Mary Elizabeth Williams reviews Michael Crichton's new novel "Airframe".

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published December 2, 1996 8:00PM (EST)

Internal Memo
Time Warner Disney Dreamworks Fox-Murdoch Turner Ventures, Inc.
From: Ken Sprenkel, CEO
To: Michael Wilson, Senior VP, Production

I've just looked at the first galleys of "Airframe," and I'm pleased to announce that Mike has gone and done it again. "Airframe" is going to be the biggest-grossing film of 1998. (The sequel to Mikey's "Jurassic Park" comes out in '97, right? Har har.) Let's just keep our fingers crossed that the FAA doesn't do anything stupid to step up air safety any time soon -- a big disaster, timed to the release of the film, would be boffo.

The story's great -- a charter airline from Hong Kong (political statement? may need to rework) gets into some fatal turbulence (fatal turbulence! how does Crich come up with them?), and lands with a couple of passengers who've permanently cashed in their frequent flier miles. Of course this happens the same week the plane's American manufacturer is about to close a big sale with China -- a sale that might or might not cost those hard-working union Yanks their jobs. What's right? What's wrong? Who's at fault for the disaster? (Don't worry -- it isn't too morally ambiguous for the average Joe).

I see either Sharon or Michelle in the lead as Casey, the gutsy but feminine quality control investigator. Michael Douglas was born to play the nefarious Norton Aircraft CEO John Marder. We're talking Oscar here. Plus there's meaty roles for the ambitious, backstabbing underling (get McConaughey's agent on the phone TODAY), and the scandal digging TV producer (I think either Gwyneth or Liv here, your thoughts?).

Obviously, we'll have to gut those pages and pages of aviation terminology -- BOR-ing! Mike can get so heavy-handed with that stuff. Which reminds me, let's try to negotiate him down on the fee for writing the screenplay. I mean, frankly, he's already done it. Read the book, you'll see. If he won't play ball, we'll threaten to get Eszterhas to tweak it.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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