Actor William H. Macy and his co-writer and director, Steven Schachter, brought a hotel front-desk-style bell onto the stage Sunday night to accept the best screenplay award for the TNT movie "Door to Door."
They had a point they wanted to make about a film that, despite initial rejection, had wound up as the biggest winner of the 2003 Emmy Awards — six in all, including best TV movie, best actor, writing and directing.
"We never in a million years thought we would win this," Macy said, a trifle embarrassed, "so we wrote this as a joke. And now it's all we have."
"Bear with us," added Schachter.
Macy continued: "We would like to thank the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, HBO" — and here he hit the bell — "I'm sorry, they put us in turnaround. TNT" — ding! — "oh, right, they passed on the project, but they did come back after HBO, and we're glad they did."
He and Schachter talked about the agents and producers who had also told them "no," ringing the bell a few more times as the audience inside the Shrine Auditorium — well-schooled in rejection — laughed knowingly.
Macy, 53, one of Hollywood's most respected character actors, bears a weathered countenance that has made him memorable as the henpecked car dealer in "Fargo," the guy who shoots his porn-actress wife in "Boogie Nights," the 1950s-era father in "Pleasantville" who grapples painfully with his wife's and son's nonconformity, the colorful radio horse-race announcer in "Seabiscuit."
Macy and Schachter studied under David Mamet while students at Goddard College in Vermont. "David taught us that the way to be correct in the large things is to be correct in the small things," Macy told an interviewer last year.
Initially, he thought "Door to Door" would have been an easy fit for a television movie. The story of Bill Porter, a door-to-door salesman who worked for Watkins Co. in Portland, Ore., for 40 years despite having cerebral palsy, had been told to much acclaim on ABC's "20/20." Porter, determined to make a living in sales like his father, took over a weak sales route and made it into one of the company's best.
Macy and Schachter had collaborated on a popular 2000 TNT mystery, "A Slight Case of Murder," for which Macy received an Emmy nomination for best actor. But to Macy's surprise, TNT passed on "Door to Door."
So they pitched it to HBO. "They bought it immediately," Macy said after Sunday night's Emmy ceremony. "But then when they saw the script, they said it was too 'soft,' which is code for 'Go away.'
"So then we took it back to TNT, and they had the foresight to move forward with it. We made fun of them tonight, but they really are a great place."
The film premiered in July 2002 to generally laudatory reviews and was one of TNT's biggest ratings hits of the year.
In March, Macy won a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance. And the film ended up getting the most Emmy nominations for a TV movie or miniseries this year with 12. It won two creative arts Emmys on Sept. 13 for makeup and hairstyling, then four more Sunday. Among the films it beat out in the best TV-movie category were "Normal," "My House in Umbria" and "Live From Baghdad" — all three produced by HBO.
Times staff writers Bob Baker and Greg Braxton contributed to this story.
Undeterred by slamming doors
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