“Remember Me” and its Delaware roots
The new Robert Pattinson film “Remember Me” might never have happened if it were not for a bar brawl at the old Stone Balloon, in Newark.
Penned by Brandywine Hundred native and first-time screenwriter Will Fetters, the movie’s script flourished after that fateful night in 2003, which ended with Fetters spending a night in jail.
Fetters, now 28, had jumped in to break up a fight and learned that you “don’t mouth off to a cop,” he says.
“I was an arrogant kid and thought I was king of the world,” says Fetters, who had planned to be a lawyer until then. “It was horrifying because I wasn’t a bad kid and had never done anything like that. It was the wrong place at the wrong time and I said the wrong words. It was a black mark on this pristine record I tried to build to get into these law schools.
“My plan was shattered and I had to start shifting my focus, by necessity, to writing this story. It was just enough to freak me out and scare me into writing this movie.”
The day after the arrest, Fetters met his mother, Judy, at Iron Hill Brewery to explain what had happened. He thought his life was over, and he cried while telling his mom about it.
Fetters’ mother remembers that day well.
“I think he needed to process a lot of that, and writing was the way he did it,” she says. “And look what it’s led to. It’s crazy.”
One of the themes of “Remember Me” can be found in that turbulent time in Fetters’ life.
“Especially with young people, you try to control everything and the world is inherently uncontrollable,” says Fetters, who walked down the red carpet with his wife, Amanda, at the film’s premiere last week.
“The most significant moments in your life tend to come from nowhere. Love and loss are the things that ultimately alter our trajectory, and you can never predict when you are going to meet your wife or lose a parent or lose a brother. It was all born from that experience.”
A scene similar to the one that played out on Main Street in Newark unfolds in the film with Pattinson’s character, Tyler, who lives in New York.
The tense heart-tugging drama, which opens Friday, co-stars the “Twilight” heartthrob and Emilie de Ravin of “Lost,” along with veteran actors Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper.
Even though Pattinson and de Ravin are getting most of the attention, Fetters’ script has been cited by all involved, including Cooper, whose past films include “American Beauty” and “Adaptation,” for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
“It’s kind of an old-time script,” Cooper told Variety magazine. “It’s character-driven and touched on themes that are pretty universal, but, oddly enough, I hadn’t seen them dealt with lately. The idea of working to get beyond the petty angers and frustrations with people before it’s too late – that’s what I came away with when I read it. And I like that.”
On “The View” Tuesday, Pattinson also heaped praise on Fetters’ work.
“I read the script and kind of fell in love with it,” he told Barbara Walters. “ … I very rarely read scripts which appeal to me. It reminded me of pieces back in the ’70s and ’80s like ‘Ordinary People’ and ‘Terms of Endearment.’ I don’t really think they make movies like that anymore.”
Fetters graduated from Salesianum School in 1999, and the University of Delaware four years later with a degree in finance and political science. He was eyeing a career as an attorney before his arrest caused him to switch tracks.
Fetters credits University of Delaware political science professor James Magee with giving him the confidence to try writing. Magee remembers a specific conversation – along with Fetters’ black cap, which he always wore in class.
“I remember saying to him, ‘You have a knack for writing. I never had to guess what you were saying,’ ” says Magee, who taught Fetters in a constitutional law class in 2001, a course in which Fetters earned an A.
“I’m not surprised he’s a successful screenwriter. His number one strength was pure intellectual ability. His number two strength was his ability to express himself very, very clearly and creatively,” Magee says.
Fetters was in Magee’s class the day after 9/11, when the professor threw out his lesson plan and the class discussed what had happened.
“He was one of the first to speak in class about what this means,” Magee said. “We had a long conversation.”
Once Fetters graduated from UD, he placed the first version of the script, written entirely in Delaware, in the front seat of his black 1996 Honda Accord and drove to California.
“The ultimate cliche,” says Fetters, who has been living in New York for the past year but is now preparing to move back to California to focus on his screenwriting career.
Fetters worked several odd jobs in Hollywood as a tutor and – ironically, after his Stone Balloon incident – a bouncer at a bar, before he settled into a job in finance.
He soon connected with the only person he knew in Hollywood, Brandywine High School graduate Chuck Hayward, who worked for producer Robert Teitel, who produced films like “Barbershop,” “Roll Bounce” and “Notorious.”
Once Fetters had an in, he built new friendships and got his script in front of as many eyeballs as he could. The script was sold in January 2009 to Summit Entertainment and the $20 million production was set in New York.
The movie was shot last summer, at the height of “Twilight” mania, with young women screaming and paparazzi following the crew across the city just to get a shot of Pattinson.
“This was my first experience filming, but all of the veteran guys on the set who have been around for a long time told me they had never seen anything like it. The fans were pretty respectful; the paparazzi less so,” he says. “For the actors, they were doing these quiet, intimate scenes a lot of the time and they were just surrounded by hundreds of people. It was chaotic.”
Chaotic is also a good description for the scene at the film’s premiere at The Paris Theatre, in New York, last week. Judy Fetters attended with her son and the rest of their family, even stopping by the after-party at the Plaza Hotel, which was swarming with paparazzi since Pattinson and his “Twilight” co-star Kristen Stewart were there.
“It was surreal,” says Judy Fetters, who shed plenty of tears at the screening, for her son and the film. “I was a total wreck. It was so emotional. My husband was like, ‘Are you alright?’ ”
Judy Fetters, who teaches writing and English as a second language at Delaware Technical & Community College, has organized a Delaware premiere of sorts for Saturday, when her son returns home. A group of about 250 family and friends will gather to see the film at Regal Cinemas before heading to a party to celebrate.
“The New York premiere was insane, but this will be kind of a trip down memory lane with all these people I haven’t seen in a long time,” says Fetters, who comes back home several times a year, dating back to when he was flat broke and living in Los Angeles just after college. “I love Delaware.”