Compare and contrast: in the movie it's Kevin Kline and Tracey Ullman as Joey and Rosalie Boca, while also pictured are
the real lite couple tony and Frances Toto.
River Phoenix as Devo.
running the restaurant side by side, but all was not well. ‘We went to the pizza place together and worked like zombies,’ recalls Fran. ‘There were no feelings then. His body was there but his mind wasn’t. He couldn’t wait to get out of there and go with whoever he chose that day.’
‘He was cheating on me from 1979 to 83. I was afraid of him. All the mental abuse, the belittlement. I couldn’t even think oftalking about divorce and I didn’t have the nerve or self-esteem to go ahead and do it myself.’
No, while mild-mannered mother-of-four Fran didn’t have the nerve to bring up the subject of divorce over the parmesan and black pepper, she did pluck up the gumption to try and murder her husband. Eight times. “They say this was my way of getting attention,’ she adds, and everyone in the room nods, very attentively.
First up was the tripwire. ‘I woulda gone down thirteen steps,’ says Tony. ‘I thought it was the kids playing.’
Next came the hitman with the baseball bat, lying in wait outside the house late one night. ‘He hit me, but I wrestle him and chase him away. He runs very fast, and I chase him. I think maybe it’s one of my girlfriends’ husbands, something like that.’
Death attempt number three was the car bomb, wired up to the petrol tank. It failed to go off.
Undeterred, Fran next reached for the rat poison. ‘I ate the spaghetti sauce, but it made me very ill,’ Tony remembers.
Still, he did get sick for a day, so Fran thought she was on to a good thing. Sleeping pills would do the trick. Three bottles ofthem, again in the spaghetti sauce. Tony lapped up three bowls of the stuff then retired to his bed, understandably feeling unwell. ‘She told me I had a virus,’ adds Tony.
Then would come the final piece de resistance. Fran’s confidant Anthony Bruno, her daughter’s boyfriend (he’s played in the film by River Phoenix), was to shoot him as he lay in bed.
He did. Tony still has the .25 bullet lodged in the bone near his brain. Young Bruno looked away at the last moment and bungled the job. However, he was now bleeding, so they were almost half-way there. Who could they get to polish him off?
Bruno’s black sheep, drug addict brother and his buddy, that’s who. In Kasdan’s movie they become the stoned. drawling'duo of William Hurt and Keanu Reeves aka Harlon and Marlon. We’re talking laid back dudes here. They took a taxi to do the hit.
Sure enough, they shoot him in the chest, but
they’re not quite certain where his heart is and the bullet goes right through. ‘Whaddaya expect for five hundred dollars?’ quips Tony, who obviously i considers himself something of a wag.
‘But I’m glad about that.’ He is also a master of understatement.
For the next four days, Tony lies in the bedroom, bleeding but not quite dying. The couple’s children are in the house, their friends too. Life goes on. Tony makes a big red stain on the bedclothes.
It’s time for your intrepid reporter to ask his question. Frances, I enquire sweetly, your husband is in bed for four days with a bullet in his head and a hole in his chest, what was going through your mind?
‘I can’t tell you what I was thinking,’ she replies, her voice drained of all emotion. ‘So many things really. I stayed up for four days, you know. I didn’tsleep or eat. Itwasn’texactly normal.’ l
You bet, Fran, I’m thinking,struck with i
admiration for the couple’s towering command of the obvious. But didn’t you feel any remorse, for instance?
‘No, no remorse during that period. Later maybe. Then, there was just a feeling of numbness. I couldn’t get help or anything. There was so much hate.’
Tony eventually woke up to find his room full of policemen. The two junkie assassins had bought a round of drinks at the bar to celebrate their good fortune and word had gotten back to the local law enforcement agencies. ‘Although my wife didn’t know it at the time, the sleeping pills she was giving me were keeping me alive, because it stopped the bleeding. So she did something right for a change.’
And his response at this point?
‘When I realised I’d been shot and Frances was now in jail, it made me think a great deal about what a stupid man I was. I shouldn’t have done what I did. Now was the time to help her. God gave me another chance to live.’
Good old God, eh? What a brick. He must have been smiling down on Tony as he scrimped and saved to raise F ran’s $50 000 dollar bail. The two spent some thirteen months together, rebuilding their bullet-ridden marriage, before she went off to serve a four-year term in jail. Her best buddy Bruno and the two druggies also served time.
Not that we actually see this part in the finished movie. Audiences responded unfavourably to the initial version of] Love You To Death which ended up with half the cast behind bars. The punters wanted a happy ending where the couple ended up in a warm hug, and 10, one was promptly reshot for them. That’s Hollywood, folks.
Actually, more incredible than the catalogue of real-life events, is the fact that Lawrence Kasdan has managed to make from them a lamentably unfunny film. Boasting overstated or wrong note performances from Kevin Kline and Tracey Ullman as the central couple (handily renamed Joey and Rosalie Boca), augmented by vigorous hamming from the likes ofJoan Plowright as her fearsome Yugoslavian mum and the druggy duo of Hurt ’n’ Reeves, the film is bogged down by lacklustre pace and an overweight sense of its own satiric importance. Maybe the Toto story was just too good to be true in the first place.
Nor has their ongoing success story been much to the taste of the neighbours. Several houses in the area have been sold because of the disrepute brought to Allentown by the controversy, and a Mrs Lori Donnelly lead an unsuccessful campaign to the doorsteps of both President Bush and Tri-Star pictures to complain about the money the pair are making from the movie. Although, as a convicted felon, Fran Toto is legally barred from receiving any recompense, there’s nothing to stop her enjoying the money her husband makes from it. He’s now a printer, she’s a secretary working to help ex-offenders get jobs. Life has gone on.
So what about the money, Tony?
‘Well, uh, ifthe film does well we’re going to do very well . . .
Time to shift to a different subject. no?
‘. . . But the moral ofthe story is to be faithful. We wanna send a message to everybody. Ifwc could save one marriage it’s well worth doing the movie because we don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we did. Try to communicate. try to trust each other. Crime doesn‘t pay. Cheating doesn’t pay.’
I Love You To Death ( [5) ()/)(’IIS across ( ‘t'ntrul Scotland through the ()(1(’()Il and U ( ‘l chains from Fri 21 Sept. See film listings for further dt'Iui/s'.
The List 14 — 227 September WW 9