Monday, June 05, 2006

Writers in the Movies

I've never really paid much attention to how writers are portrayed in movies but after I watched Capote over the weekend, I got to thinking about it a little. There was a specific moment in the movie that got me started down the dangerous thinking pathway. It is towards the end when Capote has just finished typing up the last page of In Cold Blood. He is shown sitting at his desk just typing. He is not looking at any notes, he does not stop and think, searching for the right word or phrase, he just types. He hits the final key, takes the paper out of the typewriter, looks it over briefly, places it beneath the rest of the manuscript and then puts it in a box to send off to the publisher. The scene makes it appear as though he simply channeled the book onto the page. Where are all the scribbled notes? Where are the revisions and re-revisions? They are nowhere to be seen. The desk is small and neat and tidy. And when I think about the movie Finding Neverland I wonder when Barrie had time to write at all he was so busy gadding about. And where are the women writers? They are busy making their husband writers feel bad, Squid and the Whale anyone? A wonderful movie where the writing is secondary but it's there. Writers are often shown to be self-centered and/or ego-maniacs. Or just plain crazy. The Shining and Secret Window come to mind. Both are Stephen King so maybe those don't count since he's up to something entirely different there and those movies are based on books. What's going on in the movies? Writers are interesting characters except when they write? It gives the wrong impression. It makes it seem like writing is easy. Perhaps it even plays a part in making almost everyone think they could do that, they could write a novel or a play or a poem. And not only that, become a millionaire because of it! I am unable to think of a movie that has a realistic portrayal of a writer in it. Can you? And no fair if the movie is based on a book. While we are on the topic of writers, stop by tomorrow for a short interview I had with Charles Shields, author of Mockingbird, the first biography of Harper Lee.