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Backstory 5

Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1990s

Patrick McGilligan

Publication Year: 2009

Patrick McGilligan continues his celebrated interviews with exceptional screenwriters in Backstory 5, focusing on the 1990s. The thirteen featured writers—Albert Brooks, Jean-Claude Carrière, Nora Ephron, Ronald Harwood, John Hughes, David Koepp, Richard LaGravenese, Barry Levinson, Eric Roth, John Sayles, Tom Stoppard, Barbara Turner, and Rudy Wurlitzer—are not confined to the 1990s, but their engrossing, detailed, and richly personal stories create, in McGilligan’s words, "a snapshot of a profession in motion." Emphasizing the craft of writing and the process of collaboration, this new volume looks at how Hollywood is changing to meet new economic and creative challenges. Backstory 5 explores how these writers come up with their ideas, how they go about adapting a stage play or work of fiction, how they organize and structure their work, and much more.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii

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p. ix-ix

The Albert Brooks, Jean-Claude Carrière, Richard LaGravenese, John Sayles, Tom Stoppard, and Rudy Wurlitzer interviews are used with the permission of their authors. The individual authors retain their copyrights for any uses ...

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pp. 1-4

The world keeps turning, spinning madly one might say, and here we are at the fifth volume of the Backstory series, more than two decades after the publication of my first book of interviews with Hollywood screenwriters of the golden age. Much has changed since the first book; in particular, there is now a ...

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Albert Brooks: Me Generation Everyman

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pp. 5-20

In Albert Brooks’s comedy The Muse (1999), a Hollywood screenwriter (played by Brooks) attempts to reignite his stalled career by employing the services of a muse (Sharon Stone). Descended from one of the nine Muses of Greek myth, she boasts an impressive track record of divinely inspired careers—at one point she and Brooks bump into Rob Reiner, who exclaims, ...

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Jean-Claude Carrière: Breaking the Rules

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pp. 21-23

Jean-Claude Carrière’s working relationship with Luis Buñuel produced six film classics, and he went on to write The Tin Drum (1979), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988),Valmont (1989), Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), and many other films—over one hundred in all—in several languages (including English). In the year 2000 he became the only non–U.S. ...

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Nora Ephron: Feminist with a Funny Bone

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pp. 24-43

Nora Ephron has several careers, which she has shuffled like a master dealer always with one more card up her sleeve. Long before her first screen credit, she was well known as one of the leading voices of New Journalism, a tough reporter, first-person essayist, and feminist with a funny bone—sometimes one or the other, other times ...

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Ronald Harwood: Imagination

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pp. 44-59

Ronald Harwood speaks of the theater as his “natural habitat,” as is only fitting for a man who has written three dozen noteworthy plays, nonfiction books, and histories of the stage. His name is synonymous with quality theater in England, and his life’s work has led to him being made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), among many other high ...

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John Hughes: Straight Outta Shermer

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pp. 60-70

If you haven’t heard of Reach the Rock (1998), you’re not alone. In fact,considering its short, unheralded existence, you may well be alone if youhave. Directed by newcomer William Ryan, it’s a quiet, rather low-key (theless generous among us might call it “dull”) character study of an over-grown delinquent (played by Alessandro Nivoli), stuck in a dead-end...

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David Koepp: Sincerity

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pp. 71-89

David Koepp was bemused at my suggestion that his small-town Wisconsin roots might help to explain the populist touch of a writer who has worked on as many Steven Spielberg films as anyone, and counting. As many Brian De Palma films too, for that matter. But Koepp is not easily categorized. He is a writer who wears several hats jauntily. One of his specialties is “ ...

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Richard LaGravenese: A Writer Under the Influence

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pp. 90-112

Born and raised in Brooklyn to parents who shared with him their love for movies, Richard LaGravenese was hardwired to appreciate the intricacies of filmmaking from a very early age. He spent much of his youth absorbing the classics, in front of the family television and at the theater. “When Gene Hackman is about to run into the woman with the baby carriage in...

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Barry Levinson: The Journey

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pp. 113-133

Largely because of Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990), and Liberty Heights (1999), the engaging quartet of “Baltimore films” that explore his own life story and that of his friends and family, Barry Levinson looms as a towering figure among contemporary writer-directors. His chutzpah in making autobiographical films is as rare in mainstream ...

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Eric Roth: Pride of Authorship

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pp. 146-168

For the first two decades of his unorthodox career Eric Roth flew under the radar, leading a Forrest Gump–like seemingly ubiquitous existence behind the scenes. If he wasn’t quite on the A-list in the 1970s, he circulated widely and made friends easily, building bridges to a future that would mark him as one of the screenwriting pantheon. At least Hollywood knew his name, ...

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John Sayles: The Nonconformist

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pp. 169-188

If John Cassavetes is the father, then John Sayles is the godfather of American independent cinema, and has for more than twenty-five years been making intelligent, individualistic films outside the system. While Truffaut declared, “I make films that I would like to have seen when I was a young man,” Sayles is a determined nonconformist who wants only to ...

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Tom Stoppard: Adventures in Movies

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pp. 189-204

First, a little background. The man considered by many to be one of England’s great living playwrights, screenwriters, BBC radio and television contributors, and masters of wordplay was born Tomáš Straussler in Zlin, Czechoslovakia in 1937. ...

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Barbara Turner: Free Spirit

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pp. 205-220

In Hollywood there is sometimes talk of the “short list” of top screenwriters, but one of the shortest in a film industry dominated by male executives is the list of women who have been getting their scripts produced for over Barbara Turner was born in New York and started out her career as an actress in plays and television. She was married first to actor Vic Morrow...

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Rudy Wurlitzer: Questing

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pp. 221-234

Roads that turn in on themselves or go nowhere, frontiers coming to a close, and characters seeking meaning on the fringes—these are all constants in Rudy Wurlitzer’s work as a novelist and screenwriter. A similar questing and restlessness can be found in Wurlitzer’s life. Born in Cincinnati in 1930 ,Wurlitzer, like William S. Burroughs, was heir to a once ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 235-236

General Index

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pp. 237-246

Index of Films, Plays, and Books

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pp. 247-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780520945470
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520260399

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2009