Friday, December 08, 2006

When hack novelists strike

I once saw George Romero relate a great Stephen King anecdote. Romero was talking about how whenever someone went up to King and complained how whichever movie ruined his book, King would point to the bookshelf and go, "No, they didn't. The book's right there." I kept thinking about this the entire time I was reading this article. I find it ironic that Cussler, whose junk-food pulp-adventure novels have long wallowed in blatant racism and sexism, considers the many screenwriters who tried to turn a turd into a diamond as "hacks."
As a best-selling author, Cussler was used to getting his way. "Traditionally, all my editors have suggested changes and I have only followed them 20%," he said in a deposition.

Cussler's approval rights troubled the movie's creative personnel, who were unaccustomed to catering to the whims of a novelist.

Studio officials at Paramount, the distributor of "Sahara," resisted Cussler's active participation in the script, according to Karen Baldwin, who served as executive vice president of creative affairs for Anschutz's film company.

"Paramount has always been cagey in that respect — urging us to keep you out of the loop and lie when necessary," Baldwin wrote Cussler in July 2003. "Essentially, Paramount feels … the author should not have much input when it comes to script."

In all, Anschutz's firm spent about $4 million on writers, many of whom produced scripts that Cussler deemed inferior. In one memo, the author wrote that the money producers have "thrown down the sewer with hack writers is a crime."
It's the typical Hollywood bullshit -- throw money at it, that will always work, right? -- but it's still incredible to read. Aspiring screenwriters, take note...

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