I had a chance to chat with Steve Conrad, the writer-director of The Promotion, recently, and ask about Chad Schmidt, his long-gestating, zonked-sounding script about an actor who moves to Los Angeles in 1989 and, over the next 16 to 24 months, finds his career burnished but mostly stymied by the fact that he looks like Brad Pitt.
“I said I wanted to do a movie like Straight Time now, but I feel like I can’t just do it. I just feel like there’s a more invitational way to make that movie,” recalls Conrad, the writer of The Weather Man and The Pursuit of Happyness, of the project’s genesis. “So I thought long and hard and I came up with this concept making a comment about faith, which I’m really preoccupied by — how little we actually control and choose, and how difficult it is to just put one foot in front of the other some days. And so I had to get Brad Pitt to sign off on it, because it wouldn’t be worth my time to write if he weren’t up for it. So he’s up for it, spiritually, and I know that he’s starting to talk about directors now, to start to talk about making the actual movie. So I feel like we’ve slipped into a groove on it.”
Conrad is a credited producer on project, and laughs about rumors that it’s started filming, guerrilla-style. But would he like a chance to take a crack at it as director, now that he’s whet his behind-camera appetite with The Promotion? “Oh, I absolutely do have interest,” says Conrad. “I don’t know if he has an interest in me. Brad doesn’t know I’ve even made this movie, but I’m trying to get him to come see it.”
“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” Conrad continues, “but I think I’m going to put that script online, because people ask me about it all the time. There’s just something about the idea that people want to lean into. I don’t think there’s any harm in reading the script, do you? Why can’t it be like a book? People don’t not see a movie because they read the book — no one said, ‘I don’t wanna see Harry Potter because I read it already.’ Why would they not go see the movie if they read the script?” Here Conrad pauses, thoughtfully. “I’m going to ask (Sony) if I can do that.” Another beat. “They’ll say no, though,” he says, somewhat with the resignation of an academic who knows he’s about to lose a bureaucratic argument.