Ken Levine is an Emmy winning writer/director/producer/major league baseball announcer. I picked this story up from his blog.
We wrote the first draft five years earlier (so far this is a typical Hollywood story). The movie centers around a preppy Yalie who ducks a gambling debt and winds up in the Peace Corps. Hilarity ensues (at least on the page). Sargent Shriver, then the head of the Peace Corps, read it and said it was like spitting on the flag. I knew we were onto something.
The producer asked whom we thought might be good to star and we suggested this guy who at the time was in Bosom Buddies on ABC – Tom Hanks. The producer scoffed. Tom Hanks couldn’t get a movie made.
We were at the same agency as Tom so for grins and giggles we sent him the script anyway. He loved it but reluctantly agreed the producer was right.
Flash forward a few years. Volunteers has gone through two studios, two directors, and nine drafts. HBO/Tristar greenlights it. Time to look for stars.
Tom had just done Splash. It was a huge hit. He was the Will Ferrell-of-the-month. Offered every project in town. He couldn’t find anything he liked (even Bachelor Party II). So he said to his agent he had read a project about the Peace Corps several years back. What about that one? The agent said he would try to track it down but without even knowing the title it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
One hour later the agent gets a call from our producer. Would Tom be interested in a Peace Corps movie? The agent almost fell on the floor. He said to messenger it right away. We did. Tom skimmed it, recognized a Margaret Dumont joke we had in there, said “Yep, this is the one” and a half hour later the deal was closed.
Pretty cool, huh?
The person really responsible for making this deal happen was Cupid because it was on Volunteers that Tom met his wife, Rita Wilson.