Oscar contender Harwood says latest script hardest

Mon Feb 4, 2008 9:03am EST
 
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Harwood was close to giving up when asked to dramatize the story of a man totally paralyzed except for his left eye. Now he is glad he did not.

The 73-year-old, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay to Roman Polanski's "The Pianist," has been nominated for another golden statuette for scripting "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

An autobiography of the same name was written by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle magazine in France who had a massive stroke and suffered the rare "locked-in syndrome."

The father-of-two was almost completely paralyzed, but he decided to write an account of his experiences letter by letter, blinking after the appropriate letter in the alphabet was read out to him with the most frequently-used letters coming first.

Bauby died two days after the book was published in France.

"I read it five years before being offered it and thought it was an extraordinary book," Harwood said from Los Angeles, where he was due to attend the Oscar nominees' lunch on Monday.

"Five years later Kathy Kennedy offered it to me and I said yes without re-reading it. It was not a clever thing to do. When faced with reality I was totally stuck. I had no idea how to proceed," the South African-born writer told Reuters.

After suffering anxiety and panic attacks as he grappled with turning an almost untellable story into a film, Harwood had his "eureka moment" and never looked back.   Continued...

 
<p>Screenwriter Ronald Harwood (L) gestures at director Mike Newell at a screening of Newell's movie "Love in the Time of Cholera" on the closing night of the American Film Institute's (AFI) Fest 2007 film festival in Hollywood November 11, 2007. Harwood was close to giving up when asked to dramatise the story of a man totally paralyzed except for his left eye. Now he is glad he did not. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>