B R I E F   S Y N O P S I S
Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) has made a career out of his contagious bad luck. On the floor of Las Vegas' aging Shangri-La casino, his bad karma cools one gambler's lucky streak after another. Just days away from fulfilling his long-standing debt to Shelly (Alec Baldwin), Shangri-La's ruthless manager, Bernie meets Natalie (Maria Bello), a cocktail waitress who sweeps him off his feet. When Lootz makes plans to leave Las Vegas with the woman of his dreams, Shelly reveals his plan to keep them both under his thumb.
  Hard Luck Legacy
   
 

When Frank Hannah, my co-writer on The Cooler, sent me an email with the idea of a guy whose bad luck is contagious and is used by a Vegas casino to infect the winning streaks of high rollers, I immediately knew I had to write this script with him—and direct the movie. Not just because it was a great idea—which it was—but because I knew the guy was me.

I kid you not, but I come from a family that has been beset with bad luck for generations. As far back as I can remember, there has been a black cloud over people in my family. I don't know who we offended in a past life, but we are definitely karmically challenged. My father has been through so many different business ventures, we've all lost count. And he lost his shirt on all of them. In fact, he lost just about everything, including the family home. My mother has been stricken with almost every ailment under the sun. The two of them together don't even have one good eye. My mother has had several corneal transplants, with varied to little success. My father has always been severely near sighted—and in the last few years he's developed retinal pigmentosa, which is slowly rendering him blind. My mother is also the victim of a bizarre SARS-like lung disease, for which she has to be permanently on oxygen. My grandmother is a compulsive gambler, although she's never won a cent in her life. She's also lost a couple of husbands along the way. When my family flies, the airline invariably loses their bags. My uncle made several million dollars over the last few years—and then lost it all. He hid a huge chunk of cash in a safe in a closet in his home. Someone broke in and made off with the entire safe. My brother (who is forty years old) developed rectal cancer about two years ago. My sister's child was born anemic. I could go on, but I'm afraid I've depressed you enough.

What about me? Well, I was conscripted into the South African army at nineteen-years-old and my unit was sent to Angola to shoot a training video. We weren't supplied with malaria pills at the time and about two months later, out of a group of about ten soldiers, I was the only one to contract malaria. The strain I had was supposed to kill me or I'd recover completely—with no recurrences. I'd contracted it twice, and it almost did kill me the second time. I had the opportunity to direct a low-budget feature film in 1990. The first week of film was out of focus and to cut a long story short, the negative is still sitting in a lab in Burbank (I think!). Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Horribly. Like I said, I could go on...

I knew there had to be a way to end this bad luck streak, and I knew it had something to do with "coolers." Once upon a time, these guys really existed in Vegas. Their sole purpose was to kill a winner's lucky streak. They might appear at a craps table in the guise of an inebriated player, or a gorgeous blonde with too much cleavage, or a new dealer with a fresh deck... It was their role to change the winning rhythms of the table and turn them in the house's favor. I realized that I could have been em-ployed as a cooler in old time Vegas. Maybe my whole family could have gotten on the payroll. But how does a "cooler" stop becoming a cooler? In Bernie Lootz's (William H. Macy) case, it was the love of a sexy cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) that turns things around for him. I was already married to a wonderful woman (sorry, Jodi), but my bad luck was still holding steady. When Frank pitched me the idea for The Cooler, I knew I had found the answer. As Frank puts it, "The only sure way to make money in Vegas is to make a movie about Vegas." And that's what I was going to do. I was going to direct a movie about the world's biggest loser and exorcise several generations of rotten luck from my psychic aura. Easier said than done. But four years later the opportunity presented itself. With a catch, though. I would only have twenty-one days to make the film, with very little money and no completion bond.

I would also be working with a cast of some of the finest actors in Hollywood. It could all go wrong. Horribly wrong. Just like that other time...

Okay, the fact that I'm writing this suggests things pretty much worked out in my favor. But anything can happen between now and November when The Cooler opens in theaters. I've already suggested to Lions Gate, the film's distributor, that they might want to hire some armed guards to protect the negative over the next few months. I don't want to sound alarmist, but that's some pretty strong negativity I've left behind. For now, the cooler is off the clock. But that doesn't mean he isn't looking over his shoulder...

   

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