“Lost’s” Carlton Cuse Can’t Escape from the Island’s Mystique

By Beth Stebner
|  Sunday, Jan 30, 2011  |  Updated 11:38 PM EDT
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Even when hiking in the remote Swiss Alps, Carlton Cuse, a writer and executive producer on the cult favorite “Lost,” can’t escape the buzz surrounding ABC’s long-running tropical mystery.

In a piece for the New York Times, Cuse writes that even though the show has been over for quite some time, he can’t escape the notoriety, for better and—sometimes—for worse. In the Alps, for instance, a man approached Cuse and his daughter, bringing up the much-debated ending of the show. “Why did you not explain the polar bear?” the hiker asked.

Fans across the globe were polarized by the show’s finale, with most of them, like the hiker in the Swiss Alps, demanding answers to the seemingly unexplainable.

Cuse muses in the Times if “Lost” became his defining moment, citing Dustin Hoffman’s success in the movie “Tootsie,” a film about a down-and-out actor who finds work on a soap opera as a sassy (cross-dressing) lady. After seeing his name on a marquee, Hoffman turned to his friend and asked, genuinely, if he’d ever work again.

“It was such an overwhelming phenomenon, how could I get past the large shadow it cast over my life,” muses Cuse. “Should I even try?”

But, Cuse writes, his fate was in his own hands; he and partner Damon Lindelof agreed to end the show on their own terms, rather than let the network dictate when they would end it. That way, there would be less of a chance of jumping the shark; they could tell their story how they wanted to. The biggest question (for Cuse, at least) was what to do next.

“A tortured novelist who takes seven years to write a book gets cut a lot of slack,” he writes. “But if you are capable of producing a well-honed hour of filmed entertainment every eight days, how big a deal can it be to come up with a new idea?”

Cuse writes that he enjoyed his months looking for the newest project. He debated several pilot ideas, from a Steven King novel to a show about a dolphin trainer and her pod of dolphins that serve as secret government agents by night. None of them felt right. After all, Cuse points out, television is one of the biggest commitments you can make, more so than even marriage, which, he says, “pales in comparison.”

“Marriages don’t require signing iron-clad multiyear contracts. At least most first marriages don’t. In success, I would be working unremittingly on that one project for what could easily consume the next five or more years of my life.”

A vacation to Washington proved to be inspiration to the writer and producer, who, upon walking into the Lincoln Memorial, had a good feeling. “I knew this was a period of rich and compelling drama. But more important…they felt very relevant for today. And there was something else very appealing about the Civil War: no polar bears.”

So expect Cuse’s new project, entitled “Point of Honor,” to be deeply seeded in history (he was an American History major) and blessedly free of time warps, parallel worlds, and fish biscuits.

Selected Reading: New York Times, Twitter, IMDb

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