Screenwriter David Webb Peoples was born in Connecticut, went to school at Berkeley, and was a film editor before making his mark as a writer. He’s been called “anti-Capra” because he finds the films of Frank Capra at their worst, “corny, preachy and sanctimonious.” He credits the film Taxi Driver in the early 70s with opening the door for showing violence as violent.
He wrote five screenplays before he sold one as is most known for his work on Blade Runner and for writing Unforgiven, which which starred Clint Eastwood and earned 4 Oscars including Best Picture.
David Webb Peoples was actually 36 years old when he sold the script Unforgiven (1976), but 52 years old when the film finally got produced and released in 1992. That’s a long journey from script to screen. He also received an Oscar-nomination for the Unforgiven screenplay.
In regards to Unforgiven’s journey, he was asked many years ago by Elaine Dutka of the LA Times, ”Why did it take so long getting that project off the ground?
“Francis Ford Coppola optioned it in ’84. He took it around, but couldn’t get financing. Clint picked up the option in 1985 and said he was making it “next year” a couple of times. The year before last, my wife was at the Telluride Film Festival and Clint walked on stage. He was overwhelmed by the scenery, he told the audience, and figured it was probably time to make his Western. I was thrilled.
Francis would have done it brilliantly as he does everything else, but it’s hard to imagine anyone making it as straightforwardly and uncompromisingly as Clint. No studio would have made it that way–dark, moody. With a lot of voices, things generally end up becoming blander and more accessible. “Unforgiven” was Clint Eastwood saying “This is what I’m going to do . . . get out of my way.”
David Webb Peoples
I don’t know how long it took Peoples’ to write Unforgiven, but its 15+ year journey is one more reminder that it takes a little time sometimes.