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
Select pages from the final shooting script of 2001: A Space Odyssey as exactly reprinted in the original version of the book The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 (edited wonderfully by Jerome Agel 1970—second printing, pg 165.)
With thanks to Matt Degennaro
The complete screenplay of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Typographically designed to read during watching the movie.
Lost Highway screenplay by David Lynch and Barry Gifford [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
“You can say that a lot of Lost Highway is internal. It’s Fred’s story. It’s not a dream: It’s realistic, though according to Fred’s logic. But I don’t want to say too much. The reason is: I love mysteries. To fall into a mystery and its danger… everything becomes so intense in those moments. When most mysteries are solved, I feel tremendously let down. So I want things to feel solved up to a point, but there’s got to be a certain percentage left over to keep the dream going. It’s like at the end of Chinatown: The guy says, ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.’ You understand it, but you don’t understand it, and it keeps that mystery alive. That’s the most beautiful thing. For me, a film exists somewhere before you do it. It’s sitting in some abstract world, complete, and you’re just listening to it talk to you, telling you the way it’s supposed to be. But not until all the sound and music and editing has been done do you truly know what it is. Then it’s finished. It feels right, the way it’s supposed to be, or as right as it can. And when it’s finished, you’re back in a world where you don’t control anything. You just do the best you can, then say farewell.” —Rolling Stone, March 6, 1997 Lost Highway Lynch Interview
The first time I lay actual eyes on the real David Lynch on the set of his movie, he’s peeing on a tree. This is on 8 January in L.A.’s Griffith Park, where some of Lost Highway’s exteriors and driving scenes are being shot. He is standing in the bristly underbrush off the dirt road between the base camp’s trailers and the set, peeing on a stunted pine. Mr. David Lynch, a prodigious coffee drinker, apparently pees hard and often, and neither he nor the production can afford the time it’d take to run down the base camp’s long line of trailers to the trailer where the bathrooms are every time he needs to pee. So my first (and generally representative) sight of Lynch is from the back, and (understandably) from a distance. Lost Highway’s cast and crew pretty much ignore Lynch’s urinating in public, (though I never did see anybody else relieving themselves on the set again, Lynch really was exponentially busier than everybody else.) and they ignore it in a relaxed rather than a tense or uncomfortable way, sort of the way you’d ignore a child’s alfresco peeing. —David Foster Wallace VISITS THE SET OF DAVID LYNCH’S NEW MOVIE AND FINDS THE DIRECTOR BOTH grandly admirable AND sort of nuts
Any film that succeeds in touching on deep themes through perfect comedy is bound to build a lasting connection with audiences. In his DVD commentary for Groundhog Day (1993) Harold Ramis recalls some of the feedback he received on the film and plenty of fun tibits from it’s production.
Bill Murray called it ‘probably the best work I’ve done’ and, 20 years after its release, Groundhog Day can still take your breath away. Its original screenwriter Danny Rubin and admirers such as director David O Russell explain its lasting appeal.
How did you come up with the idea for “Groundhog Day?”
There’s so many parts to answering that question. I think the big idea, if there is a — the big think or the accidental happenstance was when I was trying to solve a story problem. If a person could live forever, if a person was immortal, how would they change over time? I was curious about whether one lifetime was enough for somebody. There are some people, those arrested development type men who can’t really outlive their — out grow their adolescence and I thought, well, maybe one lifetime isn’t enough. Maybe you need more. So, I was just thinking through if a person could live long enough, how would they change and that seemed like a cumbersome experiment because of having to deal with changing history. So, I was trying to solve the problem how you can have a person be immortal without having history change from underneath him so that the movie would not — the story of the movie would not have to deal with the French Revolution and with the future and things like that.
And then, to solve that, I remembered an idea I had had about a year or two before that about a guy repeating the same day and I realized that having a person repeat the same day turns an eternity into a circle and that’s when all the dramatic possibilities came and the comedic possibilities and all the resonances with repetition. So, that was the idea like that. I was actually getting ready to read one of Anne Rice’s novels about vampires and I was sort of thinking about why I thought that was interesting and the most interesting thing to me was that it was a different class of people. They were just like people except some of the rules were different and the most interesting one being that they were immoral and that’s what got me thinking about immortality. There, that’s all of it. —Big Think Interview With Danny Rubin
Screenwriter Danny Rubin, also a professor of screenwriting at Harvard, graciously agreed to come to Red River Theatres for Q & A following a screening of his beloved comedy/romance Groundhog Day. Coincidentally, Rubin’s Kindle Edition e-book on the screenplay How to Write Groundhog Day was released by Amazon.com the day before this appearance.
In his book, How to Write Groundhog Day, the man who wrote the legendary movie shares the story behind the film and his secrets for aspiring screenwriters. Here, his Top 10 rules for writers.
Blue Velvet screenplay by David Lynch [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
Lynch wrote two treatments of Blue Velvet at Warner’s request, but they hated both versions. The film was dead until Lynch finished filming Dune, and was asked by producer Dino De Laurentiis if he had any projects he’d like to do next. Lynch pitched Blue Velvet, with one condition — he had to have final cut. De Laurentiis agreed in exchange for Lynch cutting his salary and the film’s budget in half. Some questioned if it was wise for De Laurentiis to fund Lynch’s new project given the poor box office of Dune. According to Paul Sammon, former DEG vice-president of special promotions, “Dino appreciated David’s rather bizarre gifts, and besides, Dino’s system was to always presell everything through his European and international contacts, so he never lost money.”
With the project a go again, Lynch completed two more drafts of the screenplay to Blue Velvet. The catalyst to set the story in motion was Jeffrey’s discovery of the ear. “The ear is like a canal, it’s like an opening, little egress into another place… It’s like a ticket to another world that he finds. If he hadn’t found it, you know, he would have kept on going home and that would have been the end of it. But the fascination with this, once found, drew him into something he needed to discover and work through.” It was on the fourth and final draft that Lynch finally came up with the ending to the film. “I was sitting on a bench and I suddenly remembered this dream that I’d had the night before. And the dream was the ending to Blue Velvet. The dream gave me the police radio; the dream gave me Frank’s disguise; the dream gave me the gun in the yellow man’s jacket; the dream gave me the scene where Jeffrey was in the back of Dorothy’s apartment, sending the wrong message, knowing Frank would hear it. I don’t know how it happened, but I just had to plug and change a few things to bring it all together.” —lynchnet
Photographs from the 25th Anniversary Blue Velvet Exhibit held in the Dennis Hopper Building, 20 Princess Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, November 9th through the 13th 2011.
Cool Hand Luke screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Based on the novel by Donn Pearce.
Here’s an excellent video session with the legendary writer-director Frank Pierson. His credits include Cat Ballou (1965), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), A Star Is Born (1976), King of the Gypsies (1978), In Country (1989), and Presumed Innocent (1990).
What’s your creative process?
Sit down at 10 o’clock in the morning and write anything that comes into my head until 12. One of the few things I’ve discovered about writing that seems to work, at least for me, is to form a habit that becomes an addiction so that if you don’t put something down on paper every day, you get really mean and awful with withdrawal symptoms, and your wife and your dog and your kids are going to kick your ass until you get back to it because they can’t bear you in that state of mind. What’s happening is that your unconscious is writing all the time. It doesn’t stop. In the middle of a dinner party or just playing with the dogs or what have you, you suddenly have in idea. Sometimes it’s important to go write that down, but it won’t go away. If it’s a good idea, it’ll linger in your mind. If it’s a bad idea, you’ll forget it. —The Masters: Frank Pierson on the origin of his most famous line and why his scripts never “fail to communicate.”
Director Stuart Rosenberg and legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall:
Conrad Hall photographed The Wild Seed, Morituri, Harper, The Professionals, Divorce American Style, Cool Hand Luke, In Cold Blood, Hell in the Pacific, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and The Happy Ending. He received an Oscar for Butch Cassidy.
I want to help change the world, and I want to do it by telling stories that help to do that. And other people say, “I’d rather do it by picking up a brick and throwing it through a window, or sitting down somewhere and attracting attention.” I think that films haven’t changed it, although they’ve influenced it somewhat, but not necessarily for the better. Because there hasn’t been in it the responsibility that there should be. The artists are not in control yet. Those in charge are not a group of artists, they’re a bunch of people making money.
But now the artists are coming along, and maybe there’s a chance… I don’t think we can change the world through films any more. I used to think we could change the world by showing the human condition. But picking up a brick and throwing it, or sitting down someplace in a road, does a much quicker job. I don’t have any answers for anything, but I know that I’m not going to make any more pictures that I don’t really care about. My motives in the past were different. —Conrad Hall: An Interview, Spring 1971
The handwritten drafts in the Writers Guild Foundation collections reveal the creative magic behind the unforgettable screen moments. From the hilarious “There’s no crying in baseball!” in A League of Their Own to the snappy Bogart and Bacall banter of Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, the pages offer a rare glimpse at how writers develop stories and characters.
With thanks to Tim Pelan
The penultimate lecture of the BAFTA Guru 2012 series was recorded on Friday 26 October. Brian Helgeland is one of Hollywood’s master screenwriters of intelligent crime film, and has won an Oscar for L.A. Confidential and a BAFTA nomination for Mystic River. He has also collaborated with Tony Scott (Taking of Pelham 123, Man On Fire) and Paul Greengrass. In this lecture, Helgeland urged screenwriters to ‘fight’ to assert themselves in front of commissioners and executives, argued that films should be ‘commercial’ (that is, profitable on some level) and paid tribute to Cool Hand Luke screenwriter Frank Pierson.
Enjoy, read, and learn: L.A. Confidential screenplay by Brian Helgeland [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
What kind of notes does Eastwood give a writer?
Well, not a lot. This is the second movie I’ve done for him. He had me read the book, and we had this sort of initial discussion of what it was we both liked about the book. He had different ways of expressing it than I do, but it was pretty much we liked the same things. The next thing about him is he assumes you know how to do your job, and then it’s up to you to either prove him right or prove him wrong. He’s been around long enough that he doesn’t want to put constraints on you. A lot of directors are still so keen on trying to make it what it is they want it to be that they handcuff you from the start as to what you can do or not do. I think he knows that some things he’s not interested in might come out of it but a lot of good things come out of giving someone their freedom to do it the way they think it should be done. And basically, that’s what he did, he let me go and do the best job I could do. —Interview by Fred Topel
Mystic River screenplay by Brian Helgeland [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
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)
Here are some extracts of storyboarding from The Big Lebowski
“If somebody goes out to make a movie that isn’t designed primarily to entertain people, then I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. What’s the Raymond Chandler line? ‘All good art is entertainment and anyone who says differently is a stuffed shirt and juvenile at the art of living.’” —Joel Coen
“Most of the characters in our movies are pretty unpleasant—losers or lunkheads, or both. But we’re also very fond of those characters, because you don’t usually see movies based around those kinds of people. We’re not interested in burly superhero types.” —Joel Coen
The original The Big Lebowski DVD features a gem of an interview with the Coen Brothers in which they ruminate on the film and joke around about the backstory. In one of the funniest parts, they talk about an interview they did with “Floor Covering Weekly” about the rug which plays a central part in the film. Just like the rug itself, the interview seemed to have been at the center of an abiding mystery. Speculation has since abounded — what happened to the interview? Was it a hoax perpetrated by a zealous fan? Or did the Coens just make the whole thing up? They’ve certainly been keen to play with alternate realities in regards to the Lebowski mythos. —The Lost Coen Brothers – Big Lebowski – Floor Covering Weekly Interview!
Watch here: The Making of ‘The Big Lebowski’
Called “the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived” by über-critic Pauline Kael, this 2010 Oscar-winning best actor embodies traits far beyond brilliance as an actor. He is an exceptional musician, a photographer, an occasional vintner and a storyteller. He hails from an illustrious Hollywood family, working as a child with his father Lloyd and brother Beau on television’s “Sea Hunt.” Bridges endures with vigor and grace. His own decades-long marriage and daughters remain the center of his world. His casual, easy-going air have endeared him to audiences for almost 40 years, starting with The Last Picture Show in 1971, reinforced in Starman in 1984 and the cult classic The Big Lebowski in 1998. After the life-changing role of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart in 2009, he returns to the screen with Tron Legacy and as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, directed by the Coen Brothers.
I love this man.
- Read The Big Lebowski script [pdf] (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
- Download ScreenplayHowTo’s The Big Lebowski screenplay analysis [pdf]
Extract from draft screenplay of North by Northwest (1959), written by Ernest Lehman and directed by Alfred Hitchcock
HITCHCOCK: Now, the choir on the left and singing, and they seat themselves just as he gets to the—say, there are four rows of choir singing—just as he gets level with the end row. Now we CUT to the DOWN SHOT on the congregation and they sit, you see. And they look up and there’s nobody in the pulpit. And yet, last time we saw him, although there was a man in surplice under the stairs, he was about to put his foot on the first step to go into the pulpit. But we CUT AWAY before he gets his foot on the step.
LEHMAN: As a member of the audience here, I feel slightly cheated, Hitch, right there.
HITCHCOCK: He hasn’t put his foot on the steps—this is my point. That you now go to the congregation and they look up—the front row looking up. Now you CUT to what they see and there’s the pulpit. Now you HOLD your camera on that empty pulpit. Now you CUT BACK to your people: “Well, what’s happened?”—now you come back behind the column and the pulpit…
What a gem I just found, Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman plan Hitch’s final film:
In this audio clip we hear director Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman developing the storyline for what would be Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot (1976). The screenplay for what turned out to be Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot, was written by Ernest Lehman who had previously worked with the director on North by Northwest (1959). On both films, the writer and director collaborated closely, but on Family Plot Lehman recorded their story conferences, providing unprecedented insight into their working methods. An estimated 80 hours of their conversations are preserved at the Ransom Center.
Now, in the process of writing the film, it seems that you began with a list of disparate ideas that Hitchcock mentioned as possible scenes for the movie. Could you discuss them?
Yes. They were all wonderful, and I took them all down, and I never used most of them. For some reason, Hitch wanted to do the longest dolly shot in cinema history. The idea was that the shot would begin with an assembly line, and then you’d gradually see the parts of the car added and assembled, and, all the while, the camera’s dollying for miles along with the assembly line, and then eventually there’s a completed car, all built, and it’s driven off the assembly line, and there’s a dead body in the backseat.
Did you try to work that one into the script?
Not really. It was intriguing, but it had no place in the picture. Then Hitch told me another one: there’s a speech being made at the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the speaker suddenly stops. He’s irritated, and he says he’s not going to continue until the delegate from Brazil wakes up. So a UN page goes over to the man, taps him on the shoulder, and the delegate falls over dead. But he’d been doodling — and that’s the only clue to the murder — and his doodling is a sketch of the antlers of moose. So I said, “Well, that’s intriguing — now we’ve got the United Nations, and Detroit, and what might seem like a reference to northern Canada.” And Hitch said that he’d always wanted to do a scene at Lake Louise where a family is having a reunion — a get-together — and a twelve-year-old girl takes a gun out of a baby carriage and shoots someone. I realize that all these ideas sound very peculiar and unrelated, but I took them all down and thought about them. —Creative Screenwriting (2000), “North by Northwest”: An Interview with Ernest Lehman
In this 1965 interview, Hitchcock discusses — partly in French — “La Mort aux Trousses” (French title for “North by Northwest”), and in particular the famous “that’s funny — he’s dusting crops where there ain’t no crops” scene.
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
- North By Northwest screenplay 1958 shooting draft for your reading pleasure (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
- Ernest Lehman’s notes
- North by Northwest, the Hitchcock classic, as you’ve never seen it before
In late Feb of 1972, production on Sam Peckinpah’s “The Getaway” began in San Marcos, Texas. The first few days would be shot inside and around the maximum security prison located there, using actual inmates as the majority of the background extras. The majority of this footage would be used as a complex editorial montage which opens the film. The following quote is from Jeff Slater’s excellent book Entered His House Justified, The Making of the Films of Sam Peckinpah. Associate producer Gordon Dawson recalls:
“It was not an easy task as we had to take McQueen and one hundred and thirty crew members inside the walls. The night before we began filming we were told that if a hostage situation developed, even if it included McQueen, the prison officials would do nothing, their policy was not to negotiate with inmates, they’d shoot first and ask questions later. That was a difficult night, Sam and I killed a bottle of tequila, we asked ourselves over and over, do we go in, or not? Something deep inside Sam loved taking risks, we got the first shot (the next morning) by nine thirty.”
The following photos depicting the shooting at the prison are from original contact sheets, the majority of them unpublished (all photography courtesy Mel Traxel). In some of these first photos you can see McQueen doing his best to win over the prison population, signing autographs and talking at length with the prisoners. Peckinpah looks quite happy to be shooting this new film. —the edit room floor, unseen photos from “The Getaway”
Kicking ass with Walter Hill: The Getaway screenplay by Walter Hill [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
Early in your career, you wrote scripts for John Huston and Sam Peckinpah. What did you pick up from them… or from the other prominent directors you worked for, like Norman Jewison or Woody Allen?
They were all talented filmmakers; interesting individuals, but as far as learning anything… I think what you learn is everyone makes their own way. As far as creativity goes, I think you get your head to a place where things are discovered, not invented. It’s that Platonic, Keat-ian idea that you don’t really write a poem; it’s already there, and you find it. I think that’s true for the audience as well: they discover what they already know or intuit. And that’s the most ideal relationship between the audience and the storyteller. Now Huston and Peckinpah had very similar outlaw personalities. At the same time, they were wildly disparate fellows; Sam worked in a much narrower—some would say deeper—channel, while Huston had a wider field of interest. I think it was also important that he was a much more omnivorous reader… which isn’t to say he was smarter or more talented, but he possessed a worldview, and sophistication, that went way beyond the very restricted world Sam chose to live in.
I think you see that in Peckinpah’s films. In his later career, he seemed to be sinking into pure nihilism, while Huston always loved these offbeat character studies—right up to Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and The Dead (1987).
I think one of the biggest differences was that Peckinpah was purely a guy of film. He worked in it his whole life, from the time he got out of the Army, and his heroes were filmmakers, like Kurosawa and Bergman. Huston was from the generation before that; most of his generation never really regarded filmmaking as a serious artistic pursuit.
I guess that’s why Huston could make so many films he didn’t really care about. He could take a job and just amiably do the work in a way Peckinpah never really could.
Huston was a soldier of fortune, as anybody in film has to be to some degree. He also liked to travel, and to drink. He liked high society, beautiful women, horse races, and buying great art… and to live that kind of life, you have to make a lot of money. John could turn a buck… Sam mostly lived in a trailer in Paradise Cove.
And only made about a third as many pictures as Huston did.
But what’s so memorable about Sam is what a powerful, personal, artistic stamp he put on his work. His name alone conjures up a vision…
He comes up in almost every interview I do with filmmakers of your generation.
I think what we respond to most with Sam is his purity of commitment. And that’s always easier to idolize. And I’m not a critic, but I think it’s true his work fell into severe decline, while Huston was—in and out—but basically good until the end. —Kicking Ass with Walter Hill by Jon Zelazny
Here’s an original script page from Jerry Maguire. With additional notes by Tom Cruise himself. [via October Jones. He actually wrote it himself. Don’t tell Tom. Legend has it that to this day he is still running]
A jewell of the screenwriting world: Jerry Maguire screenplay by Cameron Crowe [shooting draft, pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
It was not the grand meeting I had hoped for, frankly, but I did get my poster for “The Apartment” signed. I tried to talk him into playing a part opposite Tom Cruise in the movie I was finishing up writing. And he gave me a little indication that he might do it, and then later when I called him he said, `No.’ It was a rainy day, we had just begun rehearsals and everybody was saying, `When is Billy Wilder going to show up? He’s going to play Dicky Fox, right?’ Then I said, `Well, let me call him.’ So I called him. He said, `Leave me alone. I’m an old man. I’m not an actor.’ And he hung up.
And I kind of looked at my actors and we all looked at each other, and Tom said, `Let’s get in the car. Let’s go over there and talk him into it.’ So we went screaming through the streets to catch him at his office. And he talked to us for about 45 minutes and in every possible, elegant way you can imagine he told us, no. But he did say this very funny and Wilderesque thing as we were leaving. He kind of looked at me and he looked at Tom, and he said, `Nice to meet you,’ to me and then his gaze turned to Tom and he said, `Nice to meet you, especially you.’ And I got the feeling that even at 91 at the time, he was buttering up his next star, Tom Cruise. —Cameron Crowe, discusses his new book about Billy Wilder
This is brilliant, read it: The Jerry Maguire Journal
The Perfect Noir: Double Indemnity screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
The screenplay, fashioned by Wilder and Raymond Chandler was based on the novel by James M. Cain. The film went into production in September of 1943 with a harshly made–up, brassily blonde Stanwyck. The blonde wig was Wilder’s idea, He used it, as he said “to complement her anklet. I wanted to make her look as sleazy as possible”. Cinematographer John Seitz recalled later that when Buddy DeSylva, then production head of Paramount, saw the first shots he remarked, “We hired Barbara Stanwyck and here we get George Washington”. Wilder said later, “The wig was not much good, I must admit”. I thought it was perfect!
Stanwyck was well aware of the potential in the role of Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, Wilder remarked later how Barbara jumped at the chance of playing it. In an interview for Movie Digest in 1972, Barbara, recalled, “when Billy Wilder sent me the script of Double Indemnity, and I read it, I realized that I had never played an out–and–out killer. I had played medium heavies, but never an out–and–out killer. And because it was an unsympathetic character, I was a little frightened of it. I went to his office, and I said to him, I love the script and I love you, but I’m a little afraid, after all these years of playing heroines to play the part of an out–and–out cold– blooded killer… Mr. Wilder looked at me and resolutely declared, “Are you an actress or a mouse?” Well, I hope I’m an actress I lamented. To which he bluntly replied, Then take the part.”, I did, and I have been grateful to him since”.
Billy Wilder has not seen the picture in years. “I never look at my old stuff”, he claims, but regards Double Indemnity as one of his favorites, “because it had the fewest takes, and because it was taut and moved in the staccato manner of Cain’s novel.” When the film was released, the New York Herald Tribune wrote:
Billy Wilder has adapted James Cain’s story with uncompromising artistry. His staging makes the offering one of the most vital and arresting films of the year. With perfectly coordinated acting by Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson and the lesser players, it hits clean and hard right between the eyes. Wilder has made a sensational contribution to filmmaking in Double Indemnity.
The following interview is an excerpt from a book titled Film Noir Reader 3, edited by Robert Porfirio, Alain Silver, and James Ursini (November 2001; Limelight Editions). This interview was conducted in July 1975.
Wilder: But you see, the thing is that you used a key concept there: that is looking for patterns. Now, you must understand that a man who makes movies and certainly somebody like myself that makes all kinds of movies, works in different styles. I don’t make only one kind of movie, like say Hitchcock. Or like Minnelli, doing the great Metro musicals. As a picture-maker, and I think most of us are this way, I am not aware of patterns. We’re not aware that “This picture will be in this genre.” It comes naturally, just the way you do your handwriting. That’s the way I look at it, that’s the way I conceive it. … When you see movies, you decide to put some kind of connective theory to them. You may ask me, “Do you remember that in a picture you wrote in 1935, the motive of the good guy was charity; and then the echo in that sentiment reappears in four more pictures. Or, you put the camera…” I’m totally unaware of it. I never think in those terms: “The big overall theme of my œuvre,” I say that laughingly. You’re trying to make as good and as entertaining a picture as you possibly can. If you have any kind of style, the discerning ones will detect it. I can always tell you a Hitchcock picture. I could tell you a King Vidor picture, a Capra picture. You develop a handwriting, but you don’t do it consciously. —Billy Wilder: About Film Noir
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
- Billy Wilder, two essential documentaries
- Billy Wilder, The Art of Screenwriting
- Playboy Interview: Billy Wilder (June 1963)
- A rare interview with Billy Wilder
- Amazing stories about Billy Wilder
- Billy Wilder’s ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’
- Alfred Hitchcock sent this letter to Billy Wilder, praising him on his film The Apartment
- BBC Archive: Billy Wilder
- What screenwriter wouldn’t want a little advice from him? Well, here are some of Wilder’s screenwriting tips
- A Seminar with Billy Wilder
- Billy Wilder: an Annotated Webliography
”What critics call dirty in (American) movies, they call lusty in foreign films”
”There was an actress named Marilyn Monroe. She was always late. She never remembered her lines. She was a pain in the ass. My Aunt Millie is a nice lady. If she were in pictures she would always be on time. She would know her lines. She would be nice. Why does everyone in Hollywood want to work with Marilyn Monroe and no one wants to work with my Aunt Millie. Because no one will go to the movies to watch my Aunt Millie.”
”Making movies is little like walking into a dark room. Some people stumble across furniture, others break their legs, but some of us see better in the dark than others.”
”A bad play folds and is forgotten, but in pictures we don’t bury our dead. When you think it’s out of your system, your daughter sees it on television and says, ‘My father is an idiot’.”
”A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.”