By: Anne M. Raso
Charlotte Kandel, former head of worldwide publicity for Warner Bros. Films, has gone the Jackie Collins route and published a novel based on her experiences in the weird and wacky world of Hollywood called The Summer Girl, A Movie Star Love Story. The protagonist is a PR intern named Lucy who falls for a movie superstar/director she is working with--and can't tell when he is acting or when he is being "real." We spoke to Charlotte about her foray into the world of novels (her last writing effort was the kids' book The Enchanted Riddle, part of the Silk Stockings series), and how much of her tell-all is really a peek at her former world.
Charlotte readily admits that some of the stars in her new book are based on superstars she loved working with on the job, including George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. (If that alone isn't enough to make you want to pick up The Summer Girl, we do not know what will!) For more info on Charlotte and her "Hollywood buzz book," go to www.summergirlbook.com or www.facebook.com/thesummergirl. The first 12 chapters are available free as an app at the Apple Store, and "hooked in" readers who needs to know how the story end just have to pay $2.99 for the rest of the book!
Q: How much of your own personal experiences as the head of PR for Warner Bros. Films are used for The Summer Girl?
CK: Absolutely all of it! Very early in the book we see Hollywood's most famous and toughest celeb publicist negotiating with "Newsbrief" for a client's cover story. The newsweeklies are the toughest and the most prestigious things to pull off. Every star wants one in a frame in their office, so the heat is ON. As one of the characters says, "It proves you're not just freaking celebrity fodder." In this case the superstar actor/director won't let a reporter into the editing room while he's working on his film. The magazine editor threatens this will kill the story. How to save the day? I hope my solution is funny and also informative! Another big scene happens at the Chinese Theater's hand and footprint ceremony. I ran several of those Hollywood legendary events, perhaps the most memorable being with an overwhelmed Al Pacino, who handed me his leather jacket, looked around him at the thousands of cheering people across Hollywood Boulevard and the three-story tiers of television cameras and said wonderingly, “Holy crap, this is incredible.”
Q: Is the character of Lucy based on a real intern that you had or knew?
CK: No, although I did have a lot of interns all around the world, the character of Lucy is actually based on me. The way I was when I first came to Los Angeles from New York and Minneapolis where I had been a theater publicist. Lucy's enthusiasm, work ethic, ambition and determination to fight for the job she most wants was how I was. In the book, Lucy's boss accuses her of being "naïve." The thing is, NO ONE could be prepared for Hollywood and its excesses. Whatever you've read about the movie business, I promise you it only scratches the surface. The REAL drama is behind the scenes and that's where I have attempted to take my readers.
Q: Do you think that PR people, especially interns, get involved with the celebrity clients romantically even though it is supposedly against protocol at PR firms/departments.
CK: I hope I'm not dashing any hopes here, but there's practically zero chance of this happening in real life. (That's why they call it fiction!) Interns are usually too low on the food chain to get anywhere near the stars in a real sense where they could be noticed. This is pointed out to Lucy at her job interview but what makes the difference in The Summer Girl is that the young star, Frank, and Lucy are both from Minnesota, both new to town. Lucy is shocked that Frank has even noticed her, still less that he asks her out. Ah, but what goes on in Frank's mind, I hope will surprise and shock.
Q: Do you see The Summer Girl becoming a whole series?
CK: I have to find out first if readers are interested in the premise and the characters. It could be possible.
Q: Now that you have left the movie business, what do you hope to do besides writing?
CK: Stress makes diamonds but it also makes ulcers! I exult daily in waking up only to stress of my OWN making, meaning that writing is also stressful but I love doing it and now there are no mean, bullying people in my landscape. I've exorcised them!
Q: Do you see this book as a film and who would you like to play Lucy and Frank?
CK: Having read so many screenplays as part of my job at Warner Bros., I guess I do think of everything I write in filming terms. I think it about my magical realism trilogy for younger girls, The Scarlet Stockings, and I certainly think it about The Summer Girl. There are two such GREAT, career-making parts for the hero and heroine. In terms of who might play them, I think perhaps Ashley Greene for Lucy and Chace Crawford for Frank. Besides both being gorgeous, they both project a kind of openness and vulnerability that I love.
I deliberately integrated real movie stars at points in the book; the ones I worked with and liked, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek. And NO, I'm not going to talk about the ones I didn't like!
Q: Are you getting your revenge on people who didn't keep their word with you at WB?
CK: Ah, revenge is sweet!
[Photos Courtesy Charlotte Kandel]