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In the decade between the publication of Falling Angel, and the release of Alan Parker’s film, I wrote two screenplays based on my novel. The first was for Robert Evans at Paramount. My friend Dick Sylbert, the production designer, took the book’s manuscript to Evans and the two were partners on the project. John Frankenhiemer was set to direct. After Paramount’s option expired, Robert Redford appeared out of nowhere and I did a couple drafts for him. Even with Bob behind the script, studio executives weren’t interested. “Why can’t it have a happy ending?” every bigshot demanded.
In 1979, I worked with Brian DePalma on a treatment for a Houdini bio pic that went nowhere. Ray Stark didn’t buy our take on the magician. Brian liked Falling Angel. “Know how I’d do your book?” he said one day. “I’d shoot the whole thing in New Orleans. It’s got the look. It’s got the jazz. It’s got the voodoo. And it’s cheap!” I passed this suggestion along to Alan Parker over lunch in London six years later and it seemed to click. Parker wrote an excellent script and went on to make a memorable film. Casting Robert DiNiro as Cypher was a brilliant touch. I’m glad Parker kept New York at the beginning. For me, it will always be a New York story.