Reporter Damian Slattery is one of SI's weekend warriors. Every Sunday, when we're going to press and at our busiest, he comes into our New York City offices for one day of duty and assiduously but cheerfully checks the facts in any fast-closing story that lands on his desk. Then he goes home to his wife, Melissa, their two-year-old daughter, Virginia, and his other career as an aspiring screenwriter.
Occasionally, though, Slattery hits the road to help SI cover an event, as he did during the 1987 World Series. After Game 2 in Minnesota, he and SI photographer Heinz Kluetmeier, now our director of photography, hopped a Lear jet to get back to New York before our closing deadline. "The only other passengers," recalls Slattery, "were D.B. Sweeney and Charlie Sheen, the actors, who were on a publicity tour for their movie No Man's Land. D.B. and I talked during the whole flight, and I told him then and there I wanted to write a film for him someday."
"Three years later, I'm at a meeting for my next film, and there's Damian," says Sweeney. "It turns out he's the writer."
Did we say aspiring screenwriter? Check that. Slattery's first feature film, A Day in October, opened in New York on Oct. 28 and in the next few weeks will be opening in a half dozen other cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.
The movie is about the rescue of thousands of Danish Jews in October 1943 and was directed by Kenneth Madsen, an award-winning television-commercial director whom Slattery met in '87 while pursuing his master's degree in screenwriting at New York University. In December 1988, Madsen, who's Danish, asked Slattery to write a screenplay about the 1943 rescue, and within six weeks Slattery had traveled to Denmark, done the historical research and written a draft.
When Sweeney arrived in Copenhagen in August '90 to begin work as the male lead in A Day in October, Slattery was on the set, too. Says Sweeney, "I have never seen a writer shepherd a movie so closely. Damian clearly wanted to make the best movie he could." The film has garnered good reviews at several international film festivals. But it wasn't all work in Denmark. "On our days off," Sweeney says, "Damian and I would drive around for hours, looking for a three-on-three basketball game. Copenhagen isn't very Americanized, so we'd look for people playing volleyball and try to convince them to play basketball instead. But we usually ended up playing one-on-one. Damian's a homeboy, he and I both grew up in New York. When I'm in town this season we'll go to some Knick games."
If Slattery has the time. He recently finished a script about Hans Christian Andersen for a project that the noted British filmmaker Ken Russell will direct, and now he's hard at work on a screenplay about the life of former basketball great Connie Hawkins. We just hope our man Slats remembers the little people on Oscar night.
SI's Slattery (center) on location in Copenhagen with Sweeney (left) and coproducer Philippe Rivier.