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Posts Tagged ‘Brian Grazer’

“I’m not a movie producer, I’m in the feelings business. . . . I’m captivated by things that move me emotionally, and elevate me emotionally.”
Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind)
The Joe Rogan Experience #1370

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40 Days of Emotions

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“I was the worst writer in my seventh grade class. And when I went to college I was the worst writer in my college class. But each time somebody told me to stop writing, I never stopped…When I went to graduate school and tried to get  a degree in creative writing they told me to stop because I wasn’t that good. And I didn’t stop writing.”
Akiva Goldsman
2007 WGA Rally

It seems every step of the way Akiva Goldsman has had someone tell him that he wasn’t that good of a writer. It’s a good thing that he has an Oscar to remind himself otherwise. But perhaps it was Goldsman’s naysayers that best prepared him to write the screenplay for A Beautiful Mind (2001).

As he told the story based on the life of John Nash and Sylvia Nasar’s bio of the mathematician who suffers from schizophrenia, Goldsman had to know he was also telling his story. A story of a man who knew that he could achieve something greater than what he had accomplished up to that point in his life. (By the way, that story or theme will resonate with every man, woman, and child that’s ever walked on this earth.)

Goldsman was raised in a group house where his mother, a child psychologist, lived and worked with children diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia.

“I am no expert on mental illness, but I am sure of one thing: the children who shared my home were not without reason. Their behavior made sense to them. They had reasons for everything they did. We just couldn’t understand their reasons. So, the idea of writing a screenplay about John’s life and the way he saw the world was tremendously exciting to me.”
Akiva Goldsman
A Beautiful Mind, The Shooting Script

An the team at Imagine Films (Brian Grazer, Karen Kehela, Ron Howard) got behind Goldsman’s vision of writing the story from the perspective of someone who has schizophrenia. Much of the time we see the world as Nash saw the world.

“It’s not a literal telling of Nash’s life. I tried to take the architecture of his life—his genius, his schizophrenia, his Nobel Prize—and construct a semi-fictional story.”
Akiva Goldsman

One of the pieces of the Nash’s life that became an anchor for the story was the relationship with his wife Alicia.

“It’s kind of a grown-up romance. The relationship was intensely complex, as where the challenges that Alicia and John faced together. John Nash’s story is incredibly heroic, but so is Alicia’s.”
Ron Howard
Director, A Beautiful Mind

One of the ways that Goldsman visually showed that bond comes at the 40 minute mark of the movie when Alicia puts a handkerchief in Nash’s tuxedo pocket just before he has his picture taken. On the DVD commentary this is how Goldsman explains the importance of that moment :

“Here’s where we set up the handkerchief. The sort of talisman, the ‘objective correlative’ as Wallace Stevens said. The object that represents emotion—in this case the handkerchief is the object that represents their love and will carry throughout the piece.”
Akiva Goldsman

The handkerchief becomes a motif throughout the film. And in the closing speech at the end of the film, John Nash is wearing the same handkerchief that she gave him—a symbol of their love and endurance.

And speaking of endurance. Goldsman not only endured the years in school where he was discouraged from continuing to write, but he was by his own admission a “failed novelist for ten years” before turning his hand to screenwriting. And screenwriting is where he started winning awards, unfortunately his first award was a Razzie which honors bad acting, writing and filmmaking. And he actually won two; the 1997 Batman & Robin (Worst Screenplay) and the 1996 A Time to Kill (Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 million.) It must have good felt five years later to walk up and receive his Oscar for A Beautiful Mind.

And Goldsman has gone to write many other screenplays that have made him one of the highest paid screenwriters in the history of motion pictures.

P.S. I’m going to start throwing that phrase”objective correlative” around, because that really makes it sound like you know what you’re talking about. Not to mention that T.S. Eliot used it as well.

“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”
T.S. Eliot/Hamlet and His Problems

Objective correlative. Hence the presence of some outward object, predetermined to correspond to the preexisting idea in its living power, is essential to the evolution of its proper end, — the pleasurable emotion.
Washington Allston around 1840 in the “Introductory Discourse” of his Lectures on Art

A few “objective correlative” examples off the top of my head are the volleyball from Cast Away (WILSON!), the fish from Jerry Maguire, and the Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titantic. Can you think of others?

Scott W. Smith

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When the Sylvia Nasar biography A Beautiful Mind, the story of  John Nash, was brought to the screen it was a giant of a creative team that created a beautiful movie.

It not only earned Russell Crowe, who played John Nash, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, but at the 2002 Academy Awards it won four awards; Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Connely), Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Picture (Ron Howard & Brian Grazer) and Best Writing, Screenplay based on Material Previously Produced (Akiva Goldsman).

Screenwriter Goldsman is another case of taking the long and winding road to success. With an MFA from NYU Goldsman spent 10 years as a failed novelist (his words) before turning to screenwriting. But one of his first nominations wasn’t the good kind. He was nominated for worst script by the Golden Raspberry Awards (Razzies) for his Batman & Robin script.

These days Goldsman is reported to have been paid $4 million to write the sequel to the Da Vinci Code making him one of the highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood. In the introduction of The Shooting Script; A Beautiful Mind,  published by Newmarket press, Goldsman touches on what it took for him to write an Academy Award winning film:

“I’ll skip the writing part, except to say, I used about a million packs of cigarettes, a thousand pots of coffee, several hundred cans of tuna eaten over the sink, and my whole heart.”

Akiva Goldsman, Introduction in
                                                                       The Shooting Script; A Beautiful Mind
                                                                       Newmarket Press

It’s hard to do anything with your whole heart for five minutes, much less write an entire script that way. Think about what it means to do something with your whole heart. The image that comes to mind for me is of triathlete Julie Moss who became famous (as well as the sport itself) when she collapsed (while in the lead) toward the end of the 1982 Ironman competition and crawled the last 100 yards to the finish line.

Copyright 2009 Scott W. Smith

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