combination of going to the Senate as Valley and as a writer. You know, we’re like thieves. We’re always working. You know, I’m always thinking about things. And once I went up, I started taking friends up with my friend Roy Gittens, who had worked on my second feature film. gregarious, not totally like Jack, but he has that kind of bigger, larger than life personalities funny, and we went wine tasting and golfing for three days and two nights. He said, Rex, you should write a screenplay about this. And I did, but it didn’t. It was called two guys on wine and it didn’t work. So i i Actually, I didn’t show it to anybody. I was embarrassed by it. Meanwhile, rejection letters are still coming in from last person. I still have hope like miles, I still had hope. I wrote a short story in first person from the point of view of miles Raymond, who’s Paul Giamatti in the movie and it was called the bullpen, which was our sobriquet for the little area that we did wine tasting at Epicurus was the wine store. And I’m writing in first person I have this kind of sardonic voice and and it, you know, degenerates into a brawl or whatever And I, I’ll never forget this John, I just literally stood up from my desk. And I said, Oh my god. This is the prologue to two guys on wine. It’s not a screenplay. It’s a novel. And it will be written in first person from the point of view of Myles Raymond and I wrote it nine weeks. So it built in me over four years. But once all that coalesce and it was literally an epiphany, and to this day, I’ve never really had an epiphany like that. I wrote it nine weeks, and I was scared when I wrote it, because it, you know, it’s irreverent. It’s transgressive in places. But I think it once I got my voice in there, you know, you know me, I’m, I know, you’ve read the novel, it’s soul bearing, it’s, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I had nothing to lose. I throw in everything in the kitchen sink. I my novel wasn’t getting published, I was dead broke, I was divorced. My mother’s Trust Fund had been completely stolen. I had nothing to lose. So that was kind of who Miles is, he has nothing to lose in a way and, and that’s, that’s it.

John Capone  11:03

So that mystery novel that’s not published is the book that Myles was talking about in the novel sideways. So the novel sideways is essentially miles writing the novel sideways or writing what becomes a novel sideways.

Rex Pickett  11:17

In the later books. Yeah.

John Capone  11:19

And what role did Richard Sanford and the other you know, influential winemakers of Santa Ynez Valley play and informing the the why knowledge in the book?

Rex Pickett  11:31

Well, after I realized that there wasn’t just golf up here, that was also a wine region, it took me a couple months to figure that out. I use the first stop, I always made kind of just right out of the movie, let’s take the Santa Rosa turn off and, you know, go to you know, unfortunately, that tasting room, I was just down there recently. And it’s, it’s it’s been shuttered and whatever, it’s kind of sad. And I’d go in there and just be Chris burrows, you know, the guy with the hat is in the movie. So you know, he was hired. And I thought, What is wrong with this, you know, you’re in LA, which is an ugly city. And it’s horrible. And it’s noisy, and it’s gridlock traffic. And within two and a half hours, you’re in this rural beauty, and you’re in a tasting room, and it’s just you and Chris, by the way, no tasting room fees back then. Now up here in Napa, it’s 50 to 250, or whatever, I, I attribute some of that to the movie. And I thought, you know, this is because my life was so horrible at the time. I thought this is so peaceful. And so for me, the marriage of this rural beauty with this sophistication going on inside that tasting room. And so Sanford was really one of the first tasting rooms I discovered. And then I realized there, you know, there’s the Foxen Canyon Trail. And you know, I started going wine tasting, which I always just thought was, there was something so bucolic about the area, but again, you go into these, like the foxon tool shed, you know, and yet there’s this sophistication. And that marriage to me really spoke to me.

John Capone  13:02

And later on the second book, which was initially called vertical, which I think you’re you’re coming you’re releasing, and again, I should mention that sideways has just been re released as a hardcover, which has never been. And people can pick that up at RexPickettBooks.com If they want to get an autographed hardcover, the second book, miles Raman is a celebrated author who wrote a novel not unlike sideways that was made into an award winning film, where it is that journey take him over the course of now you’ve written for four books from post sideways, and I think well, I’ll ask another question after.

Rex Pickett  13:45

Well, you know, wine is definitely featured in the books but when I wrote sideways, it was really kind of my story. It’s, you know, on one level, it’s it is kind of a hahaha, comedy, but then go down another level, John, and it’s, it’s really about relationships and struggling with, you know, these decisions you’re making in mid life. But you know, what, because we’ve always also done the play side was the play, which is a pure distillation of my novel because I wrote it, by the way just opened in if it sells out so I’m so excited about that. But it’s really Miles wrecks, staring into the abyss of failure. And that’s really what so I think one reason it’s held up is because people can relate to that if it was just haha, comedy, I think it would have been a femoral, I think it would have been forgotten. And so really, the second novel, which will be Sideways, Oregon, you know, now but, you know, it’s really my journey. I was successful author and I was drinking too much and I was, you know, into I was debauched. If you all know the truth, suddenly, I have. I have money. I’ve got fame and it’s in the wine world. But I also brought in my mother and her stroke, which was from an original screenplay I’d written that was my much admired option four times but never made, so I was able to bring that material in. So what starts out is it’s basically Myles has been asked to be, you know the Master of Ceremonies at the International Pinot Noir celebration in McMinnville, Oregon. His mother is in a retirement home in San Diego but she wants to be with her sister in Wisconsin so miles hatches this hair brain plan to rent a handicap ramp and bring Jack who’s now divorced and on the skids, which Roy kind of was at that time and drive to McMinnville, Oregon. In route with a pot smoking Filipina nursemaid in route to Wisconsin’s a 4000 mile, actually road knob. All my films, John our road movies, one’s 1000 miles, the other is 4000. All my novels are road novels. The side was New Zealand is, you know, miles and Jack are on a book tour in that one. So I’ve always been interested in that. So what starts out is hilarious and kind of debauched. And strange with this agglomeration of characters like Little Miss Sunshine or something. Suddenly, I don’t want to give it away. But it turns really poignant. And I’m very proud of novels. So I’m really writing. Not to be solipsistic, but I’m really writing my journey. So wine is featured, but it’s really my journey, you know, and that’s, I’m drawing from myself in this personal way. And when you get rejected, it’s pretty hard if you just writing a cop novel and you’re rejected, who cares just write another, you know, I No lawyer novel or something, but are poor, but I write from a very personal place, and I’m not afraid to go there. And, you know, Sideways, Oregon is a very, very personal novel. And that Sideways itself, I tell people is a very personal novel.

John Capone  16:47

You said this, to me that the sideways movie feel feels more like a 70s movie than even the holdovers, which was the recent movie that Giamatti and Alexander Payne reunited on that was actually set in the 70s in the 70s. And I think a lot of that is because it is that road novel, it is that like, you know, it lends itself very strongly even though it’s set in the late 90s. To that like golden age of independent American cinema, which is what it feels like, and the movie to some degree, it feels even even more than the book to be taking a little bit of aim at the snobbery of wine is that you know, something that’s a target of yours in the books as well.

Rex Pickett  17:28

It is let’s go back a little bit to the 70s first of all was oh and Liberman in in variety, who wrote the article that sideways was more of a 70s movie than the holdovers. I think they’re very different movies. Honestly, I liked the holdovers. I think it’s a real return to form for Alexander, I’d say if there’s a difference. And if he’s listening to this, I hope he doesn’t hate me. But I think in sideways, if you look at all his movies, and I’ve seen them all, it was the one time he really let his hair down, you know, like Jack coming back naked miles drinking from the spit bucket, going back to get the wall. These are iconic moments, you know, even and we could talk about the famous speech by Maya Virginia Matson about wine that was not in the first three drafts of the script. And you know, I, I pushed him I said, she’s got to say something, Alexander, and he wrote it, he filmed it, but they weren’t sure about shooting it. Even the ending were miles drives up and knocks on the door was not in the first four drafts of the script. He just gets a message on his answering machine, John, and then it goes to black and final credits. And I said, Well, that’s pretty bleak. Now, you know, in the novel, of course, I don’t want to give it away, but it’s a much more romantic, and Alexander said was to Hollywood and okay, but in the play, it really works. And that’s fine. So he met me halfway in about the fourth or fifth draft he wrote with Miles going up there. I think, Alexandria, he’s very faithful to my novel, bear in mind, and anyone else’s hand, it could have been two guys doing jell-O shots in Cabo. That’s how Hollywood is. I mean, that’s how crass they are. So Alexander was very faithful to the novel, very faithful to the characters to the dialogue. I think when it comes to an emotional moment, he kind of rains in he holds his cards to the, you know, the closer to the best, but he still allowed himself to just let go in places he literally let himself go. And, and it’s those moments like when Miles drinks from the spit bucket, you can look at as Oh, that’s just gross or whatever. But the guy’s frustration has been building over his novel over this guy, you know, bear in mind, miles, you know, is a moralist, he’s trying to stop Jack from this train wreck. And that’s the whole we can get into the mirlo thing, whatever. He really is a moralist, you know, about at a certain point, you know, you can’t stop certain people. But that moment and this is what Owen Glickman said when he drinks from the spit bucket Miles is expressing everyone’s frustration with life with their, their work, you know, getting into middle age, maybe not achieving the ambitions and aspirations they had in their 20s He’s look when we don’t all get to be, you know, Kevin Barry’s one of my favorite writers who’s famous, you know, we don’t all get to be Brad Pitt, we don’t all get to be Alexander Payne. You know, it’s just, that’s how life works out, you know, and I think miles is a kind of an every man in a way. But I think also their antics are I like going there because that’s where I find comedy. And it’s it’s also, you know, in the second novel, it’s also in sideways New Zealand too, you know, I’m willing to go to take the risk to go to places that might seem unseemly or transgressive, or whatever, because I find comedy in it, but you don’t want too much of it. Because you want to still stay grounded in reality, and I try to stay grounded in myself. But I’m unafraid. I’m fearless when it comes to telling you who I am and where I’m at.

John Capone  20:53

Yeah and let’s go back for a second. So, Payne, he shared each draft of the script with you, he didn’t have to do that.

Rex Pickett  21:00

He did not have to do it. It’s incredibly generous of him. But he did it smartly, too. He didn’t just do it out of, you know, just being a classy guy, which he really is. He did it because he, you know, he was interested in my input, you know, I mean, it’s a very personal novel, he knows it here. Let me give you one example. After I read the first draft, which I was very nervous to read, I said, Alexander, you kept it in first person. So in a novel, when you’re writing in first person, you you have to be where Miles is all the time, you’d be breaking all literary rules, but in a screenplay and go anywhere you want. He didn’t miles, if you go back and watch the movie, to your listeners, Miles is in every single scene of that movie. And he said, Well, Rex, that’s how you wrote it. You know, it was kind of funny. I think he was really interested in my input. You know, sometimes I’d write like little dialogue notes, and he wouldn’t use those, you know, but, but he definitely took my notes to heart especially my as speech that that was a big one. And in fact, there’s a funny story there. He shot it. He thought it was too sentimental. He thought it would date his movie. He said, It’s too sentimental. It’s gonna date my movie. I gotta cut it. I gotta cut it. Everyone’s like, Are you kidding me? It’s like one of the few times a woman has an inner life male in the movie. And apparently, I just learned this recently, because there’s a book coming out by Kirk Honeycutt, who’s a former chief film critic for Hollywood Reporter he’s writing a book about sideways because there’s a 20 year anniversary coming up, we can talk about that. And apparently, Alexander right up to the final mix. He showed sideways in a private screening to Mike Nichols, the famous director are married to Diane sorrier, you know, the graduate and whatever. And apparently, Mike Nichols said them just out of the blue, your film doesn’t begin until my as speech about wind. I think Alexandria, Okay, I better keep you know, and that’s it film is like that. It’s a very fickle thing. And, but he wrote the script, and he, he was very faithful to it, I just, you know, kind of, I pushed them in nudged him in a few places.

John Capone  23:00

Yeah and it’s interesting that you would nudge in that direction, because as you pointed out, it is one of the few if not only places where female character, you know, really has a role and it’s a pivotal moment in the film. Was this just a storytelling realization that you came through in the draft of the screenplay? Or was it something that you thought was missing from the story writ large?

Rex Pickett  23:27

Well, first of all, remember, I’ve written and directed two feature films. I’ve largely was a screenwriter before I wrote la Prisma. And then Sideways. Those are my first novels. And so Alexandra said Rex’s novel was easy to adapt because he thinks like a screenwriter, meaning dialogue scenes, so I don’t wax on for 10 pages about the sky. So it’s it’s seen driven, dialogue driven. So it just comes naturally to me. I’m reading the screenplay. I’ve had a lot of experience reading screenplays, whatever. It just seemed like a big black hole was something missing there. I wasn’t going to write it. He wrote the speech. He wrote it beautifully. In fact, when it came in the fourth draft tears came to my eyes, literally. Because I a lot of people think Virginia Madison’s in the movie for half an hour. Guess what, she’s in the movie for 12 minutes. She’s in only 1/10 of the movie. And bear in mind, Sandra not to get too technical here. Because the movie stayed in first person. We never go off with Jack. And Sandra, you know, we never go off with it. We could, but we never do. So she’s she’s basically a de facto tertiary character. And she only have seven minutes in the movie. But if you take Virginia’s speech out, I made my god she would only be in the movie for nine minutes. You’d be a virtual cipher, you know, and so that’s speech. And I And actually, I was just down in the Senate as valet and you know, catching up with Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley and, you know, they’re doing really well down there. And they told me that it’s that speech, which has really over the years has just kind of risen to the Top like the cream, you know, in a way, and it’s and you know, I’ve so many other moments I like actually, I’ll tell you another so I agree with him because it’s the one speech, you got Miles’s kind of convoluted, tortured speech about Pino and writing and everything else. But she grounds everything she takes the technical stuff out. She’s also there’s something erotic about the speech too. I mean, she’s kind of coming on two miles, it’s a beautiful moment, the music comes in at that point. And even though it’s three minutes, three minutes is long, and a movie. And if it’s a very powerful scene, it can feel like 10 or 20 minutes, and that’s why people think she’s in the movie for half an hour. But I dare anyone to watch the film and turn the sound off during that speech, because she would really become a really not much of a character. So it’s a huge moment. And I think the wine world appreciates that I call it the wine duel log in because it’s in the play, and it’s actually longer in the play. And the women characters, by the way, are twice as big in the play as they are in in the movie there. They have bigger roles, and they have, you know, more roles. I mean, more more dialogue. You know, it’s, I just can’t imagine the movie without that because it’s got heart and soul, you don’t want just that, you know, pure Hahaha, comedy. You want heart and so on. We do get a lot from miles, you know, when he his book isn’t published, and they’re on the beach. And he’s just basically self deprecating Lee calling himself a loser. So he’s saying I’m a loser. And in the novel, he’s more of a loser because he doesn’t have a job as a school teacher. And actually, in the novel, it’s not two guys sitting on a park bench and the beach. Miles goes out in the ocean basically, has an aborted suicide attempt. And Jack drags men from the water. And that’s in the play John, in his one of the most moving scenes, because it’s, it’s heartbreaking and funny at the same time. So I tried to do the heartbreaking the funny. I do want to go back to one thing you said earlier about snobbery. Yes. I am very against wine snobbery. And I say it because I grew up middle class, even to this day. I’m not rich. But you know, literature and film are democracy. Anyone rich, poor, we can read War and Peace. We can read Jane Austen, seriously, for 299. We can go streaming and we can watch I don’t know, Lawrence of Arabia, Chinatown, whatever you think your great movies are. But we can’t all drink a la manga che. And so to develop it, but you have to be able to go up the ladder of movies and literature, I come from literature and film, you have to be able to absorb it, you have to take in as much as possible to develop a sensibility, but to develop a wine sensibility. You know, it’s one of the conundrums for me, you have to have deep pockets, which is why a lot of people you know, start writing for wine enthusiasts, or wine spectators, they’ve got a special, I’m lucky because of sideways, I get invited to things, but I wasn’t able to drink those wines. You know, I had to be and that and that, I guess, bothers me. And I’m not even sure what the answer is to it. But the opening of my novel sideways, which is not in the movie, the wine tasting that goes, you know, you know, it really is about snobbery. And those guys where I lived, I was in rent control Santa Monica, but I was right on the border of Brentwood. So you had these rich doctors and lawyers coming down and they, you know, you know, they would there was it was something that it was, it was classist. You know, and that bothers me. So I I skewer that whenever I can. I always try when I go like to New Zealand. I try to find the small winemakers, the ones doing it for the craft for the art. I just wrote a blog, you can go to my RexPickettBooks.com and read it on Ken Bernards, Ancein on wines ANCEIN. And he just makes single vineyard pinots and they are just absolutely, to me some of the best wines I’ve ever had. And he told me he could have sold out 1015 years ago and he said, No, I cannot do it. So he’s not doing it. You know, he’s got to stay in business, but he’s not doing it for the money. He does it for the love and the art he couldn’t imagine giving it over to somebody or, you know, whatever. So yeah, that’s another issue that I I try to, you know, bring up in my books without getting I don’t want to get too political, you know?

John Capone  29:14

Yeah the novel does have the original sideways novel does have the characters in the wine shop to kind of play off as the foil and Myles is allowed to be a little bit more down to earth in the film. He comes off more pedantic maybe, than in the book, like, you know, he has the errors.

Rex Pickett  29:33

Yeah that’s true. And and there. Again, you know, Alexandra hate me for saying this. But when I first met him, he hugged me, you’re the king and he was so excited to make the movie. And he said, You know what I loved about your novel so much Rex. And remember, it’s written in first person, because your characters are so fucking pathetic. You know? And I think he he took a little bit of a an angle that Myles is a bit of a wine snob and And Jack just it’s a shading. It’s just a subtle shading, you know, where maybe he speaks a little French or something at one point or with a French accent. Yeah, I mean, it’s so minor

John Capone  30:12

We still obviously care for miles very much but but he does, you know, he has that role.

Rex Pickett  30:18

But John, you know, in your in your profession that we know a lot of people who don’t have deep pockets, but they find a way to, you know, they they say they’re just like me, I’m a piano file by the way, that love of Pinot Noir is a genuine love, it just came from my friend Julian and Epicurus opening Pinot Noir is that I couldn’t afford. And, and to this day, I have a great love of Pinot Noir and less so of Bordeaux varietals to be quite frank with you, I just, that’s my palate. And I love the expression in the range of it. And that but I think that that loves spilled over into the novel. And so miles is he represents one of those people who really, you know, in the wine world who who doesn’t have deep pockets, but he really does have a sophisticated palate. And, and he really, he knows what he likes, and he can get suddenly, like I did on Sanford la Rinconada, you know, Pinot Noir, until I found out was 20% Serato, by the way, but anyway, but I can get excited. I you know, when you when you write, you’ve got to get excited, you got to get enthusiastic, you’ve got to, you know, look Miles’s life is such shit, especially in the novel, I want him to believe in something. So he’s gonna believe that his novel is gonna get published. And he just loves wine. It’s like his kind of like his religious belief system in a way. And so when he and Maya are out on the porch, and Jack is in, you know, doing stuff in the back, that he’s not he’s disapproving of, he’s actually very reproachful of it. He’s connecting with Maya over wine and what I find about wine for other people, maybe it’s sports, and maybe it’s something else. But it can bring people together, who maybe they wouldn’t otherwise come together. So they come together over that. I wouldn’t call it a low common denominator, because it’s actually, you know, but it is something that we can all I can interact with people who I wouldn’t otherwise be friends with. And I and I found, and I and not just because of that, it’s because I have a genuine love of wine. And I wanted to get it in a novel. And you know, it really. It really hadn’t been a lot of people say, God, this novel, how come nobody wrote this novel for guys going wine tasting, you know? Well, nobody really had and, you know, it kind of changed. Well change. You know what it did? John, I believe this and I’ve heard this from other people. A lot of people thought wine tasting was only for snobs. Or it was only for restaurant tours or for you know, wine merchants. But no, no, it was for everybody. You know, I mean, it made it popular. More than more so than ever. If you go to the Santa Ynez Valley. Oh my god. I mean, it’s ridiculous.

John Capone  33:01

Yeah, it’s certainly made Pinot popular. We kind of, you know, glanced quickly over the unpublished manuscript of your novel being optioned. It didn’t happen instantaneously. How long did it take from when you got that, you know, wonderful news, elation of that moment, until it actually started shooting.

Rex Pickett  33:39

Well, for those of you out there trying to make it in Hollywood, this is what happens. So Alexander is calling. He’s screaming, he’s going nuts. I’m gonna make this film. It’s my next film, whatever. And he’s got the power to make it happen. And so he options it. About two months later, it’s greenlit by artists and entertainment, front page news Friday, Hollywood Reporter these are the main trade papers for the you know, entertainment industry paying goes sideways $10 million film, I’m flipping out, you know, because I get a certain percentage of the budget in my option contract, whatever. And, and it’s gonna be a movie. I mean, that is the holy grail in Hollywood. So option money is nothing, you know, yeah. It’s nice. And you can say yeah, Alexander Payne option, my novel, but to become a movie, that’s the Holy Grail. And, and then, so I go, this is great. We go back out with my novel, and they still turned it down the publishing industry. Two months later, after it was those announcements in the trade, which were in early 2000. I got a call from Alexander, and he wanted a wine recommendation. But there was something odd in his voice he goes, and by the way, I’m going to going to do this film with Jack Nicholson first. I went, I felt like I’d been walking at a brisk pace down a sidewalk and just hit a lamppost. I mean, everything I’d been through in the 90s, which I talked about earlier, all this finally, out of nowhere, this unpublished novel just, you know, hits meteoric heights. And and then its option then is greenlit, it’s a $10 million Greenlight. And now Now, I’m gonna go make about Schmitt with Jack Nicholson. And as a filmmaker, you know, you’re gonna wait two years, there’s pre production, production, post production, publicity marketing, I mean, oh, my god, I just thought I’d been punched in the stomach so hard. And that’s, that’s Hollywood. And, and you don’t know, after two years if the Blum is gonna be off the roads. But you know, he came back to it. And, and to this day, it’s won more awards than all his other films. It’s the highest rated, you know, film. I personally think he’ll hate me for saying this. But I think it’s his legacy work, you know, and I think, and I think it’s his legacy work, because he allowed himself to go places, he doesn’t always feel comfortable going, like I said, Jack coming back naked. It’s just, it’s just such a shocking moment. But it’s funny, too, you know, and some of the other stuff. It’s, but yeah, I had to wait another three years. But the good news is, they got out of the deal with the artisan, which was having financial problems, and they did a deal with Fox Searchlight. He got more money, and and then we went into pre production and, and then and now it was, it was for real. But yeah, I did sweat it out for another two and a half years.

John Capone  36:35

And about Schmidt only increased his stature. And then, as you mentioned, sideways is arguably the pinnacle of his career.

Rex Pickett  36:43

Well, yeah. And he, again, he would, you know, he might argue that, but I think it’s pretty much set in stone for in fact, sideways, was named by the Writers Guild as one of the 101 greatest screenplays of all time. So, you know, I mean, about Schmidt is a terrific movie. And basically, what it came down to is Jack Nicholson came down in his price. So he was, you know, a lot of directors like Alexander and other big directors, they’ve got a lot of properties orbiting them and you don’t always know that, you know, and, and you may get your something option, but just go on IMDb Pro and see that they’ve option 20 Other things, and they’re, you know, they they play that game, because they don’t know what, what elements going to all come into a confluence at the right moment, in a way, you know, but but, you know, I mean, that two and a half years was was rough, John, I mean, you know, I wasn’t 25 I wasn’t even 35 anymore. And suddenly you you’ve hit it, and this, this could be really big. And then suddenly, whoa, Sucker Punch. Cool. Now, that was rough man. But you know, there were a couple of other good things. My now ex wife who had produced my two independent feature films, wonderful woman, she went to the after we split up, she went to the American Film Institute to reinvent herself as a director and got into the director’s program, which was very hard to get into very selective. I wrote all her first year pieces, she was only one of three, chosen to do a thesis film. She shot. It was an original script I wrote that she had read, she loved it called my mother dreams, the Satan’s disciples in New York. She made it she did a fantastic job, started winning awards. And guess what, in 2000, it won the Academy Award for Best Live action short. And I tell you, I wasn’t there at the Oscars. We won’t get into that story. But I mean, I just fell to the floor weeping because we had spent 10 years making these two films in the pressure cooker together. It’s not in the digital day. And the analog day was rough. And I just, you know, so I did have, they don’t give the Oscar to the writer. But in essence, I we did win. And so you know, my agents, were able to get me meetings. And I might have got a couple of small writing jobs after that kind of, at least I was. I was back on the radar. Again, John, let’s put it that way. So that helped me through Alexander waiting two and a half years, whatever, but the biggest fear, and I’m a catastrophist, and everyone jokes about it. And you know, I’m always as Miles’s, he’s kind of a catastrophist. He’s someone who embraces, you know, failure, but tries to find the humor in it. I just I really fear that Alexander wouldn’t come back to the movie that he just would have second thoughts and new projects had come in, you know, but you’re right about Schmidt definitely. It was a successful film, it won awards, and it gave him even more power in the business.

John Capone  39:36

Yeah and after the arm loads of Academy Awards and other awards that sideways one, right your track record in Hollywood look pretty good there.

Rex Pickett  39:47

Well, I like to say it’s, I don’t want people think, you know, because I’m really, I think I’m a humble guy, you know, whatever. You know, I live a modest life. But we did have the five nominations we got for the Oscar. We only won the Best Adapted Screenplay. So also that I feel like goes to me, but they don’t give the Oscar to the writer of the source material, which that’s an oversight. So with the short film, and the Best Adapted Screenplay, I like to feel like I’m batting 1000. John, I’m two for two, you know, so, you know, I’d like to have two Oscars, but, you know, I don’t actually physically have them. But yeah, I mean, that. It’s really gratifying. And, and also, I think the Writers Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay meant as much if not more to me, because that’s your peers voting. And, and of course, it won every other award for screenplay. And I like to feel like because it was a faithful adaptation, I had a little, you know, as I say to people, because they don’t know who I am. They often say, I didn’t know there was a novel behind this. I always say, it wasn’t the Immaculate Conception. You know, there was a guy who went up there, but I didn’t just like sit in my you know, just like, Oh, two guys go wine tasting. I’ll go up there for a weekend. No, it built in me over a period of five years. And in fact, my, the characters are actually the template for those characters. Were in my second feature film, there were two detectives, one was kind of like Jack and one was kind of like miles, a little bit different. Different story was a mystery. But it was called from Hollywood to Deadwood. And it was a great script. It got me my first, you know, professional writing job with Kevin Bacon. But the template for those characters I looked for opposites, John, Jack is the classic extroverted feeling type, you know, he’s larger than life. He’s a hedonist. He’s a whatever he’s a, he lives in the moment. Miles is the classic, Introverted Thinking type. He’s always thinking forward, what can go wrong, and he’s, he’s tortured, or whatever. And this comes from when I was 19. I dropped out of college for a couple of quarters, and I read the entire collected works of Carl Jung, in six months, all 20 volumes. And that was a seminal moment in my life. But volume six Psychological Types was the prototype for the Briggs Myers stuff and everything, but he wrote a lot about introversion, extroversion thinking feeling and so you look for opposites. Because opposites equals conflict equals drama equals comedy equals resolution. That’s the formula. And once I had those opposites in one was my friend Roy, who’s from the south and he has certain vernacular, I like to try to find a voice what? What makes so many screenplays not work is everybody talks the same and sounds the same. I looked at I looked to be able to differentiate character. And I put myself out there and my friend Roy, who’s very different than me, but we’re friends.

John Capone  42:36

And the the film was a cornerstone of Giamatti career as well, it’s certainly pushed him out centerstage. And he’s so good and everything he does, and he’s awesome. But people will always remember him for playing.

Rex Pickett  42:52

You know, Alexander wasn’t going to that one. So when he finally done about Schmidt, he came back, he wrote the script, he couldn’t find miles. And of course, there are now big actors who won’t, I won’t name them who want to play him. And he didn’t want that he wanted to find somebody different. At one point, he threatened not to make the film and I went, Oh, my God, here we go again, you know, and then I got a call from him. He was in New York, he had a casting director in New York. So Alexander didn’t get the money from Fox Searchlight. He wrote the script and wanted to cast it and then take the package to, you know, a company and and then have them greenlight the package so he could control it. And he got a call from just about this guy, Paul Giamatti. Oh, my God, he’s our mouse. And as I said, Who’s I did, and I know film, I didn’t even know who he was. He had American splendor, which is terrific in a small little indie film hadn’t come out yet. He’d been in some other stuff. But yeah, of sideways, took him to Himalayan heights. And, you know, I’ve said, I don’t want to say that exactly. But because that’s going to sound arrogant. But I really think that you could replace a lot of people in the movie, and you have a great movie. But I think Paul Giamatti is irreplaceable. I, and that’s where pain is amazing. He. He said, in many interviews, he goes, I’m not he likes to be self deprecating sometimes, but he says, I’m not a great writer. I don’t like writing. And he has a writing partner, Jim Taylor. I like directing. But what he loves most is post production. He loves editing, which I hated when I was making movies. But he said, The one thing I’m good at is casting. And it’s true. If you cast wrong, you can destroy a movie. And he waited until, you know, he saw somebody specific he wanted. And it was, you know, they didn’t go for the pretty boy necessarily, you know, they didn’t go for the guy who spends all his time in the gym. You know, they went for a guy who’s a you know, bear in mind. Paul went to Yale Drama School. You know, his father used to be president of Yale and then was also the major league baseball commissioner. You know, he has a real solid acting background, but probably, you know, He would be a character actor, mostly in Hollywood. But here he is the star and people that remember him so fondly to this day, and I don’t think sideways is the movie. It is without Paul Giamatti. And that is that is owed to Alexander Payne, for holding out for that cast. And there’s a lot of people, and I could tell some stories now, but it’s going to alienate some people, but there are people say, we’ll give you 30 million to make this film. If you cast Russell Crowe, if you know and Alexander give the guy credit, he he wasn’t going to, you know, he now I’m going to cast it with who I want to cast it, and I’ll take less money. And, and I’m going to make the film I want, I believe, you know, and that it’s so rare, because it’s so hard to get a film made that you will just say, Okay, I’ll just go with, you know, and some of these are good actors, but they may not be right for the roles, you know, but you’ve you’re so frustrated. There’s so much frustration in the entertainment business that you’ll just say, Okay, fine, I’ll take Ryan Gosling. And I mean, he’s a fantastic actor, and he’s, you know, he’s good looking or whatever. And, but, you know, maybe he wouldn’t be right for the role. So pain really held out. I don’t think sideways would get greenlit today with that cast, because they were all unknowns

John Capone  46:16

As an unknown and Giamatti is certainly iconic in part and for our, you know, our issue of Wine Enthusiast we had in mind to do like a, an oral history of the making of the film on its 20th anniversary. And, you know, we we spoke to you and we spoke to Alexander Payne, written by another fantastically talented Hollywood, screenwriter, Todd, brilliant. He talks a pain, but Giamatti we tried and tried. And we’re just told he doesn’t. He doesn’t he does want to talk about Sideways. Why do you think that is?

Rex Pickett  46:50

Well, you know, I’ve tried to be 30% less honest than I normally am. Because I get in trouble, whatever. I think, think about this for a second. I don’t mind it. I can go outside here and Napa, downtown Napa, which I love. By the way, I’m up here. We’re doing all kinds of events and you know, with sideways, New Zealand, whatever, anyone listening to this up in Napa, I’m up here, you can reach me at my website. Now. I love going in front of people I love telling the stories, I don’t even get sick of them are low. So I’m not recognized. But if I say sideways, I’m telling you the recognition factors is pretty high, John, I mean, it might even be 90%. I mean, that’s incredible. And I’m proud of that. I really am. It means a lot to me that you’re remembered. I think for Paul, I talked to a journalist who interviewed him and he used to go out to restaurants, and somebody knucklehead would send a bottle of mirlo over. And initially he was amused, then he wasn’t amused. And then some years went by, and I think he just get that out of here, you know, whatever. I don’t think as an actor, he wants to be remembered for an entire body of work. But wherever he goes, if you take the holdovers, for example, which was the reteaming of Alexander and Paul, for the first time since sideways, and I read all the interviews and all the reviews. You could not read one without sideways being blown up. You couldn’t read one without them comparing the two. And so I think it’s not that he wants to distance himself from sideways. But I think that he wants I don’t think he wants to be identified with one role the way say, Harrison Ford is with the character in Star Wars and Raiders. And that’s really all he’s identified with, you know, I think he wants to kind of break that mold and maybe do another film that’s going to, you know, break out maybe they thought the holdovers would be that film or whatever. But I’ll tell you, sometimes you capture Lightning in a Bottle John. And for me, I understand why he wants to kind of distance himself. He’s, he’s not embarrassed. I just met him for the first time in 20 years, two months ago here in San Francisco. And we talked about Sideways and how to stood the test of time and everything. But I think he he just doesn’t want to be identified with miles and for the rest of his life, that that’s the only thing he did. I think that’s an actor sing as a writer, of course, I’m, I’m proud to be remembered even for one thing. I mean, it’s clearly my legacy work. But even Alexander sometimes will distance himself a little bit and you know, that we’re moving on, you know, and it’s, if that if that’s all they talk about, and of course, they had to hear why has there been no sequel, you know, and so that’s we get into another question there. And because it’s Hollywood right now is in a state of total creative bankruptcy. All it is is intellectual property cannibalization? That’s all it is. I mean, every day I wake up there’s a new a sideways sequel would be greenlit and five seconds with one phone call. I mean, in five seconds, you know, and, you know, whether they want to, you know, go down that road whether they want to repeat themselves. I don’t know. But I think it’s a case of not wanting to be remembered for one thing, but everywhere he goes, that’s what he gets asked.

John Capone  50:09

Oh, maybe if they just recast it with Ryan Gosling. And Margot Robbie?

Rex Pickett  50:13

Well, you know it. Yeah, they could do that. And I’m happy to write, I’m happy to write that, you know, but I think remember, like I say, when I go out into the world, no one recognizes me. So I can just walk to the post office, nothing. I’m happy to tell people I wrote sideways. But when Paul goes out, he’s recognized, you know, and people yell at him. What’s, what’s wrong with Morocco? And it’s like, you know, as I can see, we’re probably after a certain time, he wants to kind of, you know, push back on that.

John Capone  50:40

What’s the question that you get asked the most, the most often about Sideways?

Rex Pickett  50:47

Um, well, certainly Merlot. You know, Do you really hate Merlot? And whatever. And, and, of course, there’s, you know, I think we talked about this in another conversation, there’s, there’s, you know, there’s really three, there’s three answers as long the medium and the short. You know, I’ve gotten along down to the medium now, but you know, I don’t hate Merlot, A and B. But at the time, when I wrote the novel, and I was up there, and I didn’t know a lot about wine. Remember, in 9160 minutes that this totally false story about the French paradox, you know, and it was just something a winemaker had said, Well, we French don’t get heart disease because we we drink red wine and, you know, antioxidants in it, and, you know, whatever, blah, blah, blah. And it wasn’t based on any studies or whatever. But 60 minutes was so popular, people rushed to the liquor store to get red wine. Probably a lot of them were given Cabernet, to tannic, you know, they don’t have a sophisticated palates are coming from beer and cocktails. So they gravitated to this fruity beer, more approachable wine called Merlot. And the industry, you know, got onto it. They they started to mechanize farm it, you know, because you can grow it in so many, you know, Nam sounding like Miles you can grow it in all these different places. And so by the time I was going up to Epicurus, for those wine tastings in the late 90s, Merlot, had become synonymous with wine philistinism. If you were like, I love my love, I love my low, they automatically judged you as an idiot as a Philistine that you knew nothing, you know, even though of course, there are great Merlots and even though Merlot you know who’s hurt by this a little bit because my sales have tanked is people who make Cabernet because they need 15% Merlot to take and they’re having trouble finding the Merlot. So you know, if you go to the movie now, Jack is coaching miles on this dinner, it’s gotta go right? He knows miles is a wild card. And when he says and if they order, you know, if they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot. No. Anyway, so what Miles is really doing there in that rant? It’s not that he hates Merlot or whatever. It’s he’s trying to tell Jack No, I’m a wild card. Because I am reproachful. Have you cheating on your fiance, and Merlot just got in the way. I mean, I’m writing a novel all alone. I don’t know it’s going to be a movie. I don’t know this, this line is going to even make the screenplay. I don’t know, it’s going to be uttered with such venom. But I, every one of you go back and watch the movie. And think of his rent now from a different angle that Miles is basically saying to Jack, I am disapproving of what you are about to do. And Merlot just got in the way. But it became this I find it funny that it’s become this meme, you know, whatever. But that is that’s the number one question I get asked. And then number two, the origin story which we which we we covered. And also, I get asked a fair amount about my as wind speech demands. I also get asked that question.

John Capone  53:48

Yeah. And I mean, the, the line in the movie is like, thrown away, never in a million years, would you be sitting there and thinking it would have repercussions for two decades and economic doctoral thesis is written about it, you know, because of the exigencies of the wine industry. But you know, the, the groundwork was there as as you explained, like Marloes over planted, Pinot is under appreciated. It just was a catalyst. Is there anything else and that’s called the sideways effect in those in those papers and popularly? Is there any thing any other trends in the wine industry that you think are ripe for a sideways effect type term?

Rex Pickett  54:33

You know, I guess it’s not so much about grape, because I still love Pinot Noir. Although being up here in Napa Sonoma, I’ve actually have a newfound appreciation for Chardonnay when it’s done right. And it isn’t overlooked. And you know, you know, that $5 kJ with wood chips or whatever. I mean, I just I love the wine. You know, I think it’s more about regions about discovering a region whether it might be Spain or Italy. I spent six months in Chianti Classico, obviously New Zealand I’m excited. I was in New Zealand for six months. And yeah, 67% of the grapes are Sauvignon Blanc for Kim Crawford or whatever. That guy was going to put in the new novel. If anyone orders Kim Crawford, I’m leaving, I’m not drinking anything. But I thought, well, I don’t need the lawsuit. But I think I’ve taken them down because you know, they sell, they make recipe wines, which I’m against, but there are some people doing some great stuff with Sauvignon Blanc. They’re Sauvignon Blanc and Casa Blanca Valley and Chile, where it was, Boy, those I don’t know, maybe, maybe that’s, in some ways My next favorite grape but I, I don’t know, I haven’t gotten tired of Pinot Noir, I still find it to be it expresses the terroir. So I think more about sight. Up here, Napa Sonoma, I think about like the Ricci vineyard or the whatever, you know, I think about or mink vineyard, these little pockets. I think about sight and I think about so I’m not saying it’s a great, but I think it’s region. And I’m wondering if Napa Sonoma because it’s so famous, hasn’t been undervalued. I know that sounds, you know, kind of paradoxical, because probably some of the Napa Cabs have been overvalued. But I personally think the the pianos and the shards appear undervalued, they’re not cheap, but for what they are and how and I’m talking about the small ones, you know, the ones you know, you know, blue farm and you know, and Miller I forget her last name, and she’s fantastic winemaker Kim Bernards, and Julian five yard and I mean, these guys that are in women who are small, doing great stuff. So I think maybe there’s a reevaluation of terroir and of place. That’s what that’s what I’m thinking. And that’s where the next novel is going to. I signed that post sideways New Zealand trilogy with my wonderful publisher, Blackstone, and the next one is going to start right here in Napa Sonoma, at my favorite place in the world, the vintners collective. It’s this old stone building right in downtown Napa and they pour 15 to 20 bowtique wines, but they have high end tastes where I discovered Ancein Julien, Fayard and other wines, and it’s it’s a bar and it’s a great bars it’s different than going in and being put in a lounge chair and you’re paying $150 and someone comes over with a scripted thing. No, everyone there is so knowledgeable. And in fact, that bar the picture of it was used in Rigalatvia for the set of of sideways there which is been retitled pelicans and grapes, but it’s it’s a huge hit. So, I know I think it’s to me, it’s about place.

John Capone  57:42

How did you end up drifting up to Napa after so long in Southern California?

Rex Pickett  57:49

Um, you know, I met somebody, it became a friend and, and helped me with a couple things and had a place up here and because when I left for New Zealand, I gave up my apartment in San Diego and San Diego where I grew up. I left la in 1213 to go to Chile and I never wanted to go back to LA. I really thought that city is brutal. I mean, it’s I paid my dues there and there’s nothing in San Diego for me and up here. Honestly, they’ll hate me in the Santa Ynez Valley, there is a lot of appreciation for me there, I will admit, but there’s even more appreciation for me up here in Napa Sonoma. And you know, I just I love downtown Napa. Yes, it is kind of money starting to come in and whatever but I know it’s very wine centric. The country I love Northern California. I don’t hate Southern California but it’s gotten so crowded and so congested and whatever and I had an opportunity and literally it’s really that simple and since then, God I am kind of a i know i i sound loquacious and extroverted but actually I’m kind of a loner and and I’ve actually got a lot of friends up here now so probably have more friends up here than I do in LA you know?

John Capone  59:06

Yeah, it’s and you feel at home there it sounds like

Rex Pickett  59:10

Yeah, I do. I mean it’s I missed the ocean. I’ve always lived on the ocean but I’ve got the Napa river so that’s my ocean now and you know it’s a cool town I go wine tasting every weekend try to meet different people it’s there’s a beauty to Napa Sonoma. There really is I mean Santa is Valley can be beautiful but up here it can be the fog comes in Wraith like over these mountains. And it’s um, LA has a lot of Southern California has a lot of hustlers and people who are self aggrandizing is up here. There’s more of a humility to people I think, if I were to generalize, and I think there’s more probably

John Capone  59:51

Only when compared to LA.

Rex Pickett  59:53

Yeah, when compared to LA but even San Diego’s, you know, it’s a city of I know real estate and I know too Our athletes and it’s a beautiful beautiful beaches but I don’t serve anymore John I used to. And like I said, I like it, but I don’t I don’t feel a sense of community, but here in downtown Napa I feel a real sense of community and, and I’ve been able to do so many events up here and tell the stories that we I’ve told here but

John Capone  1:00:20

It’s a good base for sideways 20 This year being the 20th anniversary

Rex Pickett  1:00:25

Well and actually and actually, that’s the title of the next novel, it’s going to be you know, Sideways, The Return, you know, and it literally is going to start the vintners collective so we’ve we’ve come full circle to Epicurus. So it’s a tasting of its I don’t think it’s going to degenerate into a brawl, because I like the people there. But and then there’ll be a meeting between two people and then they get on the road because Rex says he’s going to have this and as Valley for a 20 year anniversary, and you know, fictionally but it’s but it’s not fictional, and which is an October, we’ve got a lot of screenings coming up. I mean, this was interesting. We, when sideways came out as a hardcover. I wanted to put on a screening at the Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma. It’s a 90 year old theater. And they did not have a digital version of sideways for commercial digital. Okay, not to be confused with a DVD. They didn’t have it as Fox Searchlight. But it turns out Sebastian, a theater had a 35 millimeter projector so we were able to rent a 35 millimeter release print, which was hard to find. And I told Alexandra, I said, this is a disgrace that there isn’t a DT what we call DCP digital cinema protocol, 4k commercial version of sideways. I mean, are you kidding me? There’s only two released prints left in the world. I mean, there yeah, there’s blu rays, and you can stream it, whatever. So he contacted Fox Searchlight. And they did. They did that it’s a it’s an expensive conversion, but they did it. And I now I can screen it in any theater anywhere. And I love to get up and talk and let people know that it wasn’t the Immaculate Conception that there was a writer behind it. There was a guy who was miles at one point, which Paul doesn’t want to be anymore but I’m happy to still be miles with my self deprecating, you know, modern sense of humor. And, and I love writing the books I love writing the characters.

John Capone  1:02:19

So shot it’s shot in 35 millimeter. How many prints are there floating around, you know, not many probably.

Rex Pickett  1:02:28

At one point sideways was in almost 2000 theaters, so there were 2035 millimeter prints. All 35 millimeter projectors have basically been junked, they don’t exist jumped, Sebastiani theatre is still kept a working one there, which is otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to screen it. You know, there’s they only found two. They because they’re it’s a huge storage issue. So they just get rid of they just literally junk them. Although Quentin Tarantino bought the VISTA theater in East Hollywood, which is a revival house art house, for those of you who are under 40, or 58. That’s what we used to see films before Blockbuster Video, we had to go out to these theaters. But he bought the VISTA theater. So it’s one of the only ones left there used to be about 40 or 50 in the greater LA area. And we’re going to do a screening at the VISTA theater and I and I promise you that Quentin Tarantino has amassed a huge library of released prints because they’re happy to give them away when they’re going to junk them. You just have to know who to ask to get them. But yeah, they only found two prints. And they when they did the digital conversion. The original negative they do it from the original negative, they found scratches and dirt. I mean, it’s it’s funny because this is an iconic movie. So anyway, I’m very thrilled about that. So we’re going to try to put on as many we’re definitely going to have a big screening at Sebastiani Theatre on October 22. So just go you know, my website is I’ve said Rex Pickett books.com And there’ll be events and everything else. But we’re going to try to there’s gonna be one in Tustin Orange County, they want to do event in in late May, early June. Gosh, the VISTA theater we’re trying to still pull that one off with you know,

John Capone  1:04:11

he’s got to now quit quit.

Rex Pickett  1:04:14

Oh, does he really

John Capone  1:04:14

He’s got the new Beverly as well.

Rex Pickett  1:04:17

Oh right. Right. Right. Which shows so I think silent films you know, so it’s a bit different. But he No I made I’m confusing that with theater because I’ve been to those theaters many times I lived in LA but he has a huge library have released prints and you know, but to show it with the original digital from the original negative the quality would be so much better than a release print member. These prints every time they go through a projector they get scratched and beaten up. So I’m still when we showed it last summer. We sold it out. It was great. I got told a few stories. Not many, but I got to sit in on the film a little bit. You know, and, you know, John, I say this with all the humility I can muster. It’s still held up, it’s still people still laughed in the same place as it wasn’t. It didn’t Yeah, you know, gas was only $1.79 A gallon on the gas pumps, but it was It wasn’t dated at all, because I think there’s something timeless about what those characters are going through, you know, kind of what I was going through, which is heartbreak and failure and romance. And, you know, I don’t know, outrageous behavior, we’ve all gone through that period in our life, or, you know, we did things that maybe we regret, not everybody, but you know, we have some have special when you introduce a little wine into the equation, and I think I give myself a pat on the back here. I think I captured that. And then Alexander took it to a new level with the film.

John Capone  1:05:44

Yeah, as you said, in Hollywood, you know, so, you know, the story is universal. It’s relatable, you know, in the way it’s written, but so many times Hollywood, you know, man handles that, and he did a miraculous job of honoring it. And also, you know, he has that frame, that he’s trying to create something timeless, and, you know, it seems like with sideways, he achieved that, you know, and it’s it is funny, because So Todd brilliant, who interviewed him for Wine Enthusiast asked him about sideways 20 events. And all he said was, I’m going to insist that Merlot be served.

Rex Pickett  1:06:21

Yeah I mean, you know, he’s funny. I mean, I don’t think he distanced himself from the movie as much. In fact, after he, he actually supervised the digital conversion. He I mean, he was in the room with the guy. And I mean, this takes probably a week. I mean, they go frame by frame. And he and he wrote me, he just said, I realized now that this is a brilliant film, I realize why this is a brilliant film. You know, I think I think he’ll show up at some events, I just don’t think he’ll get on the train. Paul probably won’t. But you know, what, I’ll be there. And I’ll be there to tell the stories. And, you know, and, and, you know, and I know, I’ll be inside because I go back, I predate everybody. And I went through everything, including, you know, being on the set and, you know, being allowed into post production and having access to all the screenplays and you know, maybe one day I’ll write my autobiography and really tell the story, because it really, it really was a lot of ups and downs, that film was almost never made three, four or five times, I mean, never made. And you sometimes wonder if there’s like, I always think, you know, in LA somewhere, there’s 100 screenplays that if you put the right people together the right configuration, you might have Oscar winning films, but for whatever reason, they just weren’t made. And of course, now, like I said, we live in this creatively bankrupt time, that a film that as original as sideways, could only have been made because Alexander Payne pushed it, it’s totally 100% owed to him. And whatever minor little criticisms I’ve had of them, just know that I come from this kind of critical background. But I’m, you’re right, I’m so thrilled that, you know, he was as faithful to my novel as you could possibly be, because you bring in anyone else. And I can tell you some stories where some people wanted him not to be so faithful and wanting to take this out or wanted him to cast somebody different. He really held to his guns on this one. And I think it’s one of the reasons that film has stood the test of time. And that’s ultimately, what matters to me is, it’s not, I said this to a very famous theater director, very famous, but I won’t mention his name. And he was one of those miserable people I’ve ever met. And I thought, and he’s fabulously wealthy, and I said, and I thought to myself, you know, there’s one thing money won’t buy and of course, everybody says happiness. I said, no money actually will buy some happiness, you can fly first class to New Zealand and you know, whatever and go wine tasting. You know, money won’t buy you immortality, you are going to die. And that’s it. It will not buy you immortality and, and I feel like maybe I tasted was sideways, just a little bit of of immortality. I don’t know. You know, and maybe one day we’ll be forgotten or whatever. But that’s, I write honestly, not for the money John I write to be remembered.

John Capone  1:09:19

And it’s outlasted most certainly, and it looks like it’s not showing signs of stopping and we’ll look for the the book sideways 20, reliving everything that Miles has gone through and you’ve gone through it. Rex Pickett again, I thank you very much for joining us. And hopefully we at Wine Enthusiast and our readers and listeners will see you at some of the events and screenings. Thank you, everyone for joining us. You’ve been listening to our conversation with Rex Pickett, author of sideways. Rex is currently at work on the fifth book in the series. The original novel has just been released in hardcover. For the first time to mark the film’s 20th anniversary, you can pick that up at RexPickettBooks.com. That’s Rex Pickett as picot with two T’s and you get an autographed copy there from Rex. All the sideways novels are quick fun reads and they’re well worth it for wine fans. Maybe you think you know what wind trend is right for the next sideways effect. If you know or you have a comment or question for us or Rex, email us at podcast at Wine Enthusiast dotnet. And remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google Spotify or anywhere else in the universe where you listen to your favorite shows. You can also go to one enthusiast.com backslash podcast for more episodes, transcripts and all kinds of extra goodies. See you next time. Until then, remember Merlot is not a crime.