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

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction, Pt. 2

So someone slipped me a copy of the screenplay for "Stranger Than Fiction", which I glanced at, not wanting to ruin the movie for myself.

But I'm happy to report that indeed, most of the scenes in the trailer are from the first act -- the writer tackles the story head on. The toothbrush bit is on page 5; the scene in which Harold learns that he is meant to die soon is on page 23.

So I don't think the trailer gives away much at all, other than the set-up. Hot damn.

The screenplay is written by Zach Helm, who is basically living the dream at this point; not only does he have this already-getting-great-reviews movie coming out, but he just got to direct his next script, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium", which stars Natalie Portman.

Can't beat that.

According to research I just did (in which I'm essentially cribbing from a June 2005 Variety article), Zach Helm is 31, a former DePaul University theater student/aspiring playwright who was recruited by a Fox 2000 initiative aimed at "under the radar writers".

Helm wrote "Mr. Magorium", got an agent, sold the script to Fox, and spent the next three years "going to film school", as he puts it, which in his case meant that "anytime someone offered me a job, I took it. I doctored, I adapted, I did page-one rewrites, I developed TV shows, all of which were bad ideas. I spent three or four years killing projects right and left. Maybe I saved the world from some bad movies."

Not until he realized that his fate wasn't in script doctoring did Helm discover his knack for spec screenwriting. "I'm much happier and they're much better movies" he said.

Helm has another well-received screenplay, a comedy called 'The DisAssociate", set up at Warner Brothers.


At 8:11 AM, Anonymous hotzappa11 said...

Ive heard different things about the topic DisAssociate script. It's either about someone writing letters to God, or God wants the main character to create a universal language or some sort.

I have no idea which one is true, or maybe it's something absolutely different.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Actually, I just realized that I read "The DisAssociate" for someone 5 years ago. At the time, I thought the writing was good, but that the story didn't really work at all

Rereading my synopsis, it makes me hope that he has rewritten the tale since them, because it was quirky/interesting but just didn't build to anything; it had major third act problems.

But the basic premise is about a guy getting postcards from God, telling him to create a universal language. His life falls apart and he goes crazier, while when he meets God, God turns out to be Danny DeVito.

And that's just the first act.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Danny Stack said...

Mr Helm was also once engaged to Lucy Liu. They've broken up now I believe.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

Three things:

1)Isn't Mr. Magorium starring Dustin Hoffman too?

2)All these years I thought that the concept of "guy getting postcards from God" was my idea. Damn.

3)Lucy Liu? That lucky bastard. Damn.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Yeah, Dustin Hoffman is in it, but I think Natalie is the lead.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Systemaddict said...

Any movie with Natalie Portman as the lead- goes down as viewing worthy to me :)

Nice to see a trailer not ruin everything for once.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

This is the movie I'm most anticipating right now! I'm so glad the trailer is only the first act.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I coincidentally read THE DISASSOCIATE this weekend -- the draft was dated December 2005. I had a few issues with the third act but it resolved itself nicely... unlike the draft of STRANGER THAN FICTION that I've read -- the first two-thirds of that was amazing. Then it all falls apart in the end...

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the script. The first act had the Kaufman-esque humor that's in the trailer. The second act slowly went from humor to a surprisingly heart-felt romance. The third act just kind of petered out.

Without giving away any spoilers, the third act basically didn't have a lot of conflict. Also, the climax played out more on an intellectual rather than a visceral level. So while logically cute, I don't think it's really going to grip the audience.

Also, a lot of the humor in the second act comes from using the plot to do a meta-level parody of writing conventions, much like Adaptation did. While it's very clever and intelligently done, it doesn't quite deliver the kind of comedic punch that people may expect from Will Ferell.

So yeah, great script but too much intellectual cuteness and soso ending.

My prediction is that it'll gross something in the 50-60 million dollar range. Definitely more commercial than Adaptation, but I don't think it'll get that much word-or-mouth from the regular crowd.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nat portman movie, mr magorium, is animated.

- Allen

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

No, it's live-action.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Sadie Lou said...

went to school with Zach--did a drama scene with him. He was an ego-maniac in school but I guess it's payin' off now! I did a post about it.


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