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Monster: Living off the Big Screen

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Monster is John Gregory Dunne's mordantly funny account of life on the Hollywood food chain. Dunne and his wife, Joan Didion, have been working in the movies for over twenty-five years, and have written, rewritten, brainstormed, and developed two dozen scripts, seven of which have been produced. Monster is the candid chronicle of how one of those scripts finally got made into Up Close & Personal, starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. The Up Close screenplay started out as the story of Jessica ...
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0679455795 BRAND NEW. A portion of your purchase of this book will be donated to non-profit organizations. We are a tested and proven company with over 900,000 satisfied ... customers since 1997. We ship daily M-F. Choose expedited shipping (if available) for much faster delivery. Delivery confirmation on all US orders. Read more Show Less

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0679455795 Special holiday sale! Only 1 copy left. Clean, unmarked copy. Hardcover, with dust jacket. In great shape! I can send it expedited rate if you choose; otherwise it will ... promptly be sent via media rate. Got any questions? E-mail me, Im happy to help. During the holiday season, we recommend selecting Expedited Shipping to get your book as fast as possible. Read more Show Less

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Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A. 1997 Hard Cover New in New jacket 8vo-over 7?"-9?" tall. Humorous account of life on the Hollywood food chain. New in new unclipped jacket, no ... names or markings, 203 crisp, clean & solid pp. GIFTABLE. Read more Show Less

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Monster: Living Off the Big Screen

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Overview

Monster is John Gregory Dunne's mordantly funny account of life on the Hollywood food chain. Dunne and his wife, Joan Didion, have been working in the movies for over twenty-five years, and have written, rewritten, brainstormed, and developed two dozen scripts, seven of which have been produced. Monster is the candid chronicle of how one of those scripts finally got made into Up Close & Personal, starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. The Up Close screenplay started out as the story of Jessica Savitch, the television news anchorwoman whose history included drugs, opportunistic sex, and an early, violent death. Over the years it was refined into a story that would "make the audience walk out feeling uplifted, good about something, and good about themselves," as one executive put it in an early script meeting. The tale of how this happened is a hilarious saga that Dunne relates with a wicked eye and perfect pitch for the absurdities and savage infighting of the film industry.
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Editorial Reviews

Larry Gelbart
...offers a crash couse in getting a script through the hazards of the present-day studio system. -- New York Times Book Review
David Futrelle

Monster is intended to answer a particularly baffling set of questions: how and why two of our country's most perceptive writers and cultural critics — John Gregory Dunne and his wife, Joan Didion — managed to lose eight years of their life to a movie, Up Close and Personal, that was by the time it saw the screen so over-the-top schmaltzy even Rex Reed found it hard to take.

The two embarked upon the script for Disney in 1988, in large part, Dunne notes, as a way of keeping themselves covered by the Writer's Guild health plan. (They hadn't worked on a script for some time.) In its original incarnation, the film was to be an adaptation of the life of troubled TV journalist Jessica Savitch. Many drafts later it became a "contemporary love story" about a journalist bearing only slight resemblance to Savitch. This is because Disney wanted a nice film, and "it was clear that an uplifting story that would make an audience feel good about itself was not going to encompass any allusion either to Savitch's suicide attempts or to the lesbian episodes in her life," among other disturbing facts of a personal history that was anything but feel-good.

The tale Dunne tells — how over 27 drafts of the script, Savitch's calamitous life became a kind of "Pretty TV Reporter" — is a combination of melodrama and black comedy. Much of the comedy, alas, is inadvertent. Dunne describes several other abortive film projects the two embarked upon in these years — from a Die-Hard-inspired action flick (pitting "rogue" Arab terrorists with a nuclear device against a heroic presidential aide) to an "oil field thriller called 'North Slope,'" based on "an annual report from a now defunct oil drilling concern in which we owned a few shares."

Surely, you might think, the two realized the absurdity of these endeavors. After all, in the years they were writing and rewriting this monster of a script, the two managed to produce a number of novels and essays that showed they were still capable of much more than melodrama. Dunne does recognize the absurdity of their life — up to a point. Monster makes clear how easily even the most talented writers can become caught up in the Hollywood machine, so enmeshed in the process of writing and rewriting, negotiating and renegotiating that they lose sight of how ludicrous it has all become. Instead of wondering if the world really needed another syrupy, star-driven love story, the two become obsessed with fixing the "obdurate" scene 158.

Monster is a book you may not wish to read, but you would do well to send copies of it to any aspiring screenwriters you might know: It may be able to scare one or two of them straight, thus saving them (and perhaps the rest of the movie-going public) from a considerable amount of pain. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Novelist (Playland) and journalist Dunne makes much of his living by writing screenplays, and this journal covers the eight years it took between the time he and his wife, Joan Didion, were approached to write a screenplay based on Golden Girl, a biography of newswoman Jessica Savitch, and the 1996 appearance of Up Close and Personal, a rather different movie that made no mention of Savitch. The "monster," this veteran of Hollywood knows, is the producers' money, which always takes precedence over creative ego. This account-written while Dunne had much other work but also money worries-is often digressive and undigested, as if it were written to satisfy Dunne's own money monster. Even so, Dunne can be a deft and amusing reporter both of the tricks of the screenwriting trade and of the foibles of the "industry," as Hollywood is known. He explains why studio execs like screenplays with explanatory exposition while good actors don't, and he uncovers the dynamic of a script reading, in which stars need less dialogue than others to establish their characters. He tells of the youthful "creative executives" who give screenwriters critiques laden with peculiar jargon, and he reports on working with a series of charismatic executives-first producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, then producer Scott Rudin and director Jon Avnet. In the end, the film made a nice profit and Dunne not only had a good time but wrung a book out of the experience. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Dunne turns the movie-making business inside out.
Kirkus Reviews
Further proof, elegantly presented, that Hollywood screenwriting is a mad, bad, wasteful, and highly remunerative process. Novelist Dunne (Playland, 1994 etc.) and his wife, Joan Didion, seasoned screenwriters, were approached by a producer with a hot movie idea: a biopic of the late news anchorwoman Jessica Savitch. Her life was a classic American tragedy, with the bonus of a richly prurient overlay: wild ambition, abusive relationships, supercharged sex, drugs galore. Disney was the only studio to express interest. Because money is Hollywood's wizard king, transmuting ideas with alembic ease, it was soon bye-bye to seamy biography and hello to the plucky tale of a sanitized Savitch-like reporter. Ambition became enthusiasm, sex became romance, drugs shriveled to the occasional social drink, and Savitch's abusive Svengali was replaced by the improbably named and conventionally characterized Warren Justice. As draft followed draft, almost every last drop of tragedy was drained away. Perhaps the producer, Scott Rudin, best summed up this new conception of the story: "It's about two movie stars." For whatever reason, this project attracted enough attention to remain alive, but not enough to get made. In other words, it was in development hell. As the years went by, producers came and went, Dunne and Didion were repeatedly on and off the project, more and more drafts were written (for more and more money). Eventually, Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer signed on to star in it, and suddenly there was speed, progress, urgency. A director, Jon Avnet, was found, locations scouted, a crew hired, and just a few drafts later, what was now called Up Close & Personalstarted filming. It had taken nearly eight years. This is a reasonably familiar Hollywood story, but Dunne's limber prose and acute, acid-tipped observations always keep things interesting: No need for rewrites here.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679455790
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/11/1997
  • Pages: 203
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.61 (h) x 0.84 (d)

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