By a new guest author…
|Katie Porter is an aspiring writer, movie lover, and part of the team at Seatup.|
|The screenwriter is the often overlooked creator of the world we experience when we take our seat in the movie theater; ready to be dragged into the adventure, intrigue, comedy, and tragedy. The anonymity of the screenwriter is part of the attraction for many – living in the spotlight, under the scrutiny of the swarming Twitterati and critics isn’t that appealing to everyone.
There are lots of incredibly famous screenwriters whose work goes beyond the typewriter to other, more glamorous and more famous roles – Quentin Tarantino, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, the Coen Bros, Francis Ford Coppola.
But there are just as many guys and gals who create the expansive world of our favorite movies – sending us to the extremities of the universe or the stories of friendships and achievements – who are just getting on with their normal lives: putting out their trash, cleaning their windows, and simply enjoying the luxury of being anonymous.
So buckle up, for this is quite an unexpected ride – our list of not-so-famous writers of movies that had big impacts at the box office.
Melissa Mathison wrote the screenplay for one of the all-time favorite family movies – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), in which she also played Elliot’s school nurse. She also wrote the screenplays for The BFG, and The Twilight Zone: The Movie, but lived a relatively anonymous life, out of the spotlight – despite being married to Harrison Ford. Unfortunately, she died at the age of 65 in 2015, but her stories continue to spread joy across the homes of millions of families all around the world.
Ted Tally is responsible for the screenplay adaptation of one of the most notorious thrillers of the 1990s – The Silence of the Lambs (1991), rated number 23 in the IMDB Top 100. Based on the novel by the more widely known, Thomas Harris, Tally managed to extract every possible tension, bringing this classic monster movie to a climactic forte on the screen.
The real skill of the screenwriter is to give us enough to maintain our interest and hold off the climax until we can’t bear it – and The Silence of the Lambs is a perfect example of a man in control of the page. Ted Tally is also known for All The Pretty Horses (2000), Mission to Mars (2000), and Red Dragon (2002). After a sixteen year hiatus, he’s back with 12 Strong (2018).
Robert Rodat wrote the screenplay for Saving Private Ryan (1998) – currently rated number 28 in the IMDB Top 100. Very much the action writer, he’s also created the screenplays for Thor: The Dark World (2013) and The Patriot (2000). Away from the typewriter, Rodat has been the Executive Producer and writer responsible for the TV series, Falling Skies (2011-2015).
Michael Blake’s finest movie hour was Dances With Wolves (1990). The screenplay was based on his own novel, and the movie is currently ranked at the number 59 spot in the IMDB Top 100. However, his movie zenith fizzled out almost as quickly as it began – but when one movie wins 7 Oscars, including Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), and 36 other recognized industry awards, I guess it’s fine to pull out at the top.
Calder Willingham was one of two writers responsible for the screenplay to the Hoffman / Bancroft classic, The Graduate (1967). His other screenwriting exploits didn’t really shake the world; unlike his writing partner for the movie, Buck Henry. Henry went on to pen the screenplays for Catch-22 (1970), Grumpy Old Men (1993), and Get Smart (2008).
Larry McMurtry is probably better known as a TV writer, having created many TV movies, and mini-series – none of which are particularly notable. However, he wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and the novel, Terms Of Endearment – which was brought to the screen in 1983, starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson, and won 5 Oscars.
David Franzoni wrote the screenplay for Gladiator (2000). His writing credits since have been few and far between, with a single screenplay for the rather mediocre King Arthur (2004). However, his mantelpiece is adorned with an Oscar for Best Picture, and a nomination for Best Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen), so you could say that he quit while he was ahead. More recently Franzoni has been the Executive Producer for Black and White Stripes: The Juventus Story (2016) – a documentary series.
Nearly all of these writers have been crowned with the glories that all writers strive for, but are happy to remain in the background. And sometimes, that’s for the best, isn’t it?
Being a screenplay writer might not necessarily get you a table in a restaurant, or spotted in the street, but who needs that anyway? For some, the satisfaction of having their work brought to life on the screen is all the recognition they need – as they can drift back into their blissfully anonymous lives.
Katie Porter is an aspiring writer, movie lover, and part of the team at Seatup. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her home state Colorado and plays in women’s amateur rugby league.