Interview

Screenwriter / Producer Terry Rossio (Extreme Interview)

by John Robert Marlow
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TERRY ROSSIO is probably the highest-paid screenwriter in the history of the medium. He prefers to write with a partner, which is almost invariably Ted Elliott. Together, they’ve written the screenplay and/or story for films such as: Aladdin; Godzilla; The Lone Ranger, Shrek; the Pirates of the Caribbean, Zorro, and National Treasure movies; and far too many others to mention here. Terry also co-wrote (with Bill Marsilii) the record-breaking Deja Vu spec script—which sold for $5 million–and Lightspeed, which sold for $3.5 million. Terry is also a producer.

I interviewed him for the book, Make Your Story a Movie: Adapting Your Book or Idea for Hollywood. And while much of Terry’s adaptation-specific advice appears there, it just wasn’t possible or appropriate to include (in that format) the wisdom he was kind enough to share on other topics. And so you find it here…

JRM: How did you break in, and how did you come to be where you are now?

Terry Rossio: I’m going to try to not give the usual boilerplate answers in this interview, and that means not going along with false presumptions, no matter how seemingly benign. The question about breaking in seems perfectly legit, but really it’s not. A writer must create compelling work, and then try to sell it. Once sold, the writer has to do the same thing again. It’s really not true that the writer ‘breaks in’—that’s an artifact of the belief that the person is being judged, not the work, and also of the belief that there is an inside and an outside, which I don’t think exists. There are too many screenwriters out there with only a single credit for there to be an inside, and too many writers on the outside making sales, to too many markets which are either new, changing, or undefined.

In truth buyers are just not that organized, your buyer is not my buyer, or in some cases, you can become your own buyer. Courtney Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay for Frozen River, and she’s never sold a screenplay. Is she on the inside or the outside? In truth, anyone, at any time, can come up with South Park or Superman or Sandman, and that’s all that matters.

I know writers want to think it’s all about access… Read more…

Screenwriter / Producer Interview: Leslie Dixon (“Limitless”) Part 1

by John Robert Marlow
Leslie Dixon, screenwriter / producer of Limitless and other films

Leslie Dixon is screenwriter and producer of Limitless, based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. (Click here for Alan Glynn interview.) Her other credits include: The Heartbreak Kid (STO)*; Hairspray (MUS / MOV); Freaky Friday (NOV / MOV); The Thomas Crown Affair (MOV); Mrs. Doubtfire (NOV); Outrageous Fortune and other films. Limitless earned over $150M at the box office. (Watch the Limitless trailer here.)

JRM: How did you come to be a screenwriter?

Leslie Dixon: I was just a narcissistic little fantasizing nobody that actually had the temerity to think that I could move to Los Angeles, totally on my own, and break into the entertainment business.

It was very difficult for me to leave San Francisco, because I was living with this really great guitar player. Not a rocker. This guy could finger pick ragtime. And any song off the top of his head with a moving bass line, and get it rolling.

But I did want to make a living and I did want to be involved with the movie business, which I loved. But I loved film probably more than I loved bluegrass, so I worked up the guts to leave. It was hard for any San Franciscan to leave and go to L.A. period, much less try to break into a notoriously tough business.

JRM: Did you know how tough it would be at the time?

Leslie Dixon: No. And if I had, I wouldn’t have tried. I had been on my own since I was 18, and couldn’t afford to go to college. And there was so little information. You have to realize this was pre-internet. Read more…

Author Interview: Alan Glynn (“Limitless”)

Alan Glynn, author of Limitless (The Dark Fields) and Winterland by John Robert Marlow

Alan Glynn is author of the novel The Dark Fields, which was adapted and republished as Limitless. The film adaptation, written and produced by Leslie Dixon, earned over $150M at the box office. (Click here for Leslie Dixon interview. Watch the Limitless trailer here.)

Alan is also the author of the novels Winterland (2009) and Bloodland (early 2012). Married with two children, he makes his home in Dublin, Ireland.

JRM: How and why did you come to be a writer—and how did you come to write The Dark Fields?

Alan Glynn: I’ve been a writer in my head since I was a small kid. I never made any contingency plans or trained for anything else, but I’m still constantly amazed that I’ve actually ended up doing it for a living. I think it was literally the feel of a pen in my hand that kicked it all off.

Fast forward a huge chunk of time to about 1999. Up to that point I’d written two novels and about fifteen short stories, all unpublished. Because there was no contingency plan, I just steamed ahead with the next novel, which became The Dark Fields.

The book started as a sort of what-if proposal. Thinking of the performance-enhancing drugs in sports, I thought, what if there were a performance-enhancing drug for businessmen, lawyers, politicians even? Read more…

Author Interview: Rex Pickett (“Sideways”)

Rex Pickett, author of Sideways and Vertical by John Robert Marlow

Rex Pickett is author of the novel Sideways. The modestly-budgeted film adaptation (written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor) earned over $100M at the box office, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay (which it won) and Best Picture.

Rex has also directed, and has written several screenplays himself, including My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York—a film that won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. His most recent novel is a Sideways sequel called Vertical.

JRM: How did the Sideways adaptation come about?

RP: We went out to both film and publishing simultaneously. The publishing industry loathed the book in no uncertain terms, and we pulled it after 16 rejections because my book agent didn’t want to stink up the rest of the publishers in the event we did a film deal.

But the film world turned it down universally as well. You hear about rejections in publishing, because your agent gets rejection letters and sends them on to you. In film, you generally don’t hear anything. And I didn’t. Read more…