Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Respect for writers

It's amazing how poorly writers are regarded by some of the people who make their living off the back of writers' work. Here's an anecdote from Michael Caine's book, Acting in Film
Movie scripts are not Holy Writ. As if to prove its fallibility, the director (Sidney Furie), on the first day on the set of The Ipcress File, put the script on the floor, set fire to it, and said, "That's what I think of that."  We all stood there looking at each other. I was a bit baffled. "What are we going to shoot?" I said. In the end, the director used my copy. But I was allowed to improvise a lot. 
Michael Caine and Maggie Smith in California Suite
Some writers know how to deal with the problem of presumption by mere actors. Here Michael Caine gives us another glimpse of how things can work in Hollywood.
California Suite
I did a picture called California Suite, which was written by the great American comedy writer Neil Simon. He visited the set the first day, came over to Maggie Smith and me and said, "Listen, if you think of anything funny, you know, ad libs, put 'em in. But tell me what they are first. And they better be funnier than what I've written." We thought and we thought. Our poetic license hung heavy on our conscience. And needless to say, we never ad-libbed a word.
I know I've quoted from Michael Caine's book a lot lately (and I haven't finished yet), but it's a bloody good read. Acting in Film. Get a copy and read it. 

First posted:  11 November 2011

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