Mariane Pearl sat in the back of the candle-lit restaurant in West Los Angeles. She had walked in and was immediately ushered to a hidden table for six around a tiled partition, clearly set up for private meals and meetings. She though was sitting at the table for fifteen minutes, all alone, sipping a green tea and wondering if this was going to be one of those typical Hollywood meetings where the movie stars are late and everyone waits, sitting on their hands, having small talk simply to fill the dead space until the stars arrive. Mariane, though, had no one to try out small talk with. Alone, is what she was, very much alone since her husband, Daniel Pearl, was brutally kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan. She had written her book, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl to keep herself busy, to diminish the feeling of loneliness, an attempt to bring back Danny if just in her mind as she reconstructed her husband's life.
Mariane was surprised when the book was immediately picked up and it sold well. She immediately became a minor celebrity, calls from agents about appearances, speeches, fund-raising events and of course movie deals. It was the call from Jennifer Aniston, a direct call, a personal call, with Jennifer on the other line, calling Mariane on Mariane's cell phone, that was the biggest surprise. Jennifer read the book and wanted to buy the movie rights. They met on several occasions, Jennifer Aniston and Mariane Pearl, at restaurants, at Jennifer's house, at Mariane's house, at business offices, and all along Jennifer was very upfront about why she was interested. Jennifer Aniston wanted to play the role of Mariane Pearl in the movie based on her book.
Mariane was of course flattered. Jennifer Aniston playing her. The thought was both amusing and at times difficult to wrap her arms around. Not that Jennifer Ansiton couldn't do it. It was just that anyone playing Mariane, particularly someone so beautiful and charismatic and famous as Jennifer Aniston, was difficult to fathom. Someone other than you playing you was like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else. Or was it like watching yourself, an act of narcissim that Mariane did not wish to grapple with. Afterall, this happened all the time. So she had decided to let it happen. Jennifer Aniston would be Mariane Pearl. At least in a movie.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walked around the partition, both dressed very casually, hidden by sunglasses and scarves. Mariane was surprised to see Angelina Jolie. Mariane thought that she was simply meeting Brad Pitt.
"Sorry we're late," said Brad.
"It's OK," said Mariane.
A waiter arrived.
"Just a cappucinno for me in a paper cup," said Brad.
The waiter looked at Angelina, who shook her head in silence.
"This is Angelina. Angelina this is Mariane Pearl," said Brad.
"Hi," said Angelina.
"Hi," said Mariane.
"I have some very exciting news, Mariane," said Brad.
"Yes?" said Mariane.
"We are proceeding with the movie. Michael Winterbottom is directing. I'm producing. We are starting right away with development," said Brad.
"Great," said Mariane.
"A minor change. Well, actually a big change, one that helps the film enormously. Angelina is going to play you," said Brad.
"Angelina? But I thought--" said Mariane.
"Jennifer is no longer involved. But that is OK. It is all good," said Brad.
"But I was just talking to Jennifer, I don't know, maybe three weeks ago. She was doing some research," said Mariane.
"Brad, I said it would be better if--" said Angelina.
"No. It is important that you are here. Mariane, this is a crazy business. Things never proceed as originally planned. Usually things fall apart. But you are lucky. You are very lucky. Rather than fall apart, your book, Danny's life and your life will all come together in a movie starring an actor with even better credentials. It is all good, and I promise you this will move forward and be a major motion picture," said Brad.
"I don't know. I feel funny about this. I feel bad," said Mariane.
"Yes, but frankly, Mariane, you really don't have a say in casting," said Brad.
"Oh shut up Brad, of course she has a say," said Angelina with a slight smile on her face. "Mariane, I have read your book several times, and it has become very important to me to become a part of this project. As you no doubt know, I have dedicated much of my life to traveling the world and to purposely involving myself in causes for the underprivileged, the poor, the sick. I have used my celebrity as best I can to help others, rather than squander it on a Hollywood lifestyle. And to me, the fact that you and Danny did not have the resources at your disposal as I do, you nevertheless still dedicated your lives to others. That astounds me, that you and Danny would give so much of yourselves when you did not have much in the way of money or wealth or command of the media. I sit here in awe of you and of your late husband, and I would consider it a privilege, indeed an honor, to play the role of your life. In fact, I hunger to do so because it is a story that must be told," said Angelina.
Mariane was not stupid. She felt she was being played, and Angelina was playing her like a deck of cards. But quite frankly, Angelina seemed sincere. Now of course she might be simply acting. Afterall, she is an actress. But the energy between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt disturbed the air around the table with a narcotic that almost made Mariane giddy. Maybe Mariane was being played, but she felt high from it all.
"I am very flattered that you would say all that. But I still feel uncomfortable about the Jennifer thing," said Mariane.
"Of course you do. Anyone would. But you know the things that have happened. Jennifer no longer has any interest in the production company, Brad's Plan B production company, that purchased the rights to your book, and to put it bluntly, and I think you know this all too well, shit happens," said Angelina.
Mariane looked at Angelina who was returning the look. Brad had long since sat back in his chair sipping his cappuccino that was served almost immediately after he ordered it. Brad was out of the equation, at least for this meeting. Angelina’s “shit happens” remark was her way of communicating that this is the way it is, and there is nothing Mariane can do about it. Nevertheless, it almost added to the narcotic effect of the moment to watch Angelina Jolie say “shit happens.”
"Well, OK. I guess," said Mariane.
"I knew you would understand. And you know we are going to be spending a lot of time together. I have to get to know you. I've got to know you to play you," said Angelina.
Mariane could not help but think that this little meeting had already started to instruct Angelina about Mariane.
"One thing, though, Mariane, and this is very important. You must drop the Jennifer Aniston thing when asked by the media, and you must enthusiastically support the decision of casting me in the movie. If the media starts to give us bad press, then this project will fall apart. That is not a threat, it is just Hollywood for you. It sucks, but money comes and goes so fast, and everyone is skittish about everything. You understand," said Angelina.
"Yes," said Mariane.
"I've got to go. Brad," said Angelina as she stood. "You guys talk, fill Mariane in on the timing and everything," said Angelina to Brad. "It was great meeting you," said Angelina as she turned and walked out into the hot Los Angeles late afternoon sun.
"You want a drink?" asked Brad Pitt.
Alone with Brad Pitt in the back of a fancy Los Angeles restaurant. This was all set up to seal the deal. The girls came to terms, and now the guy is going to make certain it all proceeds in accordance with the plan. Plan B, that is.