Doug Richardson’s first produced feature was the sequel to Die Hard, Die Harder. Visit Doug’s site for more Hollywood war stories and information on his popular novels. Follow Doug on Twitter @byDougRich.
A girl friend of mine had been clothes shopping at a Ventura Boulevard boutique when she heard a woman screech:
“Do you know who I am?”
Those six words strung together into that semi-famous phrase might be one of the most repugnant questions in the human experience. At least in my opinion. It is generally used by the famous and powerful as a last resort argument. Somewhere, somehow, the user is not getting his or her way with someone who is clearly not aware that he should’ve been on bended knee and kissing both ass or ring.
As it turned out, my girl friend knew the face, instantly identifying the offending young actress with a simple glance. Unfortunately for the comely sales assistant, she hadn’t a bloody clue that the famous pixie with the bad case of the me me me’s had recently starred in a short string of successful teen comedies. The circumstances that led to the actress feeling as if she wasn’t getting her due, followed by that six-word invective, remains a mystery. Yet the fact that it occurred—and still occurs every hour or so somewhere in Lalaland—is something that never fails to escape me.
Oh. Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand the why of it. Throughout history, the entitled class—those self-appointed and otherwise—have always found ways to put voice to their pettiness. What did Lord Actin say? Absolute power corrupts absolutely or something with the same resultant meaning. That said, I wonder what kind of success it would take to turn me into Monsieur Turd of the Month? Could I become such a loathsome self-licking ice cream cone that I myself might be found to unleash a do you know who I am?
And, hey. We all know it’s not just that one phrase. There are other equally distasteful versions.
Does that asshole know who I represent?
Obviously, that ungrateful bitch doesn’t know who I’m married to.
Excuse me, maybe you didn’t know my sister runs this movie studio.
The examples for self-entitlement go on and on. I’m sure you can think of more than a few to add.
I recall receiving a phone call from a huge producer I was developing a movie with. He opened the conversation without saying hello, complaining out-of-the-box about a movie star’s manager he was being “forced” to share credit with.
“Does he know who I am?” blasted the producer through my receiver. “Has he seen the movies I produced? Does he have a glimmer how much I get per Goddamn picture?” As if that wasn’t enough to convince me of his omnipotence, the producer topped his rant off with “I’m (first name withheld) fucking (last name withheld)!”
“Yes, you are,” was all I could think to say in the moment, still feeling soiled for having to validate the insufferable SOB in order to get on with our business.
Perhaps it’s the humility of being a screenwriter. But in those circumstances where I could’ve used it, I never have.
To wit, others have asked:
Why didn’t you tell them who you were? Or ask them if they had a clue? It would’ve been so much easier if you’d dropped a bomb.
The answer is because I’m not an asshole. Or to be more accurate, because I try not to be an asshole. I’m human. I fail as often as I succeed. In fact, I have, on occasion, been known to be called an asshole. I might even have been deserving. But still, dropping that six-word bomb is one of the ultimate asshole moves. Even if it were to mean I receive my desired short-term result. Because no way, no how, do I walk away without somebody calling or forever thinking of me as the asshole who said, “Do you know…”
Still. There’s that temptation. Not to ask do you know who I am? I’m not remotely close to famous. I have, though, written famous movies. And with that comes a certain cache beyond the tinted windows of Lalaland.
For example, for the sake of my Lucky Dey novels and other book and film research, I’ve spent miles of time with police officers. And I must say, no less than fifty percent of them have suggested to me that if and/or when I ever find myself jammed up with a traffic violation or worse, I find some way to drop a couple of my movies into the conversation. Especially Bad Boys and Die Hard 2. Cops love those movies and might be way more inclined to let me off with just a warning.
So far, I’ve never tested it. And why would I? In my mind’s eye, doing as much would land perilously close to vomiting up that do you know who I am? pile of offense.
More importantly—or karmically—I’m certain if I were ever weak enough to test it, it would backfire so spectacularly it would end up only proving useful for another amusing blog which ends with me getting a load of egg on my face.
Get Doug’s volume of Hollywood war stories in his new book
The Smoking Gun: True Tales from Hollywood’s Screenwriting Trenches