, she thanked the producer and her agents. She thanked her hairdresser and every member of her family. She must have thanked 50 people. But she never mentioned the writer. She didn’t even mention Shakespeare. They don’t want to thank the people who created their characters and who put the words in their mouth. There can’t be anything without the writer.”— Oscar-winning screenwriter and novelist Budd Schulberg (1914-2009), quoted in “The Real Contender: A Conversation with ‘On the Waterfront’ Screenwriter Budd Schulberg,” Hudson Reporter, July 29, 2000
Budd Schulberg, with more than 80 years of experience in the film community as the son of a studio executive, screenwriter, and observer of the industry, was venting about the lack of respect so long accorded to scribes in Hollywood.
Their indignities have been legion—they have watched in frustration as:
*their terrific script goes into “turnaround,” or development hell; or as
*their script is given to one or more other writers for polishing (Turner and Hooch, the early Tom Hanks film that teamed him with an ugly dog, went through eight different writers!); or as
*their script gets turned by some combination of other writers, directors and producers into something radically different (or, in the words of William Holden’s hack in Sunset Boulevard about his last project, it “was about Okies in the Dust Bowl. You'd never know because when it reached the screen, the whole thing played on a torpedo boat”); or as
*they are banished from the set so they can’t object to the director's damage to their work; or as
*the angrier ones try to use whatever meager leverage they’ve accumulated to protect their scripts by becoming directors themselves, as with Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder; or finally, as Schulberg noted,
*actors forget to say thanks for writing the lines that helped them win the biggest professional honor of their careers.
But, if Schulberg had lived almost a decade longer, his outrage might have been, if anything, even more intense than what he conveyed in this interview.
After all, that producer that Gwyneth Paltrow thanked in her weepy speech on Oscar night almost a quarter century ago? It was Harvey Weinstein, a figure she later described as a “bully”—and now, of course, not just the poster boy of the #MeToo movement but also a felon convicted of rape and assault.
By the way, “the writer” Paltrow neglected to mention? It was actually two: Marc Norman and Sir Tom Stoppard—and that year they shared the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Shakespeare in Love.
So let’s see tomorrow night
who thanks the writers—and who, like Paltrow, for whatever reason, never gets
around to it.