The Jewish Journal's senior writer, Brad A. Greenberg, asks Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon about his "frozen chosen" hit "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," about being called an anti-Semite and about being comfortable as a geek
"I go to my inner kid," said Kurtzman, who grew up culturally Jewish. "Where do we find our inspiration? It's the movies that inspired us as kids, and a lot of that was sci-fi, but a lot of that sci-fi was fun."
That initial meeting, as it happened, was the start of something entirely unexpected. Within a year, we were engaged. That was the fairy-tale ending of one story, but the prelude to another -- our Hollywood moment.
At the Humanitas Prize awards luncheon in Universal City earlier this summer, Jacob Aaron Estes picked up a $10,000 cash prize honoring the screenplay for his Paramount Classics film, "Mean Creek," which opens this weekend.
When asked what he would do with the money, the Chicago-bred writer/director told The Journal, "Pay rent."
The "Mean Creek" script depicts what happens when a teenage prank goes horribly wrong on a rafting trip. Such unexpected cruelty, Estes said, is based on "a whole accumulation of childhood experiences that I borrowed from."
When producers Sean and Bryan Furst met Wayne Kramer in 2001, just about everyone had rejected his Las Vegas fable, "The Cooler." The screenplay was a hard sell, "because it defies any specific genre," Bryan Furst said. "It's not a mob flick, it's not a comedy or a love story, but all three together."
It didn't help that the inexperienced Kramer wanted to direct, although that hardly bothered the Fursts. With their eight-year-old production company, Furst Films, Sean, 33, and Bryan, 26, have made a name for themselves by discovering previously unknown talent. In 2000, their Sundance picture, "Everything Put Together," introduced filmmaker Marc Forster, who went on to direct the Oscar-winning "Monster's Ball." "Sean has this incredible, risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit," Forster told Variety, which listed the Fursts among 2003 "producers to watch."
When Lainie Kazan first read the screenplay of Nia Vardalos' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," now a frothy CBS sitcom, she could relate.
Vardalos said she based the characters on her large, "loud, always-eating Greek family that loves me to the point of suffocation." And Kazan, who plays her Greek mama, hails from a similarly boisterous ethnic clan.
When I write a screenplay, I start out with an agenda. I decide who my hero is first and who is the villain. Then I fashion scenes to build my dramatic case and make it believable. That is, I believe, exactly what occurred with regard to at least two reporters, Sheila MacVicar of CNN and Tom Miller of the Los Angeles Times, on Tuesday, April 16 in the Jenin refugee camp.
I was there. I saw everything they saw, I heard everything they heard, I smelled everything they did not smell. And the truth is there was no smell of death on that day, despite what Miller wrote in his feature article of April 21.
In the 1940s, when Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht formed their production company, Hecht-Lancaster, they optioned debut novels by two young Jewish writers: "The Naked and the Dead," by Norman Mailer and "Burial of the Fruit," by David Dortort. Dortort and Mailer were hired to adapt their books into screenplays.
"The fallacy in Hecht-Lancaster's logic was that neither Norman nor I knew anything about writing a screenplay," Dortort said. "The verdict came in: these were two of the worst screenplays ever written," he added, laughing in the comfort of his spacious Bel Air den. Dortort's screenplay mastery came later when the writer parlayed his love for American history into the phenomenon of a show he created in 1959 called "Bonanza."
Back when Rod Lurie was the meanest film critic in L.A., he used to gush about actress Joan Allen on his KABC radio show. The guy who once called Danny DeVito a "testicle with legs" lauded Allen as "the greatest working actor in the world." "I'd manage to slip that in every other week," admits the Israeli-born critic-turned-director, whose debut film, "Deterrence," revolved around a Jewish U.S. president in crisis. Allen had heard all about the fawning critic, so she was receptive when he offered to write a screenplay for her in 1998.
Back in 1991, David Brenner was king of the comedy mountain.
The comic had appeared well over 100 times on the "Tonight Show," which he often guest-hosted in the 1970's and '80's. He enjoyed lucrative Las Vegas appearances and was a perennial guest on TV shows like "Letterman."
Veteran television writer/producer Saul Turteltaub had to wait 44 years for his first film credit, "For Roseanna," starring Mercedes Reuhl and Jean Reno.
Saul Turteltaub, a name-brand television comedy writer and producer for 44 years, remembers submitting his first movie screenplay.