"This picture's going to cost a ransom to make, with all the locations it calls for," Irwin reminded him, already dreading the price Zack was bound to ask for starring in it and directing it, not to mention the favors he was likely to extract for using Austin in the film. Carefully hiding his enthusiasm for the project, he stood up and shook hands with Zack. "I'm only going along with this deal because you want to do it so badly. I'm personally going to be praying on my knees that it at least earns back what it costs to make."
Zack suppressed a knowing smile. The opening volley of contractual negotiations had just taken place over a handshake.
Diana Copeland turned down the role of Zack's wife because she had a prior commitment, so Zack gave the role to Rachel, who'd been his second choice. A few weeks later, Diana's plans changed, but by then, Zack had a moral, and legal, obligation to let Rachel keep the better role. To Zack's surprise, Diana asked for the lesser part of his former mistress instead. Emily McDaniels eagerly accepted the part of the teenage daughter and Tony Austin was given the part of the drifter. The minor roles were filled without difficulty, and Zack's favorite, hand-picked film crew was reunited as a team again to work on another of his films.
A month after shooting started on Destiny, the word was out that although the filming was plagued with accidents and delays, the rushes—the portions of the film that were sent to the lab for processing each day—were fantastic. The Hollywood gossip mill began to churn out premature predictions of Academy Award nominations.
A rustling in the grass yanked Zack from his reverie and he looked over his shoulder to see Tommy Newton walking toward him in the deepening twilight. "The crew is on dinner break and everything's ready in the stable," he said.
Zack rolled to his feet. "Fine. I'll check it out." He'd already done that earlier today, but he didn't believe in leaving anything to chance, and besides, it gave him an excuse to avoid socializing with the others for a while longer. "We're not going to have a rehearsal tonight," he added. "We'll try for a take right from the beginning."
Tommy nodded. "I'll spread the word."
Inside the stable, Zack studied the setting for the last major scene. In the past months the story had come to life in front of the cameras, more vibrant and suspenseful than even he had believed it could be—a tale of a woman caught between her love for her daughter and the preoccupied tycoon she'd married and her passionate involvement with a handsome drifter, whose need for her had become a dangerous obsession. Zack had played the part of the seemingly neglectful husband, a man whose financial empire was collapsing and who considers making a deal with drug runners rather than see his wife and daughter deprived of their lifestyle. Emily McDaniels was the teenage daughter who cared nothing for the luxuries her parents provided and who only wanted more of their interest and attention. The plot was strong, but what really distinguished the story was the depth and richness of the character portrayals, the insight into human nature and needs, its weaknesses and strengths. There were no "bad guys" in Destiny; each character was portrayed in a way that Zack knew would have a powerful emotional effect on movie audiences.
Most of the scenes had been shot out of sequence as was the norm, but because of logistics, the last two scenes about to be filmed were actually the last two scenes of the movie itself. In the one they were about to shoot, Rachel meets her lover in the stable, where several of their past trysts have occurred. Forced to see him "just once more" because he has threatened to reveal their affair to her husband and daughter if she doesn't, Rachel hides a gun in the stable, which she intends to use to frighten him away. When he tries to force her to have sex with him, she threatens him with the gun, and, in the struggle that follows, they're both wounded. The scene was meant to be violently sexual and it was Zack's job as the director to make sure it was very sexy and very violent.
Looking around, he walked slowly down the corridor that divided the dimly lit stable in half lengthwise. Everything was exactly as he wanted it: The horses were in their stalls along the wall on his left, their noses poked inquiringly over half-doors as he strolled past. Bridles and riding crops hung on pegs on the opposite wall; saddles were on wooden racks; paraphernalia for grooming horses and cleaning tack was in its proper place on a table against the far wall outside the tack room.
The real focus of the scene, however, was on that table at the end of the corridor, beside some bales of hay, where the two protagonists would have their final struggle. The bales were in place, and the gun that would be used in the scene was lying on the table, hidden among the liniment bottles and grooming brushes. In the rafters above, a second camera was already aimed at the double doors to catch Emily when she rode into the stable after hearing the gunshot, and all the lights were positioned for maximum effect when turned on.
With his knee, Zack nudged the table an inch to the left, then he shifted a couple of bottles on it and moved the butt of the gun so that a glimpse of it would be in view of the camera, but he did it more out of restlessness than necessity. Sam Hudgins, the director of photography, and Linda Tompkins, the set dresser, had already done their usual impeccable job of translating Zack's ideas for a scene into an actual set that was perfectly arranged and complete in every detail, creating exactly the effect Zack envisioned. Suddenly anxious to get started and get the ordeal over with, Zack turned and headed for the door, his footsteps echoing hollow on the gleaming floor tiles.
Huge floodlights illuminated the side yard where the crew was helping themselves from a buffet and eating at picnic tables or sitting on the grass. Tommy spotted Zack as soon as he walked into the lit area, and at Zack's nod, he called out, "All right everybody, ten more minutes, then we get started."
There was a flurry of movement as crew members stood up and headed toward the stable or went to the buffet table to grab another cold drink. In an effort to trim unnecessary expense from the swollen budget, Zack had kept only the essential crew here and sent everyone else back to the West Coast, including a second and third assistant director and several production assistants. Even without the extra help, Tommy Newton was managing to handle everything with little loss of efficiency.
Zack watched him send his only production assistant over to Austin's trailer, and a moment later, he saw Austin and Rachel both emerge from it, followed by their hairdressers and a makeup artist. Austin looked uneasy and slightly ill; Zack hoped his ribs were killing him. Rachel, on the other hand, walked right past the crew and Zack with her head proudly high—a queen who was accountable to no one. Emily McDaniels was pacing back and forth in front of her real-life father, practicing her lines with him. With her Shirley Temple dimples, she was sixteen years old and still looked little more than eleven. She glanced up just as Rachel walked past her, and her face froze with dislike, then she jerked her gaze back to her father and continued practicing her lines. Since Emily had originally liked Rachel very well, Zack attributed the child's sudden change in attitude to her loyalty to him, and he was momentarily touched by that. He was reaching for a roast beef sandwich from the buffet when Diana Copeland's soft, sympathetic voice startled him. "Zack?"