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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

November 6, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Seven screenwriters, sitting around talking

It’s that pre-Oscar time of year, when the Hollywood Reporter gathers up groups of likely contenders and lets them chat — and the results often make for a pretty fun read. Today, it’s screenwriters who are featured, though many of the people in this august group are also directors and/or actors: George Clooney and Grant Heslov (writers of “Monuments Men”; no longer on the Oscar eligibility list, but coming soon); Jonas Cuaron (who co-wrote “Gravity” with his father Alfonso); Julie Delpy (co-writer of “Before Midnight”); Nicole Holofcener (writer/director of “Enough Said”); John Ridley (writer of “12 Years a Slave”); and Danny Strong (writer of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”). Nice talk, and you can read the whole thing here. Here’s an excerpt:

Many films based on real-life events are being attacked over accuracy. What responsibility do you have to the facts?

STRONG: Well, in the case of The Butler, I made very clear that this was a fictionalization. So much so that I changed the character’s name to Cecil Gaines in the hope of saying: “This isn’t Eugene Allen. This is something else.” But the history in the film is all true; it’s a father-son relationship that’s used as a conduit to tell the story of the civil rights movement. It doesn’t really matter if you change who was here, who wore what. You just need to make the best movie you can make, being as responsible as you can to the overarching history of what you’re trying to portray.

CLOONEY: This is a new thing, by the way. This is all, like, bloggers — if that existed when Lawrence of Arabia came out, believe me, Lawrence’s own autobiography would not hold water. Patton wouldn’t. You can go down the list of movies — Gandhi — these movies are entertainment. And that’s what we have to get back to. A movie like 12 Years a Slave, somebody will go looking for something that doesn’t jibe and they’ll try to disenfranchise the whole film because of it. Because there’s this weird competition thing that’s going on now that didn’t exist 10 years ago. That happened with us on Argo. It’s bullshit because it’s got nothing to do with the idea that these are movies. These are not documentaries. You’re responsible for basic facts. But who the hell knows what Patton said to his guys in the tent?

CUARON: When we wrote Gravity, we wanted it to be as plausible as possible, so we did a lot of research. There are things — when I see the movie — I know they’re not plausible.

STRONG: I loved Gravity so much that when I read these [attacks], I was so annoyed. I said, “This is an amazing movie, are you kidding me?” It’s a ballet at times. It’s an opera at times.

RIDLEY: The only allegations that I’m aware of around 12 Years a Slave are actually pointed back toward [Solomon Northup's book about his experiences in slavery] — which, to me, is very troubling because there were court cases, you know? These are things that have been documented.

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