“The biggest lesson a screenwriter can learn is how to master a rewrite of his own script, or someone else’s, and make the change a studio wants without destroying the story. It’s like a football game: If you think of writing an original screenplay as ‘offensive’ creativity, then rewriting is all about ‘defensive’ creativity.
There are some screenwriters who are great on offense while others excel only at defense. The greatest screenwriters–and the ones who are in demand—are those who can handle both kinds of creativity. The problem I’ve found is that young writers usually change too much in a rewrite and old writers often don’t change enough. What writers should remember is to read a first draft or a rewrite twice, not once but twice, before handing it in. First read it for pacing and plot, and then read it a second time to see if there are good parts for the stars, because that’s exactly how the stars are going to read it.”
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)
On the next post we’ll look at the extensive re-writing that changed a dark tale called 3,000 into the romantic comedy Pretty Woman. The film which starred Julie Roberts and Richard Gere and pulled in $463 million (in 1990 dollars) from a script that originated from screenwriter J.F. Lawton.
(First I’ll give Garry Marshall’s account to how the script was rewritten, and follow it with Lawton’s version if I can find it.)