×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Small screen scribe kicks habit, turns to big screen

The film business is rife with outlandish stories about the scars writers have incurred pumping their independent visions up onto the screen. But if you try comparing war wounds with “Permanent Midnight” author Jerry Stahl, who’s also the main character in Live Entertainment’s upcoming indie feature of the same name, you’ll lose every time.

Not that Stahl, a Pushcart Prize-winning short fiction writer and journalist (Playboy, Esquire, Buzz, the Village Voice) who crashed and burned a lucrative network TV writing career, is shy about exposing his self-inflicted lacerations. Heck, the guy managed to crawl back from what “Permanent Midnight” director David Veloz calls “a dark pit of self-abasement and humiliation” to pen a bestselling memoir about how drugs, depression and, to a lesser degree, television ravaged his life.

But ask Stahl himself if there’s an easier way for a writer’s life to end up on film and he’d be the first to listen to your ideas.

“Jerry will never cop to it,” Veloz says, “but he’s a sweet guy who happens to have been places most of us never visit in our nightmares. That sweetness is what I wanted to capture on film. And that’s why Jerry’s character (played by Ben Stiller) finds redemption through a love affair.”

A romance between the Stahl character and a recovering Arizona addict may motor Veloz’s film, but “Permanent Midnight,” the book, is a courtship of another sort. Stahl’s sharply written, Beat-type stream of thought, chronicles his frightening and at times hilarious (shooting up on the set of “Alf” and imagining the furry alien clawing at the men’s room door and wheezing out Stahl’s name), efforts to seduce that most tenacious of creative muses, heroin.

“Drugs made my planet real black and white,” Stahl notes, “as opposed to all the gray stuff that goes on in Hollywood and the straight world. With dope, you woke up every day and you went out to score. Crystal clear and very simple.”

So where does this unlikely indie success story go from here, now that sobriety has a firm hold on his life?

“I’m writing a novel called “Perv,” about a perpetually freaked-out 15-year-old, growing up in the late ’60s,” Stahl deadpans. “And Ben (Stiller) and I just finished an adaptation (bigscreen) of Budd Schulberg’s “What Makes Sammy Run?” That experience amazed me, because after writing for TV, I didn’t think there was a place in Hollywood for a guy like me. But working with Ben was fantastic.”

Of the demons that nearly claimed his life, and ironically propelled his writing career to a new level, Stahl is clear-eyed and wary, like a soldier at the gate: “Ultimately, ‘Permanent Midnight’ is more about the dark places in the human psyche than heroin, the train that gets you there,” Stahl whispers.

More Film

  • Yao Chen

    Xiamen Woos Film Industry, Becomes New Home of Golden Rooster Festival

    China’s government-led Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival has found a permanent home in Fujian province’s coastal city of Xiamen, starting from this year, municipal representatives said Monday at a Shanghai Intl. Film Festival press conference. “Xiamen has the confidence and the perseverance to be up to the task,” said Dai Zhiwang, the assistant [...]

  • TheReturn press launch at Shanghai Film

    Qin Hailu's 'The Return' Makes Emotional Debut at Shanghai Festival

    “This is the final film that seals my acting career,” said 95-year-old Chinese actor Chang Feng, of “The Return,” which plays this week in competition at the Shanghai International Film Festival. “The director, the screenwriter, and the entire crew have put so much heart into this film, I hope it wins the award.” The film [...]

  • Dami Im and Bong Joon-Ho'Parasite' premiere,

    ‘Parasite’ Wins Sydney Film Festival

    “Parasite,” the South Korean black drama that previously won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, was Sunday named as the winner of the Sydney Film Festival. After collecting a cash prize of A$60,000 ($41,200), at Sydney’s State Theatre, “Parasite” director said: “This Festival is really amazing, especially the audience…really special and extraordinary. This is the most [...]

  • China Film Group's Jiang Ping

    Shanghai: China Studio Chiefs Debate Winter Chills and U.S. Rivalry

    The Shanghai International Film Festival pulled off the impressive feat of assembling leading executives from seven of China’s top film studios. Their discussion focused on the problems that have recently beset the production sector and the industry’s relationship with Hollywood. “The film industry achieved great things in 2018, but it was also the year that [...]

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping claps while

    Propaganda Films to Dominate Chinese Theaters in Anniversary Year

    A presentation at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday shed light on the welter of propaganda films that will compete with Hollywood blockbusters for the attention of Chinese cinema goers in the second half of this year. This year is laden with political significance for China’s ruling Communist Party. It is 100 years since [...]

  • Leung Chiu-wai

    Tony Leung to Star in Shanghai Film Group's 'Fox Hunt' Police Action Film

    Hong Kong’s Tony Leung Chiu-wai and mainland China’s Duan Yihong will head the cast of the Shanghai Film Group’s upcoming “Fox Hunt.” The film is based on real live events and depicts the activities of Operation Fox Hunt, a worldwide anti-corruption initiative managed by China’s Ministry of Public Security. The operation seeks to find and [...]

  • Wings Over Everest

    Terence Chang's 'Wings Over Everest' Set to Swell China's Rescue Film Genre

    “Wings over Everest,” a new action adventure film from veteran producer Terence Chang and “Wolf Warrior 2” producer Lu Jianmin, is poised to join the burgeoning Chinese sub-genre of rescue movies.   The Chinese- and English-language film stars Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu (“Project Gutenberg”; “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (“Babel”; “Memoirs of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content