Awards-worthy scribes discuss the writing process


Pedro Almodovar, "Broken Embraces"
(It was challenging) combining (different) narrative streams in a structure that was both multifaceted and homogenous and comprehensible. This is a very dark drama and (it was tough) combining it with comedy (from the movie-within-the-movie, "Girls With Suitcases") without being disconcerting. It's the most difficult script that I've written. It was very, very hard to do because, (though) I'm used to mixing genres -- something completely natural in my personality and in my life -- in this case, the duplicity of the characters and the duplicity in general of the narration makes everything more difficult.

Neill Blomkamp, "District 9"
The biggest challenge for me was having to exercise some kind of restraint. The open world of "District 9" was so interesting to me from a pure sci-fi perspective that at any point you could break away from the primary story and go investigate a million other threads. What's inside the mothership? Where do the aliens come from? How did the weapons get out of the ship? Having to cut all this really interesting stuff down to size and just focus on a clean single story was tough, but completely necessary.

Nancy Meyers, "It's Complicated"
The biggest problem I had to solve while writing the screenplay was making Meryl Streep's decision to have an affair with her married ex-husband understandable and relatable. That was the challenge.

Wes Anderson, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"
The challenge for Noah Baumbach and I when we set to work on the script for "Fantastic Mr. Fox" was to lengthen the story and expand the cast of characters but still try to make our movie feel like it was written by Roald Dahl. Neither of us are master plot-makers, and Dahl was certainly one of those, and I do not know if any of what we wrote actually sounds like him. But I cannot say it was exactly a "problem" for us. It was instead an extremely fun adventure for us to pretend to be another writer, especially one with such a wildly vivid and utterly unique imagination.

Joe Penhall, "The Road"
I had to tread a fine line between preserving the extraordinary atmosphere of the novel and condensing it into a more urgent film narrative, whilst still retaining (author Cormac) McCarthy's unique voice. I wanted it to read like the screenplay he would have written, had he chosen to write it as a screenplay. I agonized over whether or not to add a voice-over, allowing more of Cormac's authorial voice into the film, but resisted writing it until the edit. When it was locked off I showed it to him and he liked it -- particularly the voice-over.

Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
I started writing the script back in 1998. At that time, while the setup was the same -- the Basterds, Shoshana and Landa -- I actually had a different story and, believe it or not, many, many more characters, so many it took about 100 pages just to introduce them all. Needless to say, it wasn't a movie -- a miniseries maybe, but not a movie. So after two years of working on it I put it away. So when I took it out of the drawer in 2008, I did one last-ditch effort to turn it into a movie. I came up with a new story, lost a bunch of characters, and then, quite easily, finished it in about five months.

Tom Ford, "A Single Man"
The most difficult problem was how to stay true to the core theme of the novel while adapting what is essentially an inner monologue with no real plot. I needed to turn the story into one which could be told in a visual way, while respecting what is considered a landmark work of literature by Christopher Isherwood. In order to do this, I had to create a plot and new scenes and characters, so that the audience could understand what was going on in the mind of our hero George.

Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
The biggest problem was reimagining the story as a visual and accessible experience that maintained the integrity and impact of the novel. Due to the unusual style and difficult content of the book, I was told that it was unadaptable. In order to "solve" it, I drew upon everything that I had ever learned from my undergraduate studies in psychology, my graduate training as a director, overcoming setbacks -- like Precious -- my love of classic American and foreign films, the value of education instilled in me by my family and knowing people like Precious and Mary.