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What Needs a Rewrite According to the Scribes of Breaking Bad and Lost Highway

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Screenwriters know films from the inside out. Sometimes they know how to improve a script; sometimes they spot the raw material that works best. We’ve asked three writers to share their insights on just such matters.

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Name: Vince Gilligan

Resume: Home Fries, Hancock, Breaking Bad

Due for a Remake: “I always thought the movie They Live
would have been so much better. It’s got a great title and is based on
a classic sci-fi short story where a guy gets a pair of sunglasses — as
soon as he puts them on, he can see the world as it truly
is, and he realizes our entire civilization has been taken over by
aliens. I always thought that was such a great idea, and John Carpenter
is such a talented director, but They Live could
have been a better movie.”

Dream Adaptation: “I had an idea the other day for a sequel to the movie Westworld that
I think would be a very cool way to go, but I can’t give it away, otherwise someone else might borrow it. It’s not one of my
favorite movies, but it suddenly dawned on me — that kind of culture as
sport for rich, lazy bored people is ripe for
re-inventing.”

Favorite Director-Screenwriter Duo: “Budd
Boettiger and Burt Kennedy. They made these Westerns in the mid-to-late
fifties mostly starring Randolph Scott that were just little gems. They
were made for almost no money, and at that point in Scott’s career, he
was not the big star he had been 20 years before. The Tall T is the best of the bunch. Wonderful, underrated movies that are character pieces that are exciting and tense.”

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Name: George La Voo

Resume: Real Women Have Curves, A Dog Year

Due for a Remake:Bonfire of the Vanities.
Critics loved the book and hated the movie. Blame it on a Hollywood
system that often tries to file down the sharp edges of social comedy.
The movie was a big flop at the box office (with Tom Hanks in the
lead!). When the suits stay out of the way, great movies with a bite
— like Network — get made. Maybe someday Tom Wolfe’s huge best-seller will have another chance.”

Dream Adaptation: The Catcher In the Rye.
“Word is that author J. D. Salinger will ‘never’ sell the film rights.
And he shouldn’t. I have lived most of my book-reading life in
simpatico with the pain and comedy of Holden Caufield’s ordinary
experiences. There’s a little bit of Holden is the character of Anna in
the script I wrote for Real Women Have Curves. Like Holden, I wanted Anna’s yearning and pursuit of life to be something we see in ourselves.”

Favorite Director-Screenwriter Duo: “Billy Wilder. He started as a screenwriter and co-wrote all the movies he directed. Nobody did it with more guts (Sunset Boulevard), truth (Lost Weekend), high comedy (Some Like It Hot), and elegance (The Apartment). At the center of all his great stories are real human beings.”

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Name: Barry Gifford

Resume: Lost Highway, Perdita Durango, City of Ghosts

Due for a Remake: “Literary adaptations are
perhaps the most difficult of all films to make because there are some
many different approaches to the problem of remaining faithful to the
original material. The Great Gatsby
is a perfect example. Made four times, none of them are satisfactory.
This is one story I would like to see remade so that it would capture
the delicate, almost fragile nature of Fitzgerald’s novel.”

Dream Adaptation:The Rose of Tibet by Lionel Davidson. I’ve written about this in my book of essays, The Cavalry Charges. The Rose of Tibet has been a favorite novel of mine since I was 18 years old. It is a great literary adventure story, never made into a movie.”

Favorite Director-Screenwriter Duo: “Preston Sturges. His brilliant films from the 1940s — The Great McGinty, Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve, Palm Beach Story, Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek — are unprecedented in motion picture history.”


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