In the white heat of the Tarantino boom years (1993-1999), publishers realised that Joe Public were so in love with QT’s wordslaying that they would probably pay to read it on the page. And they were right.
And lo, when Tarantino inspired a slew of copycat film-makers, all touting their own post-modern, wisecracking, leftfield scripts, the world’s publishers (Faber and Faber, anyway) decided these were worth sending to the printing presses, too.
Well, publishing the screenplay of Pulp Fiction is one thing – publishing the screenplay to Smoke is another. What’s Smoke, you ask? Exactly.
Here are 11 of the strangest…
11) 24/7. This low-budget Shane Meadows film was slightly famous for about nine days in 1997. The funky yellow poster and likelihood that there would be swearing were all that were required to lend the film that Possibly A Bit Tarantino cachet. And that meant that They Brought Out The Screenplay. If you want, it is probably still out there. Buy it and join a very exclusive club indeed. It’s Shane Meadows, his mum and you.
10) Ratcatcher. The only thing less appealing than paying to see Lynne Ramsay’s tale of urban poverty is reading the screenplay. Bring the misery of the film home, that was the thinking. If you’re flirting with idea of making a purchase, here is a taste (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT): “As James watches his family struggle to survive, and as his female friend is sexually used by the local gang, his hope fades and he throws himself in the canal. As he drowns he imagines his family walking across the wheat field to move into his ideal house.” If director Lynne Ramsay ever drowns herself, she will imagine having directed Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon.
9) Cinderella Man. Admittedly this is the script for a very good real-life boxing drama set in the Depression (that’s the old black and white one, not the new hi-def one) and starring Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger and directed by Ron “he directed this” Howard. As a commercial decision, however, it’s a bit weird, especially as a lot of the film is boxing. How long can you read stage directions like BRADDOCK LANDS A LEFT – AND ANOTHER. NOW A RIGHT. NOW ANOTHER LEFT?Tweet
8) One Fine Day. Don’t believe the laughter on the cover – Clooney and Pfeiffer were being shown some frolicking kittens when that publicity pic was taken. The actual plot concerns two single parents dashing about in the rain to pick up their kids. Or that’s how we remember it. Frankly, watching it is about as much fun as being a single parent dashing around in the rain to pick up your kids. Still, it got turned into a published screenplay and given away with a women’s magazine. No-one read it.
7) I Went Down. The film was a fairly well-regarded Irish crime comedy made at the height of Tarantinomania. Whether anyone was queuing outside Waterstone’s Piccadilly to buy the screenplay, we know not.
6) Cold Mountain. After the success of his classy The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley, it probably seemed a fair bet that the screenplay of Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain adaptation would attract a bit of interest. But in hindsight, given that it’s mostly people horsing around in the snow, it was probably a crap idea.
5) Amateur. Even (former) arthouse darling Hal Hartley veered away from his usual sensibilities towards Tarantino territory with this violent tale of pornography-writing former nuns. But publishing the script of this lukewarm, now forgotten offering from the “Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? I might put a wash on” genre seems hilariously indulgent.
4) Life is Beautiful. Roberto Benigni’s comedy about the, er, Holocaust was a curious hit back in 1997. Still, there is no-one on the planet currently reading this.
3) Ride With The Devil. Ang Lee has made some very successful films – eg Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Sense and Sensibility and Brokeback Mountain – but this isn’t one of them. Despite good reviews, it’s basically the story of some men hiding in a cave during the American Civil. Having to watch it is even more boring than sitting in the cave. Why would anyone then want to read it?
1) Four screenplays by Woody Allen. How could we put this in the sin bin, especially as Annie Hall is our favourite film of all time? Simple: this isn’t one of Woody’s drafts, it isn’t even the shooting script – this is simply transcripts made by some idiot who sat down with a ballpoint pen and a cup of coffee and noted everything that was said and done on screen. The fact that every stutter emitted by Woody (“I-I-I-I-“ etc) is included here, is a bit of a giveaway. Ripoff.
Thanks to The Old Droner for his contribution to this article.