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  • Writer's pictureLynn Elsey

Finding Mike Rich

In the late 1990’s, Portland Oregon DJ Mike Rich decided to try his hand at writing. His first attempt, a screenplay titled Finding Forrester, won a Nicholl Fellowship (a competition sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and was picked up by Sony/Columbia studios for production, starring Sean Connery and Anna Paquin, with Gus Van Sant as director.

In 1999 I caught up with Mike, at the Portland radio studio, where he was still working. Because the interview was scheduled to appear in a fashion-themed issue of a weekly newspaper (OurTown) I needed to include some fashion-related questions.


Q: Is the story true about deciding you wanted to write a screenplay, then going to the library, checking out a book on screenplay writing and then ... ?

A: Almost. I actually bought the book from Powell's [Portland’s famed bookstore].

Q: Why a screenplay?

A: I think there's been a change from wanting to write the Great American Novel. Now it's a screenplay. I was too intimidated to write a novel; I still would be.

Q: What's the status of Finding Forrester?

A: I'm on the fourth re-write. My contract only called for the original script and two rewrites but so far they haven't brought in anyone else.

Q: Isn't that unusual?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you get much say in the movie, like casting or music?

A: No. It's their screenplay; I'm a writer for hire.


Q: What are they wearing in Hollywood these days?

A: Black. Actually I'm detecting a little change, I've noticed a little shift towards brown, but it's gotta be dark brown. There's no color.

Q: So what do you wear on your trips to L.A.?

A: Often something as simple as a pair of jeans, Nike golf cap and Nike sneakers; you have to maintain the Oregonian image.

Q: And for your most recent trip, which involved a meeting with the executive producer and Sean Connery?

A: I bought a Joseph Abboud shirt. It's the first time I've ever spent $100 on a shirt.

Q: What color?

A: Brown

Q: Dark?

A: Hmm, yes.

Q: How did it make you feel?

A: I had a case of buyer's remorse. But how many times do you spend a day with Sean Connery?

Q: Where do you shop?

A: Nordstrom, Meier and Frank; I guess I'm a mall guy.

Q: Shopping tactics?

A: I find the assistant and ask for advice.

Q: Shopping motto?

A: Keep the receipt.

Q: What do you wear on air?

A: Usually Dockers, with something like a regular Oregon-flannel pattern shirt. In the summer, shorts and a Tommy Bahama shirt. And I have been known in the wintertime to come in sweats – it's radio. Obviously I dress for the occasion, if a big guy comes in, then I adjust.

Q: A big guy-like who?

A: Jackson Browne.


Q: What do you listen to when you aren't on the air?

A: The type of things we play here (KINK), Sting, Clapton. Also I like the old standards like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Cole Porter. And what filters down from my daughters.

Q: What was your first album?

A: Grand Funk Railroad, “We're an American Band”. I still have it.

Hollywood and fame:

Q: So, when are you moving to Hollywood?

A: If my aspirations are just to write, I can stay here in Portland. It’s easy to fly down for two or three-day meetings. The change comes if you want to direct or produce, then you gotta go there. For now, I just want to write. The reality is that if you write three or four screenplays you can retire. I'm smart enough to know it's been a great ride but it could dry up tomorrow. In L.A. you are either hot or cold. And when you're cold, it’s difficult to get hot again.

Q: Do you find life in Hollywood really that different from Portland?

A: They put me up at the Four Seasons. I looked at the kids’ menu and saw that a brownie cost $7.50. $7.50! The other day we had lunch in the Rita Hayworth Building at Sony Studios; three Caesars and three iced teas cost $79. It's a different economy.

Q: How was your day with Connery?

A: He's very Sean Connery; he speaks very softly, which surprised me.

Q: Did you imagine Sean Connery for your character Widham Forrester?

A: No. I'd envisioned more of a Robert Duvall-type; the character was American. But we've changed the story so Forrester is now a Scottish-born author. I changed some of the lines as well, there were just some things I couldn't picture Sean Connery saying.

Q: If there was a movie about your life, who would you choose to play you?

A: Jeff Daniels. I'm an unassuming guy, just a guy who still values time with his family.

Q: At what point do you stop thinking of Hollywood as a different world and become part of it? At what point do you stop blinking at the $7.50 brownies?

A: I don't know. I'm still blinking.

Mike has continued his success with writing screenplays, including The Rookie, Secretariat and Cars 3.

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