“WHAT THE F**K WERE YOU DOING?”
That was, aside from a few slight variations, the opening line that began Jake’s phone calls from the movie producers, executive producer, director, co-star, his agent, film studio head and his accountant. Helen was the only one to see the bright side:
“Jake, honey, how are you doing?… Yes, of course I did… Oh, don’t worry about him, darling. He has no vision or creativity, he’s just a bored old man with a big wallet. You are Jake Rosethorn, honey, and right now they need you more than you need them… Well, that’s what they say, dear, but they take their cues from the audience, and the audience is going to love this… Oh, I will. Just wait until I work my magic. You’ll be bigger than ever. I just need you to do me a little favour…”
At Helen’s request (she knew how to persuade) Jake revealed his struggle with alcoholism and shared of his recent stay in rehab. He revealed it during a one-hour live special, the third-highest rating television event of the year.
The First Return made a fortune.
Big offers started rolling in. Anything would do, according to the studios, so long as Jake Rosethorn was the star. Offer him an extra twenty million, whatever it takes. Among the phone calls and emails and letters was an offer from a small-time independent film director. He wanted to make Jake’s movie, the one he made up on the spot when he appeared on an Australian morning television show three months ago. The love story set during World War I, with the brothers and the bombs and the lifeboat. The one that didn’t make much sense. Jake read the letter. They had a screenplay. They had a tiny budget. They were ready to shoot immediately. They could not pay him even ten per cent of his usual asking price. As he read, the light shone brightly.
Jake’s phone rang like a cold shower. It was his agent. Righteous Carnage II: Scales of Justice. Reprise the role of Max “Steel Fist” Grady. Six months work. Fifty million dollars. Jake was unsure. His agent knew the industry, the ups and downs, the timing. Always the timing with him.
“You’ll get your chance, Jake,” he said. “But do this one first. Trust me.”
The light flickered.
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