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Marquardo studies the letter and shakes his head. He says venomously, "I don't mind paying him $7 million, but who the fuck does he think he is with this "pay or play'?"
Marquardo snorts derisively. He isn't doing it for Seagal. In fact, he announces, he wouldn't do it for anybody. "It's just not good business," he explains. "If you have a solid project, with investors and distributors agreeing to go, it doesn't make sense. We have that kind of a deal. The star isn't out anything, either."
According to Marquardo, only a few actors "at the top of the A list" could ask for that deal, and Seagal isn't one.
Steamroller is Seagal's production company, and Marquardo is reaching out to Steamroller's executive director, Phil Goldfine, who represents Seagal. A quick argument ensues as soon as Goldfine picks up the phone. Marquardo's expression darkens, his voice bridles, he tells Goldfine that pay or play is out, absolutely out, as an option. Then he lectures Goldfine about mixed messages -- one message from Seagal agreeing to do the film and backed up by a letter; another message from Goldfine.
"I shouldn't be talking to different people who are giving me different answers, Phil, you know that. You know that -- so you resolve it with your client. I happen to know you guys are at a disadvantage and Steven has a habit of not keeping you guys in the loop. I can't have Steven telling you one thing and [me] another. Really, Phil, you and your client should get it together. You don't have it together right now."
The two men agree to a conference call the next day. Marquardo slams down the receiver and smiles. "We'll get him," he brags optimistically, "but we won't do "pay or play.' And if it isn't him it will be somebody else. [Richard] Gere's next on the list."
Anticipating the unspoken question -- couldn't rudeness and hard bargaining kill the deal? -- Marquardo says, "You have to talk to these guys this way. This is just how it's done."How it's done Marquardo-style appears to be both confrontational and casual -- like Jerry Maguire, the protagonist in the 1996 film of the same name, one of Marquardo's favorites. In the film, an arrogant, successful young sports agent (Tom Cruise) decides to play it honest, loses his big-agency job, and makes it on his own. Marquardo says it's his story.
"That's how I see myself; that's how I see my office," he says, recalling one of the film's memorable lines: ""Our little project, our company, had a verybig day.' That's something I sometimes say when things go right in my office."
Time spent in Marquardo's office is like time spent in a hall of mirrors, where reflections prove difficult to substantiate. His business is built on deal-making talk, a fact confirmed by producers, directors, and distributors in the film industry who know him. They praise his knowledge but universally agree that his background is obscure, hard to check. His company, Fathom, not yet a year old, has yet to produce a single project.
Movie talk for Marquardo is not small talk, something he avoids assiduously in or out of his office. He never talks about the weather or chats about golf handicaps. He routinely works in open-necked cotton shirts and blue jeans, spinning conversation with anyone who will listen about what's happening at the current work moment. He sports moccasin-style leather loafers, drives a new Grand Cherokee, and owns a two-bedroom condominium on Hollywood beach.
Tall and slender, Marquardo has light brown hair that swings neatly back from his forehead with a jazzy little lift that seems apt, considering his musical passion for such stylized swing and big-band acts as Harry Connick Jr., Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. The music is more than an elaborate hobby. "I love to sing," he announces -- so much so that in the fall he plans to hire a 15-piece band. Since Marquardo also loves to appear at the center of events, he's arranged to front the band as a singer in a tour that he expects will perform in more than 15 Florida cities on weekends. None of it is yet booked.
"This is what I do to relax," he says. He swings and sings. And he sketches vivid autobiographical stories, painting bright dream clouds on the sky of his ambition.
Although his voice may be big, Marquardo's hands are small, the fingers short and slender, the skin soft. This is odd only because Marquardo is fond of announcing that, for one on-the-road year when he was 17, he played professional baseball.
Marquardo's script goes like this: Graduating from Maldon High School in the Boston area ten years ago, he signed first with a Single-A Yankees team, then moved up to a Triple-A Astros team in Tucson before being traded in the off-season to the Boston Red Sox. In spring training the following year, he tore ligaments in his pitching arm, and the short, happy baseball life of Craig Marquardo came to an end. He never pitched in a major-league game, he admits.