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Moriarty's RUMBLINGS FROM THE LAB #30, featuring a talk with William Goldman

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here. Maybe I'll just say "once weekly" and stop trying to pin the damn thing down to a specific day. There's got to be some way to get me and this column on schedule again. Of course, there's outside interference this week. Yes, it's true. Dear God, help us here at the Labs… Harry has moved in.

Don't get me wrong. I love the big guy. It's just that when he landed, he took over, and there's a bit of a siege mentality setting in now. We're being bombarded by roughly 30,000 calls an hour from people trying to woo him to do this or see that or go here or be there. It leaves precious little time for any real, concentrated evil, something which worries me. With ShoWest coming next week, I need to finish up several projects so I don't have them hanging over me as we enjoy the convention. The only reason I'm even getting this written and posted is because he's asleep in the guest wing of the Labs right now.

Right now, we've got about two dozen spy missions planned for the next 48 hours. We'll see if we're able to pull off everything we're working on. If so, it'll be fodder for the next few weeks here on AICN. I know I've been busy lately, reading some interesting new scripts and having some remarkable conversations, so let me stop describing and start transcribing.


A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of reading William Goldman's new book, WHICH LIE DID I TELL? Mid-Monday afternoon, that pleasure was compounded when I finally spoke to Mr. Goldman for about a half-hour on the phone. I started the interview late, but that was just a miscommunication. I was waiting for him to call me. I cleared my line, and when the phone rang at precisely 2:00, I answered, amazed by his promptness.

"Hi, sweetie." I quickly deduced that it was not Goldman on the phone. "What's going on?" It was Lynn Bracken, and as much as I normally covet any chance to talk to her and explain exactly what's wrong with Knowles and explain all of my best qualities, I had to quickly explain what call I was waiting for. I went back to waiting, and when fifteen minutes had passed, I realized something was wrong.

I called his book agent and discovered that I was supposed to be calling him. This was made much easier when they gave me his phone number, and a frantic ten digits later, a gruff voice answered. I explained the mix-up, introduced myself, told him how much I've always enjoyed his work.

"Are you taping me?"

I said I was.

"Okay, then. Shit. I guess I can't swear."

As I laughed, I relaxed. I have to admit, I was somewhat nervous about talking to him. ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE is one of the key books to help me shape my early perceptions of this business, and I've always been somewhat awed by his run of scripts in the '70s. Very few guys have ever had hot streaks like his. Even if all he'd ever done was adapt ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, it would still stand as one of the canniest pieces of adaptation in film history.

"It's funny. Many years ago, I wrote a book, and in it, I said that nobody knows anything, and that's the truth. I just read yours and Mr. Knowles' reviews of GLADIATOR, and -- believe this, okay -- two months ago, when I first heard of this project -- you have to understand, if I'd been an executive, I would have been the one who greenlit KING DAVID with Richard Gere -- two months ago, I said someone's going to make a fortune on a biblical picture. I think everything goes in cycles. All it's going to take is that one gigantic musical and everyone's going to be making musicals. When I first heard that someone had let Ridley Scott loose on something called GLADIATOR, I said to a friend of mine that I know nothing about it, but it's going to be the biggest movie of the year. Now, having read your reviews where you say it's terrific, I have no doubt. I bet it would be gigantic if it had only been good. I think there's a hunger for that right now."

I told him that I agreed with the idea of cycles in film, and suggested that with musicals, there's a good chance it will be Baz Luhrmann's MOULIN ROUGE which ushers in the new trend.

"It may well be. I remember in 1984 in television when everybody was saying the sitcom is dead. That fall, COSBY premiered and went on to become the number one sitcom of all time. I believe there's nothing new. All people really want is a wonderful story, and you can tell it in any genre. I don't mean to sound pompous, but I love those movies. My god, have you ever seen BEN HUR? I love that stuff. Now, to be able to do it with the new technology… I can't wait to see it."

I suggested that with the new tools available, filmmakers are going back to make the films they saw in their heads as kids, films that were never possible until now.

"Ridley Scott is a great shooter. He's capable of doing… I don't want to say anything shitty about anyone in this interview, by the way… Scott's capable of fabulous stuff and terrible stuff, and it all just depends on what kind of mood he's in and what material he has, but this is fabulous. I can't wait. And from what you guys wrote, I gather Russell Crowe is the new Mel Gibson."

I agreed that he is, in fact, a god walking the earth in the movie.

"He's really good. He's a wonderful actor. Anyway, I'm excited. That's a summer movie, isn't it?"

I told him that May 5 is the release date.

"Well, that's a hell of a way to start the summer. Now, tell me about yourself. How long have you been around movies?"

Startled that the tables had been turned on me, I stammered my way through a bit of biographical information, details of my past as an evil genius. I filled him in on some of the work I've done in theater, some of my various exploits with Harry Lime.

"So you still love theater?"

I agreed. I explained that there's an immediacy that keeps me interested in the art form.

"The first piece of non-fiction I ever wrote [THE SEASON, if you want to go find it] was about Broadway. I love the theater. It's hard, though. It's all hard. Movies are hard. It's just hard to make something decent. It really is. The fates are against you every time if you want to make a quality movie. Every time you turn around, there's just one more reason it's going to suck. When something wonderful manages to come out, it's magical."

I tell him that it's that magic which keeps me going back to the cinema time and time again, always hoping when the lights go down that I'm about to see something where all the parts connect, where everything works, and where I'm transported.

"The one that first did it for me was GUNGA DIN when I was eight, and before that I was in love with Shirley Temple. I believe this. I think that people like going into a dark room with strangers and sharing something. They have for 2,500 years. I think we just like that experience. Going to a movie can be a wonderful thing when the movie is terrific."

I brought up the series of articles that Goldman has done for PREMIERE as well as sections of his book in which there's the impression that new Hollywood just can't compete with classic Hollywood. He said recently that Kubrick was the last truly great filmmaker, and that there's no one equal to him left. I asked him if he was fond of any younger filmmakers.

"Oh, jeez, all the ones you like. Sure. David O. Russell, Wes Anderson… I'm not saying it was all better when I was younger. What I'm saying is for various reasons, I do believe that the '90s is the worst decade we've ever had. Talent tends to cluster. I just think that right now the theater is in trouble. Where are all the great playwrights right now? There aren't a lot of great novelists right now. There aren't a lot of great choreographers right now. In all the arts right now, it's a down time. Now, that could change in three years."

I mentioned that the end of '99, the last half of the year, was considered a high watermark by many critics, and I asked what films made an impression on him out of that period.

"I thought it was an odd season. I thought there were an enormous number of terrific films, but nothing great. There were a lot of movies that I loved the first half of, but felt the second half was not as good. I felt that THREE KINGS had a sensational first hour. I thought JOHN MALKOVICH had a sensational first hour. I thought CIDER HOUSE RULES had a sensational first hour. I'm not saying I'm right on any of this. I'm just saying that I was sitting there with my popcorn, I began to feel all these stories getting in trouble. In fact, I can tell you exactly in THREE KINGS, which I thought was a dazzling movie, went off a cliff -- when George Clooney says, 'Hey, we're gonna save these nice Arabs.' You know that movie that Clooney did… OUT OF SIGHT? Terrific movie, directed by Soderbergh, wasn't it? That was just sensational, and then suddenly, at the end of the film, he goes back in the house to save the girl. I said, 'Why are you going back in the house? That's Hollywood horseshit.' Why are you trying to save the Arabs? You're a mercenary. You're a wonderful mercenary. That's all I'm saying. The movie that was most consistent for me all year was THE SIXTH SENSE. I loved THE GREEN MILE. I loved a movie called MUMFORD. No one went to see it. It was funny and different and touching. I just didn't think there was a FARGO this year."

Knowing that Goldman has worked with Newman and Redford and Travolta and numerous other major movie stars, and having read his accounts of juggling egos on those films, I asked him how much of those types of endings could be traced directly to a star's reluctance to look anything less than perfect.

"I have no idea. It's a fascinating question. Here's the problem. David O. Russell did this movie… what's he done now, two movies?"

I listed his three efforts - SPANKING THE MONKEY, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, and THREE KINGS, all of which I'm just nuts about.

"The first two were not, as they say, Spielbergian in terms of box-office gross, but all you want on your first film is to show enough talent to make a second film. It's not going to be CITIZEN KANE. You just want a career, right? We'll never know what changes he made on that film. He took over a script that was already done. We'll never know what changes he made, what changes the studio made, what changes the star insisted on. I just find that kind of moment with that kind of character to be Hollywood horseshit. I'll give you an example of one of those this year in a wonderful movie, okay? Kevin Spacey has a mad sexual frenzy about a young girl. We all do this. It's okay. But then he begins to act on it in this way… he's really nailed by that kid in AMERICAN BEAUTY, right? And he begins to change his body. He begins to lift weights. He begins for the first time to look at himself in a different way. All because he wants to fuck that gorgeous 17 year old body, right? You're with me? I'm telling the story correctly, right? He finally has his chance. They're alone on the couch. She says, 'I'm a virgin,' and he says, 'Oh, my God, I can never touch you.' And I screamed! That's such Hollywood horseshit. That's not the way the script was. I'll bet anything on it! He's got to fuck her! There's no reason he shouldn't fuck her! That's what the whole movie's about, isn't it? I don't know whose idea that was, but I believe that damaged the movie. It's still a great movie, though, beautifully directed by Sam Mendes… gorgeously shot by Conrad Hall."

I can't help but geek out a bit at the mention of Hall, whose work as far back as his OUTER LIMITS days or in his early films like IN COLD BLOOD has always just blown my mind.

"It's fabulous. I've worked with Connie a lot. He's one of the greats. I'm saying, though, that in those moments, I say, 'Oh, don't do that.' I don't want to be negative, though. You said you had a list of questions here."

I tell him that I'm working my way through, and I start to look over my list. As I do, I ask him if he saw the McSorley footage on the news last week of that amazing hockey shot. He says he had, and I told him that it forced me to pry Mongo's beloved SLAP SHOT DVD away from him long enough to see the film for the first time in a lot of years, and it really struck me how Paul Newman wasn't really a winner in that movie in any traditional sense. It's sort of a glorious anti-movie star role for him, the exact opposite of those Hollywood horseshit endings.

"I'll tell you something about that movie. George Roy Hill is by far the greatest director I've ever worked with. George had just come off of BUTCH [CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID] and THE STING, which at that time were two of the top-ten grossing films of all time, so on SLAP SHOT, he didn't do anything that he didn't want to do, and George had a very dark view of the world. If SLAP SHOT was made today, they would change it. The Hansons would have gone to religious school. How does the movie hold up?"

I told him how much I enjoyed it, how I think it's got a great, bracing sense of humor, raunchy and unapologetic and violent and wicked. I also love the anti-formula nature of the movie.

"I still remember screaming in the theater, laughing so hard. Paul Newman's on the phone with someone at one point and the Hansons come up, and he just looks at them and says, 'They brought their fucking toys.' I remember shrieking. Marvelous picture."

I brought up the section of the book where he dispels the GOOD WILL HUNTING rumors in pretty hilarious fashion, and I asked if he is often called in to look at young writers' work and offer advice, or if that was a fairly unique situation.

"Well, I read a lot of scripts. If someone knows me and would like me to read it, I read it. In the case of GOOD WILL HUNTING, I work for Castle Rock on occasion, and it was their script at the time. They asked me to read it. The one thing in the world I can do, and I wrote this in the book, is I love to spitball. You know, just sitting around, throwing out ideas. The script that I read, the one that Rob Reiner told them to change, was filled with the government trying to kill the Matt Damon character or kidnap him. I can't quite remember which it was. It was just filled with this, though, a very different movie. It was the movie that I'm sure these two young inexperienced writers did to try and make it quote commercial, wedging some action scenes in there. The only thing I know after all these years is that you can't just make something commercial. That's why I get crazed in THREE KINGS when Clooney reverts not to character, but to something that I suspect somebody forced on him. The only reason they do that shit is because they want to make their movie commercial. We all want to have our hits, but we don't really know how to do that. The public tells us what they want. One of my favorite Hollywood stories this year… and you guys are deeply involved over at Ain't It Cool with word of mouth and what's going on… there was a movie this Christmas that was wildly expensive, way over budget, over $100 million. It was testing miserably, and I was told that knives were being sharpened for the studio executives that okayed the movie, right? It was going to be one of the great disasters. Guess what? It was STUART LITTLE. Nobody thought THE INSIDER would do as badly as it did. Nobody knows anything. I still believe it."

I told Goldman how freeing that particular refrain has always been to me as a writer. I've always felt that the fact that nobody knows anything means that my only job while writing a screenplay is to entertain myself or my writing partner, never worrying about some hypothetical audience.

"You have to do that. All we've got when we write are those stories in our heads, and if you fuck those up, you don't have anything. One of the things I love to do when I work with young writers is to disabuse them of the notion that I know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm writing a script now, and as we are speaking, I am looking at my computer, tearing out my hair, thinking, well, is this horrible, or is this going to work? I don't know. Storytelling is always tricky."

I brought up his fairly obvious love of the Farrelly Brothers.

"Oh, yes. I love them."

I then brought up his harsh words about Adam Sandler in recent articles, asking him to discuss the fine line that lowbrow humor must walk.

"I'm not horrified by Adam Sandler. I like the football movie. Adam Sandler is talented. Besides, the Farrellys don't get credit for walking that line. You look at their reviews. I said THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY was the best movie of that year, and I still believe that. People thought it was vulgar or stupid, but it was a brilliantly crafted script. I've read the new one, ME MYSELF & IRENE."

I mentioned how much the script made me laugh.

"It's a great script, and I'll bet anything it's a huge success. There's some great stuff in that script."

I mentioned the positive reviews we've gotten from the film's first test screening, something which seems to make Goldman very happy.

"I think the girl [Renee Zellweger] that they picked is very good, and I'll bet you Cameron Diaz didn't want to do it for some reason of another. I thought Diaz was so good in the MALKOVICH movie, but I don't think the critics are ever going to like her much because she's so pretty. Anyway… what else can we talk about?"

By this point, he was really starting to warm up, like he was enjoying himself. I decided to ask him about the first section of his book that I read, the thing that put me in touch with him in the first place. I asked why he used THE BIG A for the book, instead of finishing it as a script, and I asked if that was always his plan.

"I knew for a number of years that I was going to write this book, okay? I'm never going to write anything else about screenwriting. As you know, everyone wants to be a screenwriter now. I wanted to originally write a couple of script segments. Then I thought that was ridiculous, that I should only write one. I loved Audrey Hepburn. I loved Humphrey Bogart, and there's one marvelous scene in that script that those two would have nailed, when he's got the genius kid and he makes her see what happened…"

You should read his book so you know what that actually refers to. I agree when he says it's the best moment in his entire script for THE BIG A.

"That's as good as I can do. That's a great moment for me. I had certain things that I wanted to write, and I wanted to see how far I could go. I was going to finish it, and then I thought, no, this is enough for an instructive thing. Thank god all those respected writers savaged it when they read it. I loved that. They all disagreed on how to make the movie better, how to get it to work."

In the book, Scott Frank, Callie Khouri, the Farrelly Brothers, John Patrick Shanley, and Tony Gilroy all take a crack at his treatment, ripping it apart, trying to find what they would use if asked to rewrite it. It's fascinating to see how different each approach is.

"It's wonderful. I'm so glad, 'cos it seems like I got the right people. I was originally going to bring them all in and try to have a huge giant spitballing session, but they all have real jobs and so instead I just sent each of them the script. I'm thrilled because if they'd all said nice things, I'd be dead. The more savage they could be, the better it would be for anyone reading it. Anyone who wants to be a script writer had better learn to have thick skin. You'd better learn it. Kill all your darlings when you write. So many young writers can't do that. They say, 'No, this is my favorite thing, I love this,' but you have to be able to kill anything if it's not working."

I brought up the fact that he labels the sequels of guys like Lucas and Spielberg as "hooker movies" in his book, dismissing them completely. I asked him how he can reconcile his work on BUTTERCUP'S BABY, a PRINCESS BRIDE follow up, with these feelings that sequels are sell-outs.

"That's a valid question, and I won't even bother to defend myself. If I was going to defend myself, I'd say that following up PRINCESS BRIDE is much more like making a sequel to HOWARD THE DUCK than to STAR WARS. PRINCESS BRIDE wasn't really a successful book in hardcover. Whatever success it had was as a paperback. That was 25 years ago. I wrote Random House to tell them the anniversary was coming up, and they wrote back to say they'd do a 25th anniversary edition if I would write something about BUTTERCUP'S BABY. I wrote about 80 pages of it, and it's out there now."

I asked if that was going to be the total of the sequel, a sort of gentle fib like the framework of the novel itself, or if he'd actually finish the book.

"I don't know if I'm going to write it. I have that much written, and I feel pretty neat about it. That's the only thing I've ever written, you have to understand, that I really liked. Of all the books that I've written, that's the one that I care for."

I compare the idea of a sequel to PRINCESS BRIDE to the concept of an AUSTIN POWERS sequel. Both first films were less than successful in the theater, but became sizable hits on video, and both of them have a loyal audience who would be more receptive to the second film than they were to the first when it came out.

"Wasn't that shocking that the sequel would do more in its first weekend than the first film made in its whole run? It's so strange seeing people try to learn from these things. There was an article in VARIETY about people trying to figure out what they learned from BLAIR WITCH. There's no lesson to learn there!"

The conversation swung around to the working of Ain't It Cool News for a moment, and I found myself describing my process of working with Harry to Bill Goldman. The Bill Goldman. The same guy whose book made such a profound, almost chemical impact on me when I first read it. This was one of those moments when I realize just how strange and wonderful my association with this site has been so far, and just how much stranger it's going to continue to get as we do this thing. I ask him if he sees new media like the Internet as something that will impact films, or if they're just something that will exist as well, parallel but different.

"I actually have an answer for that question. I had for many years a great agent, now dead, named Everett Ziegler, and he was famous because he only had writers. He had Bob Towne, he had Didion/Dunne, he had me. He was just a writer's person, and was a fabulous person. He was fierce. He could fight the studios with this terrific anger because nobody wanted to anger him. He had all these powerful writers, and he loved us all. 25 years ago, someone was talking about whatever the new thing was then, the Internet at that moment, and asking if it was going to change things. And he said, 'I don't care. People will still need someone who can tell a good story.' And I think that's still true today."

Mr. Goldman, who insisted that I call him Bill, "damn it," is currently working for Castle Rock on HEARTS OF ATLANTIS, an adaptation of Stephen King's wonderful book that I reviewed in a RUMBLINGS last year. My conversation with him, like my talks with Brad Bird, Neil Gaiman, Miyazaki, and others over the past year, is one of those things that I will always treasure from my time here on the site, and I hope you enjoyed it as well.


Just before Harry and I leave for Vegas, we're going to take a trip over to the Nuart to see a special James Bond double feature on Saturday night. We have to. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is my very favoritest of Bond films, and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME was the first one I ever saw in the theater. Pretty kick-ass double bill. If any of you stop by and recognize Big Red from that smiling cartoon head in the corner - and you will - feel free to say hi. Same thing while we're at ShoWest next week. We're going to be posting our asses off to give you the fastest, most complete coverage of the events there that we can.

Before that, though, I owe you guys the second half of today's RUMBLINGS. There was just too much stuff to fit into one column. Look for it on Saturday morning, where my conversation with Spike (of the infamous Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted fest) and my review of the script for Paul Dini's upcoming THE RETURN OF THE JOKER film will seem extra-appropriate. I'll also be talking about the Stan Lee Media party that Harry and I were at on Tuesday, as well as bringing you a look at the MINORITY REPORT script and some disturbing Spielberg rumors. Finally, you can expect a rather personal story about something that almost destroyed my love of STAR WARS for good, something more terrible than even Jar Jar Binks. Until then…

“Moriarty” out.

Readers Talkback
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  • March 3, 2000, 6:37 a.m. CST

    Bill Rules

    by Kraven

    Great stuff, O Evil One...back in a few, as my email just flashed that Angelinma Jolie has signed as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Gotta check that out!

  • March 3, 2000, 6:59 a.m. CST

    I completely agree with Mr. Goldman about the second half of Thr

    by r_dimitri22

    ...I bought the turn of events of American Beauty. Sure, Lester had been fantasizing about her throughout the entire movie thus teasing the audience with the prospect of a payoff, but her virginity was a huge revelation. Not that I'm in the midst of a middle-age crisis or pining after sultry high schoolers, but I could completely relate to Lester's wanting to spare her innocence. It brought him back to reality, and his respect for it showed that he still had a soul. People might debate whether or not he had truly redeemed himself at the end of the film with respect to his rather selfish behavior, but I think that was the intended effect. (Brief aside: While watching the film, I had been contemplating ways in that Lester might meet his end. The one that I found somewhat humorous was that he would have a heart attack caused by the excitement of sex with Mena's character.) And if Mr. Goldman reads this, I would like to thank him for writing The Princess Bride.

  • March 3, 2000, 7:10 a.m. CST

    Bill Rules Part II

    by Kraven

    Hi, back again. You know, Moriarty, I love Bill Goldman. I have every novel he's written, and his collected screenplays from Applause. The first time I heard of The Princess Bride was early one saturday morning, when the girl I was dating at the time read me the swordfight between Inigo and Wesley atop the cliffs of insanity ("I'm not left-handed either!"), and I was hooked. That was while I was in London, England, and I immediately bought a copy of the hardback, the version that had H. Morganstern's notes on the text excisions in red print. Great book. Adventures in the Screen Trade is one of the best books about Hollywood ever written (and worth the money just for the scene where Bill witnesses a paranoid Dustin Hoffman tortures the ailing Larry Olivier in Marathon Man). What I like the most about Bill's screenplays is their visual style; of all the zillions of screeplays I have read, I think Bill's have the most elan. Can't wait for his new book. And hey, Moriarty, thanks a lot for posting this so early: the weekend started a lot earlier. Enjoy the Bond Double Bill - man, that fight between Robery Shaw and Connery aboard the Orient Express is the best fight scene in ANY Bond movie, and is mirrored by a similar scene between Jaws and Moore in Spy Who Loved Me (Moore's best Bond, IMHO). Have a great day with the Large One. I'm outta here.

  • March 3, 2000, 7:20 a.m. CST

    Oh, and Moriarty...

    by r_dimitri22

    I eagerly await the rest of your 90s summary. Are you going to make a ten best list like Ebert and Scorsese did? I want to review their lists, but the Ebert and the Movies site does not seem to be working right now. I thought Scorsese's picks were very interesting. Aside from the foreign films that Scorsese mentioned that I would like to see, the ones from his top ten that jumped out at me were Heat and Eyes Wide Shut. Ebert's list was also interesting, but I have read so much of his writings that I almost could have guessed all ten of his before he even revealed them.

  • March 3, 2000, 7:26 a.m. CST

    Thanks, Bill

    by mrbeaks

    If you're not writing to entertain yourself, you make an already difficult task unbearable. Goldman's advice is the kind I like to keep posted above my computer, along with Wilder's "How would Lubitsch do it?" For those of us crazy enough to think we can make a career out of screenwriting, Bill Goldman is a patron saint. And, man, was I happy to see you guys discussing SLAP SHOT; one of my favorite movies. Having been raised in a hockey town, I can tell you there is no truer document of the sport (the goon-filled contest at the end included. It's all happened before.) What a great film!

  • March 3, 2000, 7:29 a.m. CST

    A Perfect Bond Double Feature

    by mrbeaks

    My favorite Bond (FRWL,) and my favorite theme song ("Nobody Does It Better.") Lucky bastards!

  • March 3, 2000, 7:29 a.m. CST

    I will take that brief mention of Baz Luhrman to say that..

    by twindaggerturkey

    Baz Luhrman is a JACKASS. (Remember, there is no sex in the champagne room.) Also, I thought that BEING JOHN MALKOVICH was good all the way through but THREE KINGS did just sort of get dumb after the first hour. Spike Jonze made a big impression, though. He sure is cute.

  • March 3, 2000, 7:34 a.m. CST

    There are still playwrights...

    by smilin'jackruby

    ...but have you tried getting something up in the American theater these days? As movies take over the public consciousness, theater is going away quickly and most middle-American regional theaters can only afford to do stuff like "A Thousand Clowns" or "Rumors" because they know the subscribers want to see that. They'll take a chance on a play that was done into a movie like "A Few Good Men," but no major theater, except somewhere like the Steppenwolf or the Alley outside of NYC or LA, can afford to do more than one "risky" show a year, and for the Alley, that means "The Vagina Monologues," which actually just went up in LA. There are still many playwrights trying to get stuff on stage, look at Neil LaBute. His plays weren't done all that much, just festivals and the like, so he went to film. I hate to get personal, but frankly, I'd MUCH RATHER BE WRITING PLAYS FOR STAGE!!!! There's a lot more freedom on stage. A tree doesn't have to be a tree, it can be a ladder with a leaf nailed to it and the audience "gets it." On screen, a tree has to be a tree. I have written for theater for years, gone up around the country, and even went up in New York in '96, but that simply doesn't pay the bills. Now I'm writing in Hollywood and it's a totally different ballgame. Theater and even moreso, radio-theater, is a writer's medium - not film. It is too bad about the American theater and even the state of American letters, which isn't doing as poorly as the theater (they're not making Philip Roth add musical numbers or falling chandeliers to his books yet), still is a viable medium, but lit just isn't selling like it used to. So, you learn to adapt. When the only new play by a new playwright closed this year on Broadway before it could even open, that was the death knell of the well-made play on the Great White Way. When "Seven Guitars" couldn't really pull an audience when it had Keith David, that was pretty sad. This year, Elaine May's new play with Parker Posey and Matthew Broderick may be a success and will probably pack them in for a couple of months, but as Neil Simon said, "When a play is on Broadway you ask, 'who's in it?' when it's Off-Broadway you ask, 'what's it about?" Remember, Simon's most recent play, "Proposals," failed to get an audience on Broadway and even the new Sondheim musical died before hitting the stage. Face it, American theater isn't going to be revived unless people en masse get excited about seeing a show. It happened in England with the stage version of "Trainspotting" and with "Closer," "Popcorn," and "Shopping and Fucking," but people in America want to see "Armageddon" and probably wouldn't exactly sit still long enough to watch something unless it had a "quirk" (like the fact that "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" was written by Steve Martin) or stunt casting (like "Art"). I would like to think that when there are little pop cultural revivals in the theater like when "Angels in America" or "Rent" came out and people talked about theater, this would've started something and a groundswell would've happened. However, those seem to be few and far between. As much as I hate "Cats" and what Andrew Lloyd Webber did to kill theater, when I heard that it was closing, that echoed in box offices all across the country. Soon, Broadway might just have to close all its theaters and re-locate to Las Vegas. End Rant.

  • March 3, 2000, 8:17 a.m. CST

    Playing Ed McMahon To Jack's Carson......

    by mrbeaks

    "You are correct, sir!" I moved to New York in '96 to work at the Circle Rep, and was shocked to find the theatre responsible for launching the careers of Lanford Wilson and Paula Vogel in complete disarray. To refresh your memory, the Circle Rep was the *only* theatre dedicated solely to new works by American playwrights, and when it died, in the fall of '96, there was nothing to take its place. Flash forward to the present..... there's still nothing. I tell myself that, when I begin to make a comfortable living as a screenwriter, I'll turn my hand back to the stage, but I wonder how many successful scribes have entertained the same thoughts, only to remain firmly entrenched in Hollywood. As it stands, this is a dark period for the American Theatre, and, until those of us who have found some measure of success hooking for the studios re-invest our talent in the medium, I fear it will remain dead.

  • March 3, 2000, 8:23 a.m. CST


    by JetAlone

    Hey, Harry and Moriarty -- I'll give you a wave from where I'm sitting at the Nuart, cuz there's no way I'm gonna miss this double feature! God, I love LA sometimes.

  • March 3, 2000, 8:57 a.m. CST

    I walked out after the end of American Beauty the other night...

    by All Thumbs

    ...and the first thing I said to my friend was, "I'm so glad he didn't fuck her. It would have ruined the movie." I don't know about "Three Kings" as I haven't seen it, but in "American Beauty" I understand why it went the way it did and think that was the best decision. (I bet it's in the original script, too.) Suvari's character was set up from the begining as this mega-slut who would probably end up on some casting couches in the future. She was a two-dimensional character. It was redeeming as well as refreshing to see her at the end in such a vulnerable state confessing the truth to a man she thinks she loves because he told her what she wants. It showed she was really still just a little girl and I thought it reminded Lester of his own daughter upstairs. It reminded him of what was important. He didn't sleep with her because she was a virgin but because she was someone's daughter and he realized there was something more important in his life. Look at the end where he says he remembered "Jane, Jane, Jane." That movie was wonderful and I'm overjoyed at having the chance to see it in the theatres. Thank God for rereleases in the name of cashing in on Oscar time!!!

  • March 3, 2000, 9:50 a.m. CST

    DeWitt's Dilemma

    by Kraven

    Firstly, I'm not a nerd (at least nobody ever called me one to my face), but my wife says you might want to try a variation on the following words of wisdom: "Sorry, lover, that willy is just too damn small. Get some prosthetics done, and we'll talk." Hope this helps. If not, there's always Dear Abby.

  • March 3, 2000, 10:12 a.m. CST

    Three Kings and American Beauty

    by Loki Trickster

    I do agree with "Bill" when it comes to "Three Kings"...I was rather disappointed with the movie after leaving it; the opening hour set up a great departure from standard Hollywood war movies (especially with the description of what happens when you get shot, the Iraqi soldier shot trying to surrender, and the slow motion gun fight where we follow the path of each bullet), but then the second half degenerated into a crappy action movie (especially when Ice Cube blows up the chopper with the football...that was just dumb) and a bit too forced morality play (especially with the annoying overdone parrellels between Wahlberg's character nearly dying because they were not allowed to save him...the symbolism of that was just too forced in my mind). Still, I found it an enjoyable and fairly well done movie, and it got placed in my top 20 of the year. Now...American Beauty, on the other hand...that's number 2 on my list of this year...and I thinkk that Bill is wrong in his assessment. When she claims to be a virgin, you know she's lying, and I think that's when Lester realizes what he's doing, the shallowness of this girl, and how if he were to sleep with her it wouldn't help him. -Loki

  • March 3, 2000, 10:16 a.m. CST

    I have to totally agree with you All Thumbs

    by lickerish

    The whole movie is building up to that but that's not what the movie's about...If they would have slept together it would possibly have saved his the same time destroying it...and that is tragic, and exciting and wonderful...that amazing song playing with their sihlloettes in the blue on the curtains.. it was the best tension that i'd seen in quite a while..and I was relieved in the right way that he didn' boyfriend and my brother watched the film with me four times..and each time was like never seemed like the movie broke in any way...the changes from script to screen were smart ones...what with him flying around with a harp and wings, and such. Didn't Alan Ball say in an interview that he doesn't sleep with her in the script?

  • March 3, 2000, 10:37 a.m. CST

    did you hear the one about glass house bill

    by chubby luv

    Althought Mr. Goldman is a great writer, he comes off as pompous in this interview. Has anyone ever heard the Matt Damon story about Bill? Apparently Matt went up to Bill in an Hotel to thank him and he thought Matt was his driver. It sounds like Mr.goldman thinks of people as underlings not equals.

  • March 3, 2000, 11:12 a.m. CST

    Ok, Lickerish...

    by All Thumbs

    Now you've got me wanting to read the original script. Halos and wings? Lester flying about the movie? YIKES...that would have been aweful. I must say I came out of "American Beauty" feeling good. I expected it to be this excellent movie that kind of depressed me in its portrayal of American suburban life, but it didn't. I felt REALLY good and felt Lester was a complete person when he died. I'm also glad we didn't see any scene of the abusive father being taken away in handcuffs and I really liked the way Web Bentley's Ricky smiles as he looks into Lester's eyes and then says "Mom" as if he's suddenly worried and reminded of her importance. Can't wait to see it again. I hope when it comes out on DVD (and soon, please) there's a ton of great stuff. Hell, I'll buy it with just the movie on it.

  • March 3, 2000, 11:33 a.m. CST

    by samson shillitoe

    My favorite Bond film is FRWL and the first one I saw in the theatre was SWLM. Maybe I am secretly Moriarty and become delusional and occasionally believe myself to be a crackpot poet who resembles Sean Connery. Strangest use of music in a Bond film: when Bond arrives in Istambul (not Constantinople)and checks out his hotel room for bugs, the music blasts like it is the most exciting scene ever captured on celluloid. And you get to see it on the big screen!

  • March 3, 2000, 11:59 a.m. CST

    What about "Brothers"

    by Ray Garraty #47

    In a perfect world, Goldman would stop working on Buttercup's Baby and begin putting together a script for a movie based on "Brothers," Goldman's incredible sequel to "Marathon Man." What the hell? I'm willing to bet that he has been approached by someone regarding this. That novel kicked major ass and everyone I knew who read it agreed that the movie would be awesome...but what's going on? Moriarity, if you read these posts, I'll bet that you have the same opinins that I that guy back and give us the scoop.

  • March 3, 2000, 1:09 p.m. CST


    by All Thumbs

    Remember when Moriarty called you a "cretin"...

  • March 4, 2000, 12:29 a.m. CST

    And Rosebud was just a sleigh...

    by Zube

    Let me tell this right... I have never met William Goldman but I love him He writes so beautifully that i can even for give him for some occasionally awfull story lines. He wrote the most perfect opening line for a book i have ever read: "If there was one place Edith never expected trouble, it was Bloomingdales." I probably got that line wrong because i'm doing it from memory. As for Magic "Trust me for a while..." and Marathon Man's amazing run (It was Scylla that got me, the run filled my heart and when it wasn't safe simply took my breath). I even read his amazing crap (Tinsel, The Colour of Light) because he writes nonsense in the most freaking entertaining way. I would bless God if i had one iota of 1 percent of the talent William Goldman has in the nail of his pinky finger. Understand this.... I love William Goldman. DID HE TOTALLY MISS THE POINT OF AMERICAN BEAUTY??? In this story, a good part of it deals with facade and three distinct layers: 1. There is the surface appearance of normailty that people present to the world. 2. There is the ugliness underneath the surface that results from emotions twisted and forced into restrictive boxes. 3. And then there is the beauty and purity that is there if you just look closer. If Lester Burnham had sex with the Angela, he would have died a person who didn't get it, who didn't see the beauty. It saddens me that we live in a world where it it is "unreal" for a sexually aroused man to stop himself because, he realises on some level, that it would be wrong. If he had made love to her, it would have been about some sexualluy frustrated schmuck that cheated on his wife (it does not matter that she was cheating on him unless we still live in the playground) and then got shot in the head. Instead it was a film of poignancy and beauty. I am sorry for all the errors in the above (spelling and understanding). Like i said i do not have much talent with words and so this comes from my heart. I really do love William Goldman.

  • March 4, 2000, 5:42 a.m. CST

    William Goldman is great, BUT

    by Nordling

    like many of you here I think he got it wrong about American Beauty. I think he was transferring his own personal feelings onto a character that quite simply didn't feel that way. I also bought Clooney going back in the house in Out Of Sight, because earlier in the film he said that he despised rape. Dead on about Three Kings, though. About holding films like Something About Mary and Waterboy in high regard - why not? They did EXACTLY as they intended to do. The characters all stayed true to themselves, and the films did what was intended. Films like Titanic, and Armageddon, and Godzilla, and X-Men (you know it to be true) and so forth - those are thought up by studio people. You've got to know this. They're testing, marketing, but there not keeping the movie honest, and that means they're whores. Now, I disagree with Goldman about a lot of things (he thought Schindler's was shit, and I strongly disagree), but he's right about a lot. Unfortunately, he has little power now. To the studios, he's probably equivalent to a two-headed freak - cool to look at, and even to talk to, but not to be taken seriously. And until he writes another killer screenplay, that won't be fucked with by the studios, that will be true for quite some time.

  • March 4, 2000, 10:09 a.m. CST

    Mr. Goldman Is out of his mind. He hates the 90's, but he loved

    by say no more

  • March 4, 2000, 5:16 p.m. CST



    I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks Bill was wrong about the end of American Beauty.But it's okay, he SEEMS to be right about screenplays more often than not. I thought the bondage and rape scene's in HIS "General's Daughter" screenplay were Hollywood gratuitous, but I don't know if the studio forced him to write them in, just as he doesn't know the situation of the screenplays he criticized. It is okay to admit that you're an old, horny bastard, and it's also okay to not screw young girls ( Unless you get your priorities from high school peer pressure... or aging screenwriters ).Girls lie about their sexuality just like boys do, even more so nowadays, and maybe someone as old as Bill can't imagine that.But as far as A.B.'s screenplay is concerned, I though it was consistant. It showed "the so called" American dream, then the escapist fantasy and then the reality.

  • March 4, 2000, 5:18 p.m. CST



    I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks Bill was wrong about the end of American Beauty.But it's okay, he SEEMS to be right about screenplays more often than not. I thought the bondage and rape scene's in HIS "General's Daughter" screenplay were Hollywood gratuitous, but I don't know if the studio forced him to write them in, just as he doesn't know the situation of the screenplays he criticized. It is okay to admit that you're an old, horny bastard, and it's also okay to not screw young girls ( Unless you get your priorities from high school peer pressure... or aging screenwriters ).Girls lie about their sexuality just like boys do, even more so nowadays, and maybe someone as old as Bill can't imagine that.But as far as A.B.'s screenplay is concerned, I though it was consistant. It showed "the so called" American dream, then the escapist fantasy and then the reality.

  • March 4, 2000, 9:15 p.m. CST

    Billy boy

    by Lester Diamond

    Oh yeah, THREE KINGS, AMERICAN BEAUTY, and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH fell apart in the second half, but THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER was the best ending of the year. I knew what would happen in the first five minutes. No bullshit. SPOILER ALERT A girl is raped and dead and a certain Oscar winning, well-known actor is featured, initially, for about two scenes. But who could be the killer? I don't know. END SPOILER And Adventures in the Screen Trade has almost nothing to say. It's not a screenwriting teaching book, thank God, because according to this article, that would end up being a disaster. It's not an autobiography because he doesn't talk a lot about himself. It's just a cynical account of the projects he has worked on and the crap that happened there. I really don't think the guy is one of the best out there.

  • March 5, 2000, 6:16 p.m. CST

    Goldman... ugh...

    by Zach

    Slap a black mask on him and call him Vader. Man, does this guy have the biggest ego in Hollywood or what? I bet he'd be worse on a set than James Cameron and Val Kilmer combined. It is fine to tell people what you think, but I despise it when someone uses their fame to knock other people down. Not that his comments have any actual importance to the careers of people like Spielberg or Lucas, but you would think this guy would have better and more meaningful things to say. I for one have enjoyed the films based on Goldman books/ scripts. I even liked "The Ghost and the Darkness," though I do have one serious issue with that film: it certainly takes serious historical liberties, unnecessary ones in sacrifice of time-honored cliches, and Goldman is the sole credited screenwriter of it. It is also interesting that he hates Spielberg "hooker" movies but his screenplay for "Ghost and the Darkness" borrows so heavily from "Jaws," the quintessential Spielberg-popcorn flick. Goldman has talent but it would be nice if he spent more time writing good screenplays than he did trying to pick fights and issues with everyone in Hollywood. Even in his "positive reviews" he has to find a negative detail to prick upon, an example being his very-much-in-the-minority, immoral, cheap, and completely inartistic thoughts on the ending of "American Beauty." The guy is all hot air; he's like a Shakespeare who spends his whole time using his wisdom and talent to talk everyone else down, but his true hand is crippled.

  • March 6, 2000, 8:33 p.m. CST

    Bill Goldman & Novels

    by BookManKev

    I consider myself one of William Goldman's biggest fans (even began a web site devoted to him:, even though I don't always agree with his movie opinions. My real question is: why hasn't he written any NOVELS since 1986? Okay, "Buttercup's Baby," but that was a novella. I'd LOVE to read another novel by him - The Color of Light is one of the best books ever written. Any ideas? Kev

  • March 7, 2000, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Goldman Interview

    by joe75755756

    I liked Goldman's comments, but did the interviewer have to interject himself so much? I mean, come on, did we really need to know about your missing the appointment blah, blah, blah. When you have a good subject, your job should be to let him talk and keep out of the way.

  • March 11, 2000, 3:36 a.m. CST

    William Goldman on American Beauty

    by Reymundo

    I was actually looking all over my issue of this month's Premiere magazine to see Mr. Goldman's annual article on the Oscar picks, because I wanted to see what he had to say about American Beauty. (Incidentally, I don't know why, but there was no article. Is he not doing one this year?) Personally, I loved the movie, and think it should win the Oscar. While I also respect Mr. Goldman's opinion, I think he's taking the film way too literally. It's not about Spacey's quest to have sex with Mena Suvari. His refusing to make love to her when he finds out she's a virgin goes to the very heart of the film: he does it because he realizes that the image he had of her was just an illusion. She's not a nymphomaniacal sexual goddess, just an insecure little bitch.

  • March 16, 2000, 10:32 p.m. CST

    Does anyone else actually read the scripts?

    by moovees

    For those of you wondering, and basing your answers on an assumption -- in the ORIGINAL script for American Beauty he DID fuck the girl! In fact, that was in there for a long time until they decided to make the change (a change I felt was a better choice). Also, one very UN-Hollywood moment was Thora Birch removing her bra, and Mendes decision to SHOW IT was a great choice (no, not for the nudity, but the actual meaning of what she was doing).

  • April 2, 2000, 10:07 a.m. CST

    Goldman and Am. Beauty

    by Bwana Dave

    I couldn't diasagree more with Bill Goldman and his take on Am. Beauty. Lester's journey of discovery takes him back to the place he was at the beginning of the movie, but different. He becomes a father to Angela in a way he couldn't to Jane. The whole, weird, long journey made him realize this. In my opinion this is the stuff of great storytelling--taking a character to a destination that is expected, but in an unexpected way. I still love Goldman's stuff, especially Butch. To this day, when face with someone overestimating a situation, I revert to "Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

  • June 20, 2002, 11:46 p.m. CST

    Temple Of Gold

    by genemccarthy

    I realise that Goldman's first novel, "The Temple of Gold", had been optioned over the years but not in the last 15 years or so. CAA wanted 7 figures for bit. Out of my league. But I feel strongly that this novelwould do extremely well on film. Any thoughts?