Bringing ''A Cool, Dry Place'' to the big screen -- Author Michael Grant Jaffe chronicles his journey to Hollywood and back

By Michael Grant Jaffe
Updated March 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

A Cool, Dry Place

  • Movie

The box arrived by overnight mail two years ago. Here was another example of how clothing can change a person’s life. Hidden beneath wads of crumpled packing paper was a black fleece jacket with the words A Cool, Dry Place stitched across its left breast in crimson-colored thread. This was the title Twentieth Century Fox had given the film version of my first novel. And the jacket, now unfurled against my kitchen table, was the earliest piece of evidence suggesting the producers were truly interested in making the movie. A burst of Midwestern logic rose through me like the residue of bad bratwurst: Surely these people would not have gone to all the trouble — and expense! — of having sportswear created for a movie that they had no intention of letting people see.

Would they?


While working as a reporter for Sports Illustrated, I spend my spare time writing a non-autobiographical novel, Dance Real Slow, about a single father raising his 4-year-old son in Kansas.

Before the book is published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, I take my first meeting with two Hollywood producers at the Paramount Hotel in Manhattan. They both blow feel-good clouds of smoke onto my nether region. One seems to have actually read the manuscript. Ultimately, Fox 2000 secures the movie rights for six figures.


Producers send me the first draft of Matthew McDuffie’s screenplay called A Cool, Dry Place, which was my original title for the book (it will be McDuffie’s first produced script). I am not prepared for the addition of a few unfamiliar scenes and the loss of some favorites. Also, the narrator’s deceased father has been granted new life, and the narrator’s name has been changed from Gordon to Russ. His girlfriend, Zoe, has been rechristened Beth. (I’m told it’s because McDuffie doesn’t believe people with those names would choose to live in the rural environs of Kansas.)

Because I have no prior experience reading somebody else’s interpretation of my writing, I behave the way anyone in my Timberlands would: I heave the freaking script against the wall. In fairness, McDuffie’s work is well received by those who matter. Producer Katie Jacobs, who senses my frustration, allows me to submit several pages of notes, then generously incorporates many of my suggestions into subsequent drafts.


Chris O’Donnell is named to play the lead. (”Oh, he’s terrific!” claims one Fox executive. ”Just perfect.”) But alas, the Boy Wonder’s real-life nuptials conflict with the movie’s potential shooting schedule, and he is dropped. (”Too young,” hoots the same person. ”Too over.”)

MAY 1997

I watch the movie Swingers after I’m told its star, Vince Vaughn, will be playing Gordon, um, Russ. Also attached to the project are Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Monica Potter (Patch Adams), and director John N. Smith (Dangerous Minds).

Episode Recaps

Soon thereafter, the folks at Fox send the Big Check (less option payments), which comes on the first day of shooting in Lindsay, Ontario.

A Cool, Dry Place

  • Movie
  • PG-13