Genre: Biopic/Action/Period
Premise: A young George Washington fights to gain the respect of the British Army during the French-Indian War.
About: This is a juicy mid-six figure sale from a couple of weeks ago. The script is from Aaron Sorkin protégé Michael Russell Gunn, the son of a Christmas tree farmer (hey, what’s more American than that!). Gunn’s written on The Newsroom and Black Sails, but this is his first feature effort. New Line, the buyer, will now race to get the movie made before a competing project from Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. There have been some rumblings (mostly from the internet PC police) that a movie about Washington should not be made, since he owned slaves.
Writer: Michael Russell Gunn
Details: 115 pages – undated (but I believe this is the draft that went out a couple of weeks ago)

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Casting Washington is a big challenge. Maybe Bradley Cooper? Who would you go with?

When you think about the explosive biopic trend, you wonder why a George Washington spec hasn’t hit the town sooner. I mean we’re talking about the most famous man in American history. Even 9th graders at Hollywood High who couldn’t name our vice president without the help of Siri, recognize Washington’s name (albeit because his picture gets them an order of fries at the nearby In and Out, but still).

So why haven’t we gotten a big George Washington biopic before? I think because the guy’s boring, right? He never lies. And movies are about lying. Think about it. Every movie is based on some form of lie, deception, or the withholding of information. So if a guy can’t pull a cherry tree hit-and-run without feeling guilty, where are you going to go with the character? To that end, it doesn’t matter how popular you are. If you’re boring, people don’t want to watch you. Well, unless you’re Kim Kardashian of course.

As if sensing our collective skepticism, Gunn throws us into the story with Washington mercileslly beating down two Indians to save one of his soldiers. We immediately realize this isn’t our grandma’s George Washington. Or our grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s George Washington. No, this is George Washington by way of 1989 Arnold Swarzenegger.

Not to get too “history” on you, but the story is set during the French-Indian War, when Britain was still occupying the U.S., and fighting France for control of this bountiful new world. Washington was one of the few locals to rise through the ranks on his merit (and not his family name) alone to become captain.

But after losing a town to the pesky French (French were still pesky even back then), he’s stripped of his captain rank and told he doesn’t have the goods to lead an army. Pissed off, Washington accepts a job surveying land for a local divorcee, Martha, whose farmland is drying up due to her neighbor controlling a nearby river. A master surveyor (this is how Washington made his name), she wants him to find a way to save the land, and along with it, her estate.

Unfortunately, Washington is pulled away by the British, who need his land-surveying prowess to take a key Frech city up north that, according to them, will determine who wins the war. Limited to consulting duties, Washington is itching to get back into action. But the British don’t believe he can lead an army. Will Washington be able to prove them wrong?

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First off, I want to commend Gunn for selling this script. Part of getting that elusive script sale is strategizing (not unlike Washington) what Hollywood is looking for and how your particular writing strengths can give it to them. Too many writers write whatever comes to mind, never doing any research into whether Hollywood would actually want the material.

Coming off of Lincoln’s success, it was clear that audiences were willing to pay up for stories of historic American heroes, and so Gunn pounced on a Washington biopic.

I also loved the opening of The Virginian. Remember, you always want to use the reader’s expectations against them. George Washington is synonomous with the stately proper figure on the face of the one-dollar bill. So what’s the opening scene? Washington recklessly ripping two Indian soldiers to shreds. Boom, everything we thought we knew about Washington is turned on its head.

But that’s not all. As soon as Washington saves his soldier from these crazed warriors, he reaches down to pull him up, only to have the soldier CLOCK him upside the head and RUN. Wait a minute – WHAT??? Our hero just beat down two Indians and saved this man from getting scalped alive and he hits Washington and runs???

What we find out is that American militia are deserting their army in droves. They don’t want to die for a stupid war.

This is when I know I’m getting a good writer. Someone who not only establishes their hero in the first scene, but who uses the SAME SCENE to establish an important plot point. Any time writers are doing 2-3 things at once in a scene, it’s a good sign.

However, that’s where my praise of The Virginian ends. The rest of the script wasn’t bad. But after that opening, I was expecting more. When Washington gets the call to use his mapping skills to help the British in a battle up north, I assumed it was a minor battle that would lead to a major battle that’d be the climax of the story.

But no, this was the only battle. And the longer we stayed in it, fighting the same enemy over and over again, our main character relegated (mainly) to staying back and giving advice on terrain, the more bored I got.

The strangest thing about the script, though, was the emphasis placed on Washington and Martha’s letter-exchange courtship, which was oddly built around a remote land survey subplot. It did give us a break from the monotony of the battle, but there aren’t many love stories built around long-distance letter-based relationships that work (maybe in novels, but not in film).

And that brings us to our first big tip of the day. If a storyline doesn’t work, drop it. Because here’s the thing. I get that you want to show how George Washington met his wife. If I’m starting a screenplay about George Washington’s life, that’s something I’d want to include. However, what you plan to do and what becomes feasible to do once you’re in the throes of your story are two different things. You can be stubborn and force something in there that never quite works because that was your original plan, or you can ditch what’s not working and replace it with something more dramatically compelling.

As for Washington himself, I loved the “Washington with Attitude” approach. It energized him in the same way JJ Abrams energized the Spock character in the new Star Trek movies. But that was offset by the heavy attention paid to Washington’s map-making prowess. I don’t care how good of a writer you are. It’s impossible to make map-making cool. And there was a LOT of map-making here. Like, Rand-McNally should sponsor this movie there’s so much map-making.

I think Gunn got The Virginian half-right. Making Washington a tough quick-tempered brawler desperate for respect from the British Army was great. But the film’s main battle felt small for some reason (even though thy told us it was big). The repetition of the fighting was frustrating. And the fact that your main character was barely in those battles was the biggest faux-pas of them all. With that said, it was still way better than the Lincoln script, and I hear that movie did all right.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: This is a wonderful tip for writers stuck in this situation. If your subject matter is perceived as boring (so, for example, you’re writing a movie about an opera singer), start with a scene that goes directly against that perception (so start with the opera singer snorting coke or getting in an alley fight). This approach jolts the reader and assures them they’re getting something completely different from what they thought. If The Virginian started out with Washington giving a four-page courtroom speech about taxes, I can guarantee you this script wouldn’t have sold.

  • bruckey
    • Scott Crawford

      I don’t have Franzoni’s script. I have the one Scorses is being attached to. It’s called THE GENERAL and it’s written by Adam Cooper (he makes barrels) and Bill Collage (he’s good at putting things together).

    • crazedwriter

      Washington done through the eyes of Aronofsky would feel like a total acid trip!

  • Steffan

    Anyone have this?

    steffanralphdelpiano @ gmail.com

    I’ve got a friend who teaches film and does a Washington Bio-Pic project every year. This’ll be invaluable to him.

    • Scott Crawford

      Sent!

      To keep the board clean, if anyone wants to look at my copy of the script, e-mail me at mr.scottcrawford @ hotmail

      • Billie B

        You’re a saint. :) I think they should make a ‘young Scott Crawford’ biopic. I’d love the origin story of how you first hacked Hollywood to always have every script in town.

        • Sean Reardon

          Kickstarter campaign?

        • Monique B

          I think we all owe Scott a drink.

  • brenkilco

    If your subject matter is perceived as boring (so, for example, you’re writing a movie about an opera singer), start with a scene that goes directly against that perception

    That’ll work. But if you’re writing a movie about opera then clearly you don’t think it’s boring. So rather than dodge the elephant in the room, why not start with what you find fascinating about your subject. Cause if you can’t, maybe you should find another subject. Take Topsy Turvy. Who wants to see a movie about Gilbert and Sullivan? ZZZZ. But you don’t start with a bar brawl. You start with the fascinating truth. One of the most successful creative partnerships in history and these two guys couldn’t stand each other. Couldn’t bear to be in the same room together. Bingo.

    The first question I always ask about these movies featuring young Washington, or Hemingway or Shakespeare or (fill in name of historical figure) is if we didn’t know that the protag was going to grow up to be whoever would we still find the story compelling. There was some godawful romantic drivel from years back featuring Sandra Bullock and Robin from Batman in World War One. And we were supposed to give a damn because the kid was Ernest Hemingway. Don’t think so.

    BTW Before Mann’s Last of The Mohicans and maybe Gibson’s The Patriot- not sure how well that one did- movies set in colonial/Revolutionary War times were considered death. Don’t believe there had ever been a truly successful one. The Al Pacino epic Revolution was one of the biggest bombs of its day.

    • charliesb

      To be fair IN LOVE AND WAR, was an attempt to give us the story of the inspiration for A FAREWELL TO ARMS which most people love.

      But yes, it was terrible, and largely inaccurate, and terrible.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      Reminds me of the Imitation Game. How the first scene focused on the mystery of what happened in Turing’s house, why is he acting so weird, what are the devices in his house, etc?

      And as for the rest of the movie, it is not fascinating just because it is about Turing, but because they are about a lonely, socially-awkward man who is partially responsible for winning the war, and is punished by the same government he helped save. The writer found what was fascinating and human about the story, and put that in the forefront.

  • Magga

    So we can add Lincoln to the list of hugely respected things Carson hates? That was one of the best scripts of this decade, precisely because it focused on the legislative process. These are the movies that are slowly taking over (see how Spotlight is the Oscar frontrunner by a mile), movies that show investigations, whistleblowers, elections and journalism the way they are, without the bells and whistles of traditional Hollywood. HBO and Netflix crave them. Let’s not ignore this niche, because it’s growing, and will probably be of huge importance as cinema retakes the mantle of quality from TV

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      I can’t help but assume that many people flocked to the movie due to the Lincoln mystique. As much as I like Lincoln and the Civil War period, I never thought the movie was so much a story as it was a dramatized graduate student’s thesis.

      What intrigues me about your comment is the idea that a script can be one of the best in the decade because it focuses on the legislative process. It never felt visceral enough for me. It was too intellectual for my taste. And mind you, I’m not against thinking hard, but I do have a problem when my stories include a lot more intellectualism than sentiment. That’s what academic papers are for.

      • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

        Agreed. I love love love Spielberg, but I’d take 1/8th of an ET from him before I’d want another Lincol—zzzzzz. Sorry! Fell asleep there just thinking about it.

      • Magga

        The story behind the script is that one of the most highly regarded dramatists of our time wrote a five hundred page script, out of which the most successful cinematic storyteller in history chose the portion that appealed the most to him, which attracted possible the most highly regarded living actor, which resulted in a critically acclaimed box office success that earned a lot of awards. In other words it’s not so unusual to find the specific story and the way it’s told compelling. Writing it off with a shrug is a bit strange for a site that focuses on getting scripts made, especially in the context of a review of a script that possibly sold as a result of said movie. Also, historical figures are public domain! Good for us!

        I like how Zodiac focuses on investigation and the toll it takes on the characters rather than suspense and foot-chases and so on. I’ve seen enough battle scenes in my life to appreciate the downplaying the warfare of the civil war in Lincoln and showing the man doing what he actually did, which was to push legislation through congress, using many interesting methods and relating to many interesting characters. This is part of where my obsession with Mad Men comes from too. So much of the time there is spent on the creative process, which is what the characters are supposed to do well. It’s one of the only real portrayals of the details of creativity I’ve seen filmed. Whenever formula is applied to stories where what the character does is actually interesting in itself, it’s like the chef has put ketchup on an otherwise nice steak.

        I remember my main problem with American Sniper was that there wasn’t enough sniping. Kicking down doors and conventional warfare is in so many other movies

        • klmn

          For a look at creativity, I’d go back to my favorite documentary, Terry Zwigoff’s CRUMB.

          • Magga

            I’ll try to give it a look

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          I like that you brought up Zodiac, since it is a movie (and script) that I enjoy, as well. The principal element that drew me to that story wasn’t the gory scenes, or even the cat-and-mouse police chase (which was very thrilling, don’t get me wrong). Deep down, it must have been the visceral fear of knowing that there are madmen out there scarier than Mike Myers, Freddy, or Jason, who kill indiscriminately and for the most selfish of reasons, and the fear that no matter how much work gets put into capturing them, there’s no guarantee they will be stopped.

          But we were talking about historical stories, so let me bring up “The Battle of Algiers” which I rewatched just yesterday. That’s the story of the FLN, the Arabic group that fought against the French for an independent Algeria. The movie has a lot to say about terrorism, colonialism, torture, rebellions, loyalty, etc. but it also does a terrific job of dramatizing what could be purely intellectual discussion.

          We feel the oppression of a people living under the rule of European foreigners, we feel the terror and tension when bombs are being placed in public places, the outrage when Arabs are being tortured, when innocent French kids are blown up in a cafe, the exuberance when the Arabs stay strong despite all the odds. In short, there’s great deep content and it is also profound.

          That’s what I mean when say the visceral element was missing from Lincoln. Apart from the first scene with Lincoln and the black Union soldiers, I didn’t get much feeling from the movie, not enough exploration on what it means for a nation celebrated for its liberty to have to fight a war to liberate a sizable part of its population, for example.

          What I remember most is Lincoln discussing the powers that he has under the Constitution? Interesting, yes. The most riveting example of storytelling? I’m not so sure.

          People watched Lincoln and enjoyed it. Fantastic. I still believe it could have told its story a lot better.

          • Magga

            I think if they had told the stories of the soldiers, and shown what they sacrificed, and basically opened the narrative up, the story would have lost what was special about it, which was a close-up look at a politician just doing his job. The man and his craft were central, and I rarely see that, let alone with a man like Lincoln at it’s center. I found it very rewarding, and I’m happy that more movies are going in that direction.

            People have different tastes, though. I just see a slight danger that this site, which I love, is becoming a love-letter to the Klondike-like spec market of the early nineties, when tastes were very different. Now we have the huge spectacles, the indie scene, and the year-end market, as well as HBO, Amazon and Netflix getting in on the movie-game. Streaming needs look likely to spur a resurgence of the mid-range movies, with a nominal theatre release and then licensing exclusives to those services.

            Battle of Algiers is brilliant

            Right now many of those movies have razor-sharp focus on narrower aspects of story. Musicianship and discipline in Whiplash, for example, and the big one right now (which I obviously haven’t seen) is Spotlight, which again seems to focus quite strictly on journalism and how-it-happened. There’s no problem with people, including our host, not liking this, but there’s sometimes an air of dismissal here. “Foreigners don’t care about U.S. politics”, for example, when Recount, Game Change, Margin Call and so on are getting made. For TV, sure, but I don’t know if that distinction matters anymore, and they get international attention because the world is quite attuned to American politics.

            If we dismiss straightforward Liam Neeson movies, for example, we’re seen as looking down at what sells and what works, but a lot of things that have had a huge impact have been dismissed as crap, even as those movies are made, acclaimed and often profitable. The Big Short looks like another movie that mainly goes into the details of financial manipulation, and I look forward to it. In general movies are much better than just two years ago, and at this rate we could be in a pretty good era within two or three years.

            I feel pretty confident that All the President’s Men would have been torn up by many on this board, but it’s descendants are doing quite well right now.

          • Eric

            I think the problem with this comparison is that Lincoln wasn’t about the Civil War. They repeatedly make a point that Lincoln can end the war without the 14th Amendment and he chooses not to. The movie is about him trying to pass the Amendment. Scenes depicting the legislative process isn’t some dour aside the movie gets trapped in, the movie is about legislation. I know that doesn’t light most people’s fire, but it shouldn’t be a mark against the movie either. A lot people don’t like courtroom dramas, but that doesn’t mean Inherit the Wind needs more scenes of civil unrest. Besides, we don’t need to see these things to appreciate them. I think the movie did a good job of treating its audience like adults. We don’t need to see depictions of slavery or war battles to know what the stakes of the movie are, we’ve seen these things in other movies.

            They say when you try to make something for everyone, you end up with something for no one. Spielberg knew what audience he was going for. This is a movie for people predisposed to period dramas, or a good episode of the West Wing, who don’t mind scenes of people talking in rooms as long as the conversation is interesting and the performances good, and with Daniel Day Lewis under the top hat, the performances were very good indeed.

            To be honest, this felt the sort of clean, straight forward, performance driven type of period piece that Hollywood simply doesn’t make like they used to. It’s an old school film in many ways.

    • klmn

      “So we can add Lincoln to the list of hugely respected things Carson doesn’t like?”

      I think Carson was Lincoln Log deprived as a child. While the other children were building stuff with their Lincoln Logs, Carson had to make do with his Jefferson Quill Pen.

      “Mama, why can’t I have Lincoln Logs like the other kids?”

      “Shut up and write something important.”

      Flash forward twenty years and we find Carson hard at work on his blog–

  • Sean Reardon

    Very entertaining commentary in this review! As an extra bonus, along with a couple Amateur Weekend scripts, Scott C sent me The Virginian. I have only read the first few pages, but agree that the opening was done very well. Going to try and read the rest, but after reading the review my motivation level is not what it was. I had no clue this was about George Washington, just started reading it because Scott mentioned it was one of hottest scripts in town.

  • ripleyy

    I think the advice that if it doesn’t work, drop it, is a good one. Yet, the flip side is that you should never abandon it. Sometimes an idea doesn’t work, but years later you’ll likely find a solution to make it work. But this seems like an idea that just doesn’t seem to work full stop.

    Plus, I’m assuming non-Americans just don’t give a shit about American political history. You should cater to all, but films about the Presidents probably won’t get you very much love internationally.

    • BMCHB

      Non-American here. Correct. I don’t give a shit about American political history. There is, though, a lot of American history I am fascinated by.

      I’ll assume that the reason the writer didn’t go for the obvious title branding of ‘George Washington’ or ‘Washington’ was to appeal to a mass overseas audience that mightn’t exist. In other words, he compromised. Bad idea IMO.

      WhoTF is ‘The Virginian’ ? Only joking…slightly.

      • brenkilco

        WhoTF is The Virginian? When you ask me that, smile.

        • klmn

          Winner. The Virginian was a very successful novel from 1902 that was adapted numerous times for films and a television series.

      • ripleyy

        I agree also that aside from the politics, there are some really fascinating stuff in American history, particularly the wars. It’s a catch-22 and its why American Sniper won big domestically and not internationally.

    • Magga

      Americans think that, but there’s a strong fascination with American politics around the world. The election process is covered on a day-to-day basis for months in many European countries, sometimes almost as much as our own election. It’s not uncommon to have seen Lincoln, Recount, Gamechange and other movies, The Daily Show had at least as big a share of the viewership in Norway as in the U.S, most people I know watch Bill Maher, and we find the presidential elections to be comedy gold

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      I care about American political history, though I’m not a big fan of seeing it dramatized. I’d rather read the history books where I get all of the detail, and I’m not left wondering what was left out while compressing the story for the screen.

  • jw

    I’m surprised they decided not to go the route they did with Lincoln. And no, I’m not talking about Day Lewis, I’m talking about the Oscar, Golden Globe, VMA worthy, Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter! I mean, I say we call it a prequel! George Washington – Slave Hunter! Okay, okay, I get it, that probably wouldn’t play very well. So, we’d have to change that to something a bit more “watchable”. Let’s go with George Washington – Alien Apocalypse. Okay, maybe the name George and Alien in the same sentence doesn’t jive. Let’s do George Washington – Zombie Slayer! YES! That’s it. Now THAT is a movie Kim Kardashian would see. If you made her one of the zombies that gets wacked, I’D go to see it!

  • Randy Williams

    Loved the beginning of this too, but after George and Martha’s “meet-cute” which was boring, I lost interest.

    George Washington may be a good subject for an alternative history story.
    You did know he actually drowned crossing the Delaware? The powers that be recruited a very light-skinned black man who looked exactly like George to take his place so the enemy would not be empowered by his death and those fighting with George feel defeated. The problem was he looked exactly like George except for those odd teeth. They summarily knocked his teeth out, giving him a set of dentures.
    And Martha? Well, we know from history that she and George never had children together.

    • Sean Reardon

      George Washington: Zombie Hunter?

      • LaughDaily

        Exactly! LOL I was just gonna say that.

        • klmn

          Well, he was known for using an axe.

          • LaughDaily

            Yep! All the more reason to do it. LOL.

          • LaughDaily

            Yep! All the more reason for an edgy new take on him. LOL.

          • Sean Reardon

            If I learned anything from reading this script, it was that G-Wash knew how to, and could kick some ass, when needed. And he was very handy with a hatchet.

  • LaughDaily

    Personally, I find history in general very fascinating and certainly our own U.S history.

    However, as many have mentioned below, it probably won’t play well overseas.
    They are no more interested in our history than we are in theirs.

    The alternative is as mentioned to give it the old Lincoln Vampire Hunter twist.
    Now it’s us humans, not just Americans versus whatever evil they come up with.

    For what it’s worth the script intrigues me purely for the history buff in me.

  • Poe_Serling

    “So why haven’t we gotten a big George Washington biopic before? I think because the guy’s boring, right?”

    My guess? Carson is having a bit of fun with us. At least I hope so.

    I think Washington’s life/career/etc is anything but boring. Even his youth and young adulthood have more than enough life experiences for a talented screenwriter to begin building and adding weight to a compelling narrative about GW.

    >>Lost his father at a young age (11).
    >>Raised by a somewhat domineering mother.
    >>After his dad’s death, looked up to his brother, Lawrence, for guidance and followed him into the military. Lawrence soon passed away in his mid ’30s.
    >>Became a surveyor and landowner by age 17/18.
    >>Was over 6 foot tall and weighed 200 pounds. Quite a strapping young man back in his day.
    >>War hero at 22.
    >>And one more detail, old George didn’t even have a middle name. I’m pretty sure Carson would agree that could be a life changing event and a “Oh my!” moment in someone’s
    script. ;-)

  • Howie428

    I have written a script about a revolutionary war figure, and my experience is that it’s easier to write about history that is uncertain and people that no one cares about. Unfortunately, George Washington isn’t that guy!

    A scan of Washington’s early career reveals that he was in command at the Battle of Jumonville Glen, which is considered the opening exchange in the French and Indian War. The events of the battle are disputed and some accounts describe Washington having committed a war crime. One account has it that after the fighting was over the French commander was shot in the head, another reports Washington’s Indian ally as having scalped the French Commander and washed his hands with his brains.

    So I eagerly open this script to see the handling of Jumonville Glen and sure enough… it has been skipped over and ignored! The other choice was to take that uncertain history and dramatize it, either picking a version of events that works with your story, or crafting a new version that still fits under the umbrella of doubt.

    Another interesting early choice in this script is the handling of Battle of Fort Necessity. My minimal research (yes Wikipedia damn it!) suggests that Washington was in command there as well, and that he oversaw a poor defense and took the decision to surrender. This seems to show that the writer of this script isn’t adverse to a bit of historical license, since he provides a cliché weak British Lieutenant to force this decision on our hero.

    The historical account also records the humiliating story of how the French stole stuff from the British/American baggage train as Washington led the retreat, and that he didn’t do anything about it.

    So that makes three conflict filled moments around which a writer could build a compelling picture of a flawed young George Washington, who still has many lessons to learn. For me, showing that flawed man would be the brave and shocking way to open this story, and it would give the story somewhere to go as we see him turn into the figure he became.

    Of course the successful sale of this script shows the writer was correct in not doing this. It’s safer to portray Washington as dull and perfect.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      Good call. I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t read the script, but I was afraid the writer would gloss over some of the most controversial parts of Washington’s deeds. He is still something of a demigod in America, after all.

  • Midnight Luck

    I find this kind of thing so incredibly boring. Snooze.
    Do I really have to go back to school? and watch a bunch of men with wigs talk in some ancient engrish-language?

    I haven’t seen LINCOLN, my lord that looked awful and painfully boring.

    Maybe if this was WASHINGTON : WEREWOLF KILLER, then maybe.

    But probably not, as I never saw LINCOLN : VAMPIRE HUNTER either, because, well, to me that is just lazy, jumping on the bandwagon kind of fare. The only thing that would’ve made it even more “hip and cool” would’ve been if it was also a Found Footage movie. (though that would be interesting to see how they got camcorders back then.

    I sure hope they don’t get Stephen Spielberg to direct this because then we can look forward to 3 hours of men in court rooms talking law. zzzzzz.

    Hopefully they figure out how to make this interesting. Though, by the review it sounds bad, and boring. Not a good combo.

    • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

      I’m with you. I beg for “intelligent” movies, but “intelligent” always seems to be boring, lately. My choice seems to be between idiotic Jurassic World and George Washington makes maps.

      • Midnight Luck

        I hear you, and I’m with you.
        We need less boring.
        Big and Blockbuster does not equal exciting.
        It tends to equal boring.

      • AVATAR

        Jurassic Washington

        Georgie is the only man capable of finding a way off the dinosaur infested island, with the aid of his trusty maps.

    • LaughDaily

      To be honest, I’m surprised you don’t like this genre. Not being sarcastic but you strike me as someone who goes for important/social relevant scripts whether contemporary or historical.

      I thought you probably enjoyed Spielberg’s Lincoln.

      I respect that you appreciate socially aware contemporary films but I’m curious to know why no interest in historic scripts that explore events that have shaped our modern lives. Again not being sarcastic, just surprised at your view of this genre.

      • Midnight Luck

        First and foremost I love to be excited by something. It needs to interest and wake me up. It should entice and thrill. And no Lincoln and Jurassic Park don’t do that. New ideas, fun new world’s do. I love trying new things.
        There is so much boring out there.
        Today’s sounds and looks boring. So did Lincoln, so does every single Fast and the Furious.
        Pulp Fiction was exciting and new and fun.
        Avengers was not.
        99 Homes looks great and interesting and new and fun.

        I am not much of an historical person. That isn’t much fun for me.

        Even Lincoln Vampire Slayer looked awful and boring.

        Two Days, One Night was fun and wonderful.

        Make me think, but keep me excited and involved and entertained.
        Keep my brain awake and alive.
        Like Breaking Bad did.

        • LaughDaily

          Thanks for the clarification. I definitely see where you’re coming from and I can certainly appreciate that. I too, enjoy new, fresh edgy new stories that excite.

          Believe it or not, I am not an apologist for the studios and their love affair with making safe but predicable pictures. The thing is, I have an economics background so from a business POV I understand why Hollywood does this. I just personally feel there is or SHOULD BE room (read market) for mainstream projects AND JUST AS IMPORTANTLY, room for indie, risk taking projects that have given the world classics like Pulp Fiction and the like.

          So I think in essence, you and I half way agree, we want fresh new exciting projects in theaters but the economist in me doesn’t mind some mainstream stuff to keep the studios paying the bills and shareholders happy.

          Thanks for responding and always interesting to read your POV.
          Whether we agree or not, I respect it.

          And remember to LaughDaily as we live this beautiful thing called life!

          • Magga

            There were few movies in the last few years more fresh and daring than Lincoln. It’s a nuts-and-bolts movie about legislation! A lot of people think it’s boring, but that’s kind of what’s daring about it.

          • LaughDaily

            Oh okay. I didn’t get a chance to see it but will check it out for sure.
            I can understand why that would be boring to most.

          • Citizen M

            Fresh and daring? That piece of cinematic stodge?

            I’d read the script so I knew what to expect. I only saw it out of a sense of duty, as I suspect half the U.S. audience did. I remember almost nothing about it, except Bruce McGill getting excited in the telegraph office. He was the only actor with a bit of presence. Otherwise it was all dark and drearily reverential.

          • Magga

            That’s fine, just as it’s fine for me to struggle to stay awake during another big battle scene or to get impatient when another hero refuses his quest only to predictably experience an event that changes his mind. People like and dislike different things. But since no one points to another movie that focuses mainly on the nuts and bolts of passing legislation through congress, which is possibly the most important act in American society, particularly this specific piece of legislation, I’d say it’s a different movie. And since clearly even screenwriters here would prefer more of the well-known speeches and battles, focusing on this central aspect of American life was a daring way to go. Who was Lincoln? A man and a politician. I loved that the movie was about that man doing what he did, not the surrounding iconography.

            We often ask for different kinds of movies, but when one comes along, this board hates it. Last year’s Oscar winner, this year’s frontrunner, Lincoln, which Carson refers to as having opened up an avenue of storytelling that helped The Virginian make a good sale, they all get casually dismissed as bad. Not as something we don’t personally like, but as bad movies. If I wrote a post saying “how to avoid becoming the next Avengers”, people would reasonably point out that they’d love some Avengers money, the this is the furthest this generation of young people are willing to go in terms of originality, that I had a snobbish attitude and so on. So how come we continually dismiss movies the industry loves?

            Something like The Master, which I worship and have seen an unreasonable amount of times, can be dismissed and I just have to realize that my tastes sometimes go counter to mainstream tastes. But on the rare occasion that someone tries something unusual and succeed in the eyes of the industry and, in this case, audiences and critics, they’re casually dismissed as if their lack of quality is a fact. So The Virginian is better than Lincoln, but not good, and the current critical favorite and Oscar frontrunner is not just not to the taste of our host, but referred to as objectively bad.

            My main point in seemingly defending Lincoln against all comers is that these movies, which focus on the specifics of an interesting job and eschews many of the broader story traditions of classic Hollywood, are getting made. On TV, in cinemas, there’s never NOT a movie like that included in the Oscar race, so let’s at least agree that we keep dismissing a large avenue of storytelling in which, ironically, we have the best chance to sell something, since we have as much of a right to George Washington as any IP owning studio.

        • The Seether

          Mentioning the films The Fast and Furious and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in the same breath and then calling them equally boring is a bizarre statement, one that almost seems born out of the need to come across as contrarian… especially when you admit that you haven’t seen Lincoln it just sounds boring to you …..well you know what sounds boring to me? the movie Grandma, a movie you were raving about.. that sounds boring. What’s it about, someone’s grandma? how is that interesting? What’s their next movie going to be called, Grocery List? See how easy that was? to be so reductive as to take a title and make massive assumptions about it?

          Lincoln was an extremely well made film with great set design, costumes, cinematography and a superlative performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. Yet the thought of seeing this wonderful dramatization of a piece of American history so bored you that you just stayed away. I suspect the problem is not with the film or the subject matter being boring, rather you are just bored.

    • CCM30

      I don’t think it needs to be hip or cool for it to be interesting. It just doesn’t have to be boring. There’s plenty of ways to make a Washington biopic in a dramatic, maybe even someone adventurous way. Maybe this script isn’t the way to do it, but that doesn’t mean we have to swing all the way to the other side of the spectrum with a silly Werewolf Killer movie.

      Anything historical can be exciting. Though to be fair, this is a biopic and Abe Lincoln Vampire Slayer was not. But I don’t think a historical story has to stray from being a biopic to be interesting/compelling/exciting, etc.

  • wlubake

    Washington was in his late 20’s during the French and Indian War. I think Cooper is too old. That’s what is cool about this script: it is young Washington. Not the Civil War Washington we’ve all learned so much about. He can be less than perfect here, striving to become the American icon we know.

    My casting choice: Paul Dano. Look at Dano then look at a picture of young Washington. Very close match, and a great actor to boot.

    • Midnight Luck

      Dano.
      Good Call.
      That would be great casting.

      Of course for a more alternative rebellious kind of look you could also go with
      Dane DeHaan (first image Dehaan, then Washington, then Dano, then DeHaan again, just to get a feel for their look next to Washington)

    • Kirk Diggler

      I liked Paul Dano in Ruby Sparks, quite a bit. But he is far too squirrel-ly to play someone like George Washington. He’s made his bones as an actor doing white hipster ‘angst’, not sure he has the gravitas to play Washington.

  • klmn

    If I was writing about ol’ Georgie W., I’d title it Chains, and that would be the image I’d focus on.

    To begin with, you’ve got the surveyor’s chains.

    Then, you’ve got the hundreds of slaves he owned. That’s easy to picture.

    Then you’ve got Georgie’s sex life. With all those slaves, you think he wasn’t a sex machine for all the chicks?

    • wlubake

      On the slave thing, George is an interesting character. He privately wrote that he favored abolition, but that didn’t stop him from amassing hundreds of slaves to work Mt. Vernon. Then, when he died, his will freed his slaves (much to the chagrin of his heirs) and provided for job training and pension funds for them. Such an odd contradiction.

      • klmn

        Freeing the slaves after his death would be the perfect end for the movie.

      • Will_Alexander

        I know a little more about Jefferson than Washington, but the seeming contradiction about slavery gets a little less confusing the more you look into it. Some of this may read at first like I’m implying that slave-holding was not a big deal. No. Just the opposite. These are just some things I was fascinated to learn that get closer to the heart of what made slavery even more evil than I had previously considered.

        Like Jefferson, Washington inherited his slaves. As far as I can tell, neither of them ever participated in slave trading at all.

        Jefferson looked into freeing his slaves and discovered their fate would likely be worse once they left his plantation. He could not afford to pay them, he could not (in his own good conscience) sell them, and if he freed them they could be taken at any time by someone else and put back into slavery as “free papers” were as worthless in a legal dispute back then as a declaration of “sovereign citizenry” is today. Jefferson even speculated about arranging to free his slaves and actually put them all on a boat back to Africa, but they were really no more “African” than him (none of them were from Africa or had ever been there, and they spoke only English) and even if he could afford to do that (which he couldn’t), sending them to Africa was in his mind a whole new kind of cruelty as they would have to begin life in a whole new place, starting with nothing.

        None of this is to make any excuse for these slave-holding men. But to put yourself into the position they were in — feeling “responsible” for the lives of people who would fair even worse out in the world without your “protection” — is useful in understanding how they could oppose slavery and yet still participate in it. Basically, they either understood or convinced themselves that the best thing they could do for their slaves was to treat them humanely while they owned them, because they could not be sure it would be any better for the slaves to be at large in a world that hated them.

        It’s also a reminder of just how deeply and thoroughly evil slavery was. It was a trap for everyone, and designed to perpetuate itself even against objections from those participating in it. There were places further South where it was a capital crime to free a slave, punishable by hanging. So, in Alabama, you might want to free your slaves. Go ahead, and the former slaves will either be killed or picked up to be put back into slavery, and you’ll be executed. The laws of slavery made it impossible for it to be destroyed from within. Another interesting fact is that the laws were written that way BY SLAVE-HOLDERS because those slave-holders had recognized in themselves a sympathy for the plight of their own slaves. They actually wrote laws to keep themselves from succumbing to their own humanity, because that humanity would be detrimental to the institution of slavery.

        It was as evil as anything could be. And everyone knew it, though some wouldn’t admit it. But that’s why everyone had to be chained to it. Because, otherwise, humanity would win out.

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          Bravo, good sir. Brilliant summary and thoughts.

        • Monique B

          Sorry, but none of those justifications for continuing to force people to provide free labor on one’s farm increase my esteem for either man. Slavery is the institution that created white wealth in the Americas. There’s no way around it. It could have been stopped centuries earlier, had these men possessed any real social imagination, but they understood then that the consequences of abolition would be far more costly for whites than blacks. And so the practice continued, and those who stood to profit the most from the slave trade (including these men) defended their participation with patronizing logic like the kind you’ve advanced here. Until screenwriters come to terms with this whole thing, and allow the brutal reality of American slavery to inform our storytelling about the colonial, revolutionary, and ante-bellum eras, we’ll continue to see this hogwash circulated.

          • Will_Alexander

            Yes, of course, the more I learn about Jefferson the lower my estimation of the man becomes. (I didn’t even bring up Sally Hemings, possibly the most tragic figure in American history.) To be clear, I was not “advancing” any of those justifications, only sharing what I had been fascinated to learn that Jefferson had told himself to justify his lifestyle.

            I don’t disagree with anything you wrote, and I hope my prior posts reflect that as well.

  • Scott Crawford

    Sent!

    You can contact me direct at mr.scottcrawford@hotmail.com

  • Caivu

    OT

    Back in April, I posted about my plans to hold a horror movie marathon for the entire month of October, and now the time is here.

    Well, tomorrow.

    A quick reminder about the rules:

    -The marathon lasts from midnight, Oct. 1 to midnight Nov. 1
    -Each day I’ll watch 1 horror or psychological thriller film that I haven’t seen, except on Oct. 31, where I’ll watch as many as I can.
    -Except on Halloween, each film must be watched after sundown, in the dark.
    -The films must be from at least 5 different decades and cannot be from the current decade.
    -The films watched on Halloween must be from at least 3 different decades.
    -Consecutive films cannot be from the same decade.
    -No sequels unless I’ve already seen the previous films in the series, either during the marathon or prior to it.

    Why am I doing this? Mainly for selfish reasons: it will allow me to cross off a lot of movies from my own “seen it” list. But I figured at least a few people would be interested. I doubt my reactions to these films are going to be that insightful, but since I’ve never done a monthlong marathon of anything before, the results should be intriguing, if nothing else. And hey, maybe this will inspire someone to hold their own movie marathon, who knows?
    Each day, around 4 PM CST, I’ll comment on the most recent post here with the current day’s movie, a short bit of what I know going in, and what I expect from it. I plan to start each movie at about 7 or 8 PM CST. On Halloween the same thing will happen, only more frequently, starting at midnight.

    After watching each film, I’ll edit the comment to give a short, immediate reaction type of review. I realize how spammish this could get, especially during AFs and AOWs and most especially on Halloween itself, so I’ll keep things short. These edits will happen around 10 to 11 PM CST.

    I’ll also be heading each comment like so:

    ***HORROR MOVIE MARATHON 2015 DAY [NUMBER]: [MOVIE TITLE]***

    That way, any of you who aren’t interested can immediately see what the comment’s going to be about and skip right over it.
    For those of you who are (interested, that is), by now you may be wondering which films I’ll be watching. While my original list from April is largely the same, there have been a few changes, so… stay tuned. I’m keeping that part a secret.

    I hope to see you all tomorrow, and I hope this little experiment doesn’t get too boring.

    • Levres de Sang

      Funnily enough, I remembered this the other day… I’m pleased that it’s still going ahead and looking forward to your posts over the next month!

      • Caivu

        Thanks, Levres!

    • Really?

      I think it’s tacky for you to hijack someone else’s blog for your little experiment.

      • CCM30

        Yeah, a post in the comments section really gonna hijack the entire blog entry. Definitely.

        • BMCHB

          I’m not sure how the ‘grey’ versus ‘red’ handles work on SS/Disquss but I’ve noticed a few stalkers around here this month. Always ‘greys’…

          What’s that all about?

          Good luck with festival, Caivu.

          Personally, I believe The Omen is the scariest film ever. 35 and I still wouldn’t watch it on my own.

          • Caivu

            Reds are Disqus accounts, greys are guests without accounts (or just anyone who isn’t logged in).
            Also, thanks for the support! I can neither confirm or deny whether The Omen is on this year’s list, but it is a film I haven’t seen…

      • Caivu

        And I think it’s tacky to not at least pick a consistent username for a given site when you post on it regularly.

  • Scott Crawford

    And the Aronrofsky/Franzoni script makes three.

    A decade ago, three Alexander scripts: one by Baz Luhrman with Leo Dicaprio, Oliver Stone’s one and one by Christopher MacQuarrie and friend.

    Three asteroid scripts in the late 90s: Bright Star Falling by Peter Hyams and Jim Cameron, Armaeddon and Deep Impact.

    At least three Three Musketeers scripts in the early 90s: the Disney one with Charlie and Kiefer, a serious one (called D’Artagnan?) with Johnny Depp, and a “comedy” one by Gene Quintano, which was actually filmed as The Musketeer by Peter Hyams.

    And there are SO many Robin Hood and King Arthur scripts out there your eyes would bleed.

    So when you sit down tomorrow to write that Leif Erikson biopic you’ve always wanted to write, bear in mind… you won’t be the only one.

  • Eddie Panta

    Straight Outta Virginia

    What? Another review about a white guy, saving a white world?

    • BMCHB

      ‘Straight Outta Virginia’

      G-Wash, Jefferson, T-Ro and Lincoln.

      Keeping It Constitutional

  • klmn

    Now on to the important news of the day.

    Someone should dig up Russ Meyer and reanimate him. He is needed today.

    • Citizen M

      I think we’ve found the new Lethal Weapon.

      • BMCHB

        Lethal ‘Weapons’, surely…?

        She’s cuter than Ronda. I need to watch them ‘fight’…

        • klmn

          Well, now you’re talking Chesty Morgan. I’m sure Poe recognizes the name.

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069952/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_3

          • BMCHB

            I clicked on that link. Thanks for ruining my supper, klmn.

            As Carson might say, ‘Chesty Morgan’ is a good concept executed badly…

            Thank god they don’t make ‘em like they used to…

          • Midnight Luck

            of course there’s always this as well:

            Chest Rockwell – played by – Reed Rothchild – played by – John C. Reilly

            pure awesome (concept and execution).

          • BMCHB

            ‘Chest’ is clearly a Virgin – ian

            Wow, that was an awesome film. What a soundtrack.

            My favorite bit was…

          • Scott Crawford

            Directed by a woman. Not THAT surprised, but still, in an era when there were few female directors… wow!

      • klmn

        I think she’s the new Tura Satana.

    • Scott Crawford

      “I don’t know what the fuss is about Sharon Stone. She’s like a surfboard” – Russ Meyer

  • klmn

    When have you ever discussed writing on this or any other site?

  • Scott Crawford

    No, that’s the one Scorsese’s directing. TOO CONFUSING!

  • charliesb

    Hey Carson,
    I’ve been reading through your back catalogue and I think we need a new READER TOP 25. It’s full of movies that have been or are about to be made (clearly we have good instincts). There’s gotta be some newer stuff out there to read.

    Anyone got any suggestions?

    • scriptfeels

      I liked the new steve jobs movie script the sorkin one. its a bit long at over 190 pages, but since its all dialogue it moves quickly.

  • klmn

    Seeth on.

  • Sean Reardon

    After reading The Virginian, albeit not a real thorough read, I would give it a “worth the read”. This script is a textbook lesson in adhering to structure in regards to the primary and subplots within the story. I guess this could be considered a positive where the expectations of Hollywood are concerned, but perhaps a negative related to the “predictability” of the story. I agree with some of the comments and the SS review regarding the “weaknesses”. The Martha George relationship parts did sometimes bring the story / momentum to a grinding halt, and George’s sketching and mapping scenes did the same. One thing I am still confused about, or maybe just don’t “get it”, is when George is sketching with Charcoal, are we supposed see him creating these 3D, topical masterpieces that include deer, hawks ect, or are we intercutting with his sketches and the “real” scenery his is depicting. This really slowed down my read and was confusing.

    Knowing Gunn, as mentioned, was a Sorkin protege, it’s not surprising he had additional opportunity and connections to get this script recognized. On a more sarcastic note, knowing biopics are hot, how about the story of a prominent screenwriter who’s a massive coke fiend, claims to have kicked the habit, but still embarks on an annual coke-fueled, bacchanalian weekend in Vegas. Just sayin’ :)

    • Wijnand Krabman

      In fact I found this script not to bad. for me the the sketching part was an ‘3d holograpic experience’ I saw while reading the blue ridge mountains and found it an entertaining story. the biggest problem is the lack of dramtic conflict, i read 50 pages about a relative passif hero with little or no stakes or challenges. I mean he could just have easily left the war and go back to martha that didn’t make any difference.

  • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

    Another brilliant discourse, thanks for the insight.

    • Will_Alexander

      Any brilliance is all King’s, but I’m very happy to pass it along. :)