Strongest film scripts come from dive into unknown

Thu Dec 27, 2007 4:28am EST
 
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By Stephen Galloway

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - On the surface, the behind-the-scenes intrigues of a corporate law firm hardly seem cinematic enough to justify a screenplay. But when "Michael Clayton" writer-director Tony Gilroy started digging around while researching 1997's "The Devil's Advocate," he was hooked.

"You have these rooms where 30 or 40 people show up and work all night long, typing all the paperwork; and (outside the office) they are sculptors and dancers and actors," he recalls. "I hadn't seen this before. And you are always looking for stuff you haven't seen before -- that is unique and familiar at the same time."

Blending the unique and the familiar is a challenge for any writer, but many writers in contention for this year's original screenplay Oscar have stretched the boundaries of what audiences will accept, sometimes challenging them to find the familiar in the most unfamiliar things of all.

Nowhere is that more the case than with Nancy Oliver, the writer of "Lars and the Real Girl," the story of a lonely young man who falls in love with a life-size doll. Oliver learned about the doll when she came across Abyss Creations -- an actual company that makes such dolls.

More than the real doll, however, she was drawn to the notion of recreating "the Pygmalion myth, in contemporary terms -- my take on it." That lifted her story from being an exploration of a perversion to being relatable and real.

Oliver acknowledges that the absurdity of her tale might have alienated some audiences. That absurdity, she says, "was something that I wanted to vibrate in the script; I wanted people to be not sure, I wanted that level of discomfort. It is interesting to see how angry it makes some people. They are angry that they are asked to suspend their disbelief -- that their ideas of reality seem to be challenged in some way."

BLUE-COLLAR INSPIRATION

John Carney in many ways wanted to do the opposite when he conceived of "Once," which revolves around two musicians in a universal tale of a romance that might have been. He wanted to take his familiar world and put it into an unfamiliar setting.   Continued...

 
<p>Director Tony Gilroy laughs during the news conference for "Michael Clayton" at the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, September 8, 2007. On the surface, the behind-the-scenes intrigues of a corporate law firm hardly seem cinematic enough to justify a screenplay. But when "Michael Clayton" writer-director Gilroy started digging around while researching 1997's "The Devil's Advocate," he was hooked. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>