Dealing with Interference

Cody: Nobody wants to make movies about unfuckable women, period. I always have to make everyone hotter. “She can be pregnant, but she has to be cute too.” “She can be a burn victim, but she has to be cute too.” “We can’t put glasses on Amanda Seyfried; she won’t look as hot.” It never fucking ends. My latest script is about a woman in her sixties, so that should be interesting. She’ll be a very fuckable 60, I’m sure.

Feig: It was a kid’s movie I did a big rewrite on that I was very happy with. I went into my first week of directing it and suddenly the studio head had a change of heart and made me pull out most of the dramatic underpinnings of the story, so that all I was left with was basically a silly romp. I was still able to salvage some of the heart but it gutted it enough that it was a letdown to most critics, as well as fans of Freaks and Geeks. That said, I’m still very proud of the movie. It’s just not what it could have and should have been.

There was a script I was writing under a blind script deal I had at a studio right after Freaks and Geeks was canceled. I had an idea I loved called Weirdo that was about a bunch of nerds in a small town who stage a UFO invasion to make people stop making fun of them. But my development executive was hung up on me coming up with a Don Quixote story. I’d go in with ideas I loved and then he’d change them all around to fit his Quixote fetish and I’d walk out completely confused about what I was supposed to write.

Wain: I listen to/read them carefully, and try to understand the underlying reason the note was made. Often the specific note is more of an indication of something else that’s wrong. Even if I totally disagree with a note, I try understand why it was given. That said, ALL notes should be filtered through the ultimate gut of the person who’s sitting in front of the keyboard putting the thing together.

Second-guessing the audience (or the studio/buyer/financier/producer) is a trap I try to steer clear of. The idea of “This isn’t making me laugh but it’s the kind of thing that will probably make them laugh” is a dangerous pitfall.

Holofcener: I’ll give you the most recent one. In Enough Said, there was a storyline where Eva was constantly trying to get a puff off of somebody’s cigarette; she’s an ex-smoker and she just wants a drag, and she can’t seem to get a drag out of anyone’s cigarette. They don’t offer her one, or at one point she asked her ex-husband for one, and he was like, “Get your own cigarette, don’t involve me in your little games or whatever you’re talking yourself into that you’re not a smoker.” And then eventually, Albert’s daughter gives her a drag of her cigarette, they share a cigarette, and it kind of bonds them. And it played well, I thought it played really well. It didn’t advocate smoking or anything, but Searchlight refused to let me put that in the movie. There were so many scenes around this that it was really frustrating to cut out.

It was because unless it’s a period movie, big Fox will not allow anybody smoking a cigarette ever in a movie. Unless it’s Hitchcock or something like that, where everybody is smoking. Now, I could care less, because it works perfectly well without it, but you’d never know that.

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at choosing my battles. I’m always perfectly aware that I’m incredibly lucky that someone’s giving me millions of dollars to tell a story I like. I do not feel entitled. But when I feel that I’m fighting battles about cutting things that are essential to the story, or things that I feel nobody knows better than myself, if I feel absolutely certain about something, I’ll fight for it, I’ll make a very big deal out of it. And I guess that’s why I don’t fight for everything. Otherwise, I would just be a pain in the ass.


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