Control Freak

A friend told me recently about an idea for a screenplay that he’s been developing. It pits a middle-aged Batman against a new villain named Control Freak. “Bruce Willis would play Batman,” my friend said, “and you’d be perfect as the villain!” Then he repeated the villain’s name with slow significance … “Control Freak.”

Since I love playing villains – and who doesn’t? – I took his casting as a compliment … until it occurred to me that the whole pitch might have been just a clever way of telling me off. Not 24 hours earlier, I’d reminded the office staff – again (sigh) – that non-Centre Stage publications should be displayed in the lobby only when we’re contractually required to do so. I can easily imagine somebody saying to somebody else as I walked out of the office, “Mr. Control Freak there really needs to get a life,” and then my friend saying, “Control Freak! That would make a great comic book villain! And Tim could play him!!” Laughing agreement all around.

On the other hand, my friend’s comments might have been more about his brain than my abrasiveness. He inherited bipolar disease from his father and some days seems to be channeling Philip K. Dick. Maybe he was jabbing me a little, and maybe with justification, but we now know that he was on the cusp of “going up,” as his girlfriend puts it. The next day he was at the doctor’s office fine-tuning his meds.
Three possibilities, then: flattery, chastisement, altered state.

The most interesting aspect of my friend’s screenplay is Batman’s eventual discovery – near the end of the story, I would think – that he is Control Freak. He has not two, but three personalities, and at least one of them is locked in a fight to the death with its roommates. Talk about a metaphor ripe with possibilities.

I’ve decided that Batman’s unravelling should begin innocuously. Hurrying along as Bruce Wayne, he should bump into an ill-tempered passerby who whirls on him and shouts, “Watch where you’re going, freak!” An overreaction in the smaller context, but an explosive truth uncovered in the larger. The camera should do that double-zoom-out thing that makes the background look like it’s sliding away. Ambient sounds should fade to a quiet echo. Wayne, isolated center frame, should look lost and alone. Deer in the headlights. Tight shot on Wayne then and, to our horror, we should see that same twitch we’ve seen up to now only on Control Freak’s face. OMG! What’s going on? Is Batman …? Nooooooooo!!!

Dorothy clicks her heels. Neo pops the red pill. Alice shouts, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why my friend typecast me. It’s important only that I acknowledge what he told me about myself. Whether I’m Batman or Bruce Wayne is anybody’s guess, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that I am Control Freak. And how embarrassing to think that, until yesterday, I was the only person in Gotham City who’d failed to make my acquaintance.