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INT: Scott Frank

Mar. 28, 2007by:

Having penned some of Hollywood s most entertaining and memorable crime dramas such as DEAD AGAIN, OUT OF SIGHT, MINORITY REPORT and GET SHORTY, award-winning writer Scott Frank has continuously demonstrated a capacity for his unlimited imagination. He is a creative genius who takes great pride in character driven plots emphasizing the importance of multi-dimensional characters. Making his directorial debut with his upcoming crime thriller THE LOOKOUT, Frank exemplifies the significance of perseverance in attaining his goals and bringing a ten-year-old dream to fruition.

THE LOOKOUT unravels the story of a young man suffering with mental and physical limitations, who finds himself captivated, manipulated and recruited by a bad guy with a bank robbery scheme. A screenplay containing such diverse and layered characters, confirms why Hollywood stars are competing to personify one of the rich and challenging parts born out of Franks ingenuity. I had the great pleasure of going face-to-face with one of Hollywood s most respected and sought after writers to talk about his inspirations, directing, future projects and his desire to work with George Miller. Check out what the grounded, kind, friendly and incredibly humble director/writer had to say.

Scott Frank

Scott Frank: I love I read it a lot. Ive been reading it for a few yearssince it first came out. There are a few sites I check out couple of times a week.

Very cool, thanks! Now in making your directorial debut, what type of challenges did you encounter as a director?

Interestingly enough, the hardest thing about directing this film in all honesty was the weather. That made it really hard. The weather was so severe and cold. We were four hours north of Fargo , in Winnipeg , way up in the middle of Canada . For some of it were four hours outside of Winnipeg, in the middle of nowhere. It was very cold and we had snow, icy rain and wind and we were shooting at night outside. So all of that and thirty-forty below weather was for me the hardest part to get used to. I felt like it hobbled me a little bit from keeping my perspective and energy level and all of that. It was very tricky under those circumstances. That was the hardest thing.

I think the other hardest part about directing was, with writing if youre stuck while writing, you stop. You stop and take a day, a month, and a vacation or do whatever it is you need to do until youre unstuck. Youre basically very gentle on your creative self and waiting for that new inspiration to come. When youre shooting a movie and youre stuck, there is a locomotive right behind you that youre running in front of. If you stop, its going to run you over. So you have no time to sit there, calm down and go take a nap and think about it. You really have to make choices right then and there. Sometimes the choices are really great the choices that come out of that kind of pressure are often times really interesting choices that you might have not made maybe in the safety of your own room and sometimes theyre the wrong choices because you made them too fast and just didnt think them all the way through.

In hindsight, were there any choices that you made in making this film that you now regret?

Frequently. Oh yeah, everyday and in fact the other thing that was difficult about it is that you dont accept. Writers who direct often believe that because they are directing, theyre not going to have total control and they want to direct because they want control. Theyre tired of others controlling their material. First of all, I didnt direct for those reasons. Ive been very happy with the directors Ive worked for and have had great experiences. I directed because I wanted a personal, creative experience. The one thing that was so hard to control for me which I thought would be there, the one thing I didnt realize is just how disappointed you are on a daily basis. Just how, what you have in your mind at the start of the day, isnt what you end up with at the end of the day.

When you say disappointed, do you mean "disappointment" in yourself or the film?

All of the above. Youre not disappointed in the actors. Youre disappointed in the fact that the machinery is such a big piece of machinery youre using to paint with. Its such a big complicated machine with so many moving parts but there are a million variables. It can be the weather, it can be the prop person showing up with a completely different prop that you now have to get your head around, the set is somehow different than youd thought it was going to be or it had to be adjusted in order to accommodate the way we were going to shoot it or were going to shoot it completely differently because we tried to shoot it the way we thought about it but it doesnt work, the actor doesnt feel good, you dont have good extras, they dont look right so now you have to do without them.

All of these things, whatever it is, contribute to this sort of grand sense of disappointment and all mound up. I called up my brother in law, Phil Joanou whos a filmmaker, and I called him one day from Canada asking him if hes disappointed all time on set. He said, You know, if I get 5% of what I want everyday, thats a great day. Hes a very controlled filmmaker so thats a really good day if he gets 5%. He said, If you told me you were getting everything you want and were thrilled, I would say you were probably making crap. There are some directors though who will do 50-80 takes like Kubrick over and over until they get it exactly right. I dont have the attention span to do that and I didnt have the time or money to do that either. I just couldnt sit there for 50 takes not knowing what Im looking at anymore. Some directors can.

How long did it take you to complete the film and what was the budget?

It took forty-five days and it was 15 million.

Would you consider directing another film?

I cant wait to do it again! The minute I finished, I wanted to direct THE LOOKOUT all over again knowing what I knew but I cannot wait to make another film. I really cant wait.

What inspired you to write THE LOOKOUT screenplay? How did the story evolve?

It was from a couple of places. Ten-fifteen years I knew someone peripherally, not a close friend, who had been in a horrible accident and had essentially gone into a coma and come out of that coma an entirely new individual and I thought hmmm. Whereas before he was a very physical athletic guy and very interested in graduate school and so on, after the accident, all of that disappeared from his personality. He had no interest in any of that stuff not because he was depressed or the accident but because he was a new person. Yet he could completely remember his old self and experience through his memory his old self but he was stuck. He couldnt be that guy anymore so he had to get to know this new person. I thought wow, thats an interesting place to be. I thought about him as a character but I didnt want to write about that issue because then it would be a TV movie if I wrote about that injury.

So I filed it away and I was in Kansas thinking about writing about farm banks Id been reading about in Nebraska, Iowa and so on. Theyre located in the middle of hundreds of farms of all sizes and these little banks normally during the week would have 600-700 hundred dollars in the vault because of a hardware store or caf but thats about it. Then twice a year they would get all this USDA money and the agribusiness cash would come to pay the farmers and pay them in cash. So for a couple of weeks there might be a million or two million sitting there in a bank thats really old, in a very quite town where if you set off a bomb, no one would hear. So I thought, why isnt anyone robbing these banks?

While I was researching that, my other story started to just come together to this one and became one story. I thought wow, what about locating the character in a very rural environment and I thought what if he could have a thrill because I didnt want to write about a bank robbery. Im not interested in a heist but more interested in the characters around the heist and starting with this guy, thats pretty interesting to me. The melodrama around the bank robbery is what I was more interested in. The relationship with his family, his roommate, with the girl was much more fun to write. So I got started from there. I really like to write from character. This was a ten year haul for me and the reason I stayed in love with the movie wasnt the idea for the movie but I just loved and cared so much about these characters.

How did a movie that took so long affect the casting process?

I had a specific type of person but never a visual because then youre always disappointed. If you write a movie for Tom Cruise and dont get him, then everyone else is sort of second place and its difficult because in the back of your mind you will always be wishing you had Tom Cruise. I tend to think of dead actors when writing, like Steve McQueen. But for this movie because I had so much time, when the actors came in, I talked to them about the material and helped them through the process of auditioning.

Has the script changed at all from the original ten years ago?

The basic plotline for the most part is very similar with one fundamental difference. The original script was longer and more ambitious. In this movie the bank robbery goes awry and the take Lewis in the last minute for their trade. Originally back in 1999 Sam Mendes was supposed to direct the film but left to do ROAD TO PERDITION. Then David Fincher came on to direct but that didnt work out because he wanted to make the film for the bargain basement price of 80 million dollars but Dreamworks had a problem with that and then I came on.

David and I changed the original concept so that Chris refuses to do the robbery and comes home to find everything gone including Lewis except for a phone which rings and Gary says from the other end I now have your whole life. Lewis is being held with all his furniture in the basement of a farmhouse and the person watching him is Luvlee whom he develops a relationship with instead. At some point Lewis tries to escape and gets caught connecting to he plot in the way it unfolds now. So the original was much longer and it made it too much about a bank robbery.

How did you recruit such a great ensemble cast and give a splendid actress like Carla Gugino such a small part?

She did me a favor. She had two scenes and I cut one scene, which was a great second scene, but the movie had already established what I thought needed to be established so we didnt need to see anymore. If Id known I wouldnt have put her through that because people are going to wonder whys shes in the movie for that one scene. What I should have done is had her do some kind of unbuilt cameo because I love Carla, I just love her. I would put her in every movie I ever made. So I asked her to do me a favor and the second scene was actually wonderful. But we came to the point where the movie didnt need it or want it. So I cut it out. She really helped me out and the best thing of it all was that I shot that scene my first day. So having her and Joe (Gordon-Levitt) shoot, and having Carla this very calm and soothing presence there for me my first day of shooting made a world of difference.

What about casting Matthew Goode as a bad guy? It was quite a switch for him from his previous characters.

I brought him over because my casting director had met him and she said, theres something about him and I thought really? He doesnt seem at all likehe seems like Rupert Everett. She said, Just meet him and he came over and he was spectacular in his audition and I just kept bringing him back to see how he read with Joe and he was great. He just had this very dark, intelligent, sexual side to him that I loved and he was funny.

What are you working on next?

Im working on an original for Universal that I hope to write and direct again if they let me. Its my midlife crisis movie called "44" and it takes place in the world of automotive design. Essentially a week before this guys 44th birthday he runs amuck.

And whose life is this based on?

Ah, it could be mine (smiling). Lets just say its a cautionary tail.

Do you have anyone in mind to cast in it?

Im thinking about lots of people but I want to write it first and see.

OUT OF SIGHT was such a hit! Any plans of reuniting with Clooney or Lopez again?

Id love to work with them again. Absolutely. I had great experiences with all of them and they were all incredibly good to me I remember.

Were you approached to write the sequel screenplay for BE COOL as a follow up to your original hit GET SHORTY?

Yes. I was approached but I just felt like I didnt want to do it. I felt like Id already done the characters but I didnt like the book to be honest. The book was fun to read but I didnt think it was much of a movie. So I said I felt like Ive done it before and it didnt feel like anything new to me even though they were all nice people and Id worked with the producers forever. I just didnt want to do a sequel.

Interestingly enough, Paul Verhoeven said the same thing about ROBOCOP. He believed MINORITY REPORT was the sequel for ROBOCOP. Is that true?

No, but thats interesting.

Is there anyone whom you are very interested in working with?

George Miller. I love to work with Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg again. Personally Im dying to work with George Miller. I just REALLY want to work with him.

Are there any other script ideas aside from 44, which you are working on?

Im adopting a Jonathan Tropper book called AFTER HAILEY which is about a an old guy who marries a beautiful 40 year old woman but she dies after a year of marriage and suddenly hes left to raise her delinquent stoner son. Its a very funny story. I also wrote a western called GODLESS that Im also hoping to direct but its a tough road these days with westerns. So Im trying to do that and well see. Im working on a few different things.

Why do you think our culture isnt open to the western genre any longer?

They are into more visceral kinds of entertainment now. Its also a worldwide audience now and in Japan, the last thing they want to watch is a Western and thats where all the money is. Its foreign value. Globally, action is probably the most popular genre. I know American comedy doesnt travel well either.




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2:54AM on 03/28/2007


I liked this article.
Get Shorty writing + western = win imo.
I liked this article.
Get Shorty writing + western = win imo.
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