In this fascinating survey of contemporary screen craft, David Cohen of Script and Variety magazines leads readers down the long and harrowing road every screenplay takes from idea to script to screen. In interviews with Hollywood screenwriters from across the board—Oscar winners and novices alike—Cohen explores what sets apart the blockbuster successes from the downright disasters.
Tracing the fortunes of twenty-five films, including Troy, Erin Brockovich, Lost in Translation, and The Aviator, Cohen offers insider access to back lots and boardrooms, to studio heads, directors, and to the over-caffeinated screenwriters themselves. As the story of each film evolves from the drawing board to the big screen, Cohen proves that how a script is written, sold, developed, and filmed can be just as dramatic and intriguing as the movie itself—especially when the resulting movie is a fiasco.
Covering films of all kinds—from tongue-in-cheek romps like John Waters's A Dirty Shame to Oscar winners like Monster's Ball and The Hours—Screen Plays is an anecdote-filled, often inspiring, always revealing look at the alchemy of the movie business. With Cohen as your expert guide, Screen Plays exposes how and why certain films (such as Gladiator) become "tent poles," those runaway successes every studio needs to survive, and others become train wrecks. Full of critical clues on how to sell a script—and avoid seeing it destroyed before the director calls Action!—it's the one book every aspiring screenwriter will find irresistible.
As a well-placed observer who knows intimately many of tinsel town's key players, Variety reporter and 25-year Hollywood insider Cohen reveals the story behind 25 scripts that became such high-profile projects as Lost in Translation, Troy, American Beauty and The Aviator. On the way, budding screen-writers convinced their own story seems like a long-shot will find inspiration (or at least comfort) in stories like Milo Addica and Will Rokos's, whose screenplay for Monster's Ball was rejected by top industry brass as "the best script that will never get made." With the deep background reporting he's known for, Cohen produces revealing nuggets of moviemaking trivia, alongside stories of serendipity and triumph; for instance, had Erin Brockovich not shared a chiropractor with her future producer, Carla Santos Shamberg, her movie probably would never have been made. Nowhere is Cohen's understanding of the tempestuous film industry more apparent than in the compelling account of Black Hawk Down screenwriter Ken Nolan, who was terminated from that project only to get himself re-hired and, ultimately, sole writing credit. Cohen's is a surefire crowd-pleaser for casual movie fans and true cineastes.