The Conversation (1974) screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only.) With thanks to Matt Degennaro.
Anisse Gross found a way straight to the human being who lies beneath the legend that is Francis Ford Coppola. This interview is so visceral, full of hope and longing, full of the kind of wisdom (and writing tips!) that only a legend could impart. Fabulous piece.
I’m still under impression. What a brilliant interview.
Of all your work, what do you feel the most personal connection to?
Coppola: In my earlier career I liked The Rain People, because that was my first film where I got to do what I wanted to do. I was young; I wrote the story based on something that I had witnessed. Few people know that film. It’s about a young wife who loves her husband but doesn’t want to be a wife, and one day gets in her station wagon and leaves a note with his breakfast and takes off. In a way it preceded the women’s movement. It’s curious for a guy like me to do. Then I made The Conversation, which was an original as well. That’s what I wanted to be doing. The Godfather was an accident. I was broke and we needed the money. We had no way to keep American Zoetrope going. I had no idea it was going to be that successful. It was awful to work on, and then my career took off and I didn’t get to be what I wanted to be.
What did you want to be?
Coppola: I wanted to be a guy who made films like The Rain People and The Conversation. I didn’t want to be a big Hollywood movie director. I was always a starving student and money was always a big problem. Suddenly I had all this money. I bought this building, and I bought a nice house. I didn’t want to ever do a second Godfather. I was so oppressed during The Godfather by the studio that when Mr. Big, who owned the whole conglomerate, said, “What do we have to do to get you to do it?” I had suggested that I would supervise it and pick a director to do the second Godfather. I don’t know why there should be a second Godfather. It’s a drama, it’s the end, it’s over. It’s not a serial. When I went back and told them I had chosen Marty Scorsese to do it they said absolutely not. Finally I told them I’d do it, but I didn’t want any of those guys to have anything to do with it. To see it, to hear the soundtrack, the casting, their ideas, nothing. So I made Godfather 2 because I’d always been thinking about trying to write something about a father and son at the same age, two stories juxtaposed. I had total control and it was a pleasure, I must say. I did that and won all these Oscars and had all this success for doing that. —The Rumpus Interview with Francis Ford Coppola
The whole crazy, Quixotic Coppola/American Zoetrope experience is so important for film geeks to learn about.
Creativity, after all, is the ability to see connections between seemingly dissimilar elements. —Francis Ford Coppola, Zoetrope: All-story, vol.3, no.2
A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. This 63-minute documentary covers the rise and fall of the struggling young studio during the late 1960s and early 1970s, touching on everything from the influence of Easy Rider to the bitter clash between Warner Bros. and American Zoetrope over the film itself. In all fairness, though, it’s great to see Warner Bros. swallow their pride by allowing this documentary to be presented objectively (one might be reminded of the clash between Universal and Terry Gilliam over Brazil, and the wonderful documentary produced for The Criterion Collection). Among other highlights, A Legacy of Filmmakers features short interviews with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola. Overall, it’s a great piece for anyone interested in film history, and as relevant to THX 1138 as any other bonus feature in recent memory. —Randy Miller III
An Interview with Sidney Lumet by Peter Bogdanovich, Film Quarterly, VOL. XIV, NO. 2—WINTER 1960. A gem of an interview!
What have you found to be your main obstacle in film work?
For myself the main obstacle is the set—up, the film in America. The financial set—up, the method of making motion pictures, and the method of distribution is one that conspires to defeat freedom and good work. And I suppose it’s the age—old complaint, there’s no solution that I know of. I know every once in a while somebody just takes a camera and goes off into the street, but what if you had a piece that doesn’t belong in the street? What if your piece needs a sumptuousness and a sensuousness as part of its dramatic meaning? And, you know, documentaries and semi-documentaries are not the only method of work in film. And as soon as you get past that level, financially you’re caught in a miserable situation. Twelve Angry Men cost $343,000, which is ridiculously cheap, but that’s a rarity; it had one set, twelve actors, and a very tight shooting schedule of twenty days.
Many fine directors—Huston, Wilder, Bergman, Welles, Kubrick—either write their own screenplays or collaborate extensively with others on scripts. To date you haven’t done either; do you think you’d find it more satisfying to work on scripts rather than just do the best you can with material you are given?
It’s not “either/or.” I can’t write. And I have such respect for writers—I don’t understand how two writers collaborate, for instance—so that the method for myself is one simply of letting them do their work, then going back into work in terms of whatever specifics are needed, whether it’s structural or dialogue. On Fugitive Kind, for instance, there was a good deal of re—writing between the original draft and what wound up on the screen.
Did you have a say in that?
Oh, yeah. And the working procedure was that Tennessee and Meade [Roberts] brought in the first draft, then all of us together talk, talk, talk, talk, talk-back, another draft, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk-back, another draft—I think it was the fourth draft we used. —Sidney Lumet by Peter Bogdanovich, Film Quarterly, VOL. XIV, NO. 2-WINTER 1960.
How I Make Films: Interview with John Huston, Film Quarterly, Fall 1965. I must say that this is one of the best interviews with John Huston.
How does the script get written? Do you do it alone? And how long does it take you?
Again, there are no rules. I’ve written scripts and made pictures out of them in two weeks. At other times I’ve worked a year and a half just on a script. The Maltese Falcon was done in a very short time, because it was based on a very fine book and there was very little for me to invent. It was a matter of sticking to the ideas of the book, of making a film out of a book. On Treasure of Sierra Madre, I wrote the script in about 3-4 months, but I had had quite a long time to think about it before. The actual making of the film didn’t take very long, but I had had the idea of making it since before the war. It was the first film I made after the war.
What is the technical process of your scriptwriting?
Usually I write in longhand first, and then dictate a later version. I use a standard script form: action on the left and dialogue on the right. When it’s finished it’s mimeographed and distributed to the pople who need to see it. I often change again later. Sometimes I finish the final version on the set itself, or change again something I’ve written as a final version the day before. Mostly these changes come to me when I hear the words first spoken by an actor. It’s always different once it comes out of a living person’s mouth. By this I do not mean that I try to adjust to an actor’s personality—I try to do that as little as possible. When I write, I don’t have in mind an actor, but a character. I don’t conceive this character with a specific star in my mind. I guess what I am trying to do with this constant changing, is to try to put to work more than my own imagination, or at least allow my imagination the liberty of play, the liberty of coming out of its cage—which is me, my body, when I am alone and writing—and in this way it begins to live and to flower and gives me better service than when I put it to work abstractly, alone, in a room with paper and pencil, without the living presence of the material. Then, when the character has been born out of this extended imagination, I have to look for someone to play the role, and this someone isn’t always necessarily the person who I thought could play it originally, because often it no longer is the same character. In fact, I’ve often-at least, sometimes—delayed the making of a film because I couldn’t find anybody to play the new and adjusted character that I had finally arrived at construing. Although in my experience you usually find someone; there are enough good actors if you are willing to wait a little.
What should an actor’s relationship to the camera be?
He must have an awareness of the size of his gesture, his motion, in relation to the size that his image will be on the screen. It isn’t absolutely an essential quality, but it is very useful. I don’t mean that I tell him the focal length of the lens I’m using and expect him to adapt himself accordingly, but a good actor has an almost instinctual awareness of these things. When an actor comes from the stage, he usually has to make adjustments of this kind. He doesn’t need to project, he doesn’t need to make his voice heard over a distance. He can speak very quietly. He can be more economical in every way before the camera than he could be on stage. And he can work with the small details of his face.
Let’s see if we can follow your filmmaking method through logically and go on to a description of the process of turning the script into film.
Actually I don’t separate the elements of filmmaking in such an abstract manner. For example, the directing of a film, to me, is simply an extension of the process of writing. It’s the process of rendering the thing you have written. You’re still writing when you’re directing. Of course you’re not composing words, but a gesture, the way you make somebody raise his eyes or shake his head is also writing for films. Nor can I answer precisely what the relative importance, to me, of the various aspects of filmmaking is, I mean, whether I pay more attention to writing, directing, editing, or what—have—you. The most important element to me is always the idea that I’m trying to express, and everything technical is only a method to make the idea into clear form. I’m always working on the idea: whether I am writing, directing, choosing music or cutting. Everything must revert back to the idea; when it gets away from the idea it becomes a labyrinth of rococo.
Occasionally one tends to forget the idea, but I have always had reason to regret this whenever it happened. Sometimes you fall in love with a shot, for example. Maybe it is a tour de force as a shot. This is one of the great dangers of directing: to let the camera take over. Audiences very often do not understand this danger, and it is not unusual that camerawork is appreciated in cases where it really has no business in the film, simply because it is decorative or in itself exhibitionistic. I would say that there are maybe half a dozen directors who really know their camera—how to move their camera. It’s a pity that critics often do not appreciate this. On the other hand I think it’s OK that audiences should not be aware of this. In fact, when the camera is in motion, in the best-directed scenes, the audiences should not be aware of what the camera is doing. They should be following the action and the road of the idea so closely, that they shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on technically. —How I Make Films: Interview with John Huston, Film Quarterly, Fall 1965
For the Warner DVD edition of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” the studio had Steven Soderbergh conduct an interview with director Mike Nichols and the result is one of the wittiest and most sophisticated commentary tracks ever. For the running time of the film, a listener is given the feeling of being in a private screening room with two Hollywood titans as they talk about a very important picture. —Joe’s View
Playboy Interview: Mike Nichols (June, 1966), pp. 63-64, 66, 68, 72-74
All material for educational purposes only.
Required reading for filmmakers and cinephiles, screenwriters and writers, movie buffs and film aficionados: Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age: At the American Film Institute.
This is priceless:
- HAROLD LLOYD
- RAOUL WALSH
- FRANK CAPRA
- MERVYN LEROY
- GEORGE FOLSEY
- WILLIAM WYLER
- GEORGE CUKOR
- BILLY WILDER
- JOHN HUSTON
- RAY BRADBURY
- ELIA KAZAN
- FRED ZINNEMANN
- DAVID LEAN
- STANLEY CORTEZ
- ROBERT WISE
- RICHARD BROOKS
- STANLEY KRAMER
- HAL WALLIS
- JEAN RENOIR
- FEDERICO FELLINI
- INGMAR BERGMAN
- SATYAJIT RAY
The first book to bring together these interviews of master moviemakers from the American Film Institute’s renowned seminars—a series that has been in existence for almost forty years, since the founding of the Institute itself. Here are the legendary directors, producers, cinematographers and writers—the great pioneers, the great artists—whose work led the way in the early days of moviemaking and still survives from what was the twentieth century’s art form. The book is edited—with commentaries—by George Stevens, Jr., founder of the American Film Institute and the AFI Center for Advanced Film Studies’ Harold Lloyd Master Seminar series.
Here talking about their work, their art—picture making in general—are directors from King Vidor, Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang (“I learned only from bad films”) to William Wyler, George Stevens and David Lean. Here, too, is Hal Wallis, one of Hollywood’s great motion picture producers; legendary cinematographers Stanley Cortez, who shot, among other pictures, The Magnificent Ambersons, Since You Went Away and Shock Corridor and George Folsey, who was the cameraman on more than 150 pictures, from Animal Crackers and Marie Antoinette to Meet Me in St. Louis and Adam’s Rib; and the equally celebrated James Wong Howe.
Here is the screenwriter Ray Bradbury, who wrote the script for John Huston’s Moby Dick, Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man, and the admired Ernest Lehman, who wrote the screenplays for Sabrina, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and North by Northwest (“One day Hitchcock said, ‘I’ve always wanted to do a chase across the face of Mount Rushmore.’”). And here, too, are Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini (“Making a movie is a mathematical operation. It’s absolutely impossible to improvise”). These conversations gathered together—and published for the first time—are full of wisdom, movie history and ideas about picture making, about working with actors, about how to tell a story in words and movement.
A sample of what the moviemakers have to teach us: Elia Kazan, on translating a play to the screen: “With A Streetcar Named Desire we worked hard to open it up and then went back to the play because we’d lost all the compression. In the play, these people were trapped in a room with each other. As the story progressed I took out little flats, and the set got smaller and smaller.”
Ingmar Bergman on writing: “For half a year I had a picture inside my head of three women walking around in a red room with white clothes. I couldn’t understand why these damned women were there. I tried to throw it away… find out what they said to each other because they whispered. It came out that they were watching another woman dying. Then the screenplay started—but it took about a year. The script always starts with a picture…”
Jean Renoir on actors: “The truth is, if you discourage an actor you may never find him again. An actor is an animal, extremely fragile. You get a little expression, it is not exactly what you wanted, but it’s alive. It’s something human.”
And Hitchcock—on Hitchcock: “Give [the audience] pleasure, the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.”
A Guest in My Own Dreams: An Interview with Federico Fellini, Film Quarterly, Spring 1994 [pdf]
This is probably one of the best interviews with Fellini.
The conversation which follows did not take place all at once. Although I had known Federico Fellini since 1956, when he came to New York to publicize Nights of Cabiria and appeared on my radio show, and although I had written about him extensively, made a documentary about him (Ciao, Federico!), and photographed him continually for 37 years, we had not actually sat down to discuss his filmmaking ideas and his life philosophy until a few years before his death.
This was not because I did not ask him. It was, I now think, his reluctance to sound definitive about anything, and especially about himself, which made him postpone again and again a long-promised, lengthy, and in-depth conversation on these topics. Even the simple telling of the facts of his life kept being postponed. And although once, in 1962, after I had worked with him on 8’/2 and was following him during the shooting of Juliet of the Spirits, he sat down with me on a rainy afternoon and allowed me to record his story on five hours of tape, he was beside himself when these tapes were lost and refused to do new ones. I think this is because the story would not have been the same if he had tried again. He would have invented another life, a risk he probably wished to avoid in case the first tapes ever showed up.
But after City of Women, on which my companion, Deborah Beer, was the set photographer (as she was on And the Ship Sails On and on Ginger and Fred), he became somewhat more open to the suggestion of talking about himself in what I told him would be a discussion in depth. He smiled at this definition but he did not refuse, although at the same time he practically stopped giving journalistic interviews. From today’s vantage point, I can’t help feeling that for Fellini, allowing this discussion was a small way of giving up a battle for continual renewal.
I hope to convey, with these excerpts from many hours of tape, an image of a man who has shaped our vision of the century. —Gideon Bachmann
Cronenberg on Cronenberg. He’s given 3sat an interview in which he looks back on his major features over the course of 90 minutes.
Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood in conversation with Academy Award-nominee Darren Aronofsky following the world premiere of Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story.
This unprecedented new film focuses on Eastwood’s directorial method thanks to producing partners and fellow actors sharing never-before-told stories of working with Clint. It explores Eastwood’s signature style, dissecting the skills that have ensured his four decades of success. Bringing together the insights of Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and many others, the film creates the complete picture of the man, the colleague, the creator.
Taking a look at the creative process of filmmaking through the eyes of some of the entertainment industry’s most prolific writers, directors and producers:
- Northeast Front: Randall Wallace, Writer-Director, SECRETARIAT; Lawrence Kasdan, Screenwriter, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK; Shane Black, Writer-Director, LETHAL WEAPON, LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, and KISS KISS BANG BANG
- Tadpoles: David Hayter, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof, and Robert Rodriguez
- Comedy in film: Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow, Buck Henry, and Jon Lucas
- The creative minds behind APOLLO 13, SCHINDLER’S LIST, and A BEAUTIFUL MIND discuss the inspiration behind these classic, Academy Award winning films. Featuring Ron Howard and Steven Zaillian
- The creative minds behind UNFORGIVEN, A PERFECT WORLD, and 3:10 TO YUMA discuss creating westerns with resonance. Featuring John Lee Hancock, David Peoples, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas
- The creative minds behind the shows Mad Men, The Wire, and Treme discuss historical and modern day relevance in television dramas. Featuring Matthew Weiner and David Simon
- Creating a film from script to screen is discussed by the writer/directors behind SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, UP IN THE AIR, and THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN. Featuring Danny Boyle, Jason Reitman, and Ed Burns
- War in film is discussed by the creative minds behind RED DAWN, BORN ON THE 4th OF JULY, and APOCALYPSE NOW. Featuring Oliver Stone and John Milius
- Working within the studio system is discussed by the local filmmakers behind OFFICE SPACE, LONESOME DOVE, and EL MARIACHI. Featuring Mike Judge, Bill Wittliff and Robert Rodriguez
- Suspenseful storytelling is discussed by the creative minds behind THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE BIG EASY and LETHAL WEAPON. Featuring Shane Black, Ted Tally, Daniel Petrie, Jr. and Christopher McQuarrie
- Reflecting the real world in film is discussed by the creative minds behind JARHEAD, THE COMPANY MEN, CAST AWAY and FALLING DOWN. Featuring John Wells, William Broyles, Jr., and Herschel Weingrod
- Developing and understanding heroes and villains is discussed by the creative minds behind RAMBO, LETHAL WEAPON, BRAVEHEART, and Dexter. Featuring Álvaro Rodríguez, Shane Black, Randall Wallace, John Turman, and Melissa Rosenberg
- Creating Classic Characters: Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack (OUT OF AFRICA, TOOTSIE, THE WAY WE WERE) and NYPD Blue and Deadwood creator David Milch discuss the inspiration behind creating classic film and television characters
- Comedy That Resonates: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld writer/producer Alec Berg and BRIDESMAIDS director and Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig pull back the curtain to show how they create comedy that resonates with us all
- Action! The creators behind the explosions CON AIR, GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, HULK, ZOMBIELAND and MACHETE debate what makes a great action movie
- Based On a True Story: The challenges of making true stories compelling on the screen are discussed by Oscar-nominated Scott Silver (THE FIGHTER), Oscar-nominated Nicholas Kazan (REVERSAL OF FORTUNE), Pamela Gray (CONVICTION), Oscar-winner Ron Howard (APOLLO 13)
- The Heart of Film: The inspiration behind such classic films as EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, TOY STORY, and UP is discussed by Academy Award winning Pixar director John Lasseter and screenwriter Caroline Thompson
- From THE GRADUATE and CATCH-22 to Saturday Night Live and Get Smart, iconic comedic and distinctly American writer, director, and actor Buck Henry recalls his long and storied career in Hollywood
- Creating Complex Characters: Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia discusses the influence of his father, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez, and the complexities and flaws that form nuanced characters in THE GODFATHER, CAPOTE, and his own MOTHER AND CHILD and IN TREATMENT
- Oscar-winning writer Ted Tally gives a provocative look at the adaptation and production of the highly acclaimed film THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Tally covers it all: working with director Jonathan Demme, anticipating Jodie Foster’s Oscar win, the changed ending for the world’s most famous cannibal, and more
- Raising Stakes, Reversals, And Payoffs: Thriller master writer/director Shane Black (KISS KISS BANG BANG, LETHAL WEAPON) discusses the critical elements of a taut, suspense-filled movie – raising stakes, unexpected reversals, and satisfying payoffs – using examples from such classics as ROCKY, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, and LA FEMME NIKITA
- A Conversation with Chris Carter: Legendary television writer Chris Carter reveals the secret behind the creation and success of The X-Files
- Explosive Action! Building Action Through Character: The writers behind WANTED, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, CON AIR, and SNITCH discuss how they use action scenes to further the plot, convey tension, and build toward a satisfying climax
“Cinema is under assault,” Steven Soderbergh told an audience in San Francisco over the weekend. He said that the Hollywood studios are to blame and that moviegoers are their accomplices. “Fewer and fewer executives in the industry love movies,” Soderbergh continued, “There’s a total lack of leadership in my opinion, that’s what’s killing cinema.” The director’s remarks came at the San Francisco International Film Festival’s annual State of Cinema Address. It was a sort of Jerry Maguire memo, “Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s as unique as a fingerprint. If it’s done well, you know exactly who made it,” Steven Soderbergh defined on Saturday, “Is there a difference between cinema and movies? If I ran team America, I’d say fuck ya. Cinema is something that is made, movies are seen.”
Soderbergh said that he needed $5 million to make his upcoming Liberace movie, Behind the Candelabra, which stars Michael Douglas as the famous piano player and Matt Damon as the musician’s lover. Yet he said that the studios needed the movie to gross $70 million to make it work financially. “No one has figured out how to lower the costs of marketing movies…no one,” Soderbergh said. “The thing that mystifies me is in terms of spending, is there anyone in the galaxy that doesn’t know Iron Man 2 is opening that weekend!?” He continued, ”Studios only gamble on openings instead of supporting filmmakers over the long haul. In my opinion, it’s about horses - not races.”
“Executives don’t get punished for making bombs the way filmmakers do,” Soderbergh charged, “So there’s no turnover with people who don’t know their own business.” “I’m spending so much time talking business and sexy math because this is what’s driving everything right now,” Soderbergh said. Yet he also sounded a few optimistic notes. So what would he do differently? “If I were running a studio, I’d get a Shane Carruth, a Barry Jenkins and an Amy Seimetz and ask ‘What do you wanna make?’” Soderbergh said, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect someone running a multi-billion dollar business to be able to identify talent. I’m wrong a lot, it doesn’t even raise my blood pressure anymore, maybe the audiences are happy, the studios are happy – maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everything is just fine,” Soderbergh said at one point near the end of his speech. The room erupted with some chuckles because clearly those in the audience agreed with him that everything isn’t just fine. —The World According to Steven: Insights from Soderbergh
With thanks to Jacob Rosenberg
Source: SoundCloud / ThompsonOnHollywood
Woody Allen: Fascinating documentary made for French TV in 1979.
This fascinating documentary captures Allen not long after his Oscar success with Annie Hall and the release of his follow-up movie Interiors. Made for French TV in 1979 by Jacques Meny, and actress/journalist, France Roche, this documentary takes the neurotic King of Comedy through his childhood, early career, and success as writer filmmaker. Though the voice over is French, Allen’s interview is in English. —Paul Gallagher
Film-making is about having something to say—something that can only be said in a film and not a short story, or a play, or a novel. That’s how Woody Allen described his movies—it’s the best way for him to express and explore his ideas, his feelings, and well, because he has ‘to do something for a living.’ It was June 1979, Woody Allen was said to be hiding in Paris. His latest film Manhattan, had opened in New York to overwhelming critical acclaim. As the reviews filtered back to his hotel suite, Woody talked about the movie and film-making to Barry Norman, for the BBC’s Film ‘79.
As Allen explained to Norman, Manhattan was inspired by a dinner conversation with Diane Keaton and cinematographer, Gordon Willis, where they discussed the idea of making a film in Black & White. ‘And as we talked about it, gradually a story spun out in my mind about it. And, you know, it could be anything, it could be a sudden anger over something or, the impulse to want to dress as a pirate. You know, any one of those things could do it.’
But why Manhattan? asked Norman.
‘I live in Manhattan and wouldn’t think of living anywhere else, really,’ said Allen, before going on to explain it’s a great place to live—‘because you know you’re alive.’ —Paul Gallagher
WGA 101 Greatest Screenplays: Annie Hall (1977). Here is the script for Annie Hall by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman. Enjoy the read! [pdf, Shooting Script, 1977]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
DGA Interviews: Prominent directors reflecting on their body of work through an extended and in-depth Q&A.
- A Man For All Seasons: Robert Altman
- The Straight Shooter: Clint Eastwood
- Big Stories: Sydney Pollack
- Working Man: Mike Nichols
- Age & Innocence: Steven Spielberg
- The Professional: Ron Howard
- Talking Pictures: Martin Scorsese
- Doing the Right Thing: An interview with Spike Lee
- In Search of the Miraculous: James Cameron
- Coppola Rising: Francis Ford Coppola
“I’m not the oldest of the young guys.
I’m the youngest of the old guys”
— Francis Ford Coppola
- A Storied Life: Milos Forman
- A Life in Pictures: Roman Polanski
- Head of the Table: Nancy Meyers
- Is This Guy Really Funny? Jay Roach
- Prince of the City: Sidney Lumet
- The Mystery of Werner Herzog: Werner Herzog
- Crossing Borders: Ang Lee
- Uncommon Man: Peter Weir
- Man of Vision: Ridley Scott
- The Man Who Would Be King: King Vidor
David Mamet on storytelling and directing.
How many passes does it take to create perfect dialogue?
That’s a really good question. I’m not sure I know the answer. I do it fairly spontaneously, and then sometimes, for various reasons, it has to be recrafted. I used to be really good at that, but it gets more difficult as I get older just because my brain is failing. I have less brain cells because long before any of you guys were born, there was something called the ‘60s. That’s where the brain cells were. —The Writer’s Craft: A David Mamet Interview
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
- Creative Screenwriting interview
- David Mamet’s hand-written outline for his 1991 crime drama “Homicide”
- The Paris Review interview
- Mamet’s guidelines for screenwriting
- Glengarry Glen Ross LaserDisc commentary with director James Foley
And, as you say, the older you get, the more uncertain you become. I knew so much more about writing when I wrote The Usual Suspects instinctively than in anything I’ve written since. Because now I know how it works. And in not knowing, I was able to write so freely I was able to write that screenplay. Very little changed. The Way of the Gun I wrote in five days. It didn’t change very much. But I shot it in a very stark way and didn’t leave myself room to manipulate. I would never shoot a movie like that again. I would shoot for that: I like masters and I like when a scene plays out. But you have to be able to control the rhythm and the tempo of the movie. And the movie’s done in a way that you could never control. I killed it. So, on the one hand, I’m very proud of it. On the other hand, I’m very grateful for everything that I learned from it.
In one draft of The Usual Suspects Keaton has the line “I swore I’d live above myself, which was something you once said to yourself in a bar. How do you feel you’re doing?
I’m not there yet. I’m not there. —Christopher McQuarrie Career Interview
Enjoy, read, and learn: The Usual Suspects original screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
That McQuarrie interview is one of my favourites: terrifically honest, invaluable advice. Hard on himself, I think.— Nev Pierce (@nevpierce)