Friday, August 03, 2007

My heroes

People love to make lists. I love to make lists too. And I've made a few lists of things I like in the past, but I've neglected the all-important list of people I want to grow up to be. Screenwriters.

So here are my top five screenwriters. I'm not counting television writers, so I'll save my love for Joss Whedon for another day. We're also talking simply about body of work here, not writing style. Feel free to comment at will or post your own list on your own blog.

5) Shane Black
Come on, he's Shane Black. Lethal Weapon pretty much originated the modern buddy cop movie. That scene in the beginning where Riggs contemplates killing himself as he looks at his wife's picture? Amazing. All the character information you need to get this guy in a tiny little dialogue-free glimpse into his private life. The Last Boy Scout was pretty awesome and people may disagree with me but I really like The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Last Action Hero. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is fun and clever and you really root for these guys to make it through the night. Then there's Monster Squad. But we don't have to talk about that. Still, the man wrote some great action scripts on his own. He's nobody's bitch in this town. You've got to respect that.

4) David Koepp
He worked on Spiderman, Mission Impossible, and Jurassic Park. In each case, he had nothing to do with any less than stellar sequels that followed, although he is working on Spiderman 4 which hopefully means it will kick ass. He also wrote The Shadow, Carlito's Way and one of my personal favorites, The Paper. The man knows how to weave action into story, and The Paper proves he knows how to write the funny.

3) Brian Helgeland
Man on Fire was a decent movie, but it had an awesome title, didn't it? And people may disagree with me about A Knight's Tale, but for years I had a poster in my bedroom of Heath Ledger's giant head and a tagline that said "He will rock you." I love that damn movie. Then there's Payback, a movie that was just pure fun. But the kicker is LA Confidential. I went the other night to the Formosa Cafe where a couple of scenes from the film were shot and I kept excitedly repeating "A hooker cut to look like Lana Turner is still a hooker, even if she looks like Lana Turner. -She IS Lana Turner. -What? -She IS Lana Turner." That makes me laugh every time.

2) William Goldman
Naturally. The other day I went over to a friend's house where we were supposed to leave from to go sing karaoke and she happened to have The Princess Bride playing on her TV. We all sat down and watched it. It sucked us in, even though everyone in the room had seen the movie about a dozen times, and we all started reciting lines as the film progressed. There aren't many films that are that universally loved and remembered. On top of that Goldman has written Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, A Bridge Too Far, Misery, Maverick, The Ghost and the Darkness and like eight million other memorable films. Plus, he's a cantankerous old man with a fascinating ire toward Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage and Robert Altman. He's excellent fun to watch speak because he says exactly what he thinks about everybody. He can afford to. He's William Goldman. Get off his lawn.

1) Paul Haggis
Million Dollar Baby made me cringe and weep and cheer, Crash continues to make me think about the nature of racial relationships in Los Angeles and everywhere else. The Last Kiss is one of my all-time favorites and Letters From Iwo Jima is a beautiful film. Casino Royal was a much less absurd Bond film than the usual. Flags of Our Fathers moved everybody who saw it. The man hits a home run every time. I want his career. Unfortunately he also worked on Walker, Texas Ranger, but he redeemed himself through his time on Due South. But I'm not counting television anyway. The man's a freaking genius. I wish I knew who he was when I stood next to him for ten minutes at the Expo a few years ago just after Million Dollar Baby picked up all those awards. Next time I'll say something clever.

Yes, they're all white men. As soon as everybody else starts developing the body of work these guys have, maybe we'll get some minorities or chicks in there. Maybe one of them will be me.


  1. Joe Unidos2:53 PM

    Interesting list. "Man on Fire" was a re-make, though --you can't credit Hegeland for the cool title.

  2. Ah. I was not aware of that. He just got a lot less cool.

  3. That's an excellent list, some cool works on it. I was just watching "Payback" two days ago... I love that film.

  4. MAN ON FIRE is a remake of a Scott Glenn movie from the 80s which was based on a book.

    Helgeland still rocks, tho. He does excellent work.

    But if i were him, i'd kick Tony Scott in the nuts for almost fucking up a great script with his cappy camera & editing work. All that jumpiness undercut some great acting & emotional moments.

    Good movie that could have been better if Scott wasn't so spazzy with his editing.

    But I agree, we need some women and minorities on these fave screenwriter lists.

  5. Anonymous2:21 PM

    if you want to read Haggi's Honeymoon With Harry, e-mail me and I'll send it over

  6. Hang on a second, what's wrong with THE MONSTER SQUAD? LAST ACTION HERO is a different story...several years ago there was a screening at the Arclight of the film which was followed by a discussion with story authors Zak Penn & Adam Leff. The two guys proceeded to rip apart the various creative choices that were made when the script was rewritten. It was fascinating, more like a seminar than a goofy Q&A. But Shane Black has an awesome house.

    Also, PAYBACK was taken away from Brian Helgeland and about a third of it was reshot. He finally got to release his own version on DVD earlier this year and it's worth checking out. His version just feels more pure.

    And THE LAST KISS was also a remake. But he worked on CASINO ROYALE, so he's ok with me.

  7. Anonymous8:35 AM

    I also just got Haggis's In The Valley Of Elah and are 25 pages into it this morning

  8. Shane Black's awesome. I love the script of The Last Boy Scout, read it four times. The Long Kiss Goodnight is one of my fav movies.

    Koepp is a genius when it comes to blockbuster structure. And Carlito's Way rocks. Sure part of it goes to DePalma, my absolute fav. director of all time.

    Helgeland is solid. He propably can modernize every piece of history.

    Goldman is gold for every screenwriter. Everyone needs to read his books.

    Paul Haggis is the next man! Yes, Million Dollar Baby made me angry and sad and relived at the end because it is what I want to do with my movies.

    I like Joss Whedon too. And you can put him here because his "Serenity" is awesome!

    You have to love Spielberg. He's mainly a director, but his scripts are great sentimental piece of cinema. You can see that especially in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".


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