Screenwriter blogs can often reward with a refreshing take on the film industry, even if they are at times flavored by the requisite misanthropy of those of us with visions of slug lines dancing in our heads. Josh Friedman’s I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing was a good read for a time, though it hasn’t been updated in a while. John August also has a nice outlet that can be a good resource as well.
I only happened upon William Martell’s Sex in a Submarine today, as his recent post, “Robbing From The Poor (Writer),” caught my eye. In a nutshell, it’s a thorough look at the development of Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” from a hot Hollywood property into a likely money-losing snooze of a film (with its champions here and there). And if you’re a fan of smart, unique stories having a place at the table in Hollywood, it’s a bona fide horror story.
I don’t track projects like some of the other film/fan sites out there, so I wasn’t aware of the fact that Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris’s “Nottingham” was a “C.S.I.”-style look at the classic tale from the point of view of the Sheriff of Nottingham using period forensics. Sherlock Holmes in Sherwood Forrest, if you will. But I can’t believe an idea that fresh was squandered so absolutely, even if it is par for the Hollywood course.
You see, the script went into further development (because everyone in town creaming themselves over it wasn’t enough). Scott apparently had an archery obsession and bent the narrative into the limp prequel that made its way to theaters this weekend. At the time, Patrick Goldstein dutifully conveyed the studio line, quoting then-Universal chairman Marc Shmuger (since removed from his post) thusly:
This is an enduring myth that people love…It’s a story that offers a new understanding of the origins of a real folk hero. You get a real understanding of–this is how Robin Hood became an outlaw and this is how those guys became the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. Ridley’s vision of the movie is very visceral, very physical–you’re really in the forest, pulling back a giant bow.
But what Martell is really getting at with his piece is a simple question: When is the industry going to stop allowing itself to be held hostage by top talent, especially when that talent is slowly proving itself to be a smaller piece of the profit pie than it used to be? He writes:
…we have seen some new, young (cheap) directors who have done amazing work and everyone wants to work with them… maybe you could convince Russell Crowe that this new guy is worth sticking around to work with?
Look at Christopher Nolan – before MEMENTO he was nobody, and afterwards he was directing an Al Pacino movie… and then the new BATMAN movie. Doug Liman makes GO and gets THE BOURNE IDENTITY… and after he’s “let go” they hire Paul Greengrass, who made a couple of low budget shaky-cam art house films before that. There are always these hot new directors that everybody loves because they are creative and interesting – if Imagine had fired Ridley Scott when he removed their tentpole movie and replaced him with whoever was the hot new director 2 years ago, could they have kept Crowe? Maybe.
Problem is – producers and studios are of the mindset that the director is the power when *they* are the power…If a director becomes a problem – no matter how big they are, even Spielberg – get rid of them.
The whole thing is a shame, really. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with having one’s creativity spurred by an excellent script, but you had better make it better, not immensely worse. And then there’s the funny thing about credit and how it’s perceived, as Martell reminds:
Oh, and about those bad reviews – several that I have read single out the big problem with the film as the script, and then name the writers – including Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris and in some reviews giving Oscar winning screenwriter Helgeland a break and *focusing* on them (because they do not have Oscars, so it must be their fault). I have yet to read a review that mention the original screenplay… but have read a couple that said Scott and Crowe get bogged down by this terrible script.
You know that dream come true of having your script sell and get fast tracked and star Russell Crowe and be directed by Ridley Scott?
The real bummer is that a solid property is now lost to the winds while those who were involved in dismantling it walk away with their expected payday and the suits who let them dismantle it are stuck with the check.
That doesn’t click as sound business sense to me, but I’m just a lowly blogger, so what do I know?