Richard Price

Into The Night Of, reading this Richard Price interview in Paris Review online.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Just the first question and answer:

INTERVIEWER

What started you writing?

RICHARD PRICE

Well, my grandfather wrote poetry. He came from Russia. He worked in a factory, but he had also worked in Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side of New York as a stagehand. He read all the great Russian novelists and he yearned to say something. He would sit in his living-room chair and make declarations in this heavy European accent like, When the black man finally realizes what was done to him in this country . . . I don’t wanna be here. Or, If the bride isn’t a virgin, at some point in the marriage there’s gonna be a fight, things will be said . . . and there’s gonna be no way to fix the words.

How about this?

INTERVIEWER

Do you want to keep writing both novels and screenplays?

PRICE

Every screenwriter loves to trash screenwriting. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. They trash the calculatedness, the cynicism, the idiocy, the pandering. But if they’re really honest, they’ll also admit they love the action, the interaction. Depending on whom you’re working with, screenwriting is fun up to a point. And movies have such an impact on people. Thomas Kenealy once told me about a time he was with the guerrillas in Eritrea during the civil war in Ethiopia. They were sitting on the cusp of the desert under the moon. They all had their muskets; they were about to attack some place. Wanting to chill out before they mobilized, they watched The Color of Money on video. So every once in a while the hugeness of Hollywood gets to you—the number of people who see a movie compared to the number of people who read a book. So as a screenwriter you keep hoping against hope—just because they screwed me the last time doesn’t mean they’re going to screw me this time. Well, of course they will. They’re just going to screw you in a way you haven’t been screwed before.

The first draft is the most creative, the most like real writing because it’s just you and the story. The minute they get a hold of that first draft it ceases to be fun because it’s all about making everybody happy. Raymond Chandler said that the danger of Hollywood for a writer is that you learn to put everything you’ve got into your first draft and then you steel yourself not to care what happens because you know you’re going to be powerless after that. If you do that time and time again, the heart goes out of you.

 



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