"The closest I've ever been to Hollywood is the Blockbuster's down the street," says first time screenwriter Neal Stevens.

  Stevens is on the phone with me from Houston, Texas, a far cry indeed from Tinseltown. But a whim and a dare bridged the gap. His screenplay Rigged For Dive! was picked up by Columbia pictures last fall and production with Seann William Scott and Jack Black began two weeks ago. Is he stoked? You couldn't tell it by his tone. "I quit playing the lottery years ago. I suppose I have some luck built up."

  What role fortune plays is open for debate, but the attention the comic/adventure script received in Hollywood is fact. "A couple years ago I shorted a large quantity of a particular stock... even more interestingly, I didn't realize I did it at the time, it was some new stock trader software and I wasn't  familiar with it," admits Stevens. "A few years later the trade pays off and it got me wondering, what if it had been a really large transaction? So the story is about a guy who comes into some serious money, and not letting common sense hold him back, decides to act on his childhood fantasy and buy an old submarine from Venezuela to refurbish as an ocean-going "cruise ship" for submarine enthusiasts."

   Stevens runs an Internet website for submarine history buffs and sub computer gamers. His encounters with the thousands of members at SUBSIM.com convinced him there's no shortage of guys who would undertake a reckless adventure like purchasing a relic sub from a nation hostile to the US, pouring countless dollars into it to restore it, and taking it out to sea. "The website has been a rich vein for character ideas. There are enough personalities at SUBSIM to write ten comedic scripts," he says.

   In this one script, the US government takes a dim view of the purchase. But the main character gets around that by funneling the cash through a Belgian venture capitalist. Once the purchase is made, submarine enthusiasts flock to the tiny port town in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, to replace valves, wiring, and get the sub ready for sea. What the earnest but naive subnerds don't know is the original owners have stashed $800 million in cocaine in a trim tank and the expert assigned to assist the amateur sailors has secret orders to get the drugs to the US mainland. "The subsim guys aren't dumb--if you can call taking a 50 year old sub to sea anything else, but they are so eager to get this sub and take it to sea for the ultimate Das Boot experience, they fail to consider the sellers may have other motives. And the sellers are drug lords, so they're very good at that sort of thing."

   Once at sea, the guys discover the nature of their cargo when the US Navy shows up with orders to sink the sub on sight. "Imagine a really diverse group from around the world," says Stevens, "operating a complex piece of military hardware, overcoming petty rivalries, learning as they go with nothing more than sub games and John Wayne movies as a guide." Stevens pauses. "The gimmick is: they actually turn out to be pretty competent. Turns out all those hours of playing Silent Hunter and Dangerous Waters served as excellent training."

   The unwitting renegades are forced to pull together and escape the clutches of the US Navy, avoid detection, and make it to a port to get word to the authorities. At times, very little goes right and it's a laugh or cry situation--emphasis on the laughs.

  Stevens is off to Vancouver to work with the studio. When asked what his next venture may be, he responds wryly, "Well, with the check these Hollywood people gave me, I just might buy my own sub. Big question is, what do we name her? The Leaky Boot?"


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