On average, it took six years to bring each of the eight WGA-nominated scripts to the screen, with Phyllis Nagy’s Carol taking the longest – 18 years – and Drew Goddard’s The Martian the fastest. “Two-and-a-half years ago it was still an e-book. It was a quickie,” Goddard said Thursday night at the Beyond Words panel discussion with the guild’s nominated screenwriters.
It was a high-spirited evening, with lots of laughs and no controversy. The word ‘diversity’ – the buzzword this Oscar season – wasn’t mentioned even once by any of the 12 all-white panelists.
Moderator John August’s insightful questions kept the evening moving, asking each of the 11 writers – almost too many to fit on stage – about some of their favorite scenes that had been cut out of their movies.
Goddard said his involved a long scene that detailed how NASA manufactured the canvas tent that ultimately ripped and nearly killed Matt Damon’s character on Mars. “It was a hilariously expensive four-pages about canvas. I really wanted to keep it, but it would have cost millions to film. When (director) Ridley Scott came on board, he said, ‘I love the script. I don’t think we should change a word. But I think we should cut out the shit about the canvas.’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’”
Adam McKay noted that one of the real life characters in The Big Short had to be given a different name and tragic back story because the true story was too painful for the family – their nanny had killed their child.
Trumbo scripter John McNamara said that his favorite scene that didn’t appear in the film involved Hedda Hopper, played by Helen Mirren, being left speechless when she tried to shake hands with a Korean War vet who had no hands.
Straight Outta Compton writer Jonathan Herman related how one of his favorite scenes that didn’t make it into the film was particularly personal – where Dr. Dre first discovers new creative potential after smoking pot.
Bridge Of Spies screenwriter Matt Charman said that director Steven Spielberg shot a beautiful scene that never made it to the film: one in which the lead character and his family are standing out on their front lawn and looking up into the night sky, in wonder and fear, as Sputnik passes far overhead.
Only Aaron Sorkin demurred, but acknowledged that he dropped a project about Wall Street traders after seeing The Big Short, whose writers Adam McKay and Charles Randolph were both on the panel. Randolph related how he loved doing the research for the film because it gave him an excuse not to have to write.
Sorkin also admitted that he fudged a bit of dialogue in Steve Jobs when Jobs refers to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniac as Rainman, even though the Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise film hadn’t actually been released yet.