When Sallie Motsch, GQ magazine research editor, failed to land a love connection with one of the bachelors of Congress’ freshman class, she never imagined the end result would be a Hollywood movie deal replete with gushing agents and producers, a $300-an-hour lawyer and a crash course in ’90s pop culture courtesy of “Friends” co-star Jennifer Aniston.
Motsch signed a deal with 20th Century Fox in September for the rights to a story she had written in the July issue of Washingtonian magazine. She chronicled how she dated six bachelor Congressmen with the goal of finding a “member of the House who was looking for a home.” The project, based on her story “How to Date a Congressman,” is being developed by Fox for Aniston. Motsch admits that Kennedy offspring Patrick was her primary target, but the Rhode Island Democrat wasn’t interested in “the girl who’s got a Jackie O aesthetic.”
But she did go on dates with five of the remaining bachelors, all Republicans. “One great date and it could be farewell New York City pavements, hello the Rose Garden,” wrote Motsch. But she found that while our neophyte lawmakers enjoyed the social whirl of Washington, they were just too overwhelmed with work to put serious effort into wooing a potential spouse.
So Motsch returned to the New York pavements single but published. Then Hollywood came calling for the rights to her story.
A self-described bibliophile, Motsch has watched TV only for election coverage, has never owned a VCR, never needed an agent or lawyer and had not seen a feature film in three years before the call from two Creative Artists Agency agents.
After the two agents professed their admiration for her, they told Motsch that interest in her story “is kind of, like, serious.” Soon a third agent, whom Motsch describes as a “smoothie, the stereotypical Young Turk,” called and introduced himself with this line: “Besides being motivated by greed, avarice and German cars, we’re also motivated by good material.” “Smoothie” then told Motsch that Warner Bros., Brian Gibson Films, Fox and Aniston were interested in her story. Even though she fit the demo for the “Friends” audience, the 28-year-old Motsch had never seen the show, nor had she ever heard of Aniston.
The agent then said they wanted to close the deal that day and she should get an attorney. Motsch, in Cleveland for the Labor Day holiday, scrambled to find an L.A.-based lawyer. After a frenzy of “interest” from other studios and producers, a literary agent stepped into the picture to get a slice of the pie, telling Motsch she might have to “fictionalize” parts of her story to make it more valuable. She told him she got his point, but it would be hard to introduce steamy sex scenes since none happened; after all, Motsch says, “These were Republican Congressmen!”
After days of nonstop phone calls, Motsch’s attorney called with the first preemptive offer from Wendy Finerman Prods.: She had 15 minutes to decide. As she jotted down the figures, the lawyer told her to “Pasadena” – wait for other offers.
Someone from Finerman’s office called later to say how much Wendy “just loves your story… She loves Washington.”
Motsch says she recalled reading that Finerman was the “Forrest Gump” producer “who forgot to say two words when she picked up her Oscar: Winston Groom.”
Finally the phone calls with her lawyer and Hollywood reps ended when she agreed to the deal with Fox. Motsch, hoping to consult on the film if it gets to production, says she has watched “Friends” since her Hollywood courtship and she did buy a VCR. But old habits die hard: The only show she taped has been “Inside Politics.”