Just as the fictional Felix Unger asserted his inability to do impossible cooking tasks, so too would Neil Simon probably protest any prowess at writing, but let’s be honest. If writing were cooking, Neil Simon was the magic chef of scriptwriting.
(The idea of Neil Simon being a figment of his fictional creation’s imagination seems like the fun neurotic thought to occupy one of Neil Simon’s characters.)
And if you recall my piece on Sam Shepard, Neil Simon certainly casts as large or larger of a shadow.
(Cue another monologue about someone obsessing about relative shadow size.)
I never had the opportunity to be onstage for a Neil Simon production, but I certainly was involved in many productions in an offstage role. And even if I hadn’t been treated to night after night of Simon’s marvelous gift for marrying angst and banter, I see his words come alive just about every time I attend a mass audition. His monologues are impossible for many actors to resist.
So, it probably comes as no surprise that the entertainment world is full of remembrances. The New York Times has a good synopsis of his life and career. The Los Angeles Times, not surprisingly, focuses a bit more on his film work, but has some great anecdotes. You can also check out the piece in the Hollywood Reporter. And, of course, Mark Evanier has a story or two about meeting Mr. Simon.
So, rest in peace, magic chef. Or at least be a bit less angsty about it.