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Hollywood screenwriter in Geneva
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Meet Mr. H. the screenwriter
Most people know Mr. H. as the man who wrote Mad Max II and III. But there's more to Mr. H. than this movie. Born in England, raised
in Australia, he started in life as the New-York correspondent of a Sydney newspaper,
covering Watergate, the Patty Hearst kidnapping and many other stories.
He was only 28 when Georges Miller hired him to write the screenplay of Mad Max II : Road Warrior, starring young Mel Gibson in the lead role. Although
the movie was made with a mere $3,000,000 budget, it reached a whopping worldwide success
no Australian production had ever known before. He also wrote and
co-produced the sequel, Mad Max III : Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, with Mel Gison
and Tina Turner. Capitalizing on the huge
success of these movies, Mr. H. went on to write and produce several movies for a young Australian actress, Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm, Vietnam, Flirting, etc...).
Having reached the pinnacle of the Australian
film industry, Mr. H. finally decided to accept one of the numerous offers he
had received from Hollywood. He relocated to Europe and worked on many scripts, co-writing Payback for his
friend Mel Gibson, Vertical Limit, From Hell starring Johnnie Depp and Reign of Fire, the $100M
summer 2002 Disney movie.
He is now become one of the most highly paid screenwriters in Hollywood, and is on the
A list of all the biggest studios.
|Writers in Cologny|
Geneva has a long tradition of being a haven for writers. Lord
Byron, the english poet lived in the Villa Diodati in Cologny, now a museum. He
was there with his 18 year compatriot Mary Shelley , and
some other English writers when Byron challenged the group to write
each a ghost story. Shelley was the slowest. It took her two years to write her story. It
was Frankenstein .
Switzerland, but not for tax reasons
If you don't believe
that taxes is not the first reason why people come to Switzerland, here it is.
When Mr. H. first contacted us about moving to Switzerland, he was living in
Ireland, where writers don't pay direct taxes. Not so in Switzerland, where even
with a lump-sum
taxation agreement, you still pay some taxes. But there's more to life than
taxes. Ireland is a great country, but Switzerland offers more in terms of
education for children. And the Hs had a baby on the way. They needed a new
Shopping for a new country
Mr. H. and his wife began
looking for a country that would be a nice place to raise their child while
offering attractive quality of life for the parents. Ireland was not it. They had lived in London in the past, but
after a couple of muggings the place became less than ideal in their mind. Monaco was discussed for a long time and the Hs made many field
trips to the French Riviera to see how they could live. While Monaco proved to
be exclusive enough to match their demanding standards, the cramped apartments and the ugly skyline did not impress them too much. And what sort of a person would their daughter become if she was raised there? The country that topped the list was always the same - Switzerland. Exclusive, great food, great quality of life and some of the best schools in the world, no surprise this country seemed to attract so many
Geneva, where else?
There are 26 cantons in
Switzerland. When you apply for residence, you have to choose one. Mr. H. had been offered attractive
tax conditions by one Swiss canton. But Mr. H. had not come to Switzerland
for its cows and mountains. He wanted to live in Geneva,
probably the canton with the highest concentration of foreign millionaires, oil
sheikhs, businessmen and diplomats in Switzerland.
Finding a new home
Mr. H. wanted to buy the very first apartment we showed him in Geneva.
He had seen accommodations in other cantons, but although some were rather impressive,
he wanted to be in Geneva. The very day he saw it, he asked us to arrange
for its purchase. Now you can't buy real estate in Geneva unless you are
a resident. And, unlike other cantons, Geneva does not allow notaries
to even write purchase agreements before a residence permit has been received. So we
had to rely on the developer's good will to keep the apartment for our client -
a tall order in such a tight market as Geneva's. We tought that for Mr. H. to
take the first appartment he saw was a rash decision
and shared our views with him but hey - the client's always right.
Nevertheless, we looked for more houses and appartments to show Mr. H.
while we waited for the residence permit and kept the other apartment
Mr. H. had made a fine catch indeed with the first apartment - we saw over 20
more houses everywhere in the canton but none suited him more than the first he
Why was Mr. H.'s apartment so special? To sum it up: the most exclusive address
in the most exclusive neighborhood, Cologny.
Becoming a resident
Geneva has been a haven for writers and millionaires for centuries. Mr. H. is both, but
that doest not mean that the canton would grant him a residence permit just because he was
rich and famous. We had to work quite some time to prepare a package that
would satisfy authorities in both Geneva and Berne - where the Federal government
is. Finally we came up with a rather convincing application and both Geneva
and Berne approved M. H.'s residence permit. We discovered many fans of his
movies in the process, some in unexpected places.
Working with Mr. H.
Working with Mr. H. on his
application was a unique experience. A born storyteller, he can mesmerize a
roomfull of people with tales of how movies are made that you would never
believe. Several times we found ourselves at Mr. H.'s table in some Swiss
gastronomic restaurant with the whole restaurant listening to the story he was
telling us - quite a feat in discretion-minded Switzerland.
During the several months we worked with him, Mr. H. kept
us informed of the progress of his work.
During the summer, he was called upon in emergency to fix the script of a
$100 million movie that was in danger of going significantly over budget. Mr.
H., a word surgeon, was glad to oblige and saved the production a cool $1M
with his pen.
During the summer, a big Mobutu sale was organized by
the local authorities in Savigny near Lausanne. They auctioned off the late
Marechal's house and its contents. Mr Micheloud asked whether Mr. H. would like
to inspect the African dictator's residence. You bet he would. So he joined us
and was there when Mr Micheloud acquired the splendid Chesterfield sofa from the
Marechal's own office. This exceptional piece of furniture has now found a new
life in the lobby of Micheloud & Cie headquarters in Lausanne.
In fall 2001, he was working on a new action movie, FlightPlan, that involved a team of Middle Eastern terrorists hijacking a
commercial flight so that they could deliver a load of anthrax in Chicago. Mr.
H. was almost over with his script when the September 11th attacks occurred.
What was yesterday's far-fetched fiction became a commonplace, and the entire
script had to be dumped. If you think that writers are a bit lost in the world
of finance, think again. Mr. H. was paid for his script.