a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Famous Actors Probably Don't Want To Cameo In Your Movie

Actual excerpt from a script I read for a production company this weekend. The context? A teen, who has become an unexpected celebrity journalist, goes on Letterman.


Mike and Beverly ENTER the green room where SEAN PENN waits, drinking bottled water, and a HUMAN CONTORTIONIST IS FOLDING HIMSELF INTO A SMALL GLASS BOX.

Penn warmly welcomes Mike, who greets him back. When Penn has his head turned, Mike quickly turns to Beverly -- apparently to ask who Sean Penn is.


Scene. It's a completely pointless moment, and it's unclear even what we're supposed to take from it; is it supposed to show that Mike is so clueless that he doesn't know who Sean Penn is? (The obvious choice, though there is no real sense elsewhere in the script that Mike is that clueless). Or is it to show that Sean Penn has become so irrelevant to today's teens that they simply don't know who he is? (And don't ask why the whole human contortionist thing is capitalized. Like Penn, we never see him again either).

Of course, the problem either way is that you've given Sean Penn absolutely no reason to actually want to do this scene, so why write it?

Yet it's amazing how often I read scripts, usually comedy scripts, in which they have celebrities wander through scenes, often while making fun of the celebrity. It's really rather dumbfounding, because unless you are going to give the celebrities something funny enough to do that they are willing to be self-depreciating (such as the former-child-star poker scenes in DICKIE ROBERTS, which no, I didn't see), it just jumps out as being dumb, an amateur penning a script who is stupid enough to think that scenes like this can ever actually come off.

So unless you go the balls-out BEING JOHN MALKOVICH route, or come up with something so off-center brilliant that the celebrity you put in your script will be dying to play the part, it's really not productive to try to work celebrity cameos in your screenplay. Especially if you're just going to make fun of them.

Unless it's Donald Trump, who apparently has no shame.


At 9:15 PM, Blogger oneslackmartian said...

That had to be written by someone with novel writing in his blood. Novelists can trot out whomever they want without actually having to entice the celeb into an appearance.

Well, Woody Allen’s fiction might be an exception.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penn and Contortionist are capitalized for casting reasons, the introduction of a character capitalized... it is smashed into our heads from certain writing books... if that scene is relvant to the story they can always insert any celebrity, Penn is just used a placemarker that they need A CELEBRITY in that scene, just as if I wrote a bank robbery chase with a 69 Charger. A 67 Chevelle or a 72 Duster works just as well but putting in something specific looks better then 'they hopped into a vintage muscle car'

At 6:13 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Obviouisly, I know about the capitalizing thing, but the guy capitalized the whole sentence. And the scene is pointless, no matter who the celebrity is.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Matt Waggoner said...

Sean Penn greeting someone warmly? I don't buy it. ;)

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Mark said...

What I want to know is who are the production companies sending you this stuff? lol

Write on man

Mark's Screenwriting Blog

At 8:27 PM, Blogger ScriptWeaver said...

I read somewhere that "Being John Malkovich" was originally "Being Steve Buscemi."

But you could actually interchange that character with any actor willing to do the part. Just some minor tweaks.

But I can't imagine Steve Buscemi (or others) playing John Cusack's character as well as John Malkovich actually did in the last half of the movie. He nailed it.

At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being John Malkovich was also Being Gilbert Gotfried briely

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I read the script when it was being shopped, and it was already "Being John Malkovich" then.


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