Scott Silver, 'The Fighter'

1:02 PM PST 02/04/2011 by THR staff

First-time Oscar nominee Scott Silver endured four years’ worth of ups, downs, budget-cutting, cast changes and a revolving door of writers (Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington included) — elements that have combined to make The Fighter this year’s scrappiest contender.

The Hollywood Reporter: You are one of four writers credited with writing The Fighter over more than four years. How did you deal with all of the notes and changes during that time?

I first came on while Darren Aronofsky was still attached. He was a friend of mine from film school, so I was really trying to implement his vision of this movie, which we did. Then David O. Russell came on board, and we had to implement David’s vision of the movie. So I would say the notes from the producers, David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, and then from the studio and Relativity, were really about how to keep what worked about the movie despite cutting a lot from the budget, but most importantly still making it a David O. Russell movie. I don’t think there was ever really a finished screenplay, to be honest with you, until we started shooting.

THR: In what ways did the script most evolve from inception to screen?

The most practical change it went through was that it was a $70 million movie and then a $25 million movie. Also, the script used to begin in the 1970s with Dicky’s fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, and then it would cut from that to a scene with Dicky smoking crack. Dicky fighting Sugar Ray was like landing on the moon — he still talks about it. That sort of clicked for me when I went to Lowell [Mass.] and researched. They all kept on talking about Sugar Ray. The challenge was how do you get that sense of seeing this crackhead in the beginning of the movie, just why everybody’s hopes and dreams are tied up in this guy. That was an important part of the movie: That dream sort of had died in Lowell and for these characters. So the first act now became the beginning of the second act. The whole movie obviously needed to be thorough and is, but David definitely brought humor and his attitude. No one was ever going to make a dark, depressing drug movie. If you don’t cheer at the end of this movie, you fail. That was always part of our story.

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THR: What is your general writing process? Do you have a set schedule?

I have to have a pretty strict schedule, or else I just waste a day. When I was single, I wrote at my house — but now it’s like the kids will be hanging off of me, so it’s not going to happen. I have an office in Manhattan and set hours, and I will write until this time and then go to lunch. That will at least get me into some kind of routine and rhythm to be able to write. I remember somebody told me you have to set hours, just as if you were working in an office. It’s only been since I got married that I’ve had an office. I don’t answer the phone when someone calls and I’m working. The good part about that — and I’ve been writing since 1993 — is now it’s like if I’m not at work, I sort of feel like I should be at work. If I’m not at the office or I leave early, it feels weird. Usually I will work from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., but then oftentimes, if I’m really slammed on something — and my wife doesn’t kill me — I will work later. I don’t understand how people write in coffee shops. Maybe they are trying to get laid or something.

THR: Are you a dedicated Mac guy?

No, I have a Dell. I’m terrified of technology. Not Unabomber-terrified, but I like to keep it simple. I have never used a Mac. I don’t even use Final Draft. Back after I graduated from AFI, I went to this store in L.A. called the Writers Store. They had two screenwriting programs: Final Draft and Scriptware. Scriptware was on sale, so that’s what I bought.

THR: Which screenplays made you want to write movies?

Wow. That’s f---ing hard. Reading Cameron Crowe’s screenplays, I learned a lot. Unforgiven is also a great f---ing screenplay — that’s a whole other level. The screenplay to Saturday Night Fever is stunning; the movie is incredible, but the screenplay is better. Believe it or not, I don’t want to use this because it’s so cliche, but the screenplay to Rocky — it’s almost like the perfect screenplay. And I couldn’t believe it when I read Adaptation. It was so pure.

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