Tucked among warehouses and factories, an industrial area of the San Fernando Valley serves as the unlikely site of Zalman King's contemporary studio and production offices, King's popular erotic drama series, "The Red Shoe Diaries," was recently picked up by Showtime for 20 episodes.
King, writer-director of "Two Moon Junction," "Wild Orchid," and "Wild Orchid 2--Two Shades of Blue" began his career as an actor, starring in the 1970 series "The Young Lawyers," as the show's long-haired idealist.
King also wrote and produced "Roadie" and "Endangered Species," both directed by Alan Rudolph. Along with his wife, Patricia Louisiana Knop, King produced Mary Lambert's "Siesta." The couple then wrote and produced Adrian Lyne's "9 1/2 Weeks." King talked with Times Staff Writer N.F. Mendoza about "The Red Shoe Diaries" at his Valley office.
How did "Red Shoe Diaries" come about?
I came to Showtime with the idea for a film that would precede the series, which would be about a man, Jake (David Ducovney), who was madly in love and about to marry a woman who he thought he knew a lot about. After her death, he finds her diaries and learns the true story. Afterward, he's so hurt and doesnt understand, so he reaches out in an unusual way by placing an ad asking for women's diaries and hearing their stories.
Do you feel limited on the series?
They (Showtime) are very open so far and have been fantastic partners, and I don't expect that to change. They seem to feel comfortable with what would be an NC-17 rating. Showtime doesn't censor me at all.
Why do you think now is a good time for a show like "Red Shoe Diaries"?
I think it's the opportune time. People have suggested that because of AIDS and hesitation of going into new relationships, that maybe fantasy is a very good way to go and it may well be.
Was there an apprehension airing erotic programming or a soft porn show on Showtime, since shows like that had been limited to Playboy?
I don't consider this soft porn. I would just call it erotic filmmaking. They are very sexy and told strongly from the woman's point of view. The stories are fantastic and the themes are interesting and topical and strong pieces of drama. The eroticism is part of it, but since it's from the woman's point of view, its definitely a discovery that she's made by having the courage to live out a fantasy or coming out of being apprehensive in a relationship.
Do you see yourself doing more erotic-type projects?
Oh, definitely. I like eroticism, it's a great chemistry. I'm fascinated by the dramatic thrust of it. Like with "9 1/2 Weeks," the Kim Basinger character wakes up and finds out there's another person inside of her, a side capable of becoming addicted to sexual energy and to the presentation of the way the Mickey Rourke character treats her. She becomes addicted to it and it's shock and at first she can't get out, then she finally does. It becomes about using barriers or whatever it is that propels people in their sexuality and their drama that works within itself. That becomes the main thrust of emotion and suspense. In the "Red Shoe Diaries," women are going out and getting the courage to push past their fears. They are really morality plays in a sense, yet they're very sexual.
What other projects do you have in the works?
I'm going to be directing a feature, "Business for Pleasure." I'm producing a feature in Brazil right now, "Bocadeouro," with Rae Dawn Chong and Martin Campbell. Also, I'm working on a series called "Shooters" for Fox. It's a backstage look at a production company. I'm a shooter. Directors and photographers are shooters...,
What's ahead for "Red Shoe"?
We're going to do about seven shows in Paris and and one in Brazil. We'll be in France a couple of months and I'll take my feature ("Buisness for Pleasure") there and edit it while we're shooting. Episodes airing soon include "Jake's Story" where the narrator has a kind of reversal of the pilot where a woman seeks him out; "Weekend Pass" about an Army woman on leave and the man she meets; "The Gigolo and the Dominatrix or How I Met My Husband," which is a comedy and adorable; and "Midnight Bells" with Charlotte Lewis ("Golden Child"). It's very, very romantic.
"The Red Shoe Diaries" airs Saturdays after 10 p.m. on Showtime. New episodes debut every other Saturday. Episodes are often repeated after 10 p.m. during the week.