Topic: Goodbye, William Goldman — and thanks.
Here's an amazing anecdote from Deadline Hollywood:
There will be people better-versed than me to describe the fact that Goldman knew more than many, but I will recount an anecdote that the late Jonathan Demme told me when I did a look-back on the 25th anniversary of The Silence of the Lambs. Demme had the picture locked, and had a friends-and-family screening of the film before he turned in the cut. One of the attendees was Goldman, whom Demme didn’t know all that well. The following day, Goldman called.
Well, better to let Demme tell it:
“We watched the movie,” Demme said. “It played like gangbusters, and we got terrific response from the audience. Craig [McKay, editor] and I were high-fiving each other. Okay, we’re locked, baby. I got a phone call the next day at my house. ‘Hi, this is William Goldman calling.’ I was like, ‘Oh, hi. God, one of my favorite writers of all time.’ He said he thought the picture was terrific, but he thought there was one section that was holding it back from its full potential power. This came after Dr. Lecter escapes, and there was this scene that lasted somewhere between eight and twelve minutes. Jack Crawford [Clarice's boss] is called on the carpet. They are summoned by the attorney general, Roger Corman. Crawford’s kicked off the case. Clarice is kicked out of the academy. They go downstairs, and there’s this blistering, really terrific scene on the steps. Clarice just can’t let go of saving the senator’s daughter. Her brain is going a mile a minute, and Crawford is telling her, ‘Didn’t you hear what happened up there? I’m off the case. You’re out of this thing. There’s no way on earth…’ But she said she was going to Calumet. Clarice looks at Crawford and says, ‘God Dammit Jack, I’m going.’ We cut to her in the car, crossing the bridge where she’s about to encounter Buffalo Bill. So Goldman said, ‘Take all that out.’ I’m like, ‘What? That’s one of the biggest scenes in the movie. Really? What?’ And he says, ‘That’s what my gut’s telling me. You guys should really take a look at it.’ So I was like, ‘Well, listen, thank you for this. Goodbye.’
“I got to the cutting room and told Craig about this conversation, almost laughing about it. Craig was not really pleased -- because we were really… locked -- but we said, 'let’s just take that section out, and watch the movie again, right here on the Steenbeck in the cutting room.'
So we lifted it out, and watched it... and the power of just cutting straight to Jodie, without all that other stuff -- I think Goldman might’ve referred to it as ‘the third act launchpad exposition stuff’ -- it was just an extraordinary difference, an immeasurable improvement.
That is William Goldman.”
Thanks, buddy. Good work.
I have a tendency to fix your typos.