This is just too weird. Three years ago, an Austin writer named Lawrence Wright penned a screenplay called Sonny's Last Stand about a group of Democratic state representatives who hole up in the Alamo for a few hours to break quorum and beat a bill they hate. Naturally, it was considered too unrealistic to be filmed.
"This is life finally catching up with art, isn't it?" said Port Arthur-bred G.W. Bailey (best known as Sgt. Rizzo on TV's "M•A•S•H"), who played a Machiavellian lobbyist at an Austin reading of the screenplay in 2000. "You thought it was obviously hyperbole, dramatic license, that it could happen — but it never would."
The 109-page script was inspired by the hyperbole and drama that have defined Texas politics; by the senators who hid out in a West Austin apartment to kill a bill in 1979; and by Rep. Mike Martin, who shot himself to try to win voter sympathy in the 1980s.
"If I tried to put into the screenplay things that really happen, it wouldn't be seen as plausible," Wright, a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine, said from his Tarrytown home Thursday. "In art, I had to tame it to make it more realistic."
He said his plot, with Democrats hiding out in the back of the Alamo for a few hours, was a lot less imaginative than the reality of 51 House members escaping to Oklahoma under the cover of darkness this week. For good measure, though, Wright laced his fictional quorum bust with some Hollywood-style schmaltz, sex and car chases. Start with the lead character, Rep. Sonny Lamb of West Texas, fathering a love child with feisty Rep. Angela Jackson of Houston, who was patterned after Rep. Dawnna Dukes of Austin.
"There were no gathering in my room at all this week . . . no affairs," Dukes swore from Oklahoma on Thursday, though she admitted to catching a glimpse of Rep. Rick Noriega in his underwear during a tornado warning.
Strangely, the lead in "Sonny's Last Shot" was played by an amateur Georgetown actor named Dan Gattis at the 2000 reading. Gattis is now a Republican state representative who wanted to bunk out on the House floor this week to show up the Democrats.
"When I have the thought of how this imitates the screenplay, I kind of grin," he said Thursday. "But the rest of me is not really happy about what's going on."