Earl Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter
The horses he rode in on

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Earl Mac Rauch
Earl Mac Rauch

Notes on Earl Mac Rauch:

- Compiled and with a few editorial asides by ye humble editor, ArcLight -

(from Starlog, July 1984, #84; interview of Earl Mac Rauch by Lee Goldberg)

... He wrote his first novel while in high school, stuck the manuscript in a box and took it with him when he went to Dartmouth.

"That book was something in the Catcher In The Rye vein - the kind of thing every teenage writer does at first. Unfortunately for me," he laments, "it ended up being published. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I felt something exciting would come along next. I mean, college was exciting, not that I was too active. I kept to myself, sent off my book, and started another."

In 1969, Dirty Pictures From The Prom, Mac Rauch's first novel, was published. No one was more surprised than he.

"Suddenly, I thought, 'Ah-ha! I'm a serious writer!' I started taking myself very seriously. Who needs college? I'm a writer," he says. "But I was stuck there for four years.

"I would enroll in a course but stay home and work on my novel. A week before finals, I would cram. College, in a way, was a wasted experience. I took few courses, made few friends. I enrolled at the University of Texas Law School, not knowing what else to do. It was either go to school or look for a job. I felt someone should support me while I wrote. In this case, it was my parents by way of law school."

His second novel, Arkansas Adios, came out the summer he entered law school and was read by a Dartmouth graduate living in California, W.D. Richter.

"He was three years ahead of me, going to USC Film School. He read a review of my book in the Dartmouth alumni magazine and wrote asking if he could do a screenplay from it. At the bottom of the letter, he added, 'If you are ever out this way, give me a call,'" Mac Rauch recalls. "I took him up on it, met his agent and through him, got started. Rick has really been my mentor."

Novel writing was forgotten.

"A seduction took place," Mac Rauch explains. "Novel writing is such a lonely pursuit. Then, the book comes out and there's no support behind it. It disappears in a matter of months and you wonder why you worked so hard.

"If you can live off the ego trip of having a novel published and getting good reviews, I guess it's a good way to stay alive. It is a pure way; you have integrity. It's wonderful, it's artistic and blah-blah-blah. I couldn't see that life for me, especially with the kind of novels I was writing, ones which didn't have a prayer of ever becoming bestsellers. It simply became an ego thing.

"The day-to-day process of screenplay work allows you to get by. There are story meetings, you interact with people, and you get well paid for all of it. A movie may never get made, but at least you're adequately compensated."

(from Marvel Super Special Vol. 1, No. 33; interview of W.D. Richter by James Burns)

Richter tells how he got involved with Earl Mac Rauch and Buckaroo:

In the early seventies...

...Richter and his wife read a review of Dirty Pictures From the Prom, a debut novel from another Dartmouth grad, in their alumni association's newsletter. Richter bought the book, liked it, and decided to send its creator a fan letter.

Dirty Pictures From the Prom's author was Earl Mac Rauch.

Richter recalls, "I wrote, 'I think you're a terrific writer. If you're not happy doing what you're doing, come to Hollywood and try movies, because there really aren't that many good writers out here.' It turned out that, after Dartmouth, Mac had dropped out of law school, and was selling finance contracts for mobile homes in Texas. He took me up on my offer."

At one of Rauch's first dinners with the Richters, "He told us about Buckaroo Banzai (at the time, called Find the Jetcar, Said The President - A Buckaroo Banzai Thriller - ArcLight). Even though Mac's plot and characters were just in a beginning, sketchy phase, Susan and I were immediately attracted to Buckaroo's irreverence, and the concept of a multitalented hero who's always off on an unlikely adventure. We decided to subsidize a Buckaroo Banzai screenplay. I didn't know if I would direct it back then, though. I wasn't sure of what the project's future would be anyway. As strange as Buckaroo Banzai may seem today, ten years ago, it would have been impossible to explain to a studio how it could be successfully shot and marketed. I realized that funding Mac might just be an exercise in buying a very expensive story that I wanted to read, but my other, perhaps even more important impetus, was that I wanted to help him get started in the movie business."

Consequently, with the Richters' input, Rauch wrote several Buckaroo Banzai adventures. (Including The Strange Case of Mr. Cigars, which, according to Mac Rauch "was about a big, huge, King Kong-size robot, some big secrets, some exotic locales and Hitler's cigars. It was crazy." - ArcLight)

"Mac would get thirty or forty pages into a script, abandon its storyline, and start a new one," Richter says. "The plots involved several different nemeses from our present film, including the infamous Hanoi Xan, Boss of the World Crime League... Many of the characters, like Perfect Tommy and Rawhide, weren't created until later drafts. Members of the Hong Kong Cavaliers that Mac did include, as well as other roles, were eliminated or developed differently. Buckaroo, for instance, wasn't always half-Japanese.

"Mac just thought that the film was too outrageous to ever be sold," Richter explains. "He never showed those partial scripts to a studio, and let his inspirations carry him wherever they led. And, thought Mac is a brilliant writer, he's also a bit unorganized. If I hadn't kept copies of his various Buckaroo storylines, they'd have been lost."

Despite Rauch's occasional carelessness ("He once sold a car with his only copy of an original screenplay under the seat," the director notes), Richter's gambit eventually panned out. After a short while in Los Angeles, Rauch started receiving screen assignments regularly, including Martin Scorcese's New York, New York and, more recently (bearing in mind this was printed in 1984. - ArcLight), A Stranger Is Watching.

W.D. Richter
W.D. Richter
Image copped from Rafterman's amazing disappearing Banzai Institute page

Notes on W.D. Richter:

- Compiled and with a few editorial asides by ye humble editor, ArcLight -

(from Marvel Super Special Vol. 1, No. 33; interview of W.D. Richter by James Burns)

...Prior to Buckaroo Banzai, Richter had served in the film industry for over a decade, as a screenwriter.

...Richter...kept busy, penning such movies as Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, Dracula (the Frank Langella version), and Brubaker (an Oscar nomination). By 1980, his credits were strong enough to prompt Hollywood to give him a chance to direct. So that he wouldn't "solely be a director for hire" and could cultivate his own projects, Richter formed a production company, with Neil Canton (a former assistant to Peter Bogdonavich and Walter Hill).

The first film the due elected to pursue was Buckaroo Banzai.

...Richter confides he that he wouldn't be adverse to making another Buckaroo Banzai movie, as long as the conditions surrounding it's production were the same as on the present film: essentially, "the cooperation and enthusiasm of everyone" involved. He also points out, however, that "nobody would be interested" in additional Buckaroo films unless the first is popular.

(I'm going to add more, honest, but most all my TABB stuff is packed away at the moment. If anyone wants to pitch in, drop me a line. In the mean time, I didn't want to leave him out. - ArcLight)

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