Screenwriter Charlie Pope (Miguel Ferrer) is unable to complete the screenplay he is working on. Broke and on the verge of being sacked by his producer Rob Lakin (Harvey Fierstein), he flies to seaside resort in Mexico to more thoroughly investigate the actual murder upon which his screenplay is based. There he discovers that the murder was not a business-based hit, as previously believed, but that the victim was actually a child molester and the killer possibly the investigating police officer, Victor Topo (Henry Silva).
As Charlie leaves the location where the Molester was murdered, he encounters a puppy being attacked by a larger street dog. Charlie rescues the puppy but is seriously bitten in the process. He ends up in the medical clinic, getting his arm stitched and having his blood tested in the process.
Recovered and back on trail of his research, Charlie visits a primarily gay bar frequented by the child molester just prior to his murder.
There, he spots an attractive American woman, Natalie (Leilani Sarelle Ferrer), who had caught Charlie’s eye earlier at Charlie’s hotel. He’s about to talk to her when he’s suddenly approached by Noel Guzmann (Tony Denison), an ex-pat American living in the area who knows details about the murder. Charlie starts to get info about the murder, about who was involved and why but is distracted when Natalie approaches, asking him to dance.
Charlie and Natalie meet up later that night, and stroll the seaside town, getting to know one another. Natalie soon suggests a late-night swim in the bay. She strips down and swims out into the dark water. Charlie is about to join, but is suddenly clubbed from behind and knocked unconscious.... He wakes days later in a derelict building being watched by a armed guard. Then he notices a new set of fresh stitches across his lower back. It appears he had an operation of some type. He escapes into a swamp, finally reaching a golf course that he collapses on.
A medical examination soon reveals that one of Charlie’s kidneys has been stolen. After being questioned by Victor Topo, Charlie decides to leave the country on the first plane out.
But on the way to the airport, his taxi is hijacked. Escaping the would-be kidnappers, Charlie goes to Topo for help, only to discover that the Police Inspector is part of the kidney plot as well. Charlie escapes once again and sets out to track down Natalie, his only lead and who he suspects may have set him up from the very beginning.
The Harvest was born from a story told to me by a friend who had just returned from a trip to Brazil. He claimed to have met a guy there who told him the story of his friend who had been drugged by a girl at a party only to wake up later in a junk yard, missing a kidney. I was captivated as it was the first time I had heard such a story. It hadn’t yet become the everyday fodder for the now-popular, urban legend.
So I started researching the black-market organ trade, while trying to figure out various ways into the story. My first few passes/drafts at it were more linear and laid out as the typical low-budget action picture. But after 2 years of writing for less then the minimum wage, I realised the film might never happen no matter how hard I pushed and tried.
What little money they had to pay me had run out right around the same time as my patience for the project and it was quickly becoming a money-losing proposition. Finally, the producers persuaded me to take one more shot at it, before I called it quits. I asked him what they wanted done exactly? One replied was that I was the writer and as such, it was my job to "make it better somehow.” I asked how much better? 50%? 70%? He said it was up to me but I had to make it better. Period. Wow.
So I moved off my friend’s basement couch and went down with my computer to my family’s apt. in Puerto Vallarta. It was the rainy season, the tourists had left and only the locals were around. I struggled for days with the story, trying to come up with a way to make it “Better” somehow. Finally, at the end of my rope and without ideas, I realised I had to get on with my life and get back to writing studio assignments and getting paid again as this film was never going to happen.
So I decided to make the tortured lead, Charlie Pope, myself, and I made the ultimate nemesis of the film the Producer who had sent me down there. I started writing what had occurred to me with the endless rewrites, and how they put me through the torture-wash with their endless, unclear demands. While encamped in Vallarta, I would wander around, sniffing for other stories and nuggets that I could weave into my personal tragedy that I was living day-to-day. One night, I happened across the true story about a homosexual murder that took place in Gringo Gulch in the late '80s. One cop was believed to have been involved in the act that it was supposedly done as payback for a child-molestation case. The murder was horrific and designed to send a strong message through the community.
Also during my writing period, there where a series of break-ins in the surrounding condos and homes as there were very few people in residence during off-season. Then late one night someone tried to break into my place. But they heard me coming and ran off. The next morning, I found a trail of blood leading into the surrounding jungle. Whoever it was injured himself on the spiked security fence surrounding the complex. Two days later, I noticed that the security guard for my building had a very ugly puncture wound to his leg.
My final story element was obtained as I was walking through the town late one night during a rainstorm. Huddled under a gazebo to escape the downpour I had the pleasure of being trapped with a lovely woman, who would soon become my girlfriend for the next 5 years. Our relationship quickly blossomed and she quickly became the hope and salvation that I needed to inspire the story - and myself.
So I took all the disconnected elements and wove them together in a tapestry of the paranoid, fevered-dream I was living. It was structural fragmentation, with flash forwards and flashbacks, along with the mingling of my personal reality with the film’s story and fantasy element.
My nightmare fused into Charlie Pope's, whose simple fact-finding mission in Mexico turns into a terrifying ordeal laced with the love from a mysterious woman.
The story was also designed to exploit Charlie’s fears and my own, both real and xenophobic, of the stranger-in-a-strange-land. Charlie, like myself, was hampered by his inability to speak the language, and came to see himself at the center of a deadly conspiracy, with everyone he knows having intent upon him of one kind or another.
The final screenplay was supposed to be an "F" you to the Producers who were driving me mad. It was a way of saying; I’m done, I’m tried of this BS, you've taken away my pound of flesh and I've nothing left to give. And now I’m getting on with my life and moving on to more fruitful fields.
So I flew back to LA and delivered the script to the producers, never expecting to hear from them again. Why would I? I made them the bad guys and in that there was satisfaction. Then something strange happened. Two days after I delivered the script, they called me excited saying they loved it and it's been Green-lit by Larry Estes at Columbia TriStar for 1.5 Million with Miguel Ferrer to star. Wow. I was speechless.
8 weeks later, I flew to back to Puerto Vallarta to start pre-production with my actors in tow.
~ David Marconi
I shot one scene on the original location of NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. Ruins were all that was left by the time I shot there but they fit perfectly for the open structure Natalie was hiding out in. Sadly, the ruins are now gone, replaced by a big hotel overlooking the Pacific.
My DP was Emmanuel Lubezki. A Mexican national, it was his first US film. As fate would have it, he was also a friend of girl I met there that rainy night in PV. He has since gone on to become one of the most sought after D.P.s in the world, and has won three academy awards for his cinematography on Gravity, The Birdman and The Revenant.
George Clooney is Miguel Ferrer's cousin. He wanted to come down and play a bit part in support his cousin. Which he kindly did.
My two leads, Miguel Ferrer and Leilani Sarelle met on the film and fell madly in love. Shortly thereafter, they married and proceeded to have several beautiful children. And that provided me with the best satisfaction - knowing that born out of the pain of the art, came these luminous beings.
The Harvest did well on the festival circuit and was shown extensively to the various Production companies, eventually leading to a meeting with Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer and Lucas Foster who responded to the film and the look I achieved on a shoe-string. Lucas Foster had an idea he wanted to do about a guy who gets taken apart electronically and wanted to know if I was interested. Behind Lucas was this big poster of Cary Grant on the run in North by Northwest. They were interested in having me write and direct. Seeing that poster and hearing their idea eventually led to my next script that would be called: Enemy of the State.