What do the films North by Northwest, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and Saving Private Ryan all have in common? None of them received the annual Academy Award for best screenplay, but they were all nominated.
Many frustrated filmmakers have questioned how the Academy makes its decisions, but regardless of how political some claim the awards to be, they are certainly the most coveted honors in the film world, except maybe a good opening weekend. The category of Best Screenplay is used to honor the writers of exceptionally excellent scripts, an art that is perhaps as nuanced as the actual filmmaking itself. After all, its possible to make a bad movie with a great script, but all the CG in the world won’t fix a poorly written screenplay.
Throughout the years, a number of films have fallen just short of the honor, but have been remembered fondly while the winners have faded away. Of course, the popularity of the film is immaterial to the quality of it’s writing, so perhaps these hopefuls got precisely what they deserved. A point of curiosity: not a single nominee that lost Best Screenplay, won Best Picture, and most Best Screenplay winners didn’t go on to win Best Picture with the exception of Annie Hall which received both.
William Goldman is not just a screenwriter, despite the fact that he has had enormous success in the field. Goldman is a writer of all sorts- novels, non-fiction biographies and even how-to books that have sold in record numbers. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his astoundingly touching screenplays and for the ideas that he created that changed cinema.
As a novelist, Goldman was responsible for writing at least two of the most widely respected and loved stories of the American people. One is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) which inspired the love that America still has with Westerns. The other was The Princess Bride (1987), a complete 180 for Goldman to do. From the desert landscape of the Western film, he jumped to the classical enchanted surroundings of a fairy tale.
As far as screenplays go, Goldman has shown his flexibility in adapting to different genres with ease. For the horror movie fans, he was responsible for the Stephen King adaptation of the novel Misery (1990) which is still emulated and joked about to this day. He diversified into the romance district when he wrote such films as Hearts in Atlantis (2001) and Year of the Comet (1992).
Without a doubt, Goldman is a prime example of a writer who did not put himself in a box. Unlike other writers who generally stick to one genre or another, Goldman gave himself the freedom to experience worlds from all different perspectives.
Screenwriters should take note of Goldman’s actions and realize that screenwriting is an art of experience. The human life is full of ups and downs, and this effects what the screenwriter thinks like and writes about. This is not something to be ashamed of, but is an opportunity to grow in different directions as a human being and as a writer.
Script Synopsis:In late 1890s Wyoming, Butch Cassidy is the affable, clever, talkative leader of the outlaw Hole in the Wall Gang. His closest companion is the laconic dead-shot "Sundance Kid". As the west rapidly becomes civilized, the law finally catches up to Butch, Sundance and their gang. Chased doggedly by a special posse, the two decide to make their way to South America in hopes of evading their pursuers once and for all.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Script Resources:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Script at Amazon ($)