Writers in HollywoodPosted: June 12, 2015
I spent the ensuing weeks across a table from Nic, hashing out plotlines. It gave me a chance to study him at close quarters. No one was more vehement about character and motivation than Nic. Now and then, he’d do the voices or act out a scene, turning his wrist to demonstrate the pop-pop of gunplay. He was 37 but somehow ageless. He could’ve stepped out of a novel by Steinbeck. The writer as crusader, chronicler of love and depravity. His shirt was rumpled, his hair mussed, his manner that of a man who’d just hiked along the railroad tracks or rolled out from under a box. He is fine-featured, with fierce eyes a little too small for his face. It gives him the aura of a bear or some other species of dangerous animal. When I was a boy and dreamed of literature, this is how I imagined a writer—a kind of outlaw, always ready to fight or go on a spree. After a few drinks, you realize the night will culminate with pledges of undying friendship or the two of you on the floor, trying to gouge each other’s eyes out.
I love True Detective and I loved, loved reading this profile of Nic Pizzolatto in Vanity Fair (from which I steal the above photo, credited to Art Streiber).
I did have a quibble, though.
Here’s what profile writer Rich Cohen says about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood:
Early in the history of film, when the big-time writers of the day, Fitzgerald most famously, were offered a role in the movies, they decided to write for the cash, forswearing deeper participation in a medium they considered second-rate. Perhaps as a result of this decision, the author came to be the forgotten figure in Hollywood, well paid but disregarded. According to the old joke, “the actress was so stupid she slept with the writer.”
Credit and power are shared. But by tossing out that first season and beginning again, Nic has a chance to finally undo the early error of Fitzgerald and the rest. If he fails and the show tanks, he’ll be just another writer with one great big freakish hit. But if he succeeds, he will have generated a model in which the stars and the stories come and go but the writer remains as guru and king.
Not sure this is totally accurate. I’ve read a decent amount about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood. The more you read, the more it seems like Fitzgerald really loved Hollywood, and tried really hard to be good at writing movies, and was distressed by his failures. Fitzgerald loved movies:
When Fitzgerald worked on movies, it seems like he worked hard, was hurt when he was (frequently) fired, which sent him into tailspins that made things worse. But he was trying:
Those are from the great Marc Norman’s book, highly recommended:
Or how about this?:
That’s from this great one, by Scott Donaldson:
Now, that’s not to say that Fitzgerald always did everything perfectly:
(from this one, very entertaining read:
On the other hand, William Faulkner did well in Hollywood. He’s credited on at least two movies — The Big Sleep and To Have And Have Not, that you’d have to put in the all-time good list. If he’d never written a single book, you could look at those credits and call Faulkner a pretty successful screenwriter.
What did Faulkner do differently than Fitzgerald? Possibly, his secret was caring less:
Murky, to be sure.
But you might say: the big difference in the Hollywood careers of Fitzgerald and Faulkner is that Faulkner teamed with a great director, Howard Hawks, who liked him and liked working with him.
That’s what Pizzolatto did too. He teamed up with Cary Fukunaga. Cary Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of season one of True Detective (and a bunch of other things worth seeing).
Fukunaga’s not mentioned once in that Vanity Fair article. That’s crazy.
Anyway. I’m excited for season two, it sounds super interesting.