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.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Goodbye, William Goldman — and thanks.

Man, first Stan Lee and now William Goldman. Inconceivable. It's been a sad week.

Thanks for introducing me to The Princess Bride, guys. I would have missed this gem if it were not for the DiF commentary.

We all float down here...

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Re: Goodbye, William Goldman — and thanks.

I'm most of the way through my umpteenth Princess Bride re-read in honor of the man, and it's kind of astounding how ferocious he was willing to be in whittling his own book down to a screenplay. Don't get me wrong, the heart of the book is still there on the screen, and lots of scenes are, if not word-for-word, basically just tightened-up versions of their book selves. But so much awesome exposition and backstory from the book is condensed into single images or brief exchanges of dialogue in the film. A whole action sequence—Humperdinck's Zoo of Death, which is amazing and which Goldman clearly relished setting up and writing in the book—is just dumped. Perhaps most impressively, the whole fucking point of the book got canned—the narrator, "Bill Goldman," leaves constant notes throughout the text letting you know that he's cut a couple dozen pages of S. Morgenstern's text here because they didn't go anywhere, or trimmed this scene because of boring bits, etc. It's such a convincing bit of trickery that I spent weeks searching for the unabridged Morgenstern Princess Bride after I read the book for the first time, before I finally realized I'd been had.

And because Goldman recognized there was no way to make it work onscreen, he just entirely ditched it.

There's no way in hell I'd be that honest and brave were I given the opportunity to adapt my own work for the screen. I'm sure most novelists would say the same—in fact, it's usually terrible when a prose author tries their hand at their own screenplay (*coughRowlingcough*). The integrity Goldman had to kill every one of his darlings in order to make the best Princess Bride movie possible is just so admirable.

Last edited by Abbie (2018-11-19 03:04:50)

Re: Goodbye, William Goldman — and thanks.

orson the god damned welles clap dot gif

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Goodbye, William Goldman — and thanks.

Abbie wrote:


I'm really curious to see this developed in a more appropriate thread. It's the second time I've seen this comment in a few days, and I'm not talented enough to understand why I should agree, because my instinct so far tells me I don't.

(undigested, rough instinctive take on said instinct: Fantastic Beasts lacked a proper narrative direction, but the second one was great.)


Anyway, godspeed William Goldman. I'm a late bloomer in all cool things so I discovered the Princess Bride only a few years ago but it immediately became one of my favourite films. I'm downright staggered how absolutely every aspect, every tiny cog in its machinery is tongue-in-cheek (Knopfler is a goddamn hero), but also simultaneously how strong its story is. The book which I read a bit later on only emphasizes it, with the added layer of the narrator being a whole character, losing himself in anecdotal memories and telling the story however he feels like doing.

The Princess Bride is absolutely great in its two medium; they are to me two distinct works of art that perfectly make sense and don't need to be compared. And while I'll revisit the book but maybe not that many times, the film is one that I'll watch over and over again and never get tired of. It's one of these films you know every dialogue by heart; it's music.

Last edited by Saniss (2018-11-19 10:50:07)

Sébastien Fraud
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