To many, Two Idiots In Hollywood is a rubbish film - one of the very worst. Robert Rakeridge of Films “Я” Us Quarterly hated it. Fellow film critic Loupenis Jones thought it lacked ‘momentum and any real characters you could identify with’. The movie’s own conceptualist, T. Barry Armstrong, notes its feeble budget and total loss of continuity. And yet, if we look hard enough, we can see the profound exploration of the ‘klutz and clamour’ of Hollywood that T. Barry, so Icarian, was aiming for, and that Loupenis comments upon. From its very title, the film promises to address the question all filmgoers ask themselves: are there really ‘idiots’ in Hollywood?
We are shown at the outset that the film is set in the Void (Outer Space), bracing us for a sense of vacuity. Immediately, in Taylor and Murphy’s preoccupation with doing a film character impersonation (the eponymous character from 1941 classic The Wolf Man), and ‘getting it right’, we see members of a younger generation who are somewhat bewitched by the silver screen. The small screen, too, has the power to denigrate and persuade.
Don’t ever call me Goonshow.
Hey, it ain’t that bad to be called Goonshow.
Yeah, you’d love it I bet.
No, I wouldn’t love it, but I wouldn’t hate it that much. I wouldn’t cry.
Yeah. It’s a hit show in Australia.
It’s true. I saw it on Entertainment Tonight.
- Taylor and Murphy
When they fail to score with their dates, Taylor and Murphy come to view Hollywood as the answer to their problems. Murphy, referring to his job in Dayton’s soda pop factory, yearns to avoid being ‘bottled up’ by escaping to Los Angeles (the city of angels - heaven?). Furthermore, it has the appeal of non-stop television - the industry that Murphy hopes to penetrate.
But when the pair reaches LA, we see that it may not be the panacea they hoped for. Their new apartment offers nothing new (‘the buttsteaks left the phone switched on’), and Taylor and Murphy find themselves lying to their new landlord (‘I write for The Batpoon Show... Public Access’). Joc Jeremy himself illustrates the perils of living in La long-term - he has a terrible back injury from a life of ‘bondage’. But Taylor and Murphy move in; and soon the TV is on.
‘Today, we watch Entertainment Tonight; tomorrow, I hit the studios.’ - Murphy
The following day, after an excited drive through Hollywood, Murphy reaches the hub of its entertainment industry - the National Broascasting Association. It is an open house: Security lets in Perry White, a prig who feels that his hopeless jokes are good enough for TV; and Security admits Murphy, with (literally) trash. We see Dan Skink, the President Of Television, who is stressed and desperately ‘needs good ideas for television’.
‘Look at me, getting ulcers wondering what ideas for new televisions shows I’m gonna give the Boys From New York. It’s all just crap anyway ... We fill our lives with deceit, indolence, the lust for money; where did it all go wrong? Where?’ - Skink
It is ironic that it is the President of TV who is so conscious of the fetid hollowness of Hollywood. He himself is forced into self-preservation, and has questionable religious faith, as he prays to Jesus for ideas that will keep him employed, with his chauffeured limousine and huge office. He then has an almost inverse epiphany, in picturing $40bn under the guidance of Murphy, who is presenting himself to Skink for his own financial gain.
‘I come before you today because I get great ideas for television all the time, just like Carol Burnette or the E.T.’ - Murphy
More on E.T. later. Skink relaxes by thinking about ‘what Reagan did to the world’ - Ronald Reagan, who rose from the film industry to the highest echelon of politics.
Murphy’s idea - The Pac-Man Comedy/Drama Hour - is picked up not only because it is potentially very lucrative (the Boys From New York have little difficulty in picturing $40bn), but because it appeals to the executives as an incestuous hybrid of different facets of the entertainment industry, looking back to the dramaturgy of 1920s cinema (Cops and The Lost World have clips featured in the dramaturgical breakdown), sideways at television, and forward to ‘blompety-blomp years’ of video gaming. While Joe Clark highlights this transcendence by playing himself, William Shatner, with his successful Star Trek transition from TV to film (Outer Space), is also suitable. (Hence, Reagan and Shatner both earn places at the Hollywood Waxworks Museum).
However, Murphy’s ambitions nosedive when The Pac-Man Show mutates from high- to low-concept TV, and he is no longer wanted. Feeling used and heartbroken, he soon falls into an hallucination where his own family are monstrosities, his best friend is killed, and he is hounded by zombies he has awoken, baying for brain. As they chant ‘we need good ideas’ relentlessly, we think back to Skink’s hunger for good ideas, and T. Barry’s openness for good ideas about The Robot From Outer Space. Murphy’s dream gives us a view of Hollywood as unstable, parasitic and dangerous. His only escape is to ‘wake up’, and realise that it is his friend who truly needs his good ideas.
The instability of Hollywood is such that not only do the Armstrong brothers intervene to explain about scene excision, but are in turn interrupted by a film review segment, presented by Robert Rakeridge and Loupenis Jones, who proceed to show unseen clips from Two Idiots In Hollywood, and from T. Barry’s new movie, The Robot From Outer Space. This is another nail in the coffin of normal continuity, and the critics’ segment descends into bickering, then disintegrates altogether. The fact that Robert and Loupenis lead the undead against Murphy shows that even they are not above Hollywood’s deformed hostility.
Besides this view of the entertainment industry, we hear from T. Barry of another, even more malign Hollywood force.
‘Lawyers are such horrible, horrible people.’ – T. Barry Armstrong
Not only have they set up an investigation of his profit-sharing proposal for The Robot From Outer Space, and eviscerated his movie of its most ‘crucial, hard-hitting scenes’, but they are a threat within the movie, as illustrated by Taylor’s misadventures. Following Joc Jeremy’s death, his police interrogation is unnervingly warped; and the defence lawyer he is later allotted does him no favours, by allowing him to be guided by his libido (he signs a confession in the hope of scoring with female prisoners).
It is Taylor’s trial scene that forms the richly elaborate crux of the film’s social commentary. We are immediately unsettled to see that the statue of Justice is in fact an immobilised person. The mutant Judge’s two heads are no better than one, as he influences the jury, to the powerless frustration of the lawyer, who later falls asleep. As the prosecution lawyer cross-questions Taylor, we are abruptly reminded of the power of the small screen - this time, to repulse.
‘You watched TV?! After a vicious, homosexual torture-murder – your Honour I’ve heard enough!!’ – Prosecuting Attorney
When Murphy later mentions TV-watching, it is met with convulsions, vomiting and screaming from a public terrified by the screen and its menacing implications. The barbershop song brings about the complete degradation of the legal proceedings, with the audience dancing, and the jurors regressing into Native Americans and hula dancers. Taylor is then almost condemned under the false patriotism of the Jury Foreman (‘I’ve lived in this great country America for 62 years to be exact’), and then the Judge.
‘Hippies, Yippees, Beatniks, and now this. It’s people like you who make a sham out of civilisation and turn the Me Generation into a cruel joke.’ - Judge
Taylor is saved by the arrival of the ghost of Joc Jeremy. He is accompanied to the courtroom doors by Abraham Lincoln and Puck, but no further - for his speech will not quite reach the heights of the Gettysburg Address, nor of Shakespeare. (Besides, Lincoln, having been killed in a theatre, would be uneasy in post-Reagan Hollywood.) Jeremy is met with great fear, from an audience which has seen E.T. and Poltergeist on the big screen and feels unsettled by such aberrations. (Also, E.T. reminds us of the power of Entertainment Tonight.) Joc has a higher purpose; an eloquent speech chiding Hollywood for its inept atavism.
‘You all act like dogs, so eager to get a big dinner.’ - Joc Jeremy
Appropriate, since the courtroom has featured both a buffet and a pack of dogs. So like Shatner’s Pac-Man, the people of Hollywood live for food and sex. But unlike Pac-Man’s ghosts, this ghost is neither ‘the slow terror of a wasted past’ nor ‘faulty sentimentality’ - he is the genuine sentimentality of a cherished past. Joc promotes a more sedate, less Californian, yet more active life, such as the prelapsarian serenity of his own youth. And then, the screen itself is redeemed, as we see it used for good purpose - the family home video, with all the purity, dreamy simplicity, love and friendship therein.
So, Taylor and Murphy have survived Hollywood intact, but have they too been mutated? Apparently, they’re still idiots, but with the Landlord’s admonition ringing in their ears, they are ready to look for the best of all worlds, as it were, within the Hollywood they have stumbled into. Murphy decides that the solution is DJing: it is entertainment, but without the NBA’s lust for ideas; they ‘can talk’ and ‘like music’; they’ll get ‘tonnes of snatch’. And, if reality gets corrupted again, and they can’t have it all,
‘We can always dream.’ - Murphy
At this line, T. Barry Armstrong has appeared on screen and points at us. We realise that this is the point: the better we dream, especially in a world of nightmares, the better we thrive. Finally, T. Barry’s own dream comes true: the Void is filled; the Robot from Outer Space is with us.
Wonderful as it would be to own an official DVD release of Two Idiots In Hollywood (as Murphy said, ‘We can always dream...’), it seems unlikely. But maybe I can help compensate for that by providing the equivalent of ‘deleted scenes’. The Two Idiots we know and enjoy was made from the sixth version of the script or later. The fifth draft, very kindly supplied to me by Rex Rotsko from the barbershop quartet, contains a lot that didn’t make it, expanding on many of the characters, and helping to explain some of the parts of the film that are lowest on continuity. So if you’d like to know about the Big Alligator Scene, about R. Taylor Curtis’ ‘moron’ wife, and even more of Loupenis’ pearls of wisdom, do read on!
We learn about Howie from Lynn, as she and Marianna wait in Taylor and Murphy’s flat: ‘Howie works with Murphy at the bottling plant and I see him sometimes when he come by [sic] to get Howie to go play Pac Man.’ The fifth draft also contains the start of Murphy’s telephone call to Howie from Hollywood, not just the end: Murphy spots the phone as soon as Taylor leaves with the stricken landlord.
Taylor explains to Marianna: ‘I work word processors... type. Temporary bull shit jobs. ...I mean ...when they call me, I work. But I try to stay in a lot.’ (In the film itself, we only find this out via Murphy’s comment to the landlord.)
The Alligator Farm Scene
T. Barry’s introduction scene leads into one where Taylor and Murphy have stopped off at an alligator farm in Arizona on their way to California. We see an alligator via stock footage.
TAYLOR: I had no idea there were so many alligator farms out here.
MURPHY: Oh sure, the further west you get the more alligator farms you got.
This would explain why Taylor wears an ‘Ed’s Gatorama’ T-shirt in Hollywood. Later, the film critics refer back to ‘the big alligator scene’, and show a clip.
Carlos Y de LaSantiago and the phoney credits
Between the end of the alligator farm scene and more from T. Barry, we see ‘phoney credits on four cards. The first card says: TWO IDIOTS IN HOLLYWOOD with MUPRHY’S and TAYLOR’s faces in the corners. MURPHY winks at us. Card two says CAST and lists seemingly thousands of names in unreadably small print. Card three does the same to the CREW. Card four says: Company Physician...Carlos Y de LaSantiago with the picture of a grinning latino man in a white suit.’
T. Barry and Todd
After the phoney credits, we’re back with T. Barry, who is interviewed by Todd to fill time, as Taylor and Murphy aren’t yet in LA.
T. BARRY: It all began when I went to see a production of “Julius Caesar”. I thought, ‘Damn, that’s good stuff...I want to do that to’ [sic]. So I became a writer. I began by writing real estate tracts for money and then I moved over into filmmaking by writing an action comedy movie about teenagers based on the movie “Porky’s Revenge.”
TODD: That was the one that almost got you sent to jail?
T. BARRY: That was all bluff. Lawyers are such horrible, horrible people. But that’s not the point. To be a part of this business is to continually be faced with personal rejection and absolute failure.
TODD: Well, you’re certainly the biggest failure I have ever known... *Barry looks at Todd.* I meant that in a good way.
T. BARRY: Thank you.
TODD: And I think the robot movie will be great.
T. BARRY: Thanks.
TODD: Maybe this time yuou’ll [sic] have a track record before you have a prison record.
T. BARRY: Fuck you!
TODD: Well, fuck you!
T. BARRY: Well, fuck you!
TODD: Fuck you. God, what an idiot.
*Todd leaves fairly amused.*
Man With Poodle
In the fifth draft, Man With Poodle - the one who says ‘How butch’ when he sees Taylor carrying the landlord - is called Gay Man I, and has a partner. They go into their apartment together.
Joc Jeremy’s radio
When Taylor puts on music for the landlord, Judy Garland is singing Over The Rainbow.
During the Action ‘music video’ sequence where Murphy drives through LA, we are introduced to Dan Skink in his backyard. He is practically comatose, and surrounded by people who are cavorting naked except for pots and pans. First a topless girl runs a hose on him. Then she moves jump leads towards his chest. ‘SFX of a terrible electric shock.’ Then we see Skink (with hair on end and smouldering head) in his bathroom, where topless women dress him in his clothes and corset. A clip of this scene can be spotted within the Two Idiots trailer.
In the fifth draft, the NBA Security Guards are named Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Has an even longer routine. At the end, Kareem and Magic are called in to drag him out.
His magazine is Soldier Of Fortune.
SKINK: What, son?
CHILD: Will there always be war?
*Dan contemplates sadly.*
DAN: I’m afraid so, son.
*Genuinly [sic] encouraged, THE CHILD LEAVES.*
Scene 78 in the 5th draft, set a week after the Boys From New York Scene, involves Joe Clarke and R. Taylor Curtis (from Star Search) sitting in Dan Skink’s ‘outer office’ (which includes ‘an open, unscreened toilet in the b.g.’), awaiting third and final auditions for The Pac Man Show. ‘R. TAYLOR’S WIFE, KAT sits on the floor. She is some sort of moron. There is a moment of tense silence. R. Taylor has a laugh-in-a-box machine and a portable rim shot machine to punctuate any jokes he may say.’ R. Taylor communicates with Kat using sign language, claiming he ‘learned it in the circus’, but tells Joe that ‘she’s not really deaf...she’s just...who knows.’ Kat takes bowling pins and a Devil Stick out of her husband’s shoulder bag, and starts to unzip his flies at the end of the scene. We see them again briefly in Scene 80. ‘Stop Kat! Stop! Stop!’
Joe’s Final Audition
This scene is slightly longer in the fifth draft. Joe answers questions about how he relates to the script (‘Well, to be perfectly honest I didn’t know how Pac Man would translate to a script ... but the sides were really good and seemed to have a through line that I could really follow’), and about his thoughts on the ghosts (‘It could be frightening and suspenseful or it could be really funny, depending on the approach’). We also find out that it was Winn Kaalsen who ‘suggested the restaurant scenes when we were trying to figure out how to stretch the game into a respectable hour format.’
Mentioned as the casting director of The Pac Man Show. Joe Clarke likes him: ‘He read very well with me. So many times you know, the casting director will just sit there and not give you anything to play off of.’ According to Mel Davis, ‘Stan gives alot.’
When Sergeant Albert meets Taylor, he asks whether Taylor knows Fergus and Dixie Dup from Columbus. Taylor says he doesn’t.
In Scene 84, Murphy has an entourage of people and dogs, who wait outside a toilet cubicle for him and laugh hysterically at his remarks.
ENTOURAGE MAN: Great, great! I love it. I love it!
ENTOURAGE WOMAN: You’re too much. Great idea. Great idea.
MURPHY: I got tons more like that one!
Morris Franklin is there too, suggesting his favourite tongue-twister, ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’, for the basis of a character (Murphy dismisses it as ‘too strained’), then joining Murphy to view the restaurant scene rehearsal (in the film, it’s Davis).
Dream Ballet (Scene 86)
During the Restaurant Scene Scene, Winn Kaalsen daydreams: the restaurant is the setting for a ballet, in which a scary Waiter defeats a goofy Pac Man; then a virile Winn lookalike jumps in and saves Sondra from the Waiter, before dancing off with her.
Pac Man Show dialogue
There’s one line from this part that gets missed out in the film: Joe says, ‘You can see through me, can’t you’, preceding Sondra’s line, ‘I think I can, but men like you scare me.’ Later in the scene...
JOE: “Thank you. New York tap water...best in the country.”
MURPHY (furious): That isn’t my line.
FRANKLIN: Network addition. It plays.
MURPHY: Oh. O.K.
In the fifth draft, Rose has arms and hands that move like snakes. No shark glove puppet.
The scene where Joe is fired (91) features Murphy ‘drinking a fancy drink out of a pinapple’ [sic] - an image that made it to the video case - and has more lines than the final version.
*JOE BOLTS UP FROM HIS CHAIR. HE is fuming*
JOE: I’m talking to my agent. I’m really pissed. I’m furious.
MURPHY: Hey, take it easy, jackass. You just got fired. It’s not like I murdered you or anything.
JOE: Eat shit!
*JOE STORMS OUT.*
MURPHY: The guy is a total Goon show.
Taylor in prison
In the fifth draft, this scene comes after Joe’s firing, not before. It’s longer too.
TAYLOR: And the D.A. will drop the charges?
LAWYER: Reduce them, yes.
TAYLOR: Where do I sign?
*LAWYER HANDS TAYLOR A PAPER OVER THE GLASS.*
LAWYER: Right here. The trial date is set.
*TAYLOR LOOKS OVER THE PLEAS BARGAIN and starts to SIGN IT.*
LAWYER: So, my boy, what do you do for fun?
TAYLOR: I go to the Wax Museum and work on impressions.
*TAYLOR HANDS BACK the signed form. The LAWYER SMILES as he LOOKS OVER THE FORM*
LAWYER: Do you do Cagney?
*TAYLOR, enthusiastic about his future, launches into Cagney.*
TAYLOR: “You dirty rat. I ain’t so tough. Top of the world, Ma, top of the world.”
*TAYLOR DOES CAGNEY-LIKE gestures as the LAWYER LAUGHS appreciatively.*
The Editing Room
After the scene with Taylor and the Lawyer come Scenes 93-95, with Murphy talking to the camera in the editing room at night.
MURPHY: Ah, the magic candle of film... and video tape. It is the dream. It is our dream. It is the collective unconsciousness of a generation. The Navaho’s [sic] called that first photographer “The Shadow Catcher.” That’s all I’m doin’... catchin’ shadows... that’s all folks. “That’s All Folks”... Daffy Duck said that. He was a dream too. The dream of the wild duck-
*An inset of T. Barry Armstrong appears in the corner of the screen.*
T. BARRY: Think about it.
*Murphy, who’d been sitting down, gets up and goes to look out a window at the city.*
MURPHY: We are all dreams and here is where dreams become real, Hollywood. It is the plate where food for thought is served, and I’m so happy to be a part of this great cafeteria.
[And then the film appears to break, the screen goes white, and it’s time for...]
The Film Critics
This segment is known as ‘Let’s Go To The Picture Show’ in the script. Loupenis’ second speech is longer than in the film, continuing beyond ‘empty little lives’...
LOUPENIS: Which is it?... the plight of the artist in society or man strutting and fretting, talking like an idiot? I don’t know. But, be that as it may, one might say our boys are “caught in the jaws of a dilemma” as this scene seems to symbolically indicate.
[Then comes a clip from the ‘Alligator Farm Scene’.]
ROBERT: As usual, you’re way too sentimental, Loupenis.
*CLOSE UP of LOUPENIS, smiling, but stung by this put down.*
*RETURN TO SCENE*
ROBERT: I felt the “Alligator Farm” scene was a weak attempt to open the film up to make it appear like it wasn’t shot in someone’s room. Which apparently it was.
*ACTION SHOT of LOUPENIS with TODD ARMSTRONG in the B.G. mouthing “It was.” “My room.”*
*RETURN TO SCENE*
ROBERT: More and more I’m finding a good movie is like a good steak... rare.
LOUPENIS: Remember Robert, there are scores and scores of people who traditionally perfer [sic] their meat well cooked.
ROBERT: And there’s also steak tartar.
LOUPENIS: Whatever. One of the bright lights of the film was an awkwardly inserted clip of T. Barry Armstrong’s new film “The Robot From Outer Space” [No clip is shown, but otherwise the scene continues as in the film.]
At one point, the entire courtroom calls Taylor a ‘HORRIBLE, SICK, DISGUSTING HIDEOUS CANADIAN!!’ At another, in response to Murphy’s testimony, all cry ‘Hang him! Murderer! Fag! Beast! Oh sick!’ and then ‘CALLOUS, INSANE, MURDER, OH NO!!’
Where in the film Judge Head 2 refers to hippies and beatniks, in the fifth draft he refers to ‘Jim and Tammy, Fawn Hall and now this.’
In the fifth draft, we have a goodbye from the Ghost of Joc Jeremy, and find out why the courtroom becomes empty (Scene 118):
GHOST: Time is short. I’ve got to go. Don’t live like shmoes.
*SHOT OF JOC JEREMY WALKING OUT OF THE COURTROOM IN SILENCE*
JUDGE HEAD 2: Wow! My life has changed! I think I’ll join the Sierra Club!
*The JUDGE RUNS out of the courtroom. Suddenly, EVERYBODY RUNS for the door.*
ALL: Me too! Me too! Wait for me!
At the end, ‘THIGHS CLOSE’, paralleling the opening thighs from the beginning of the script.