In Their Early Days (Screenwriters Edition)
You ever get tired of seeing George Clooney in Return of the Killer Tomatoes? How about Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun or Leonardo Dicaprio in Critters 3? The answer is no, you never get tired of it. Why? Because seeing actors paying their dues before they were famous and laughing at their haircuts is how we bring them down to our level. Sure, Brad Pitt, you married Angelina Jolie and make furniture made out of money now, but I saw Cool World. Adopt all the kids you want, that movie exists. But, this article isn’t about actors in crap movies before they were famous… it’s about writer’s who wrote those crap movies before THEY were famous.
Writers are people too, damn it, and they deserve to be treated the same as everyone else. In this case, that means looking at the awesomely awful movies they had to write to pay their dues before they were allowed to leave B-Movie town and write the film that would propel them to stardom. Well, “screenwriter stardom.”
Here’s a look at some of today’s top screenwriters and their humble beginnings.
1. David Koepp – Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible and Spider-Man are just a few of the, what Hollywood insiders would call, “successful films” this guy has written. But, before he shaped the world of action films, he shaped the world of boarding school boys fighting terrorists in 1991′s Toy Soldiers.
If memory serves, this was pretty much just Red Dawn with khakis. If memory also serves, the song “Toy Soldiers” by Martika was better than this movie. Koepp’s current project is the next installment of the Jack Ryan CIA saga aptly titled, Jack Ryan.
2. John Logan – Everyone, including me, has been going batty over the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. Rightfully so; it’s kinda awesome. Guess what, this guy wrote it. Not to mention Gladiator, The Aviator and Rango. Speaking of bats though, he also wrote a movie in 1999 called…wait for it… Bats.
Full disclosure, I haven’t seen this movie. But, I just noticed that the title on the cover is UPSIDE DOWN! LIKE A BAT! WHAT?! So, yeah, I’m going to see it. Logan’s latest writing gig was Darren Aronofsky’s epic, Noah. From Bats to the Bible. Not bad, Logan. Not bad.
3. Christopher McQuarrie – The Usual Suspects. Boom. That was this guy’s. To this day, you’ll still hear a Keyser Soze reference every so often (Spoiler Alert: Keyser Soze was dead the whole time). However, before he penned that 90′s phenom (I wrote phenom to save time), he and Bryan Singer gave us Public Access in 1993.
This is another I’ve yet to see so I can’t really make fun of it…but I’ll give it a try anyway. The movie’s cover leads me to believe its about a dude who sweats a lot and then goes running at night? While I make my little jokes, McQuarrie certainly has the last laugh as his most impressive projects on his resume are still to come. Jack Reacher, The Wolverine, and Mission Impossible 5 are all either penned or about to penned by him. So, I’ll just shut up now.
4. David S. Goyer – Before he was part of the Christopher Nolan team that dreamed up the last three Batman films, Goyer paid his dues like a champ. The Crow: City of Angels, Dark City and all of the Blade films were under his belt before penning Batman Begins. Before that, however, he gave us a film that changed us all. I’m of course referring to Kickboxer 2: The Road Back.
The year was 1991 and Jean-Claude Van Damme was a dude who kicked a lot which, back then, was all you needed for a movie. It turns out he was only in the first one, though. In this one, they got Joe Kickington (that may not be right). The LA Times review, “Better than Kickboxer“, really sums up the impact this film had on America–nay, the world. Okay, enough sarcasm. Goyer’s latest film The Man of Steel is a clear sign that this writer, even after the Batman Trilogy, is still soaring.
5. Andrew Kevin Walker – This guy melted my face off with Se7en. The fact that he’s always been David Fincher’s go-to guy for rewrites makes him even cooler. For a long time I assumed Se7en was his first film. Then, as I was writing an article about hit films from first-time writers, which was going to include him, my world was turned upside down by Brainscan.
The cover alone speaks volumes. Mostly, it says that the 90′s were a confusing time for all of us, including Hollywood. This gem, which features a “before the drugs” Edward Furlong, is actually available to watch on YouTube for free! “All good things should flow into the boulevard” said Pericles. We now know he was talking about this. Walker’s last feature was the not-so-well-received Wolfman in 2010 but, the word is, he is doing a polish on Fincher’s latest project, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’m in.
All kidding aside, these are all writers I admire and aspire to write like. In reality, having a good laugh about an artist’s early work is just another way we get to know them and become bigger fans of theirs. Every writer has to start somewhere, and the bottom of the ladder is usually going to include a Van Damme movie or two. With that being said, I’m gonna get started on my new script, Return of the Killer Tomatoes 2: They’re Technically A Fruit.
Update: Val Kilmer just called. He’s in!