Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

Looking at Mark Rocco, I realized that he was a young businessman, maybe even an artist (I wasn't sure yet), who would do whatever was necessary to get his movie made, including extending favors to his actors. Instead of despising him for it, I admired him. I even admired the fact that he'd gotten off cheap with me. That was a conscious decision: I chose to admire him, or at least that aspect of him. His determination. His will. His creativity.

"Okay, Mark," I said, "I'll play the lead in your movie."

He smiled.

"What changed your mind?"

My answer was complicated, but it came down to this: Mark had tapped into my own integrity. I had perceived him as something other than what he really was. Originally, I saw him as a. guy who was not only trying to figure out how to cash in on actors' success in order to get movies made, but worse, was also trading on the misfortune of homeless kids. I couldn't understand why he was doing that. I questioned his integrity. It seemed like he was profiting from other people's experiences, and he was just a slimy, backroom sort of guy. Mark always seemed to be shrouded in a veil of thick gray cigarette smoke. He had dark unruly hair, he dressed badly, and he seemed to be perpetually sleep deprived. To my eyes, he could even have had some firsthand experience with the material he was filming. But none of that mattered now, because he had done it. He'd found a way to reach me and get his movie made. I felt like I had compromised my integrity.

There was just one problem.

"We're closing a deal with David Arquette to play your part, "Mark said. "But I think we can get him to take the smaller part you had agreed to play, and you can play the bigger part."

Sounded good to me, although there were a few other stipulations. Mark wanted me to visit a juvenile detention center and interview some of the kids there. He wanted me to meet with doctors to discuss the ravages of heroin abuse.

"One other thing ...," he said.

"What?"

"You have to lose ten pounds in the next ten days."

"No problem."

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