Arguably the most influential writer to emerge from the Golden Age of television, screenwriter and playwright Paddy Chayefsky demonstrated an informed respect for common people and their everyday prob...
Happy Days creator Garry Marshall is set to receive the 2014 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement from the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). The writer, producer and director will be recognised for his career success at the annual Los Angeles ceremony on 1 February (14). He joins actor/director Paul Mazursky among the WGAW honourees - the Tonto filmmaker will pick up the Screen Laurel Award at the event.
In the real world, copying somebody else's written material for your own personal gain is called plagiarism. In the movie biz, it's called adaptation.
Since 1940, the Academy Awards have distinguished the adapted screenplay in its own category, honoring films whose scripts were derived primarily from books, plays, and short stories. But the occasional Best Adapted Screenplay nominee can credit its source to other media — such is the case for this year's nod, the true story thriller Argo.
Ben Affleck's directorial feature, written by Chris Terrio, was actually born from a WIRED magazine article by journalist and film producer Joshuah Bearman in 2007. The piece, titled "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran," was a chronicling of CIA operative Tony Mendez's unorthodox plan to retrieve a group of American diplomats from a hostage crisis in Iran in the late 1970s. Bearman penned the article following the declassification of the CIA documents describing the events.
Argo's company in this year's Best Adapted Screenplay category draw from more traditional sources: the scripts for Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook each comes from its eponymous novel, written by Yann Martel and Matthew Quick, Respectively; Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner cite the nonfiction book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin as the source for their biopic Lincoln; and the story of Beasts of the Southern Wild writer/director Benh Zeitlin was inspired by his co-writer Lucy Alibar's own play, Juicy and Delicious. Heck, even Argo does accredit some hardcover material with the machination of its script alongside the aforementioned original article (Bearman's book The Great Escape, in which he expands on the topic, and Agent Mendez's own account of the event, his memoirs The Master of Disguise). The category has housed a great majority of projects with roots in the forms of book and play. But there are a handful of interesting outliers, spanning from 1931 all the way to the present...
Skippy (1931): Predating the separate Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay categories, the family-friendly Jackie Cooper starrer was adapted from the syndicated comic strip of the same name.
Mrs. Miniver (1942): The romantic drama about the dawn of World War II drew from a series of columns in Great Britain's The Times newspaper, wherein the titular character Kay Miniver was created.
Boomerang! (1947): The true story of this film noir was first chronicled in a Reader's Digest article by journalist Fulton Oursler (under the pen name Anthony Abbot).
Marty (1955):The classic romantic drama was the first of several films to be adapted from a teleplay — Paddy Chayefsky wrote both the big and small screen versions of the story.
I Want to Live! (1958): Another film noir drawn from true events, this film extrapolated its story about a woman on death row from letters penned by the basis and namesake for its main character, Barbara Graham. A second source for the movie came from a collection of newspaper articles from journalist Ed Montgoomery.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962): The life of British Army officer T.E. Lawrence was chronicled in this classic epic, thanks to the adaptation of the collective writings from the hero himself.
Pennies from Heaven (1981): Ever since Marty, a handful of films has earned nominations for adapting television movies to film; this was the first, however, to earn a nod for adapting a television miniseries (the 1978 BBC drama of the same name).
The Insider (1999): Another film drawn from a magazine article, this time from Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair piece "The Man Who Knew Too Much," about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, played in the film by Russell Crowe.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000): Classing up the list a bit is this Coen Brothers comedy, which adapted its script from Homer's epic poem The Odyssey.
Ghost World (2001): The first film to earn a nomination for a script adapted from a graphic novel came from Daniel Clowes, who turned his own comic book Ghost World into this comedy-drama.
Shrek (2001): In the same year, this blockbuster animated film pioneered the category's nomination of a script with another type of source: picture book (William Steig's Shrek!).
American Splendor (2002): The brilliant comedic biopic drew its material from the works of subject Harvey Pekar and his wife and fellow comic book author Joyce Brabner (American Splendor and Our Cancer Years, respectively).
Before Sunset (2004): Richard Linklater's screenplay was considered an adaptation, due to its use of characters from the preceding film Before Sunrise, which was written by Linklater and Kim Krizan.
A History of Violence (2005): Another graphic novel adaptation — screenwriter John Olson brought John Wagner and Vincent Locke's A History of Violence to screen with this picture.
Borat (2006): It might surprise you to recall that the Academy recognized this bawdy film with a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination; the film was considered an adaptation of the character developed by Sacha Baron Cohen for his small screen venture, Da Ali G Show.
In the Loop (2009): In the same vein, Armando Iannucci transported his The Thick of It hero Malcolm Tucker to the big screen in this satirical film.
District 9 (2009): Cutting it a little close to home, this sci-fi drama/parable for human intolerance and oppression was actually adapted from another movie — a short film titled Alive in Joburg.
Toy Story 3 (2010): Borrowing the characters from the original Toy Story, a new assortment of screenwriters vied for the Oscar in this magnificent threequel.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros; Fine Line Features]
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Woody Allen picked up his 20th Best Original Screenplay nod for Midnight in Paris and will compete with 50/50, Bridesmaids, Win Win and Young Adult.
And Steve Zaillian will compete against himself for adapting The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Moneyball. The rest of the Best Adapted Screenplay category features The Descendants, The Help and Hugo.
Meanwhile, Better This World, If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Nostalgia for the Light, Pina and Position Among The Stars will compete for the Best Documentary Screenplay prize.
The WGA will also honour writing partners Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick with the 2012 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television at the prizegiving in February (12).
Every great film needs a great hero and villain. With Toy Story 3, fans were lucky enough to have a host of heroes to save the day, but just one really good bad guy to balance out the narrative. That antagonist, the misunderstood Lotso' Huggin' Bear, was voiced by screen veteran Ned Beatty, an Oscar nominee who was once dubbed "the busiest actor in Hollywood" by Variety.
Though Toy Story 3 marks the first time that Beatty has lent his voice to an animated character, the Kentucky-bred thespian is no stranger to blockbuster hits. Most will probably remember him as Lex Luthor's bumbling sidekick Otis in Superman: The Movie and it's sequel, but additionally Beatty has worked on some of the greatest films of all time, including Deliverance, All The President's Men and Network. I was very fortunate to get to speak with him last week to celebrate the home entertainment release of Toy Story 3 (read my review here), where we talked about the thrills of the job, Johnny Depp, the most memorable moment of his career and much more! Read on for a full transcript of the interview and make sure you get your hands on Toy Story 3 today!
It's a real honor talking to you. Honestly, I have to say I'm a bit fluttered.
I have to tell you, it's no big deal. (laughter). I'm very lucky and have eight kids, and they'll all tell you, it's no big deal.
Of course you're a humble man, but people like me certainly consider you a big deal, you know?
Well, let me make one small correction. Toy Story 3 is a big deal. I'm not a big deal (laughs).
You're both big deals.
Oh good. Well, I'll tell you. We finally got to see it almost towards the finish of it, and quite a few members of the cast and I were losing it towards the end with all those tears and that stuff. And I just was so proud to be in that film. I can't even begin to tell you.
It really is a fantastic picture. Tell me, what was going through your head when you got the call to get involved with the project? Tell me about the process that got you involved.
You know, I had never really done anything like that before so that was sort of interesting, just knowing that I was going to basically talk to people about getting together on this. And I think they were giving me an offer, I believe they were, but at the same time I felt like well, they have a right to change their mind if they don't like what I'm doing. But it was great fun. I once had a director from the Bronx, and he had a really heavy Bronx accent you know, and he said to me, [in a heavy accent] "Every time we think of something to try, you want to do it immediately. You're such an instant person." So the truth of the matter is I'm kind of an instant person. But I love the idea that you can do a line and do it again and again and then have the director say, "Let's try so and so," and it's like, "Okay, let's try that." I really, really enjoyed that part of it.
I'm glad you put the Bronx accent on that one because I was going to ask you to do it, but I didn't have to.
(laughs) Well, we toyed around with it a lot because one of the things they mentioned to me was they heard about my performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, when I played Big Daddy, and they were thinking they wanted something like that. So I started giving them something like Big Daddy [for his character Lotso], he's got a bit of that in his voice. And so I was sort of giving them that and the director was like, "Who is this guy?" So we talked around and we decided we wanted to try a little bit more uptown New Orleans and so I got about as close to that as I could to that.
I'm interested in the development of the character. Does the amount of input you have on your character vary from director to director? Or is it a different process creating a character in a film where you're shooting the action and you're physically there, as opposed to an animated film where we're just hearing your voice.
Yeah, exactly. I think it has a lot to do with how you were brought up in the business, where you're training was and where you worked first. And the type of people you worked with first. I always loved the idea of improvisation and I'm old enough to go back to when we really did a lot of that. During the '70s, many films were improvised and you always felt like you were going to get in trouble if you said a line that was in the script. You were supposed to be making up all this stuff (laughs). But I love this idea that you get the idea and you just go ahead and do it. You try it. In other words, you don't edit it. You don't put a lot of curly Q's around it. You don't ask a lot of questions about it. You just do it. And I really enjoyed that. And I think the director [Lee Unkrich] and myself had a good time doing that together.
He's a great guy. I was lucky enough to interview him about a month back.
Oh yeah. He's great, isn't he? And you know, if we got tired, we talked about our kids you know.
Always great conversation. So this wasn't your first time working with Tom Hanks. You also appeared in Charlie Wilson's War. What's it like working with him? Did you get to record any lines with the cast while you were working or was everyone recorded separately?
I only saw one actress, and I can't think of her last name right now. Her first name is Estelle [Harris], and she plays Mrs. Potato Head. And I did a few things with her because the scene called for that. It was when I took her mouth off. That was a mean moment, boy.
But no, I didn't get to see Tom at all. That's what's sort of a funny aspect about it because you do share a lot. But Lee, and I think maybe one of the hardest jobs in our business I've ever seen is to direct a bunch of characters like that and work as singles. And you have to make it all mesh together. He's extremely good about it and the best thing about him is he's not afraid to ask. He goes for whatever.
You mentioned that part of the reason you took this job was because you'd never really done it. You wanted something new. But, I'm guessing right before or right after taking that, you were interested in doing another one because you're in Rango. So tell me what got you interested in lending your voice to films like that.
Well, Rango is interesting because we did try to do a little filming for the animators using video. It was so interesting because it was much more difficult for all of us actors, including Johnny Depp -- who's very adept, he really is, I wish I knew him better and it turns out we grew up about 80 miles from each other in Kentucky, and I think he's very special -- but we all had trouble with it. We found that once the camera started rolling, because we were so used to reading the dialogue, we would go up on the lines. It was really amazing, but yet they felt like they got what they wanted sometimes. They got a lot of actors stomping their feet saying "Oh, damnit." It was just so easy to lose those lines once you started acting and you hadn't rehearsed them that way. It was very interesting. I can't wait to see Rango. I've spoken to one person in the media about it and I asked how much they got to see, and they said 20 minutes. And I said, "They showed you 20 minutes of it?" And he said, "Yeah." So I asked if it was good and he said, "It's very strange."
Well, a lot of people said that about Johnny Depp at the time of Pirates' release, and we all know how that one turned out.
Now I have to ask, even though I know it's off topic, what are your thoughts -- now that we know there's a new Superman going into production shortly -- what are your thoughts on who should play, or what type of actor, should get in the spandex? What direction would you like the character to go?
Boy. I was really caught off guard. I was traveling through Metropolis, Illinois where they celebrate the Superman comics and films and television show. And I didn't know there was a television show which was built around all the characters when they were younger [The CW's Smallville]. And I'm sitting there and there's a really lovely girl who's sitting next to me and she says, "Did you know you worked on the first film I was ever in?" And I said, really? And she started telling me about this student film I made with a friend of mine while a student at USC. And he made this really intersting film called 120 Bolt Miracle, and I played a guy who came to fix electricity in a house. And long story short, she was in this film. She was eight years old.
And who was she?
Well, she must have been the female lead. The love interest. But she was really sweet and I told her I didn't know anything about her show and I felt so stupid because we were sitting up there answering questions. And of course, they all had questions for her. And she said, don't worry about it, it is what it is.
But I don't know about Superman. That was a special experience for me. Richard Donner, God bless his heart, he made me eat in every scene. Every time the camera rolled and I was near it, I had to be eating something. And he had more fun with my character than even I did. He loved that character for some reason. I don't know. That was a special experience and I would've liked to have hung on a little longer, but I don't know.
It's great as it is. The banter between him and Lex makes that film work on so many levels other than "a superhero movie". It helped fill out the narrative so much.
You know what, it was in the same neighborhood of thrills as seeing Toy Story 3 for the first time and seeing Superman for the first time. It was really enlightening. I can't think of another word.
That's a good word.
(laughs) It was like it lifted you up somehow. The first time they flew together, I just was like, I can't handle this. It was too much.
Just one more question. Looking back over your 40+ years in show business, can single out one production, one cast member, one director that you have fondest memories of, and what/who is it? And to complement that, what's the biggest lesson you've learned?
Whew (laughs). I have an incredible soft spot for Network and because I got nominated [for an Oscar]. Getting nominated wasn't such a big deal, but I thought that Paddy Chayefsky won the nomination when he wrote the speech that I got to give. The nomination was there already. I told him that. I had to go audition once and I had to go audition again and I told them, this is an Academy Award thing. I don't usually talk in those terms, but look at this speech. I'll do anything to give this speech. I'll do anything that you want done. And then I pulled a little trick on them. I did some selling in my time because a lot of times actors can't get jobs because they don't have good work records. But sometimes, if you're an actor and you can talk, put out a story, they'll let you sell on commission. So I sold a lot when I was younger. So I looked at them and said, look, "I don't want to do this to you, but you got to give me an answer before I leave here today. I've got another job that's more money, but it's not anywhere near as good as this job. And I want this job. But you've got to come up with an answer." And I just walked into the other room and shut the door. And they hired me. (laughs) So, selling is good.
And it worked out for the best, didn't it?
It sure did, but they knew what I was doing. One of the throwaway lines that the character has is when he's trying to tell him that he was the head of the company, the head of the company, the head of the company. He says, they tell me, I was a very good salesman, that was his line. That's why I leave the clothes on and say, now or never, now or never.
Great stories. Thanks again for the time. I hope to see many more Ned Beatty films in my time.
Why, thank you.
Uncredited feature film debut as co-commentary writer for the award-winning documentary "The True Glory"
Adapted the libretto for the ill-fated screen version of "Paint Your Wagon"
First Broadway play, "Middle of the Night" (adapted from TV script), a romantic drama starring Edward G. Robinson (returning to the stage after a 25-year absence) and Gena Rowlands
Scripted "The Goddess", starring Kim Stanley
Wrote short stories, documentary films and radio scripts for "Theatre Guild of the Air"
Won second Academy Award (for Best Original Screenplay) for Hiller's "The Hospital"
Reteamed with Mann for feature film version of "The Bachelor Party", receiving credit as associate producer
Served in US Army Infantry; awarded the Purple Heart
Wrote screenplay for Arthur Hiller's "The Americanization of Emily"
Asked that his name be removed from credits of final feature film, "Altered States"; script credited to Sidney Aaron
First story credit for "As Young as You Feel"
Wrote first play, the musical "No T.O. for Love", while convalescing in England from injuries incurred from German land mine in WWII; show was performed for GIs throughout Europe and in London's West End
"Gideon" opened on Broadway; George Schaefer would direct a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" (NBC) version in 1971
First film as screenwriter and associate producer, "Marty" (adapted from own TV script), directed by Delbert Mann (who had also helmed teleplay); earned first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay
PBS' "Great Performances" aired remake of his "The Mother", originally broadcast on "Goodyear TV Playhouse" (NBC); used orginial script
"The Tenth Man" opened on Broadway
Receieved third Oscar for the scathingly satirical "Network"
Third film with Mann, "Middle of the Night", featuring Kim Novak and Fredric March
Became famous overnight after "Marty" aired on "Goodyear TV Playhouse"; subsequently penned such acclaimed 'Golden Age' teleplays as "The Bachelor Party", "Sixth Year" "The Catered Affair" and "Middle of the Night"
Began writing for TV, contributing to "Suspense" (CBS), "Manhunt" (NBC) and "Philco Television Playhouse" (NBC)
Played bit part in "A Double Life"
Attempted to break into show business as a stand-up comic
Arguably the most influential writer to emerge from the Golden Age of television, screenwriter and playwright Paddy Chayefsky demonstrated an informed respect for common people and their everyday problems in a social realism that proved ideal for the new medium. But ultimately it was his scathing satirical bite demonstrated in "The Hospital" (1971) and "Network" (1976) that he was best remembered, for which he harnessed his righteous anger in skewing medicine and network television. Before those two Oscar-winning films, however, Chayefsky made his name in writing the famed kitchen sink television play, "Marty" (1953), which he adapted into an acclaimed award-winning film starring Ernest Borgnine two years later. After "The Bachelor Party" (1957) and "The Goddess" (1958), he wrote the semi-satirical black comedy "The Americanization of Emily" (1964) and the musical comedy-Western "Paint Your Wagon" (1969). Chayefsky turned his deep-rooted ire toward societal ills that were becoming more apparent during the counterculture, leading to writing "The Hospital" and "Network." Whether writing the social realism of "Marty" or the scathing satires of the 1970s, Chayefsky was that rare writer able to possess tremendous name recognition and artistic control in a medium dominated by directors.
married from February 24, 1949 until his death; died on July 1, 2000
De Witt Clinton High School
City College of New York
Inducted into the Television Hall Academy Hall of Fame (1984)
The nickname 'Paddy' supposedly came from his attempts, while in the army, to avoid Sunday morning K.P. on the pretext of attending Mass.
"Television is democracy at its ugliest." --Paddy Chayefsky
The Boston Globe (April 15, 1958) reported Chayefsky telling Harvard students about New York's critics that "writers suffer more from the attacks of the nine incompetants--who are usually drunk--than they would from the most violent personal onslaught." The playwright later said the paper got it wrong. There are seven critics, and what he said was that "you cannot dismiss a whole city's critics as incompetent drunks."