Today: July 12, 2024

Writers Who Improve Movies

Recently Filmjuice has been looking at how we think Hollywood can increase the success rate of any film. Whether it’s adding a particular actor to the cast list, getting a specific writer to add his touch of magic or maybe a director who has a knack for injecting something a little bit special into a story.

Recently Filmjuice has been looking at how we think Hollywood can increase the
success rate of any film. Whether it’s adding a particular actor to the cast
list, getting a specific writer to add his touch of magic or maybe a director
who has a knack for injecting something a little bit special into a story.

It is not about
increasing box-office receipts, few names on this list are going to draw the
punters in. There is no questioning the pulling power of a Will Smith or a
Michael Bay, but these people bring something else, a certain je ne sais quoi.

This week we’re
looking at writers, the people who inject something different into an otherwise
formulaic Hollywood outing. Those people who can make a scene come to life with
a clever piece of dialogue or inject a twist that knocks you off your feet. These
people are those behind the magic, conjuring their tricks long before a film
hits the big screen.

Aaron Sorkin
The song ‘Nobody
Does It Better’ was written for James Bond, but it more than applies to
Sorkin’s writing ability. Every word of a Sorkin script, be it hard hitting
courtroom drama A Few Good Men, or his stellar work on The West Wing, is laced
with character, subtext and cleverly loaded insults. Renowned for his fast
talking characters, see the opening scene of The Social Network as a prime example,
Sorkin creates such fascinating people to populate his script you are instantly
sucked into the world. What sets him apart from your normal Hollywood hack is
that everything is so perfectly structured, nothing is there without reason and
it will always come back to bite someone in the ass.
Defining Moment:
The opening scene of The Social Network is one of the
greatest character introductory scenes in cinematic history.
Up Next:
Bringing his wily ways to the world of cooperate
baseball in Moneyball.

Shane Black
At one point in
his career Shane Black was the highest paid writer in Hollywood, making upwards
of six figure sums for scripts he hadn’t even thought of yet. And with good
reason. Black defined the 90s with a brand of whip-smart dialogue and practically
re-invented the action hero at the time. Black’s scripts are easy to spot
simply for the endless banter that spews from the characters’ mouths. He is
responsible for the slew of buddy movies we’ve seen after creating Lethal
Weapon. More than anything though it is Black’s ability to create loveable
characters who exist in the normally two-dimensional realm of action movies.
Defining Moment:
Detective Martin Riggs and his long suffering partner
Detective Roger Murtagh. Chaos & Mayhem at their brilliant best.
Next Up:
He’s rumoured to be taking over on the Iron Man franchise with his Kiss
Kiss Bang Bang star Robert Downey Jnr.

Brian Helgeland
Helgeland is
arguably a man born in the wrong era. He’s a master at bringing pulp
characters, the kind normally occupying 40s Film Noirs, to bristling life. But
at the same time he knows how to make them contemporary. With his adaptation of
L.A. Confidential (Main Picture) he re-defined the detective thriller. Follow this with the
nourish thrillers of Payback, Mystic River and Man On Fire and you begin to
understand that no one does Hard Boiled grit like Helgeland.
Defining Moment:
Bud White and Ed Exley play good-cop, bad-cop in LA
Confidential while questioning a suspect. It’s brutally brilliant.
Next Up:
Writing the delicious sounding epic Here There Be
Monsters for Back To The Future’s Robert Zemeckis.

The Coen Brothers
For years the
Coens dazzled us with their unique brand of brilliance. One minute honing their
words to bring vibrant life to genre movies, like No Country For Old Men and
Blood Simple, the next creating cartoonish characters colourful enough to live
forever in the memory, like Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou? For
some they are an acquired taste but their versatility is unmatched in
Hollywood. Rarely are writers able to juggle serious and comedy from film to
film with such ease.
Defining Moment:
It’s really very simple. Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski.
Iconic just about cuts it.
Next Up:
Con comedy Gambit with a typically all star cast
including Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth.

Quentin Tarantino
Forget what you
think you know about Tarantino, it’s all too easy to think of him first and
foremost as a director. The truth is his writing has always been his strongest
asset. His ability to mix break-neck dialogue with genuinely fascinating
characters is blistering to watch. Central to this success is Tarantino’s
method of finding comedic moments in the most sinister of places. Look at the
opening scene of Resevoir Dogs, a group of hardened criminals berating one of
their fellow members for not tipping. Or Christopher Walken Vs Dennis Hopper in
True Romance, there is affection in that scene where there should be none, in
Tarantino’s hands it is scintillating to behold.
Defining Momnent:
Samuel L Jackson; “The path of the righteous man is
beset on all sides…” In that one moment cinematic history is made.
Next Up:
Assembling a typically stellar cast for his take on
Spaghetti Western with Django Unchained.

Wes Anderson
Like Tarantino it
is easy to overlook Anderson’s writing talents in favour of his directing
ability, but the magic he creates spawns from his writing rather than his 70s
like direction. A fan of the legendary Hal Ashby, Anderson brings a wonderfully
dry humour to all his films. It is not to everyone’s taste but it is utterly
unique in Hollywood making him something of an auteur. A glance at his writing
credits makes you understand that Anderson is a brand unto himself. His
characters are quirky, yet loveable, his dialogue ambiguous, but loaded with
meaning and his stories quaint but always enthralling.
Defining Moment:
His characters are always so well realised but it’s
the narration of The Royal Tenenbaums that conjures a magic, not to mention
irony, rarely heard on screen.
Next Up:
Another star studded cast, including Bruce Willis,
Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton in Moonrise

Paul Thomas Anderson
Mr. Anderson is
one of those writers who seems to be able to turn his slight of hand to
anything. He can do the grand dramatics of There Will Be Blood or the wry
black-comedy of Boogie Nights. Either way there is something addictive about
his writing. His stories are deeply immersive and his characters always
straying close to the edge of being villainous. A true testament to his writing
prowess though is the opening twenty minutes of There Will Be Blood in which
little to no dialogue is heard yet we immediately understand who Daniel Plainview
Defining Moment:
Magnolia is a deeply powerful and evocative movie.
Anderson’s nerve to have his cast break into Aimee Mann’s Wise Up is a stroke
of utter brilliance.
Next Up:
Refusing to stay away from controversy Anderson has written The Master,
a film that will see the creator of a religion as it begins to sweep across
America. Scientologists should probably look away now.

David Lynch
The ultimate
Marmite director you either love Lynch or hate him. There is no middle ground.
Irrelevant of how you feel about his nightmarish stories there is no doubting
the man’s ability to transport you to a living nightmare. From the deeply
unsettling Eraserhead, through the gentle satire of Twin Peaks, right up to the
hypnotic Mulholland Drive, Lynch is a master of the dark arts. A writer so
drenched in man’s frailties he is able to tap into our most core and primeval
fears. It’s not always clear what’s going on in a Lynch script but you better
believe you will be so drawn into the mysterious worlds that escape is nothing
but a passing thought.
Defining Moment:
The dream like opening to Blue Velvet before crashing
into the world’s most surreal nightmare.
Next Up:
We don’t ask and he’ll never tell. After all you don’t ask the Sandman
what kind of dream you’ll have tonight.

Christopher Nolan
These days Nolan
is so seeped in all things Batman and Superman (he wrote the story for upcoming
The Man Of Steel) that it’s easy to forget just how inventive he truly is. Look
no further than Memento, a film that he dared to write, essentially, backwards.
Nolan has that Hitchcock quality to never allow his audience to second guess
where his story is going. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out,
say in The Prestige, Nolan will through you a curve ball so out of left field
it leaves you reeling in the best way possible. Never forget this is the man,
with the aid of his brother Jonathan Nolan, who dragged the superhero genre to
heights no one ever thought possible.
Defining Moment:
With Inception Nolan created essentially an art-house
movie, with ideas to burn, on a blockbuster budget. It did not disappoint. Film’s
of this ilk are not supposed to be this inventive, yet Nolan is the master of
his own destiny.
Next Up:
Apparently he’s working on a small film called The Dark Knight Rises.
For the life of us we can’t find out anything more than that though.

William Monahan
Monahan is a
writer who has a unique insight into the human psyche. Indeed he is sited as
one of the only people to successfully solve the Unabomber’s lexically-based
target method. With this in mind it should come as no surprise that Monahan’s
specialty is criminals and men with strong wills. It was he who brought to life
the gritty reality of Boston for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. He would go
onto win an Oscar for that screenplay but do not assume he is a one trick pony.
Delving deep into the politics of the Crusades with Kingdom Of Heaven not to
mention the bi-polar life of a spy with Body Of Lies. Monahan has an innate
ability to get inside his characters’ heads and realise not just what they say
but every tick and foible they produce.
Defining Moment:
You want character driven tension with little to no dialogue,
look no further than The Departed.
Next Up:
Writing Tom Cruise action sci-fi extravaganza Oblivion
before turning his attention to the ultimate political antagonist Becket.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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