Success is the best revenge and it yields sweet fruit as well. Proof of the pudding is Rick, one of the year's best dark comedies. Reaching DVD and VHS tomorrow, Daniel Handler's script for Rick, about a good company man gone bad, was vividly inspired in part by Verdi's Rigoletto as well as the bittersweet traces of personal experience.

"The first draft of Rick was written in a 24-hour rush of self-righteous indignation," quipped the Rick's creator, screenwriter and novelist Handler who penned the first draft of his tale several years ago, immediately following a bad interview with a gaggle of movie industry executives.

"Not only did they not hire me to write, they were shocked I had the nerve to approach them in the first place," said Handler with a rueful chuckle. " Crossing Rigoletto with the hyper-masculine corporate world made perfect sense to me at the time."

As Rick, Bill Pullman plays a hot shot rotting on the vine following his wife's death and the attendant loss of life's meaning. As Rick inches inexorably up the corporate ladder with existential ennui, he cruelly taunts a job applicant (the rising star, Michelle Oh), who in turn curses his fate with uncanny potency.

"The collaborative process on Rick was a dream," said Handler who credits the work of director Curtiss Clayton. "Curtiss honored the script, bringing out elements that truly elevated it to a grander tragedy as opposed to a self involved rant."

"Bill Pullman, too, truly humanized Rick," praised Handler. "Rick could easily have been a one-note character in the hands of another actor."

In addition to the critical praise showered on Rick, Handler is also now savoring sweetly -deserved success as the widely-known and amply rewarded creator of the wildly-popular children's book series, "Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Handler and his many fans are now anticipating next month's big screen adaptation of the series, starring Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep and Jude Law.

Despite current and further impending success, Handler is nonetheless seldom idle. He is wrapping up the Snicket series (having published 11 of its projected 13 volumes.) Plus, he's at work on one novel and awaiting publication of another (Adverbs) sometime next year. Plus, Handler is contemplating a return to screenwriting, again perhaps repeating his success with director Clayton.

"I was thinking of revisiting a grand old melodrama a la Marlene Dietrich in Morocco," said Handler, who with his tongue commonly planted in his cheek, has referred to adapting a torrid and turgid pulp drama centering around "white slavery in the Midwest."

"I'm either going to make or break Curtiss's career," deadpanned Handler, gamely hovering somewhere between half-joking and fully-pulling fluffy white wool over his fans' eyes. Suffice it to say, Handler's screenwriting career is a guaranteed to be continued.'


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