“There could be a mistake, because I ought to be in the top 10 screenwriters to watch near your valuables,” claims Barry McEvoy, who’s used to pub backroom intrigue.
McEvoy was doing readings of “An Everlasting Piece” in 1999 in Irish taverns in New York, when Louis DiGiaimo Jr., son of casting director-turned-producer Louis DiGiaimo, came to listen.
And so “An Everlasting Piece” is now set as the Christmas Day release from DreamWorks, directed by Barry Levinson and starring the tavern narrator himself, McEvoy.
“If even less than a year ago, someone would have told me that my script would get to Steven Spielberg and that he and Barry Levinson would like it so much that they would turn it into a movie, and I’m the lead in the Christmas release, I would have said, ‘Shut the fuck up — I don’t believe a word of it,'” McEvoy intones.
Lou Jr. enjoyed the script, which is loosely based on McEvoy’s father, a Catholic barber in Ireland who for a time owned a hairpiece factory and used to take his business into Protestant neighborhoods by pretending he was Protestant.
Lou Jr. gave the script to his father’s “Donnie Brasco” producing partners, Mark Johnson and Levinson, the brain trust behind the Academy Award-winning best picture “Rain Man” and a dozen other films. They approached DreamWorks’ Spielberg. “Spielberg wanted to make it after it had been rejected by everybody,” McEvoy says.
McEvoy insists that he wouldn’t allow another actor to play the lead. “I did a screen test, and they said, ‘OK.'” Prior to “Piece,” he had been eking out a living as an actor — a supporting part to Sharon Stone in “Gloria,” three lines in the Civil War epic “Gettysburg,” and as a member of the touring company of “The Sisters Rosenzwieg.”
“I got to be 30, 31, and I was working enough, but also being a lazy bastard, and I thought, ‘I’m just not lucky,'” the Irish-born actor says.
“Then one day I pick up Variety and there on the front page is ‘Levinson heir apparent for “Piece” pic.’ It blew my mind,” says McEvoy, who is repped by Blair Belcher at United Talent Agency.
Now he’s getting offers to retool others’ scripts, which he’s rejecting in favor of writing his own screenplays based on titles that grab him, two in partnership with David Sussman. These are “Locked and Upright,” about drunk flight attendants, and “Two Down,” about crossword puzzle constructors.
“I get the title first, like ‘McPherson Struts,’ — what’s that?” he says. “Well, if you think about it, it could be about a Scottish Olympic speed walker, if you see what I mean? I might write ‘Cocky V,’ kind of like ‘Rocky,’ but with a rooster.
“After having read so many crappy scripts as an actor, I decided that when I write, at every point where the script seems as if it will fall into the same traps as other scripts, I did the opposite, went in a new direction, and that makes a great difference,” McEvoy says.