by Shelby Jones
When the following headline “Writer Lands Multi-Million-Dollar
Deal” hit various publications, I was thrilled to read that the
screenwriter was David Koepp. I had the pleasure of meeting David
when he was on a publicity tour for his last film, Stir of
Echoes which starred Kevin Bacon. The writer-director shares
his knowledge of screenwriting, becoming a director, and dealing
with his latest writing task, Spiderman, the movie.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A TWO PART SERIES.
- The SAG released a study showing that Blacks and
Latinos had extremely low percentages as far as roles they received
in films produced in 1998. Is this issue even considered by
successful white writers/directors such as yourself? Any advice for
- The issue of writing parts for Blacks and Latinos, as
well as casting them in those parts (as you know, just because a
role is WRITTEN that way doesn't mean it will be CAST that way) is
of enormous concern to me, and to most other writers I know not out
of any PC thing, but just because if you're
trying to write a piece that takes place in America in general,
or New York in particular, where I live, it's completely unreal if
the movie looks like a loaf of white bread. (that was a run-on
sentence, but you get the gist) The problem I have writing these
parts is the same as the problems I have writing parts for women --
the further the part is from my personal life experience, the less
accurate my writing will be. What I hope is that I'll get some
help from the actors after I cast them, not just in their
performances, but in helping me shape the roles themselves.
- Climbing the success ladder to becoming a Hollywood
writer is difficult, and some would surmount almost impossible.
How did you do it?
- There's no magic route to success in Hollywood, or
success in any field, it's just a matter of working hard and,
perhaps, having a bit of luck now and then. But luck is sort of
overrated, everyone has a bit of it now and then, but as the saying
goes, good fortune favors the prepared, if you've done your
homework and honed your talents, you'll be ready to take
advantage of it when an opportunity presents itself. The big break
for me was a spec script I wrote called Bad Influence, that
was the tool I used to get an agent and the first writing jobs.
- You are currently penning Spider-Man. How did
you approach a character that is more of a national icon rather
than a simple character?
I'm starting to view Spider-Man as a tremendous
responsibility, and I can't say I'm crazy about that. You don't
have the freedom you have with your own material, because you're
constantly in the room with the expectations and preconceptions of
millions of fans. While that's a wonderful thing come opening
weekend, to know there's a built-in fan base, it's kind of
intrusive when you're working. Still, you have to remember that
the person you have the greatest obligation to please when you're
writing is yourself, because your instincts and intuitions are all
you have going for you anyway. So you just tough it out, try to
lay low, and hope people appreciate your take on things.
- Being a writer/director is the dream of many. Was it
your dream or did you make a left turn and end up doing this?
- Since film school, I was interested in directing, but I
think until quite recently I would have been outrageously happy
just being a continuously employed screenwriter. But now that I've
tasted the fruit of directing twice, I'm finding writing for hire
to be much less fulfilling than it used to be. Not sure how much
longer I'll be able to do it after Spidey, if at all. Directing is
just too damn much fun.
- Many writers are pigeon-holed into writing
stereotypical content rather than being allowed outside the box.
How can a writer maintain his/her creative control and vision?
- The only way to maintain any kind of creative control
as a writer is... well, actually, there IS no way to maintain
creative control as a writer. Period. It's just not your medium.
And this thing that writers are all fighting for now, to be on the
set? You couldn't pay me. It's TORTURE to be on the set as a
writer. You have nothing to do, and they don't listen to you
anyway. The sorry truth!