Rocky headlands reaching out into a restless, heaving sea.
Gray-green water swelling shoreward, filling the flume between these stone promontories, crashing on the bluffs above, exploding in iridescent mist.
The mist clears and the water recedes, rumbling, rattling over the pebbled sand floor, withdrawing and gathering strength before beginning its onslaught anew.
Montana de Oro.
One of the wonders of the California coast.
The view from the bluffs overlooking the sea is a glimpse at the beating heart of the world.
And its soul?
Right behind you.
Foothills and peaks awash in spring poppies—the mountain of gold that gives the park its name.
It simply doesn’t get any better than this.
There are, however, those individuals who believe that anything, no matter how good, can be improved. One of them, a visitor from the East, toured the park and exclaimed, “What a waste!”
The individual in question pointed to the slopes above the sea, waxing eloquent about the upscale condos that, in a better, unregulated world, could replace the poppies on those golden foothills.
He was, of course, a…
Are the children tucked in bed, sound asleep?
Is the volume turned down low?
I ask because I’m about to say it.
The dirtiest word of all.
The individual in question was a…
He believed in development.
He believed that there was no piece of land so perfect that he could not develop it, improve it for the benefit of all mankind and, of course, the enrichment of his own pocketbook.
I repeat the word in all its forms—develop, developer, development—in order to desensitize my reader to its horrors.
I know I run the risk of an obscenity indictment. But I’m prepared to take that chance. There’s simply no way I can explore the offensiveness of the word without using it repeatedly, especially here in Hollywood where the word has as much currency as the F-bomb, where we believe that no script, no matter how good, can fail to benefit from development.
I myself have been the beneficiary of this commitment on the part of studio executives and producers to improve the work of their writers.
Take, for example, The Last Innocent Man.
My adaptation of Phil Margolin’s novel, it is the story of David Nash, a brilliant criminal attorney coming off his greatest success—an innocent verdict in the trial of a charismatic novelist accused of the bludgeon slaying of his wife, a man he’s almost certain is guilty.
Though he’s receiving the accolades of the press and the congratulations of his colleagues, he himself is in despair. He started out wanting to be Clarence Darrow, and now he’s putting monsters back on the street. He just can’t do it anymore, and so he quits.
Then he meets a beautiful woman who disapproves of him as much as he disapproves of himself, and she brings him that rarest of all creatures, an innocent man. Seeking redemption, he goes back to work.
And that’s when the twists and turns begin, threatening to tangle him in the very guilt he is fleeing.
It’s the story of a good man attempting to come to terms with the dark side of himself.
Or at least, it was…
…until HBO began to d******* it, guiding me and several subsequent writers through revision after revision, and it became the story of a man thinking with his little head instead of his big one—the cable network’s sleazy attempt to rip off Body Heat.
An isolated incident?
I have a friend who returned from a d********** meeting at Tri-Star where he’d received notes so destructive that he went directly to bed, curling into a fetal position for days.
Eric Roth, Academy Award winning writer of Forest Gump, Munich and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, said it best: “I love the writing. I hate the rewriting. Rewriting, I want to kill myself.”
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Disgruntled writers! How can we trust their obviously biased judgments? Every one of these guys thinks his or her work is brilliant, that every word they write is purest gold, that no one could possibly improve upon what they’ve done. I’d like to hear the studio side of this question.”
By a curious twist of fate, I can do that, for I’ve sat on both sides of the table, working for the studios as story analyst and story editor before my stint as writer and producer.
In my next blog, I’ll share the story of my involvement in Young Sherlock Holmes, revealing how we at Paramount and the folks at Amblin’ managed to turn a screenplay of dazzling brilliance into a mediocre and even rather silly film. I call it “GOODBYE, COLUMBUS” in tribute to its creator, one of the most successful writer/directors in Hollywood.
In the meantime…
EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!
READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Intrigued by Bronson’s charges? Want the details
of what happened to The Last Innocent Man? Read
about this and other horrors of d********** in the Dan’s
brilliant new book, CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD NOBODY!
Does this work the other way? If someone has a truly horrible script and the development makes it even worse what happens then? Do they make the movie any way? I would be interested to read about that. I have seen actor /directors that have a brilliant film and the next one they make is so awful it become a joke. They refuse to listen to any one and end up with a piece of garbage film. Kevin Costner won an Oscar for the movie “Dance with Wolves” and then got such a big head he made “Waterworld” and “The Postman”. In that case maybe he should have listened to some else.
Some creative tension is a good thing. If a film enjoys unprecedented success at the box office, its makers often get carte blanche on their next project. Michael Cimino followed THE DEER HUNTER with HEAVEN’S GATE, a film so bad that it destroyed United Artists, the studio that produced it. Dennis Hopper followed EASY RIDER with THE LAST MOVIE, a ridiculously expensive, incoherent, drug-addled mess. The conflict between the film makers and the financiers can actually enhance a film, forcing discipline on directors and inspiring them to creative solutions to the budgetary limitations imposed upon them.