William Goldman – Writings on Movies

November 18, 2018
Towards the end of his life, William Goldman was known for his writing on movies as much as the movies he wrote.

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting (1983) – perhaps the most famous screenwriting book of them all, best known for the quote “no one knows anything”. That’s just one nugget in a book full of them (the other main one is “screenplays are structure”), which covers Goldman’s own adventures in the screen trade from Masquerade through to The Right Stuff, offers his various thoughts on aspects of the industry, and takes the reader through the writing of a short screenplay, including getting takes on it from different industry people (George Roy Hill is lacerating). It’s a brilliant book, compulsively readable and full of fresh insight, even though more than thirty years have passed since its publication.

Goldman fans may be interested to know that many of the concepts in the book were road tested by Goldman in a short book he wrote in the ‘70s, The Story of “A Bridge Too Far” as well as a superb interview he did for John Brady in The Craft of the Screenwriter.

Hype and Glory (1990) – one of Goldman’s lesser known books, this tells the story of the year where he judged at the Cannes Film Festival (on a jury that included Australia’s own Dr George Miller) and the Miss America Pageant. It’s funny and insightful, though occasionally falls into the area of rich people’s problems (eg. flooding in the apartment he keeps in London). It is more personally revealing than his other memoirs in many ways, as he discusses his then-recent divorce.

(Trivia note: Goldman had a brief romance with Mia Farrow in the 1990s. That’s not in the book, just thought we would mention).

Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade (2000) – this sequel to Screen Trade isn’t as awesome but is still pretty good, covering Goldman’s adventures in the ‘80s and ‘90s, where his screenwriting career revived through an association with Castle Rock. He discusses some of his favourite screenplays by other writers, and offers up a new script from himself and shows it to others for comment. It’s a fairly terrible screenplay but it is fascinating to see the different responses to it – Tony Gilroy’s in particular, is brilliant.

The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood? And Other Essays (2001) – a collection of essays from Goldman show him to be in fine form, though he probably talks about the Oscars too much.

As an aside, none of these books are as brilliant as Goldman’s book on Broadway, The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway (1969), which is a masterpiece.


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