I’ve already spoken about ‘scripts’ and how ridiculous most are. On the two films I’ve done, the writers simply didn’t know what the fuck they were writing about. They just put pen to paper for money. Don’t take my word for this (cliché). Here’s what Larry McMurtry had to say.
‘One thing that continues to amaze me about the movie business is the haphazard way the people in it go about hiring screenwriters. A particularly interesting aspect of this practice is the hiring of scriptwriters who have not the slightest intellectual or emotional link to the project in question.’
McMurtry goes on to mention the silliness of Faulkner’s work in Hollywood, work that the Coen Brothers used in their wonderful film, BARTON FINK. McMurtry didn’t mention Fitzgerald’s Hollywood disasters that certainly contributed to his early death.
Billy Wilder, a writer himself, likened Fitzgerald to ‘a great sculptor hired to do a plumbing job.’
I’ve often said that writing is writing and screenwriting ain’t writing and that’s why great writers have mostly failed in movies. Hemingway’s mantra was ‘write one true sentence,’ and doesn’t seem to be the case in scriptwriting.
McMurtry also says that he doesn’t think ‘that there are any screenwriters that can write a script about just anything.’ Fitzgerald ‘co wrote’ a script with Joseph Mankiewicz and was heartbroken when he found that Mankiewicz had rewritten all of Fitzgerald’s dialogue, saying it wasn’t ‘screen dialogue.’ It’s ironic that none of the GATSBY movies were any good. Maybe those movies should have stuck to Fitzgerald’s writing. Hemingway doesn’t fare too well there either, and Capote’s films aren’t up to his original writing.
The only thing I ever responded to in a script was real dialogue and that’s why I admired Mamet and Bill Heater so much. Screen directions are usually silly. Who knows what the locations are. Fitzgerald was criticized for his elaborate character development in his scripts but that could be valuable to an actor, but Heater’s scripts always defined the character with a few lines of dialogue.
Hemingway once wrote the line, ‘Will you please please please please please please please stop talking?’ Seven ‘pleases.’ Word was that his agent or editor asked him to cut a few but Hemingway refused. Imagine a screenwriter getting something like that past a producer.
McMurtry made quite a few interesting points but he did extensive work as a Hollywood screenwriter. His book probably could have run deeper.
Fitzgerald put everything in perspective. He said, ’…just couldn’t make the grade as a hack.’