David Prybil is a writer-producer based in Los Angeles who has worked on films such as “Saved!” He just released his first novel, “Golden State,” a fictionalized account of the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. He’ll be signing copies on January 3 at 7 p.m. at Time Tested Books, 1114 21st Street, Sacramento.
How did you get the idea for this book?
Well, like many Californians, I am a person who came out here to pursue my dreams – in my case, working in the film business. This state has always held a special allure for dreamers, whether it be the 1849 Gold Rush and the cry of Manifest Destiny for settlers, or the chance to be discovered and become famous in Hollywood, or the opportunity to strike it rich as an inventor or investor in Silicon Valley. There has always been a pot-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow quality to living here, the sense that anything is possible if you just believe in yourself and work hard enough.
When the 2003 recall election took place, it just seemed to me that it symbolized this notion better than any true-life event I had ever seen. It all happened so fast. The petition to recall Gray Davis was certified, and all of a sudden, it was like the circus came to town! There were 135 people from all walks of life and circumstance running for the office, and with a no-holds-barred campaign season that was barely two months long, it wasn’t too farfetched for a fair number of those to truly believe they had a chance.
Then, of course, there was Arnold himself. He is the California Dream personified. An immigrant bodybuilder with a thick accent, a difficult name, and barely a high school education – and yet, he had become a world champion, then a movie star. He’d even married a Kennedy. When he won the governorship, seemingly without even breaking a sweat, it was like a fairy tale.
So it’s an alternative history – Schwarzenegger’s rise to become governor of California?Are there major differences between your version and what actually happened in 2003?
It’s not an alternative history, actually. Everything related to the campaign season, the election, and even Arnold’s speeches are completely factual. Where I take my liberties and create my characters and storyline is by viewing this little slice of history from the perspective of common citizens who might have had their own hopes and dreams stirred into action, or at the very least pursued them with a renewed vigor, by this series of unlikely events.
Did you intend the book to come out at the end of his time as governor?
The timing is fairly ideal, yes, and I believe that the overall thrust of the story, and what it says about our hopes and dreams, and how change can often serve as a catalyst to unrealistic goals in this regard, serves as a quite effective capstone to the Schwarzenegger era in office. After all, I think it’s safe to say, Arnold very likely had much higher hopes for himself when he took the office, too – if you’ll recall, at that time, there was even a fair amount of talk about crafting an amendment to the Constitution so he could later run for president!
It seems like a lot of the major characters are people trying to revive their own fortunes by hitching their wagon to Schwarzenegger. Tell me about why you wanted to emphasize that aspect of the story.
To me, that is the story – how people get swept up into events and get changed in the process, often in ways they could have never expected. And I think we are all looking for something in life that is bigger than ourselves – some kind of validation that we matter. Thus, in my novel, you have a young reporter who is dreaming of the chance to land a big scoop and make a name for himself, and a realtor who is desperate to sign Arnold as a client to show how great she is at her job, and even a tuxedo shop owner who believes that if Arnold wins, and comes to town with his Kennedy-scion wife, that Sacramento will magically transform into the “New Camelot.” But hey, we all want to believe that dreams can come true, that we all have a “golden state” waiting for us out there, somewhere – that’s the point. And that’s why I think everyone will be able to relate to my story.
You’ve worked in film on movies like “Saved!” Did you ever encounter Schwarzenegger during these years, or did you work with people who had worked with him?
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Schwarzenegger, and when I was writing the book, I was not aware of having any direct links to him or his inner circle. However, since completing the work, it seems I am now surrounded by people who know him! One of my friends actually married a woman who was by his side as a publicist at “The Tonight Show” on the night he declared his candidacy to Jay Leno. So, who knows? Maybe I’ll meet him now.