A BURROUGHS BIBLIO-PRO-PHILE
The Story Behind the Creation of a Script by a Tarzan Fan
ERB fan Bruce Meyer has written an intriguing Tarzan script. He is currently going through what most ERB fans know is an almost impossible task -- first, of getting it read at the ERB, Inc. offices -- and secondly, having it approved as a sanctioned/licensed Tarzan property. Bruce has shared the story behind the creation of his Tarzan story which features an older Tarzan and the adventures of his grandson, Tarxan.Bruce and Krista Meyer
2007 Burroughs Convention, Louisville
This story began while my wife, Krista, and I were on our honeymoon. We were taking the train to Miami, Florida. While we were enjoying our trip, I was talking of my childhood.
I was five years old, and was playing in the backyard one day, when my mom came out and told me about a movie that was going to be on TV that afternoon. This was back in 1959, when TV screens were still round and black and white, only 2 or 3 channels. As best as I can recall, it was the first movie I ever saw. The movie was Tarzan, starring Johnny Weissmuller.
What an exciting movie it was for a little boy back then. There were crocodiles, lions, elephants and even a rhino. And of all these there was Tarzan, the King of the Jungle, with his mighty yell, which even the animals listened to and were commanded by.
After that, any time there was a Tarzan movie on, I watched it. Tarzan had become my boyhood hero.
So as the train click clacked its way through Florida, I told Krista about how when I was in my early teen aged years I came across the books about Tarzan, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read them all, over and over again.
I told her how sometimes I would take my Tarzan book and climb high up into an old oak tree by the elementary school playground. I had a favorite place in that old tree were I could arrange myself in a comfortable position and read as I silently sat and watched people pass directly below me, never knowing that they were being observed. This was one of my favorite places in the whole world. I would sit and read for hours.
So, we arrived in Miami and spent the night there. The next morning we got up and enjoyed a light breakfast and then went to pick up our rental car for the rest of our trip. We were going to drive through the Florida Keys to spend a few days in Key West and Key Largo. It was a trip I had wanted to take for many years. It was a very exciting feeling.
We took a short walk to the rental agency, where we were told that it would be about another half an hour before the car would be ready. We decided to take a walk around the area while we were waiting.
Our walk took us a few blocks down the street into a very artsy area in South Beach. We walked into a small store that sold statues. We separated for a few minutes as we both just walked around the store, killing time. I was looking at a small figurine of a young American Indian girl, when Krista called out to me, “Bruce, come look at this.”
I went over to where she was and there right in the center of the store was a statue, about 6 feet tall, of a young lad sitting on a tree limb reading a book. It was amazing. “Just like you were telling me”, Krista said. Then I looked over the boys shoulder to see what book he was reading. I was shocked! I looked at the opened book on the boys lap, and there was engraved on the open pages a picture of Tarzan standing out on a high tree limb, looking out over the African plains at all of the various wild life. Then I stooped down to where I could see the cover of the book. Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs!
We were both spell bound. How could it be? I walked all around the statue, looking as it were at myself, frozen in bronze in a moment in time. How could such a thing be possible? But it was true. Krista and I just could hardly find words. The moment was just so surreal.
To this day it still hardly seems possible. How could it be? At such a time in my life. Starting as it were, a new life, with my new wife, on our honeymoon, the car being a little late. Just passing away a little time, yet suddenly I felt as if my entire life had been observed by One who wanted me to know it. How could some one have even been motivated to make such a statue? How could it be here at such a moment? How could I be standing here looking at it? Yet, it is so.
So this has become the motivation in my life. It is a true story. I have asked myself, what I should do about this. Is it just a fascinating story that I take out of my memory now and then to tell people? I have asked many friends if they have ever had such an experience. None have. But all agree that it must be for some reason.
Since that time the story that follows has been forming in my mind, taking hold, becoming clearer. I do not know what may come of it. I am a man of modest means and talents. But I feel that I just can not squander such an event, there must be something to be made of it all.
“Maybe You wanna make a Movie” What?!
After coming home from our honeymoon, the amazement of seeing the statue of the boy in the tree reading his Tarzan book would not leave me. How could it?
But I did not know what to do about it. You see, I am not a writer. Truly my typing speed is so slow as to make even a few lines a torture. My fingers just can't go as fast as my mind.
I had thoughts of a good Tarzan story starting to form in my mind with a real cool intro as a book. But my first introduction to Tarzan as a boy came from Johnny Weissmuller’s mighty yell, and somehow or other I began to feel that what I really wanted to do was make a movie.
Yea, right. What the hell do I know about making a movie? Answer of course is nothing. So starting from there I knew that I had the advantage of the audacity of ignorance. You see, I have never once thought since the idea began to form that it was impossible, for the impossible thing had already happened when Krista and I saw that statue. Now, that was impossible.
So I began to let the idea form in my mind of a format but I just could not get hold of how to begin. I had the ideas but no structure.
About a year ago, it was on a Friday afternoon, right at lunch time. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. I had a pot of tomato soup going on the stove. The TV was on and I was talking to Krista on the phone. I told her that I was thinking about writing a Tarzan movie.
One of the things that I Love most about Krista is that the thought, “see, it can be done” is active in her mind. When I told her that I wanted to write a movie she didn't scuff or laugh. She didn't tell me all of the reasons why it couldn't be done. She said, “You should call Marvin Chernoff. I bet he can tell you what you should do.” Then she gave me his cell phone number and hung up. I wrote the number down on a napkin. I was thinking that I would give him a call on Monday or Tuesday the next week, not wanting to bother him on a Friday with some kind of “nut-job” idea of wanting to make a Tarzan movie. (Yea right, go climb back up your tree and eat a green banana, and smoke the peelings.)
So I was sitting there watching CNN with Marvin’s phone number right next to me, trying to tell myself all of the reasons why I shouldn't bother Marvin about this when that crazy Dennis Hopper from “Apocalypse Now” came on the TV with a commercial about Flower Power from the sixties was gone man. And what do you want to do next with your life! Then he said, “MAYBE YOU WANNA MAKE A MOVIE!”
I was rocketed back into my chair! What did he say? My TV was talking to me! I almost could not stop laughing. I half expected to see a freaking burning bush sitting on the stove, but that was just my tomato soup that I had forgotten about.
I picked up the phone and called Marvin right then! Wouldn't you?
Now Marvin is a kind of cool older guy that is retired from the advertising business and is active in the promoting of the arts in Columbia S.C. He is Krista’s friend from years past. He married Krista and me in our backyard wedding ceremony.
At first Marvin did not remember who I was, but his mind was quickly refreshed and without telling him why, I asked him if he could have breakfast with me the next Tuesday? He was cordial to the idea and asked if we could get together at the Clarion Hotel which I agreed to.
That Tuesday morning I walked into the lobby of the hotel wondering what to say. I had no idea if Marvin would be able to give me any direction or not. We met and sat down and ordered coffee. Then I began by telling him about seeing the statue of the boy in the tree reading his Tarzan book. Like I said earlier, Marvin is very involved with the arts. He thought that the story was amazing. Then I told him that I was thinking about a movie.
He sat back in his chair and looked at me. “I wouldn't know where to tell you to begin” he said. But then he began telling me about some work he was going to begin working on soon for raising awareness of the genocides in Africa, people that he was meeting with and such. Then he said to me, “you should go get a movie script and read it”.
This was a kind of beginning. Along the way as I have told people about my story I am always aware of the words, “you should”. I know that for such a thing to transpire there must be the collaboration of ideas. Marvin’s was the first of quite a few, “you should's”, and I did what he said.
I did not feel that I had the time to take a course in script writing or such things. This story was developing new ideas in me daily and I had to get writing soon or I felt that the opportunity would pass me by.
I considered for a few days what script to read. I wanted to read a winner. A pure out of the blue winner. Only one film hit the mark. “Rocky!” Stallone went from no where to icon in one shot! So now that I had picked out a winner, the trick was seeing if I could get hold of the script.
I went to the local Lexington County Library and filled out a request card. “Doubt we can get this.” Perhaps at the very least the movie on tape was the response. A few days later I received a recorded call from the Library informing me that my request was in. I went there expecting to get a video tape but, Tah Dah! They actually had gotten hold of one of the first one hundred bound scripts from the University Of South Carolina Arts and Films library.
Holding that book in my hands was so cool. Then I began to read it, page after page, flipping back and forth between scenes and ideas. I read the script while I watched the movie. It felt like I was taking a video class on screen play writing from Sly himself.
I kept the script for three weeks.
Shortly after I had read the “Rocky” script the newest movie “Rocky Balboa” came out on DVD and I purchased it. Having just spent three weeks immersed in “Rocky” it was so cool to see how Stallone had interconnected small players from his first movie into bigger roles in his new film. For instance, what is the connection between the boxer “Spider” in both films? Had I not just seen the two films back to back while reading the script I would have completely missed a point that I felt was important to Stallone.
I don't claim that my story idea is an Oscar winner, but I do think that with the right people and the right publicity that it could be the best Tarzan movie made in more than a quarter century perhaps longer.
I wonder if Sylvester Stallone even considered writing such a duet of scripts when he first wrote Rocky. I doubt it. But it was so cool to see how he blended the two lives together. Younger to Older.
Growing old is one of life's biggest fears. I have a few older friends. I have sat with old friends and held their hands as they pass away. It is the most intimate of time. To sit alone with an old friend and to hear their words as they bring meaning to their life is the most precious thing we can do. They tell you of their pains and their losses, for sure. But almost always, even in their last days, they will speak of their hopes. Hope is a powerful thing.
In my story, Jane in her dying moments expresses a hope for Tarzan and his grandson to be reunited. She knows in her woman's soul that without her in his life her giant hero, Tarzan will lose purpose in life.
This is a movie for young and old. Grandparents will want to come see it with their grandchildren. By showing scenes from Tarzans of the past it can create a kind of museum tour of Tarzan history.
Tarzan is a hero. Those of us who grew up watching, reading and playing Tarzan know this. His character is of a caliber to aspire to. Yet, he is human and in truth humans age. With age comes maturity and wisdom and who better to pass this on to then a grandson who has already proven his own heroism in combat, under fire. [By the way young vets will love this movie too. I know, my son is one, and he and his buds get quite stoked about this movie when he tells them about it. He has some ranger friends that would love to be in it. They are a crazy crowd.]
This is a movie about Heroes! Heroes that are strong in mind, body and character. Not heroes that are flying around on brooms and making magic potions and casting spells. But heroes that are doing real human things, experiencing human feelings and enduring human losses. Enduring and then overcoming by finding purpose and reason to hope.
Tarzan is the Hero!
Since that time the story that follows has been forming in my mind, taking hold, becoming clearer. I do not know what may come of it. But I feel that I just can not squander such an event, there must be something to be made of it all.
So I have written this story about Tarzan and his grandson, Xan, who becomes Tarxan. It is my hopes that this story could become a movie for people of all ages to watch and enjoy. I have taken elements of the original Tarzan character and story along with some familiar Hollywood ideas, such as Cheetah to create a story that is humorous as well as exciting.
I have begun work on two other story lines to follow this which will lead Tarxan, the grandson, into further African adventures with his grandfather Tarzan of the Apes. He has grown up well in America but still he had lost his parents. He experiences loss of friends in combat. When he comes to Africa to visit with his grandfather he is in as great of need of healing as is his grandfather, Tarzan. Together they bring purpose to each others lives and Jane's hope is fulfilled.
Bruce and Krista with Denny "Tarzan" Miller and wife Nancy
Reading Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar while on a camping trip