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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

November 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Screenwriters, sitting around talking

I’ve done a lot of movie interviews over the years, and many of my favorites have been with screenwriters — Christopher Hampton, Nick Hornby, Stephen Fry, and recently Gillian Flynn, to name a few. Should you share my fascination with the magic of screenwriting and adaptation, you’ll enjoy reading this Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview with some of the year’s top screenwriters: Flynn (“Gone Girl”), Chris Rock (“Top Five”), Graham Moore (“The Imitation Game”), Anthony McCracken (“The Theory of Everything”), Jon Favreau (“Chef”), and Jonathan Nolan (“Interstellar”). A fun, freewheeling conversation; here’s a highlight:

FLYNN I realize how decadent writing a novel is. You really own this world, you can do whatever you want to it. You can go inside people’s minds. Gone Girl has a lot of internal monologues, so it was a big struggle to figure out how to have them show you who they were instead of like, “Here’s about me.” The entire time I was adapting the screenplay I had a giant sticky note above my computer that said, “IT IS A MOVIE!” to remind myself to not try to take everything from the book that I liked and jam it all in.

That must be a similar challenge when you’re adapting a person’s life. How do you choose what to put in, what not to put in?

ANTHONY MCCARTEN It’s a bit like stars in the sky. There’s vast distances between the stars, so if you think of these highlights, these points of someone’s life, you’ve got to chart your path to the next star, and this is where the invention comes in. I call it emotional ventriloquism. I have to somehow write dialogue for a genius when you’re something far less than that, so you end up with 95 percent invented dialogue — 50 percent of the scenes didn’t quite happen in the way that you’re representing them. But you’re hoping you’re getting an emotional authenticity out of it.

Read the whole thing here.

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