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Posts Tagged ‘Walk Kowalski’

Grumpys

“O muses, o high genius, now assist me!”
The Inferno
Dante

Stephen King says his muse is a working class guy down in the basement chomping on a cigar. I think his muse is related to screenwriter Nick Schenk’s. When his day job was over, Schenk wrote much of Gran Torino while sitting at Grumpy’s Bar in northeast Minneapolis. He told Colin Covert of Star Tribune, “Loading trucks every day, your back was tired but your mind was fresh…So I’d just roll into Grumpy’s, where my friend was the bartender, and write the stuff longhand on a pad of paper.”

I stopped in Grumpy’s Bar  yesterday late afternoon and was told that Schenk is considered family, though he doesn’t come in as much since the success of the movie Gran Torino based on his screenplay. It’s opened up writing gigs for him in L.A. where he now lives.

Grumpy’s is the kind of place that you could see Clint Eastwood’s character Walt Kowalski walking into and ordering a Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you’re looking for original stories and original characters look for them in the places you work and hangout. (Tennessee Williams based Stanley Kowalski on a fellow he worked with in a factory in St. Louis. Kowlaski…coincidence?) According to the owner of Grumpy’s, Schenk is a talented writer who has been at it a long time, but he also has a great ear for dialogue. And much of Eastwood’s character flowed from the banter that was kicked around that corner bar.

Though they shot Gran Torino in Michigan (thanks to their film incentives) the area around Grumpy’s is very similar to Walt’s neighborhood in the movie. The only beef with the movie from the bartender I talked to at Grumpy’s is that they didn’t shoot the film in Minneapolis.

Since I’ve written about Diablo Cody writing much of Juno in a Target in the north suburbs of Minneapolis I thought you’d be interested in knowing that these two locations are probably less than 3 miles form each other. That’s around $300 million dollars of box office success written from the same basic area far from L.A. and far from that perfect little cabin in the woods everyone dreams about writing the perfect novel or screenplay.

I don’t know if Schenk and Cody have crossed paths in L.A., but I’d like to at least think they’ve met back in Minneapolis at that kitschy Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge and celebrated their unusual journeys with a Tiki drink.

If you haven’t hired a working class muse maybe you should give one a call.

Related post: Juno vs. Walt.

words & photo copyright  Scott. W. Smith

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“Aspiring screenwriters always ask what’s the best way to break into the Hollywood? I say move to Minnesota.”
                                    Ken Levine 
                                    Emmy-winning TV writer (Frasier, MASH, Cheers)
                                    How to Sell a screenplay by drinking in a bar 

 

Friday I had a meeting in Minneapolis and it’s true there are things the big city has that we don’t have here in Cedar Falls…traffic, difficulty finding a parking spot, and two kids were shot standing on a street corner. Thankfully, the shooting injuries were not life-threatening. The shooting took place near a park where 30 kids were playing. Those kinds of incidents always remind me of Danny Glover’s line in the movie Grand Canyon, “That’s not the way the world is supposed to be.” 

While also in the Twin Cities I noticed that Gran Torino (written by Minnesotan Nick Schenkwas still in the theaters which means it’s been a long run for the movie that came out in December. So I looked it up and saw that it has made $142 million (domestic) and then I compared it to Juno which I found out made a total of $143 million (domestic) last year which means Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski will overtake Juno this weekend or next. Though when you include the worldwide gross, Juno still has a commanding $52 million lead.

How does  Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody  match-up against Schenk? First she’s a Chicago Bear and he’s a Minnesota Viking fan so he has a slight edge there. Schenk’s also got a few pounds on her, and he did write the highest grossing movie in Eastwood’s over four decade Hollywood career. But she’s more famous than some movie stars, is working with Steven Spielberg, and has an Oscar. So for now she has the upper hand. Schenk has moved to L.A. but when recently asked by Steve March how Hollywood had he gone Schenk responded:

“Uh, none. I don’t know anybody. My friend called me up the other day and  asked me if my life is like Entourage now. And I’m sittin’ there waiting for my Tomestone pizza to get done in my pizza oven that I dragged from Minnesota–you know, the kind that they have in the bars?”

Somehow, since both writers aren’t that far removed from quitting their day jobs (or night jobs) back in the Minneapolis area I don’t think either are complaining. (And though Schenk’s writing partner—Dave Johannson— on the story for Gran Torino still has his day job in Minnesota selling gas furnaces, he’s probably not complaining either since they sell a lot of furnaces up this way and he probably makes more than the average WGA screenwriter. And dropping you had part in an Eastwood movie has to help sales.)

Still it’s pretty amazing that two screenwriters have emerged from the same area in fly-over county and have had such box-office and critical success. 

Update: It’s official at 8:19 PM I checked with boxofficemojo.com and Gran Torino has passed Juno at the domestic box office this weekend with a total of  143,824,000 verses Juno’s $143,495,265. Congrats to Schenk, Johannson and Eastwood.

 

Related post: Q & A with Movie Critic Colin Covert
                   Screenwriting Quote of the Day # 10 (Colin Covert)
                   Screenwriting Quote of the Day #1 (Diablo Cody)
                   The Oscars Minnesota-Style

Scott W. Smith

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