8f3b2881-e590-4ebc-9949-b95baf21d427

So today I read the news that Ben Affleck is thinking about making The Accountant his next project. “The Accountant”?? I wondered, my face pinching up, trying to remember why that sounded familiar. Off I went to my review archives and LO AND BEHOLD, I’d reviewed it! But that’s impossible, I thought. I would’ve remembered it, right? Yet I was drawing a size-10 blank.

But once I skimmed through the review, it all came back to me.  The awfulness.  The sloppiness.  I remember actually thinking at one point that I’d been duped. That’s happened a few times, where I hear about a script, go looking for it, find it, it turns out to be unreadable, then I later learn I’ve read an amateur script with the same title.

So then why was Ben Affleck doing the movie??? Take whatever you think of Affleck as an actor out of the equation. The guy is the hottest thing since sliced bread at the moment. Which means he gets all the best scripts in town. He gets his pick of the litter. So for him to literally choose “litter” to star in was confounding.

Until you look deeper. You see, the main character in The Accountant is autistic. And this is the screenwriting secret that so many writers either ignore or are ignorant to. Outside of the summer tentpoles, actors make a movie go. They lead to financing which leads to a green light. Which logically means that to get a movie made, you have to write a great character that an actor will want to play.

In fact, for 90% of the actors out there, the role they play is more important to them than the script itself. They want to play a part that’s challenging, that’s interesting, that’s going to get them some acting credit. When you look at it that way, it’s not so ridiculous that Affleck would choose this script. He wants to play an autistic hitman. He’ll either fix the rest of the script himself or hire Chris Terrio to do it. But dammit if he’s not going to play that autistic hitman.

This brought me to a realization that I’ve already had several times before, but for whatever reason, didn’t become crystal clear until today’s events. Unless you’re writing a huge summer flick, you need to put more emphasis on the character at the center of your story than the story itself. Cause that’s what the actors are going to do.

Which leads us to today’s article. I’m listing the top 17 “challenging” character-types that actors want to play. If you can fit these into your story in a natural way, you’ll want to consider it. ‘Cause I guarantee you this: If your main character is bland, no A-list actor is going to make your movie.

Autism – Why not start with Affleck’s new love? The disorder did wonders for Dustin Hoffman with his role in Rain Man. Because acting is, in many ways, about emoting, there’s something appealing about a character who does the complete opposite.

Psychopathic – Being a psychopath isn’t just about murdering. It’s about playing anti-social and non-empathetic behavior. Its appeal is that it’s another condition that goes against how we normally act in life. Inevitably, these characters tend to become killers (American Psycho, Monster, Taxi Driver) but it’s all the other tics that get the actors excited.

Going Crazy – Aw man, talk about actor catnip. Write in a character who’s going nuts and watch the A-listers line up, as “going crazy” often leads to an Oscar nomination. A Beautiful Mind, The Aviator, The Shining. These characters are fun to write as well, so it’s an actor-writer match made in heaven.

Robots – Bringing sci-fi into a venue where we’re looking for meaty rolls seems counter-intuitive. But much like playing a psychopath or a sociopath (the psychopath’s little cousin), playing a robot forces you to strip away all your emotions, a challenging feat. We’ve seen great robot characters in the Alien movies, as well as 2001.

The Genius Paradox – Talk about the perfect part to play to actors’ egos! A genius character! We saw it recently with Lucy. Before that, Limitless. As we saw in my recent review, “Brilliance” will be coming to the big screen soon. Thrusting genius into your lead character is a surefire way to get some actor attention.

OCD – OCD got Jack Nicholson one of his Oscars (in As Good As It Gets). We just saw it to a lesser degree with Robert McCall in The Equalizer. They even based an entire show around OCD once (Monk).

Addicts – Many actors have demons. And playing addicted characters allows them to explore and battle those demons, if only for a few months. From Flight to Leaving Las Vegas to Half-Nelson, playing a convincing addict seems to be a badge of honor for actors.

Mentally Challenged – This has been made fun of plenty of times before, most notably in “Tropic Thunder,” but what can you say? Actors love the challenge of playing someone who’s mentally challenged. Forrest Gump. I Am Sam. I mean, if you can pull this off, you’re basically guaranteed an Oscar.

Twins – Imagine you’re an actor and you get the opportunity to play not just one role in a movie, but two? Two completely different characters. What actor isn’t going to take that into consideration? Check out The Prestige or The Social Network to see this in action.

Body-Swappers – Looked down upon by some for being gimmicky, a body swapping movie allows actors to play two roles which are usually polar opposites. We saw it with Face-Off. We saw it in The Change-Up. But don’t limit yourself. I think it’s only a matter of a time before someone comes up with a clever body-swapping drama idea.

Amnesia – Amnesia gets a bad rap for being cliché, but don’t tell actors that. They love playing people who can’t remember jack shit about who they are. That’s a hell of a challenge. Bourne built an entire franchise off this conceit.

Pathological Liars – A character whose every day survival depends on lying can be fascinating for an actor to play (and for an audience to watch!). We saw William Macy do it in Fargo, and Hayden Christensen nail it in Shattered Glass.

Self-destructive – This is usually tied in with addiction, but can exist on its own as well. Some of the most tragic characters in our history did themselves in due to being self-destructive. Most recently, we watched this play out in Wolf of Wall Street.

Depression – Depression is sad. But it sure makes actors happy. Punch Drunk Love, Revolutionary Road, Silver Linings Playbook, Little Miss Sunshine. It’s a clever way to lure in comedy actors hoping to play against type (Skeleton Twins).

Any extreme limitation (blindness, wheelchair-bound, deaf, cancer) – The Book of Eli. Sea of Love. Born on the Fourth of July. The Fault In Our Stars. Dallas Buyers Club. It goes without saying that actors love to play these roles where they’ve been handed an impossible limitation.

Discriminated Against – One of the greatest 1-2 punches for drama is to set a movie in a time where a subset of people are being heavily discriminated against, then make your main character one of those people. A black man in the 1960s. A gay man in the 1950s. A Jewish man in Germany in the 1940s. You’ll have to fight actors off from taking these roles.

Get creative – Look for any way to create a challenging lead role in your script. Benjamin Button got made because Brad Pitt got to play every age in life, from a newborn to an old man. In the Black List script, What Happened to Monday, an actor will get to play septuplets! I seem to remember a movie awhile back that centered around a Jewish Nazi. Create something that, at its core, is challenging. These are the roles actors are drawn to.

Now there are a couple of caveats to this business. The character you’re writing has to fit into the story you’re telling. A meth-addict protagonist may increase interest from actors, but it’s not going to work if you’re writing a romantic comedy produced by Mark Burnett. In other words, don’t slap a fancy character into any old idea and expect miracles. The two must co-exist organically.

Also, none of these suggestions will work unless you convey them in a truthful manner. In other words, research the shit out of them so that you know what you’re talking about. If you try to write an autistic lead and all you know about autism is what you’ve seen in movies, I guarantee you the character’s going to suck. Do tons of research and find out what everyday life is like for these people. The more you know, the more convincing they’ll be, the more likely an actor will be attracted to them.

And, as always, take these suggestions as a starting point. They won’t work on their own. They need your own personal spin to pop. A great way to do this is through irony. Make a sex addict the new church pastor. Make your protag, who suffers from depression, a Barney-like character on a new kid’s show. I hope that helps.

What do you guys think? Anything I should add to the list?

  • klmn

    “Anything I should add to the list?

    An In-N-Out addict?

    • carsonreeves1

      I already won the Oscar for that.

      • LV426

        I’ve got the Oscar locked up this year for my role as a Chipotle addict.

        • Midnight Luck

          I’m giving you a run for your money.
          Calling it The Sofrita’s Bowl.

    • Scott Strybos

      I am Canadian. I know not what this is.

      • Midnight Luck

        think 4 things on the drive thru fast food menu.
        Burgers, burgers, burgers, oh yeah fries, burger, burger, and shakes, or pop, or water, maybe?

        • Scott Strybos

          Oh, so it is like a Harvey’s or a Sir John Alexander Macdonald Burger Shack.

          • Midnight Luck

            I went to a Harvey’s once way back when I lived in Santa Fe, oh wait, no never mind, it was a Hardee’s, whatever that is.
            So not sure what Harvey’s is, nor do I know what a SJAMBS is. sounds kinda odd and scary. (not like we don’t have truly scary things in America, that is for sure: HEART ATTACK GRILL anyone?)

      • Randy Williams

        Do you know what a Golden Globe is? It’s what these guys are going to look like after years of eating that crap.

        • Midnight Luck

          Bizarro also had a comic strip where everyone looked like a Pyramid, wide on the bottom, narrow on the top. It was great.

      • Midnight Luck

        100 patty burger

  • Randy Williams

    I’d add one of my favorites:

    Gender bending.

  • brenkilco

    An aged character or aging decades in the course of the film. A beautiful actress playing ugly or disfigured. An alzheimer’s sufferer who gets to deteriorate over the course of the film. Characters suffering extreme privation or abuse: prisoners, concentration camp inmates, starving refugees, victims of domestic violence etc. Alternatively dispensers of misery and abuse: dictators, sadistic guards, evil nazis, abusive spouses etc. And of course the terminally ill.

    This year two of the rumored acting front runners for best actor are Benedict Cumberbatch as a persecuted gay, math genius and the actor playing young Stephen Hawking, a genius struggling with ALS. So there you go.

    • LV426

      Soldiers who die in battle performing a heroic act (Saving Private Ryan). This also, at least for male actors, gives them an excuse to play soldier. We all grow up playing soldier at one point when we are little kids. So a role like this tickles our nostalgia a bit, and also helps us feel a connection with our ancestors. Who doesn’t have a relative that was in the military? An uncle who served in Vietnam. A grandpa that is or was a WWII vet. It’s some powerful subconscious wish fulfillment.

      • brenkilco

        Don’t think actors mind surviving the battle if they get to deal with PTSD or physical disability.

    • filmklassik

      Actors lately are drawn to playing real life Everyday Heroes or, or, or… real life Larger Than Life Personalities.

      Why? Because they’re Oscar Bait. (Duh). Most of the following movies bored me to tears, but they all brought home Oscar Gold for their main stars and they all came out WITHIN THE LAST TEN YEARS (so yeah, I’d say that qualifies as a trend).

      Matthew McConaughey in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. Meryl Streep in THE IRON LADY. Daniel Day-Lewis in LINCOLN. Sandra Bullock in THE BLIND SIDE. Colin Firth in THE KING’S SPEECH. Marion Cotillard in LA VIE EN ROSE. Sean Penn in MILK. Helen Mirren in THE QUEEN. Forest Whitaker in LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Reese Witherspoon in WALK THE LINE. Philip Seymour Hoffman in CAPOTE. Charlize Theron in MONSTER. Jamie Foxx in RAY.

      Again, just look at the size of that goddamn list. All Best Actor Winners.

      And all from the last ten years.

      • brenkilco

        God, when you pile them up like that it practically seem like a craze. Of course, quite a variation in character types. From Monster to The Queen. Quick, whose the only actor ever to be nominated twice for a best actor Oscar for playing the same real life character in two separate films?

        • filmklassik

          Gotta be Rob Schieder for the BIGILO series.

          Actually, I’m gonna go with James Mason as Rommell in… whatever the hell those movies were called… or Jimmy Cagney as George M. Cohan.

          • brenkilco

            I believe whether or not the brilliant Scheider based his character on an actual hustler is still a matter of legal dispute. Otherwise you’d be correct.

            Actually the movies aren’t obscure but the character sort of his. In the sixties Peter O’toole played King Henry II in both Becket and The Lion in Winter.

          • filmklassik

            Agh! Crap! Two by-all-accounts BRILLIANT movies which I still have yet to see.

            …Kinda weird that I’ve never seen BECKETT as it was supposedly a favorite in my house when I was a toddler. My father, now deceased, supposedly loved that movie, and members of my family used to quote lines from it. (In fact one line that I know — purely second-hand — is: “You never loved me, did you Thomas?”)

            And even though you indicated it was a male performer, my next guess was going to be the great Bette Davis. who the Academy nominated a gajillion times and played Queen Elizabeth at least twice.

          • brenkilco

            Yeah Davis was Liz in an Errol Flynn picture and at least one other. And Cagney had a bit as Cohan in a Bob Hope movie where they danced together. And I think Mason also reprised his role as Rommel in another movie.

          • filmklassik

            Know what would make me laugh out loud? To hear Flynn’s gallant soldier refer to Davis as “Liz” in that movie. (“Liz? I fear the Duke may be plotting against you!”)

            It’s shameful that I’ve never seen that film either (much as I love Flynn and Curtiz)… but I have seen YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (good corny fun) and I hear THE DESERT FOX is pretty good as well.

            How’s the Hope picture?

          • brenkilco

            Depends on your taste. Hope played vaudevillian Eddie Foy who has a friendly rivalry with Cohan. But as I recall its mostly about his struggle to raise an ugh brood of adorable kids as a single parent.

          • filmklassik

            Yeah, I figured it was too-cute-for-words, which is maybe why I’ve been avoiding it all this time.

            Regardless, Hope’s one of my all-time favorite comic actors (I’m talking about the Bob Hope who made those wonderful comedies before 1960… the Hope Woody Allen patterned his entire early persona after… THAT guy… NOT the one who made those crummy Phyllis Diller comedies or unwatchable NBC specials with Dan Haggerty and Brook Shields).

            Hey, you wanna cure for the blues? Just watch the first 10 minutes of MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE. (It’s public domain and thus readily available online). Gaspingly funny stuff.

            In fact it’s right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPCZznAs45w

          • brenkilco

            Funny stuff and darn good quality for a youtube video. Read an interview with Woody Allen not long ago where he said that in all his early films the character was based on Bob Hope, whom he apparently idolized. And looking back you can sort of see it. But I never would have made the connection if I hadn’t read that.

  • LV426

    Actor Bait: Body-Swappers

    Genre: action/comedy

    Logline: When a Sasquatch researcher is lost in the woods during a violent thunderstorm, he is struck by lightning while a bear chases him and their minds are swapped. Man is bear, bear is man. He must now find a way to reclaim his natural body while a wild Sasquatch wreaks havoc in his hometown.

    Title: BEAR IN MIND

    • Scott Strybos

      The title is what sold me.
      But the Sasquatch element is superfluous.
      To add irony the protagonist should be a hunter.
      Starring either Michael Shannon or Adam Sandler.

    • brenkilco

      BEAR IN MIND. Or VICE VURSA.

  • LV426

    Okay, so if I’m writing THE ACCOUNTANT the whole robot company conspiracy would get pushed to the forefront. Maybe there is some new AI the company is developing. The accountant (maybe change him to a consultant, ex-military, lost one arm in battle in Iraq and now has a prosthetic arm) comes in and while doing his thing discovers something out of sorts.

    — Irony Alert: the state of the art prosthetic arm he uses was made by this robotics company.

    Secret projects are being done at a clandestine off-site facility. This is alarming since this company makes drones and writes robotics software for the military.

    Big ass mystery box here. What’s the deal?

    The consultant pokes around and finds that they’re building stuff and shipping it overseas. Where is it going? Is the military behind it? Black ops? Are they illegally dealing weapons and robots/drones to foreign powers? Is the AI behind it? Maybe it is…

    Let’s say it is.

    The AI has blackmailed the CEOs of the company. If they don’t go along with things, they’ll be exposed and/or killed by drones that this AI has control of here on US soil.

    I’d do something like that. Not exactly that, but just hashing out ideas it would start evolving out of something such as this.

    • Nate

      That would be quite good actually. I don’t remember much of the robotics company in the script, so maybe it does need pushing to the front a bit more.
      Apart from that, the only major change I’d make is the protagonist. I can’t quite buy into the idea of an autistic assassin. It’s too unbelievable. If I was writing this I’d make the protagonist a soldier who took part in an experiment for the robotics company, but something went wrong and his brain gets fried, giving him mild autism and amnesia. Instead of killing him, the robotics company convinces him he’s an accountant who works for them. Eventually he figures out who he really is.
      So you’ve still got the autistic accountant assassin part of the story, but at least this way you can explain just how this guy can beat people to death.

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

    Let’s not forget “misanthropic, philosophy-spewing, cocaine-eyed detective.” Matthew McConaughey saw that in True Detective and pretty much made the show.

    • LV426

      Hmmm… Would that be a Smarty Pants? Basically a character who is smarter than everyone else. He spews out lots of great lines that support the main theme.

  • Random Comment Guy

    Carson, I completely disagree. If these were starting points they would only be the beginning of a dead end. I know you mentioned how it has to naturally fit the story, but what i’m saying is this: the very idea of writing a “challenging character” in order to get your movie sold is NOT NATURAL. Cart before the horse = bad.

    • G.S.

      You might be reading into it a little. I took the “starting point” comment as meaning in the context of character creation, which in itself is in the greater context of telling a story you care about.

      There aren’t really carts and horses in this game. The nature of the write-rewrite-edit-rewrite screenwriting process is non-linear. Some people create an interesting character and try to spin a compelling tale around them. Some people build a world with a big story and then drop characters in. Some people start with a scene – only a glimpse of a world and its characters in need of development. In all cases, we have to be mindful of how our decisions in one area impacts the others. I didn’t, for once, take this article’s focus on marketable character traits as promoting a gimmicky method of story creation. It’s just another thing to consider while we continue along the development spiral of screenwriting – another tool in the tool box.

      And let’s not fool ourselves. If we’re serious about turning this hobby into a career, we have to sell screenplays. In that regard, EVERY aspect of our decision-making is colored by that underlying fact. Movies, by their nature, are a confluence of art and commerce. Those that buck against the former make trash. Those that eschew the latter make… well… trash.

      • Random Comment Guy

        You make a lot of valid points. People start from various angles before they build their story. I just disagree that starting with a selling point is a good angle. And to me it’s just the mind set of the whole thing. I didn’t say movies werr all art and no commerce. I completely agree that it’s a balance, but I think starting from the angle of ART or COMMERCE is a bad idea. Just tell a good story, you know?

        • G.S.

          Agreed!

  • astranger2

    Great article, Carson.

    Yet, somehow I feel all these psychological maladies are the current-day equivalent of the dueling scar, eye patch, parrot on the shoulder, or peg-leg of Pirate-lore and general adventure filmography. These traits are just dramatic evolution.

    A friend of mine echoed your thoughts in saying if an actor wanted to be Oscar-worthy, all they needed to do is play someone mentally-challenged, or otherwise dramatically afflicted. (Forrest Gump, Rain Man, I Am Sam or a kazillion other “Lenny” roles… )

    Dustin Hoffman played a gimp and an autistic in two memorable films — Midnight Cowboy and Rain Man. Bizarre physical/mental afflictions are filmic crutches that remain as very reliable Academy Award-winning staples.

    It’s much easier for a performer to “act,” when given one of these Rod Serling-type qualities — look at the Body Switching, or reverse-aging roles Tom Hanks and Robin Williams had in Big, and Jack. Much easier parts to emote from these parts than a pair of love-spurned males such as Bogie in Casablanca, or Gable in Gone With the Wind… not to mention the conflicted patriarch of The Godfather…

    On another note, there is a huge, but subtle, difference between OCD and OCPD. Victims share similar compulsive tendencies. If, however, you dig deeper into Shalhoub’s and Nicholson’s respective portrayals in Monk and As Good As It Gets, you can see how dramatically different their character traits are…

    Great film roles have always been about the various shades of purple the characters are crayoned in… nothing’s changed there since the beginning of storytelling.

    Great writers nuance it with more subtle colors from other parts of the painter’s palette, but it’s the deep purple and crimson shades that draw in the audience’s eyes… and ears…

    Nice list, Carson.

    • Meta5

      “Never go full retard.” – Kirk Lazarus

      • astranger2

        “When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro.” — Hunter S. Thompson

        • klmn

          Thompson is one of my favorite writers. Those who only know him from his portrayal in movies should treat themselves to his books and shorter works.

          • astranger2

            I enjoyed reading “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” much more than watching it.

          • klmn
          • astranger2

            Norman Mailer once wrote, “I’ve never seen anyone drink as much alcohol in one sitting and still remain functional and coherent as Hunter S. Thompson”.

            … except possibly Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen.

          • klmn

            Of course, when you add to his alcohol consumption all the drugs he did, I think Thompson was in a class of his own.

          • astranger2

            Or whatever class he’s in, it don’t take long to call roll…

      • klmn

        Tell it to Billy Bob Thornton.

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

    Oh, and how could I forget? World War II hero!

  • K.B. Houston

    If you want to write the next shoot-em-up explosion action flick starring Liam Neeson or Nic Cage, then please, by all means, come up with an interesting storyline that’s gonna make us think a little more than we do when we mow our lawn. But if you want a long and successful career in Hollywood you need to be able to write great characters.

    Screenwriting is about conflict and characters — bottom line. And while I’d agree Carson is on the right path, I don’t think just plugging in a mental illness is gonna automatically spit out a great character. It’s not the illness that makes the character great, it’s the character that makes the charachter great. You’re much better off writing a great character and using the illness as a device to enhance conflict, create problems and engender obstacles that in turn test the character’s true colors.

    Or just forget everything I said and write a story about an autistic hitman in the hopes an A-list actor-director is desperate for a challenge, because apparently that’s something that actually works now.

    • Random Comment Guy

      Well said. Dustin Hoffman didn’t play an autistic guy in Rain Man. He played Raymond Babbit.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Not sure.
        Thought he spent a lot of time researching.

      • Nicholas J

        Well he kinda did both. Brought a lot of his own research on autistic savants to the role.

        • Random Comment Guy

          I’m saying he played a 3 dimensional character…. And not a gimmick.

          • Nicholas J

            Definitely. Yeah. Definitely three dimensional character.

          • Random Comment Guy

            Clever.

  • S_P_1

    Off Topic
    Highly Relevant
    Congratulations to Craig Walendziak! Quarter finalist of the Stage32 New Blood List 2014 contest. He made the qtr finals TWICE with two different scripts! Also for those unaware he also had both scripts requested by Blumhouse Production!

    • Craig Mack

      Wow! Thanks guys. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Lots of balls in the air… just trying not to drop any.

      A few announcements in the next couple of weeks… Needless to say I’m excited. Nervous, overwhelmed and anxious… but excited.

      C

      • Midnight Luck

        Big Congrats!

      • Ambrose*

        Congratulations!
        Don’t forget us when you’re rich and famous.

      • S_P_1

        Good Luck going forward!

      • Nick Morris

        Awesome news, brother. Keep killing it!

    • Casper Chris

      8 other people made it with two scripts, apparently. Interesting.

  • bruckey

    Robots. The above description is true. But Robots are also perfect for bad actors. One word ‘Terminator’

  • ripleyy

    The OCD character.

    Also, don’t forget you can mix-and-match. A depressed, self-destructive Jewish Alien Nazi Aztec with a tendecy to arrange things in colours and a pairs of twos is Oscar bait

  • Montana Gillis

    “A throwback tough guy with a queasy stomach forced to work in a medical insurance call center who has to hear about elderly women’s vaginal maladies all day.” Is that A-list Actor bait?

    • klmn

      The next Dirty Harry movie!

  • Cfrancis1

    As an actor, I can tell you that, yes, those types are all very appealing. They allow you to stretch and go to interesting places psychologically and physically. An autistic hit man? If someone pitched that to me, I wouldn’t have to read the script. I would sign the contract on the spot… Okay, I would have read the script, but still. It’s an easy sell to an actor.

  • ximan

    C,

    You made one GLARING omission when you listed the Body-Swappers examples:

    SWITCH (1991) starring Ellen Barkin. That’s my favorite of all-time. Her performance is NUTS, and also, oddly enough, verrrry sexy.

    • Scott Strybos

      The X-Files: Season 6, Episode 4, “Dreamland”

  • Logic Ninja

    Anything ironic.

    More than the autism, I betcha THE ACCOUNTANT turned Affleck’s head for the character’s inherent irony. An autistic hitman? So much irony there, it’s almost genius. The rest of the script may be complete shit, but that character is genius.

    Same thing holds true elsewhere. A BEAUTIFUL MIND: a brilliant economist is plagued by schizophrenia. PULP FICTION: A tough boxer with a mean streak has a French girlfriend he calls “sugar pop.” SHERLOCK: England’s most brilliant detective can’t make friends. AS GOOD AS IT GETS: A writer of popular women’s fiction hates women.

  • Trimegistus

    So many of these seem like gimmicks. “In my next film I play a psychopathic black gay Holocaust survivor with OCD who can only move his ears and is replaced by a robot double. I’ve already made room on the living-room shelf for the Oscar.”

    • Malibo Jackk

      Sometimes it helps if it’s “Based on a true story.”

      (Dog Day Afternoon, My Left Foot, A Beautiful Mind.
      Would they work? Not sure.)

  • GoIrish

    An autistic Batman would probably be the best thing ever.

    “But as a symbol…as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting…uh oh. Underwear on the highway. Uh oh.”

  • jw

    If you want to go the Oscar route, you have to offer an a-lister the opportunity to strip out the Hollywood from themselves and get into the dirty. Whether Swank, Berry, Washington, Leto, McConaughey, Day-Lewis, and what many are calling Jennifer Aniston’s run at an Oscar this year in Cake, if you want to attract an a-lister to your script, you have to make their character the OPPOSITE of who they have to be every day of their lives. It’s why DiCaprio continues to get blanked at the Oscars even though he’s pretty solid at his craft. He’s stuck in Tom Cruise syndrome, playing the same role over and over again just with a different name. The second he strips it all away and plays a character without the glitz or the glamour, is the second he’ll be holding that statue.

    • Midnight Luck

      Baketball Diaries, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
      He was awesome in those. And they weren’t same old.
      I guess he wasn’t anyone yet, so it was pre-Oscar worthy.

      • jw

        Sometimes you people scare me. Literally. The sheer idea of thinking up a response that effectively says, “well, two decades ago it didn’t happen,” just literally makes me wonder… literally… how do you possibly live your life if that’s your perspective? “Well, it didn’t happen 2 decades ago when he was a no one, so what makes you think it would happen today?” I don’t know, EVERY SINGLE AFOREMENTIONED example? Come on guys, I know you have more above the shoulders than this.

        • Midnight Luck

          hmm…
          well didn’t know I could scare someone from across all these inter-web lines. I am pretty terrifying. Or you scare easily.

          all I was saying was that he did some great stuff back then, before he started to be “Leo DiCaprio” as we all know him now. His earlier work had more of the variance that you yourself pointed out. I have no idea why now all he does is the same old. Maybe he lost his range. Maybe his “image” is all that matters to him and he has no interest in doing something that isn’t as perfect as we as consumers know him.
          I am sure, one day, when he has lost his youthful charm and is looking older age in the face, he will pull a Raymond “Rain Man” Babbitt out and call it a day.

          If you want to be a dick, that is your lame choice.
          I was just making a point, and trying to have a discussion. Guess it wasn’t up to your high-falootin’ standards.

          • jw

            Midnight, look, you’re getting into an industry where people don’t pull punches. If you showed up to a party and said that, everyone would walk away because there’s just a clear lack of understanding. Sensitive writers kill me because you’re getting into one of the most cut-throat industries on the planet, but treating it like it’s the girl scouts.
            Leo’s most recent roles…

            J. Edgar – eccentric white man with money / power

            Django – eccentric white man with money / power

            Gatsby – eccentric white man with money / power

            Wolf – eccentric white man with money / power

            When you see this, how do you possibly ask yourself whether or not he’s playing the same role over and over again? I mean, come on, you can say I’m a “dick” to hide the fact that the comment probably wasn’t your best moment, or you can chalk it up to having put the foot in the mouth and misspoke? Nothing wrong with that, but really, I mean you have to be versed on the subjects in which you speak and it has to be current and relevant in order to stand out in the crowd.

          • Kirk Diggler

            I think we can all agree that Leo is limited to playing white men, for the most part.

          • Midnight Luck

            though he’d probably do a good Asian woman.

          • Midnight Luck

            Jesus, some (guests) people.

            And what do you know, here’s Another deluded commenter who lords themselves over us “naive little people” with their imagined SUPERIOR understanding and knowledge.
            You are free to heft your enormous girth over others as you imagine enlightening us paltry masses with your vast knowledge of “how it works in Hollywood”.
            But don’t ever tell me who I am or what I know or how to write.

            There is absolutely nothing about Hollywood or it being Cut-throat that even begins to worry or scare me.

            And last time I called someone a “Dick” at one of these industry parties you speak of, well, everyone laughed hysterically, and then the conversation REALLY got started.
            Not sure what party you were at. Sounds like a group of very self appointed superior people, with no humanity. (guess you fit right in)

    • august4

      In my opinion, Leo played the most realistic mentally challenged character I’ve ever seen in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, and he didn’t win….

  • joegangemi

    Possibly a subset of “Depression” but what about “Grieving”? (see “Lethal Weapon,” “Equalizer,” and Matthew McConnaughey’s forthcoming “Sea of Trees.”)

  • Ambrose*

    Just ask Tom Hanks who rode his role as a man with AIDS who sues for discrimination to a Best Actor Oscar.
    And Denzel Washington got to play the homophobe who represents him, and maybe learns something in the process.

    Coming out soon is Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
    He battles a crippling physical handicap AND he’s a kickass physicist AND he gets a hot girl.

    • astranger2

      Theron is incredible in Monster:

      An incredible closing line, akin to “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” “After all, tomorrow is another day.” … and, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

      Aileen: “Love conquers all.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.” “Faith can move mountains.” “Love will always find a way.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Where there is life, there is hope.” [laughs]

      Aileen: Oh, well… They gotta tell you something’.

      • Kirk Diggler

        “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

        Hemingway had a way with few words.

        • astranger2

          Indeed he did… Perhaps my favorite…

  • august4

    Good article! When I first started to write, bringing notable characters to life was a challenge and seemed quite tedious, but then I discovered the more rounded and memorable you make them, the more fun it is to write…

  • mulesandmud

    Anybody feel like talking about BONE TOMAHAWK some more? I read the whole thing last night and need to vent a little.

    Carson pretty much nails it, but the script deserves credit for nailing both the period and the genre so well. Zahler has clearly done his homework on the history (or else, and this might be even more impressive, he fakes it perfectly).

    In terms of plot, there’s not much going on here: cannibalistic subhuman savages kidnap girl, boys ride to save her, they get there, boy saves girl. Carson’s thoughts about a story needing uncertainty certainly apply: what we expect to happen happens (with minimum variation), and then it’s over. That’s not enough. A few individual scenes surprise us with action or dialogue moments, but the combination of uncomplicated plot and uncomplicated characters makes the whole damn thing a little too uncomplicated.

    The biggest issue I had, though, was with the cannibals. The script goes to great pains to assure us that these ‘troglodytes’ aren’t native americans in any traditional way, and even lays some politically correct groundwork by having a well-spoken native man appear in act one to tell us so himself. For me though, this all felt like pre-emptive excuse-making for the script to indulge in a fairly repulsive savage-indian stereotype, which in turn is just excuse-making for a climax in which a bunch of righteous white dudes go on a spree of old-fashioned injun-killin.

    Again, the script lays out its “they’re not indians” explanations very clearly, so it’s not strictly offensive, but the amount of effort spent here to justify the highly unoriginal mechanics of a cowboys vs. indians style western left the script feeling pretty damn vacant of actual ideas.

    Compare this to POX AMERICANA, another western/horror hybrid, and one of my favorite scripts from last year’s black list. That story also dealt with the savage indian stereotype head-on, but makes no excuses, beginning with an unapologetically savage portrayal of native americans, then slowly but surely using its genre games, character development, and plot complications to subvert the idea of natives-as-savages. In the end, POX makes our noble injun-killers the agents of their own demise, and generates some interesting commentary about the western genre and American history in general, refracted through it’s brilliant horror conceit (no spoilers here – read it!).

    • walker

      Before I got to your last paragraph I was going to tell you to read Pox Americana as an antidote.

    • filmklassik

      “…just excuse-making for a climax in which a bunch of righteous white dudes go on a spree of old-fashioned injun-killin.”

      Haven’t read this script yet, but your post raises some interesting questions about the effect of Political Correctness on motion pictures. Do you think it would even be possible, in this day and age, to do a movie like, for example, ZULU, which dealt with a a few dozen white Brits in Colonial Africa defending their garrison against the onslaught of hundreds of attacking blacks.

      It is all based on fact, of course (The Battle of Rourkes Drift, in the late 1800s) but I’m wondering if this identical story could even be told today… at least, in as ROUSING a fashion as it was in 1964 (it really is a stirring movie about heroism; more Victoria Crosses were awarded for Rourkes Drift — eleven, I think — than for any other single battle in British history).

      In other words, would the story have to be told in a Politically Correct, “present minded” fashion (as, for example, MAD MEN is) so that the movie itself would be commenting on — and tacitly condemning — the Imperialist whites?

      What do you think? Possible/Not possible?

      And if such a movie ever WAS made today… in as rousing a fashion as it was in 1964… how would audiences respond to it?

      • mulesandmud

        I think of BLACK HAWK DOWN as a modern day ZULU, also a true story of heroism which creates a similar shield against criticisms of its problematic racial and imperialist implications. Anyway, BHD got comparable accolades as ZULU, and made solid money (ditto LONE SURVIVOR), so I guess that means it’s still possible.

        I think the above films do attempt to engage with the issues of their situations to a certain degree, but in the end they choose to privilege cathartic violence over the implications of that violence. That’s never a good thing.

        Incidentally, building present-minded commentary/tacit condemnation into the plot of a historical narrative is not a recent invention – see FORT APACHE (1948), or most other John Ford films made after 1940. Any film that adds layers of complexity to a violent situation is probably doing something right.

        Sorry, am making this into a pretty big discussion. If you’re actually just asking me specifically whether someone would/could/should remake ZULU without adding new layers of historical perspective, then, uh…no?

        • filmklassik

          Yeah, most people… and certainly most people on here… would definitely agree with you.

          What’s interesting to me about “historical perspective” is that it changes so much. One generation’s “take” on a particular event may not be the same as their childrens’ take… or their grandchildrens’. In other words, sometimes “historical perspective” is just a fancy way of saying “trendy.” (Sometimes, not always).

          And yeah, I do need to see FORT APACHE again. I caught it once, in my teens, when I was way too young to appreciate Ford’s artistry, so I’ll make a point of rescreening it ASAP (I think it’s on my DVR).

          • brenkilco

            Speaking of perspective, the last scene of Fort Apache, which Ford intended be taken at face value, grows more morally dubious with each passing decade.

        • klmn

          I don’t think classic films should be remade, period. Filmmakers should be making original classics, and writers should be writing ‘em. Or at least, trying to.

          • filmklassik

            I agree! A pact then: If Warner Bros. offers either one of us a million dollars to write a new DIRTY HARRY script, we’ll just tell them “Fuck off!”

            Deal?

          • klmn

            Sure.

            Of course my evil twin may not be so scrupulous.

          • filmklassik

            Gee, I wonder who’ll be taking THAT phone call.

          • filmklassik

            I know who’ll be returning it.

      • Ambrose*

        John Wayne played an outright racist, Ethan Edwards, in one of the greatest movies ever made, John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’.
        If that movie was made today, with all the pressure for political correctness, no doubt the studio would push the filmmaker to soften his character, make him more likable, less offensively racist.
        And some actors might not want to play a character so blinded by race and revenge, as they might feel it would hurt the way moviegoers perceive them in real life.
        Some actors undoubtedly would, if only to change their image, maybe flip the way audiences see them, from dud to stud.

        • filmklassik

          Good point. Ever since race became The Defining Issue Of Our Time (DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW7Op86ox9g) the PC mentality that attends its importance has done nothing but limit the scope of film and TV characterizations.

          So yeah, there’s no question the character of Ethan Edwards would have to be softened today. As would Archie Bunker. As would Jeff Bridges’ character in THE MORNING AFTER for Christ’s sakes… not to mention Nick Nolte’s character in 48 HOURS.

          I, for one, never saw this coming. Did you?

          • Ambrose*

            I have many times thought to myself that there is no way on God’s green earth that ‘All In The Family’, as created, would ever get on the air today. At least on broadcast TV.
            Possibly on cable or premium cable. But not a chance on regular TV.
            Protests would erupt over the characterization of Archie Bunker and his views, misguided as they may be.
            Sponsors would be threatened with boycotting.
            A regular network – if the show somehow made it past Standards & Practices to air – would crumble at the thought of all the negative publicity.

            But I’m glad you mentioned Archie Bunker because, coincidentally, there’s an excerpt from Norman Lear’s new book about his career that came out today and it touches on ‘All In The Family’ and his difficulties with Carroll O’Connor, and the complications of race regarding ‘Good Times’.
            In addition to the problems that evolved with the two leads, which in a way is not surprising given their concerns, Lear admits to a sort of “reverse racism” when talking about the two co-creators.
            Interesting reading.

            http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/norman-lear-memoir-excerpt-throwdowns-736647

    • Kirk Diggler

      Remember Blue Duck from Lonesome Dove? Half Mexican, Half Indian, 100% killer. For broadcast television at the time, one of the most horrific villains ever seen on TV. He raped women, murdered children, seemed more a character out of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

      Could you do Blue Duck today? I think’s it all about balance. If every Mexican or native American is portrayed like Blue Duck, then there is gonna be a problem. The question is, did you think there was a fair portrayal of native Americans in the script?

      • mulesandmud

        There was definitely a fair portrayal. Zahler goes out of his way to introduce a throwaway native american character whose purpose is to be a civilized contrast to the barbaric troglodyte savages. When all the math is done, the script isn’t offensive; in fact, it’s quite conscious and at times thoughtful of what it’s doing.

        The trouble for me was, all that fairness and thought has been organized in service of a very boring goal: to reduce the villains to subhuman monsters, which skirts awfully close to an embarrassing genre stereotype, and more importantly, yields a simplistic and predictable story.

        Who knows? Maybe there’s an actual historical basis for these troglodytes, and even if there isn’t, the idea could still be used in an interesting way. Villains are an amazing opportunity to channel cultural anxieties, including racism. Sometimes you want to play with that fire.

        SILENCE OF THE LAMBS codes Buffalo Bill as transexual in a time when AIDS had begun to bring America face to face with its own homophobia. Is that problematic, or emblematic? The better the movie, the harder it is to tell sometimes.

        With BONE TOMAHAWK, I didn’t think it was that hard to tell.

  • Random Comment Guy

    Very well said. And what Brando did so well in SND was to make the character human and not just a cliche macho animal villain thing. He saw below the surface and got to the heart of what Tennessee Williams was trying to convey.

  • Radu Huciu

    It’s simple really, you have to write for a number of people, not just the actor. They are —

    — the producer: is this something he’d invest money in?

    — the director: is this a story he’d love to tell?

    — the actor: is this a character he’d want to play?

    — the audience: is this something they’d pay to see?

    And then of course you have to get all the actual screenwriting down, you know, little things like structure, plot, character arc, theme and, well, you know the rest.

    I know what you’re thinking, why oh why did I take the red pill? Well you took the red pill because this is what you love doing. So suck it up and get’er done! :)