Posts tagged: interviews
Actor, writer and director Harold Ramis has died. He is probably best known for SCTV, Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, and Groundhog Day. He also had memorable roles in As Good As It Gets and Knocked Up. The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times have obituaries. The AV Club has collected tributes, including one from President…
Interview with Denys Cowan
“Legendary comic book artist and Milestone Media co-founder Denys Cowan joined CBR executive…
In September, the Batwoman team of J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman announced they were leaving the book with issue 26. The firestorm around the reasons they were leaving led DC to move up their departure by two issues and hire a new writer. While replacing a long running team is always a challenge for any writer coming on board during such a volatile transition makes it even more challenging. The writer chosen to replace Williams helped mitigate some of the controversy - Marc Andreyko who had written the DC fan favorite Manhunter.
Andreyko’s run starts this week with issue #25 (preview here, new replacement cover below ) which is now part of DC Comic’s mini-event centered around Batman Zero. He’ll be joined next month by his Manhunter collaborator Jeremy Haun, who I spoke to last month.
When Andreyko was announced there was some speculation DC chose him for the job because he is an out gay man. But as the email interview I did with Andreyko earlier this week shows the idea of his joining Batwoman wasn’t DC’s idea.
Guest Star Beth Watkins interviews Samit Basu about his new book, Turbulence: writing, superheroes, Not Explaining India and villain lairs:
Author Samit Basu’s first American release, Turbulence, is the story of a few regular people who arrive in Delhi on a flight from London…with superpowers. Talk about baggage. Not just the standard flying, invisible, very very fast kinds of superpowers, either: each one of them gets what they most want in life. Basu doesn’t bother with the unlucky folks who wound up with new iPhones or a Prada wardrobe and instead rollicks through the adventures of the more incredible ones: an aspiring actress effortlessly bewitches everyone, a stressed working mom can split herself into multiple bodies, and the protagonist, Aman Sen, once under-noticed, now controls all the networks in the world. It’s not the most traditional distribution of skills in a superhero team, but this is India in the 21st century. Chaos and clamor are the (dis)order of the day—villainous destruction and heroic derring-do hardly make a splash. Aman and his new team mean well, but how can they actually go about saving the world in an always-on, hyperlinked, complicated modern society?
After rave reviews for Turbulence in its Indian and UK releases—from names like Mike Carey and Wired, no less–I ordered a copy from India. And despite me knowing approximately half a percent as much about Indian literature or speculative fiction as I do about Indian cinema, Samit agreed to let me interview him about it anyway.
Originally from Calcutta, India, Samit is also the author of a bestselling fantasy trilogy, Gameworld (The Simoqin Prophecies, The Manticore’s Secret, and The Unwaba Revelations); a YA adventure, Terror on the Titanic; comics, including a zombie invasion of Delhi; films; and many other things, which you can explore on his website.
Unseen photos from Point Blank part 7
John Boorman’s 1967 thriller “Point Blank” is one of my favourite films, and I’ve managed to collect dozens and dozens of original contact sheets from the film. Over the next few weeks I intend to share the best of these (never before published) stills. —Jordan Krug, the edit room floor
Walter Hill just mentioned recently how much Point Blank screenplay by Alex Jacobs influenced him.
In an interview for Patrick McGilligan in Backstory 4, Walter Hill talked about the “revelation” of reading Alex Jacob’s script for John Boorman’s 1967 classic Point Blank. Hill had been laboring as a screenwriter, but was never comfortable with the template most Hollywood scripts required of him, which he said was “a sub-literary blueprint for shooting a picture and generally had no personal voice.” Hill admired Point Blank greatly, but on the page, Jacob’s work showed him a new way of writing: “Laconic, elliptical, suggestive rather than explicit, bold in the implied editorial style.” And from that example, Hill’s own writing—and later, directing—took on what he calls an almost “haiku-like” economy. At Hill’s best, his work as writer and director is as tight as a clenched fist, with not a word wasted in the dialogue and a simplicity of expression that extends from character development to the diamond-tight action sequences on which he built his reputation. —Walter Hill 101: The Auteur
“Alex Jacob’s script of Point Blank (1967) was a revelation. He was a friend (wonderful guy, looked like a pirate, funny and crazy). This revelation came about despite a character flaw of mine. I have always had difficulty being complimentary to people whose work I admire, when face-to-face with them. This is not the norm in Hollywood where effusiveness is generally a given. Anyway, a mutual friend told Alex how much I admired Point Blank and John Boorman. Alex then very graciously gave me a copy of the script. This was about the time he was doing The Seven-Ups (1973).
“Anyway, by now I’d been making a living as a screenwriter for maybe two or three years and had gotten to the point where I was dissatisfied with the standard form scripts were written in — they just all seemed to be a kind of subliterary blueprint for shooting a picture and generally had no personal voice. Mine were tighter and terser than the average, but I was still working with the industry template and not too happy about it. Alex’s script just knocked me out (not easy to do); it was both playable and literary. Written in a whole different way than standard format (laconic, elliptical, suggestive rather than explicit, bold in the implied editorial style), I thought Alex’s script was a perfect compliment to the material, hard, tough, and smart — my absolute ideals then. So much of the writing that was generally praised inside the business seemed to me soft and vastly overrated — vastly oversentimental. Then and now, I haven’t changed my opinions about that. But I have changed them about the presentational style.
“Anyway I resolved to try to go in that direction (that Alex had shown), and I worked out my own approach in the next few years. I tried to write in an extremely spare, almost haiku style, both stage directions and dialogue. Some of it was a bit pretentious — but at other times I thought it worked pretty well. I now realize a lot of this was being a young guy who wanted to throw rocks at windows.
“Hard Times was the first, and I think maybe the best. Alien (1979) — the first draft, then when David [Giler] and I rewrote it, we left it in that style. The Driver, which I think was the purest script that I ever wrote, and The Warriors. The clean narrative drive of the material and the splash-panel approach to the characters perfectly fit the design I was trying to make work. Of course all this depend on the nature of the material; I don’t think the style would’ve worked at all had I been writing romantic comedies.”
“My scripts have always been a bit terse, both in stage directions and dialogue. I think I’ve loosened up in the dialogue department, but I still try to keep the descriptions fairly minimal, and in some cases purposefully minimalist. I still punctuate to effect, rather than to the proper rules of grammar. I occasionally use onomatopoeias now, a luxury I would certainly never have allowed myself when I was younger. My favorite description of the dilemma of screenwriting comes from David Giler, “Your work is only read by the people who will destroy it.” —Walter Hill
Point Blank original screenplay by Alex Jacobs [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
James Gandolfini interview & B-roll for The Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There. With a short clip of Joel Coen directing Gandolfini and Frances McDormand.
When we finally up and bust off the beach we found Arnie Bragg, kid missing on recon; the Japs had *eaten* the sonofabitch, if you’ll pardon the, uh… And this was a scrawny, pimply kid too, nothin’ to write home about. I mean, I never would’ve, ya know, so what do I say, honey? When I don’t like dinner, what do I say? I say, Jesus, honey, Arnie Bragg— *again*?!
Big Dave is a smaller part but key to the plot of The Man Who Wasn’t There, and played with panache. Gandolfini says that he appreciates the way the Coen brothers, like the people behind The Sopranos, know what tone they want and how to get it. He cracks up remembering the first time he saw Thornton transformed into a forties character, with waxy brows and shellacked, sculptural hair. “He looked like a young Frank Sinatra,” he says. And he mischievously implies that a crucial fight scene between them was fun to do because Thornton is so thin. As he praises the Coens, one can hear his concern that future movie collaborations drawn up by Hollywood committee might not be so confident and smart and fun. “I’ve been spoiled,” he says again and again. Maybe so. Still, to meet him is to conclude that he hasn’t, and won’t, let it go to his head. —James Gandolfini: Not Just Another Wise Guy
In my mind, James Gandolfini didn’t die. We just cut to black.
With thanks to LoSceicco1976
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.
- 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