Monday, 10 June 2013

They must remember this...



by L. J. Spence



Among the many things Alfred Hitchcock is reported as saying, one seems particularly like common sense: "To make a great film you need three things - the script, the script and the script." Because you would not put flat-packed furniture together without a complete set of instructions, you would not spend millions on making a film using a script that wasn't unequivocally complete.

However, the makers of the upcoming zombie film "World War Z" must be hoping this won't be the case. The original script was written in 2008, and was rewritten by another writer over the next couple of years until principal photography began in 2011 on a film that had a budget of $125 million. In 2012, seven weeks of reshoots were begun when it was realised that the third act, and the ending, did not work - a third writer was hired to rewrite this section, but other commitments meant this had to be finished by a fourth.

The final cost of "World War Z" is $200 million, which is more money than the father of the original book, Mel Brooks, had to make all of his films put together. So, do I watch the film, read Max Brooks' novel, or do I watch "Young Frankenstein" instead?

The saving grace may be past instances where incomplete scripts have, somehow, lead to a great film. One film, made in 1942, began with two brother, Julius and Philip Epstein, writing an adaptation of a one-act play that no-one wanted to produce. They then went off to write a short film for Frank Capra, dribbling further pages in they had written each night. Howard Koch was then brought in to give more continuity. The Epsteins came back, writing again without Koch being told - a meeting between the three of them, the producer and the director on the weekend before shooting was due to begin, brought together only sixty pages of usable script, and no ending.

A flashback sequence, fleshing out the relationship between the two leads, played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, was the result of a contest to find the best scene, between the Epsteins, Koch, and Casey Robinson, who was also brought on board to sort the villain's part, thought by its actor, Paul Henreid, to be too small - the flashback was Bogarts' suggestion, thinking his character was too weak. The ending was worked out on the day, the director working out between the actors, using what script they had, as to what the most logical conclusion would be.

That "Casablanca" won an Academy Award for Best Picture for 1943 is justifiable now, as it is a great film. That it won for the script as well is completely indefensible...


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