What’s it about?

A woman flees across the country with her eight-year-old son to escape a violent home life and inadvertently sets in motion a cross-country chase involving the mob, the FBI and her estranged husband.

When was it written?

1997

History

I used to work for director Andrew Davis. I was a mobile PA. In other words, I was the guy with the car who went for lunches and bought ornamental snack bowls and researched replacement mailboxes and took bags of cookies to the writers’ bungalow. Eventually, Steal Big, Steal Little went on hiatus for a while, after which I returned part time as a script reader to help out the development department.

There are a lot of bad scripts out there, action scripts especially. One after another came through the office until I finally decided that if I wanted to read a decent action script I was gonna have to write one myself. So I came up with Fever Blue. It had a few things I was looking for in an action script:

  1. A pair of protagonists who weren’t mercenaries, ex Navy SEALs, cops on the edge, supermen, penguins or space jockeys.
  2. A cast of characters who may have violence in them but preferred to use brains over bullets.
  3. A big bad for whom the whole escapade revolves around something other than money, drugs or recipes for shrimp salad.
  4. A fantastic element that while seeming otherworldly, was rooted in the concerns of the characters.

I wrote it in a few months and showed it to the folks at the production company. They optioned it, I got an agent, and the next thing I knew, we were rewriting it for production.

What’s with the title?

When I typed FADE OUT, I still had no idea what to call it. I knew that I wanted it to have two words for some reason. And I was gravitating towards three syllables. So one day, while riding my bike home from Isla Vista, where I was managing a small, but cool college town video shop called Emerald Video, I played with syllables in my mind. By the time I got home, I was pretty certain I wanted the second word to be Blue. So I rode along and thought to myself over and over, “Some-thing Blue. Some-thing Blue.” Eventually, for the first word, I settled on Fever.

Fever Blue. Nice. But what the hell did that mean?

Hell if I knew. It just sounded cool. So I went back into the script and tried to figure out what the story had to do with “blue fever,” eventually settling on a vague idea about violence and depression and a state of ennui that acted as a fertile topsoil for those two states of mind. But really, it’s up to interpretation.

At one point I made a character say something like, “Aw, yeah, he got himself the blue fever.” Happily, I don’t think that line is in the latest draft.

What happened with it?

I had written it on a smaller canvas. In my mind, it was an indie flick, like Blood Simple or Kiss or Kill (still one of my favorites; Bill Bennett was on our short list for possible directors.) Also, note: Three syllables! And it was meant to be produced as such, under the aegis of Andy’s production company, Chicago Pacific Entertainment. but after 18 months and three rewrites, Andy decided he wanted to direct it himself. This, of course, changed things. He was the classic 500-pound gorilla, and his interest changed the whole timbre of the project. Once we had a draft he liked, it went to Paramount, where it went all the way to Sherry Lansing at the top. She proved to be the “NO” that killed the project. There was an element of domestic abuse in Fever Blue, and they already had The General’s Daughter in the works. Apparently there can be two movies about asteroids, two movies about ebola, two movies about father-son body switching, but two movies that may have oblique references to domestic violence? Uh-uh.

My own feeling was that there was a disparity caused by Andy’s presence that pitted his large movie style against the smaller feel of the subject matter. Today, no big deal. Back then, not so much.

Where is it now?

Who knows? Last I heard, it was sealed in a vault below the CN Tower in Toronto, protected by robots shaped like the ebola virus and patrolled by bipedal badgers with night vision and tranquilizer darts. A couple people associated with the project have looked for it, never to return. Fireworks owned it last. When they folded, I’m sure it was transferred with some other “assets” into a plastic box and shoved under a disused cot somewhere.