Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Monday, November 20, 2006

That's Just The Way I Planned It

Read a great article in, I think, Creative Screenwriting where they were talking about the history behind one of my favorite movies/scripts - Die Hard. While you can disagree with my love for this movie, it really does have a lot going for it:

1) Action
2) Comedy
3) Romance/Love
4) Fantastic bad guy
5) Imortalized tag lines

One of the thing I love about the script is how effortlessly it moves. Each scene moves quickly into the next in seemingly inconsequential episodes/scenes, but they all have value. They reveal information, character or plot (or a combination of the three).

I knew that the script was adapted from a novel, but did not realize how much was changed from the original material. It seems just about everything changed slightly or in a major way. One of the more amusing notes was the original main character's name was John Ford. That was until somebody pointed out the famous director's name and thus, the writer headed to the phone book for something new... thus, John McClane is born.

One of the groundbreaking elements of the script is the screen time and development of the bad guy in the story - Hans Gruber. Of course, it's not until you find out that the reason Bruce Willis isn't in every freakin' scene like he would be today is because he was working on Moonlighting during the day and Die Hard at night. He only had so much time, thus, his screen time was cut and others boosted so they could work around him while he wasn't on the set.

It's a testament to the writers that they were able to create so many scenes that contributed to the overal story structure, yet didn't contain Bruce. The humor in all this new information is that, typically, you write a story and put your main character in every scene you can and yet, here we have an example of a story which was written with the specific intention of scaling back the protagonist's involvement.

Just goes to show, as Unk so recently mentioned, that screenplays, while originally a writer's product, are eventually a collaboration for film and thus anything goes! Keep this in mind when studying films or scripts.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Unk said...

DIE HARD is definitely one of my favorite screenplays AND movies. I read again at least every two or three months and ALWAYS find something new and I feel it really influenced future action films.

Like my motto... GIVE THEM THE ILLUSION OF PERFECTION... DIE HARD is about as perfect as you can get.

Good post!

Unk

Monday, November 20, 2006 at 1:02:00 PM EST  
Blogger Chris said...

DIE HARD is historic in Modern action adventure film -- it changed everything for a good long while and allowed many imitators entree, myself included. For a while there, all you needed was a fresh venue and you could get "in"...in the early 90's I rarely entered a room without thinking "how 'bout Die Hard in here?" So I read the novel -- to me, the surprises were not how different but how SIMILAR it was. Terrorists who've become robbers. Their plan. One man that can stop them, the watch given to the lead gal and how it ensnares her with the villain -- EVEN THE FIREHOSE JUMP OFF THE ROOF...are all from the book. Main change: originally father/daughter relationship at the center, AND she was IN w/the terrorist-robbers, betraying Dad.

Crazy Die Hard cultist trivia: Roderick Thorp, who wrote the novel that became Die Hard, "Nothing Lasts Forever" as a sequel to his novel The Detective, featuring the same main character (yes, I read that too, I don't remember the main character being named Ford, though-- quick Amazon search reveals: Joe Leland) ANYWAY: The Detective was made into a movie too, starring Frank Sinatra as the same character and featuring a cameo by...a young Bruce Willis. Or so they tell me.

I have more thoughts on WHY/HOW Die Hard changed it all. But I don't want to take over you blog.

Gobble-gobble.

Thursday, November 23, 2006 at 9:59:00 PM EST  

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