What: It’s late August 2001 with only a few weeks left before the private shares in Landshark, a cutting edge internet company run by brothers Tom and Joshua Sternthal, will go public and make everyone rich.
Who: Tom Sternthal, 27, has the kind of confidence and arrogance that drips young internet entrepreneur. But Tom, whose brother Joshua is the computer brains behind the operation, is all flash and not enough cash; he just doesn’t know it. Tom is to business what Victoria Beckham is to design – high fashion today, out of fashion tomorrow. For now, the presumption is that everyone wants in and Tom is manning the velvet ropes.
Int. Royalton – Lobby – Morning
Décor by Philippe Starck. Three bored, anxious suits, glancing at their Rolexes. And a large, clumsy, bespectacled guy named Joshua Sternthal. He’s the Chief Technical Officer of Landshark; and, by eighteen months, Tom’s older brother.
There’s a Nokia earbud in Joshua’s ear, a thin wire dangling down. His eyes drift off, as if he’s listening intently, while his mouth makes excuses:
Joshua: I’m really sorry, guys. (attempting a joke:) You know how it is. He gets nosebleeds above 14th Street.
Joshua: Okay. Here we go. He’s on 44th. He’s outside. He’s handing his car to the valet. Yes. He should be here in—Here he is.
On Tom… as he threads his way to the table. Sits down. Grabs a waiter’s elbow.
Tom: (to the waiter) Tall skinny five-shot latte.
To the table:
Tom: I see you’ve met Joshua. He’s our cee-tee-oh. He writes code like—Like no one on the planet. He dreams code. (beat) Brad, Jonathan, we’ve met of course. And you’re—
Suit #3: Mason Neuberger.
Tom: Good to meet you. (beat) So.
With a truly winning grin:
Tom: You’re UniSol. We’re Landshark. Let’s make money.
Several beats of silence.
Tom: What’s your best sense of how to make use of us?
Tom: Where’s the synergy? What can we do, together, that’s really blink?
Again, no answer. Finally:
Suit #1: We were—
Suit #2: What Brad is trying to say—
Suit #1: Thanks, Jonathan. Where was I? Okay. We were expecting –
Suit #3: We were expecting your proposal.
Joshua: If we’ve miscommunicated here, I sincerely apologize. I think that what Tom and I—
Tom shoots him a look.
Tom: (interrupting) We are who we are. The brand speaks for itself. If you want a strategic alliance, you let us know what you’re willing to put up, how much cash, how much equity. Our CFO, as you know, is Dylan Gottschalk, and you can reach him pretty easily—Once you’ve made up your minds.
Tom grabs the latte from a passing tray.
Tom: (to the waiter) Bagel with lox. Extra lox. I need fish. Much much fish.
Suit #1: What we need—(beat) Well, you can understand, it’s going to be pretty hard for us to sell this upstairs.
Tom: Maybe next time we should be having breakfast with ‘upstairs.’
The Suits look at each other. The one in the middle actually stands up.
Suit #2: Big words for an em-oh-pee.
Suit #1: M.O.P.? Haven’t heard that one.
Suit #2: (answering his colleague but looking straight at Tom) “Millionaire on Paper.”
Suit #2: You were in lockup for what, ninety?
Suit #1: It was a one-eighty lockup. And they’ve got about seven weeks left.
Suit #2: So it’s all on paper.
There is no battle between style and substance as far as Tom is concerned – style wins every time. The very appearance of success is all that is necessary to guarantee it… unless the NASDAQ is undergoing another meltdown and Landshark’s stock goes below a dollar. Timing, after all, trumps everything unless you have a Plan B. And Tom’s Plan B is his brother.
Joshua has always been the ant to Tom’s grasshopper, investing along the way . But, when the light goes on,
Joshua: Just because I’m smart—
He looks his brother in the eye…
Joshua: --doesn’t mean I’m stupid.
…and walks away.
Tom, who has always depended on his charm, very successfully at that, finds his world closing in on him as questions are asked about his substance – from his brother, from his parents, his employees. Looking for safe harbor, he thinks he’s found it at his favorite bar in a woman he meets briefly. But everything is slipping out of his grasp, not the least of which are his brother’s shares, no longer his own, lost to a street shark for a long disguised gambling problem. And when, at last, Tom is willing to sign over a majority stake in his firm to a venture capital group, Tom and the company are undone by his lack of impulse control. As Tom and his executive staff are about to be escorted off premises, he has one last encounter with Power; not Tom’s grade school version of it, but true, ruthless, take-no-prisoners old guard fuck-you Power with a capital P in the form of Cyrus Ogilvie of Barton Ogilvie.
Ogilvie: I was in Adams House at Harvard, you know? So I made some friends. And then Wharton, and made a few more. And in Southhampton, where we summer. So. On the Street, you could say I have a lot of friends. And they look to me, for my opinion.
An armed, uniformed Security Guard now appears on the other side.
Ogilvie: So when I tell them, I tell them that we looked at the Landshark numbers, and that we didn’t see a future—(beat) I don’t have to say it loudly. I have only to whisper it. Do you understand?
And the elevator hits 0.
No Meaner Place: “August” was actually a produced feature with a theatrical release. Although atypical of what No Meaner Place generally covers, it was intriguing to read an excellent script that went so completely off the rails when it hit the screen. Rodman’s opening, concise, tense, rapid fire, beautifully introduced us to his main characters - the soft, insecure Josh and the brash, arrogant, insensitive Tom. This is also where we first encounter the style and substance dilemma when “cool” (Landshark) initially meets “money” (corporate UniSol); a dynamic Tom underestimates, as the balance of power can shift dramatically without warning, which of course it does. Amazingly, the director made two poor choices right off the bat. The first was his lack of trust in the initial scene, choosing instead to begin on a series of short cuts of Tom going in and out of some of his favorite haunts and flashing the cash. The second, and this was the greater misstep, was the casting of Josh Hartnett, an actor with a look and not much else, in the role of Tom. Ironically, I found myself fantasizing about what Tom Cruise (when he was in his late 20s, early 30s) would have done with the role (believe me, Shia LaBoef never entered the picture, but Colin Farrell did). And like the mistake the director made at the beginning, he repeats it at the end when he leaves out a prior crucial, anonymous encounter that Tom has with major Wall Street hedge fund operator Cyrus Ogilvie; the encounter that triggers Ogilvie’s vitriolic, anti-Semitic speech indicating that he will get more pleasure from the demise of Landshark than from owning it. Critical, descriptive dramatic moments were cut, and those that weren’t were played by Josh Hartnett.
I was recently in Walgreens and saw the DVD for sale at $3.99 and all I could think of was that it was still too expensive, because that’s 90 minutes I’m never getting back.
Life Lessons for Writers: Do your best to make sure that it’s on the page… then it’s up to everyone else to screw it up.
Neely: Well, first off, my condolences for a script well-written and ill-produced. Where did your idea for the story come from in the first place? Did you pitch it or was it pitched to you?
Howard: Neither. “August” had two immediate sources. One was some of the people that I went to college with who were silver-tongued devils and found themselves in an era where the less real their product was, the more successful they could become. Any business that lost more money each quarter was presumed to be better than a business that worked on an even keel. And another was this whole new language that was popping up. You know, where people would talk about things like “disintermediation” as if that really meant something. I was fascinated by the kind of wild land-rush, tulip-bubble enthusiasm surrounding the internet. I was particularly fascinated because I love almost anything that has a technical vocabulary. I love the way that people who inhabit a little part of the world talk about what they do.
As an example of a micro-world, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I spent a day in barista training. There’s a woman named Heather Perry who’s a two-time U.S. barista champ (note: who even knew there was such a thing?) and she gives lessons in Upland and Rancho Cucamonga. She looked at me tamping my espresso grounds and she said “You’re thumb-heavy.” And that’s a phrase I would never have heard. It’s a lovely phrase and I’m going to put that in a screenplay someday.
So when I heard people talk using all these incredible vocabularies, this distortion of language and private languages that went along with the internet bubble, I was hooked. So that was one source of it. I think another source was, perhaps, my very favorite American film of all time. It’s a film called “Force of Evil” written and directed by Abraham Polonsky and starring John Garfield. In that film, John Garfield plays a guy who is an amoral, deeply ambitious, fast-talking lawyer for the numbers racket, and he’s got a brother who’s the accountant. It was the relationship between those two siblings and the sense of brotherhood. I have a brother and I’ve always loved brother stories. Romulus and Remus was enough to build a city. At the same time, I’d just seen a screening of “King of Marvin Gardens” at a revival house, a movie written by Jacob Brackman and directed by Bob Rafelson, in which Jack Nicholson, believe it or not, plays a very recessive, shy guy, and Bruce Dern plays his much more extroverted older brother who has a scheme to rebuild Atlantic City, which, at the time the movie was made, was ludicrous. And of course that movie scheme became something very real and now, heaven help us, we have Donald Trump. (It just seems, in some way, that little movie unleashed him on the world.) But I knew I wanted to do a movie about a couple of brothers, one of whom can make castles appear before your eyes by the power of the language he weaves and another one who actually does the work in a much more quiet and recessive way. I had a certain knowledge of castles made of air from my college classmates, a certain fascination with a technical vocabulary and a certain sense of who my two protagonists were. So that, to me, was enough. When I’m writing on assignment, I tend to do outlines and beat-sheeting, but when I’m writing for myself, what I like to know is who my people are and where it ends. I’m actually happier if I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m writing because I get excited that way.
Neely: So this was written on spec and sold.
Howard: That sounds much more glorious than what really happened. It was a film that nobody asked me to write that nobody was waiting to read. When I finished it, various people who read it said to me, “This is interesting and well-written, but it already feels a little dated.” It was like it was 6 months-ago’s-news and I think that was part of the problem. There were already a few movies that dealt with some aspects of this that were either out or were about to be released. It did get a little bit of traction. It got – I’m not sure what you call it when a producer options something but doesn’t pay you for it – that thing. But nothing really happened and I put it aside. A friend of mine said, “Put it in a drawer for a year and then take it out and it will be a period piece and much more interesting.” And I said, “And what do I have to do in that year?” And he said, “Nothing.” So I always love it when I can make money when I sleep or when scripts can develop themselves without my…
Neely: …having to do anything.
Howard: So I waited a few years and dusted it off and looked at it again and realized that I still liked it. I gave it to my agent who found a young producer without much of a track record but with great enthusiasm; and we optioned it and were off to the races. I think the major change that happened in those years was that it was written before 9/11 but now it was after 9/11. So I decided to do something which was chronologically a large cheat and falsehood, but emotionally made sense to me. I conflated the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the collapse of the world of lower Manhattan, post 9/11. In real life, depending on how you count, there was somewhere between 9 and 12 months between those two events. I just conflated them because I thought that, emotionally, if we’re going to do a period-piece and talk about a world no longer there, what better way (and not to make a big point of it) than to include in the film one shot of the World Trade Center and set this in the August before the September of that event.
Neely: And by the way, I like that conceit.
Howard: Thank you. It’s cheesy, but I don’t shy away from the cheesy when it comes to me.
Neely: I don’t know. I found it thought-provoking. It threw you off balance in an interesting way. I just liked that the script actually juxtaposed a piece of air, which is basically what Landshark was, with a soon-to-be-momentous occasion, thereby weighting one even more. It doesn’t matter that the dot-com bubble had technically already occurred because similar companies have continued to come and go.
Howard: That’s very kind of you to say. The basic plot-engine of “August” which is the same as the plot-engine of most Michael Maltese-Chuck Jones cartoons. You have Wile E. Coyote over the edge of a cliff; he’s churning his legs and pumping his arms and he’s fine for a good long time until he looks down and then woooooooooo, splat. I love those moments before Wile E. Coyote looks down and I love those moments before the accountant comes showing that you’re actually an air merchant. I think another inspiration for this was that I had had a gloriously protracted adolescence that I spent in lower Manhattan before Tribeca had a name. There was Soho, which did exist, and then there was that other neighborhood where we were drinking and some of us were living that we called “Uhoh.” Like “uh oh, there’s no laundromat” or “uh oh, what do I do if I want to buy a beer after 10 at night and there’s no deli or corner store.” I think there was a sense of community with all of the artists, con artists, dreamers, schemers, creative folks and alcoholics, and the membranes between all of them were pretty permeable. I liked that sense of community in that particular part of the world, so that was another thing that contributed to my thinking. So the script was not developed in the normal way, which is to say that it was written, gestated, and then rewritten.
Neely: How extensively rewritten was it?
Howard: I would say that the basic plot-engine stayed the same. I think what I did do was sharpen up the part of the story that had to do with the parents. I had left wing parents, and when I was growing up as a young radical I, of course, looked at them with a certain amount of thinly veiled contempt for a while. Now, of course, I feel quite differently. As I watched my own kid growing up (he’s now 17), I was wondering how he would look up at me and my student radicalism and my Godard posters in the living room and my book shelf full of “those” books – those pretentious New Directions paperbacks. The film parents got expanded as my way of making fun of myself and also of dealing with the fact that I was now of an age where the people who played the parents in the movie were far closer to my age. This was a kind of stunning, and at first kind of dismal and then empowering realization.
Neely: Who were your producing partners on this and who chose the director?
Howard: The first producing partner was someone named David Guy Levy. We went out to a lot of directors, but those directors were either not interested or were busy or whatever. Then David, in collaboration with my agent Frank Wuliger, found a movie that I had heard of vaguely, a Sundance film, but had never seen called “XXXY” directed by Austin Chick. I liked the work in that. I thought he did extraordinary things on no budget and thought he got really good performances. I think in most first-time independent films the thing that is the most problematic is the performances. And I thought Austin got really good performances. David and I met with Austin at Nate ‘n Al’s, if memory serves, and talked about the script. Austin was a Brooklyn boy, as am I originally, and that made certain conversations easy. It just seemed like a good fit and Austin had some notes and they were good. So I did another draft for Austin. That’s how the movie started moving forward. David, the original producer, did not bring enough funding to make a film, so through David and my agent, we got Original Media involved, and they got some other folks involved and that’s how it happened. I’m most familiar with the long and awful process with non-studio movies by which you gather together foreign pre-sales. But this was done differently. This was financed by private equity, so there weren’t all those horrible transatlantic phone calls and all those things where you replace one piece of casting and the folks in the Netherlands are really happy but the folks in France are dispirited.
Neely: How involved were you allowed to be in all of the pieces?
Howard: I would say there have been times were I was more intimately involved. I mean I was very intimately involved in “Savage Grace” during the six or seven years that took to make. In this it was much closer to a more standard dynamic of “writer writes script; writer options script; producers have script; director comes on board; film gets made.” It was less like “let’s build a tree house” than it was a much more standard way of making a film. That being said, because this was an original script, I was involved with the process. I was brought by them to New York for the two weeks preceding the shoot to write. I mean it wasn’t the sort of cut-and-dry that I think we’ve all experienced where they don’t even remember who wrote it when they are actually shooting.
Neely: What about the casting process? What was the thinking there and did you have any say?
Howard: I genuinely believe that you need, as a writer, to hand off your work to a director; you need to let go. In my most intensely collaborative relationships with directors it’s a sort of two step process – where I let go of the fact that I wrote this thing and give it to someone else in whom I have enormous faith and who can do things that I can’t; and then I think, sometimes, the second step of that process is that they invite you back in and they say, “what do you think of this actor?” or “Come to an audition” or “What do you think of this choice” or “We’re thinking of shooting it here. Do you think this is accomplishable? What do we gain what do we lose?” That’s kind of the process that I’m used to but sometimes that second step is more substantial than other times. Here, for instance, Austin was gracious enough to let me come and watch some of his Los Angeles auditions and that was fun to watch. But it was clear to me that I was a graciously welcomed observer, rather than somebody who was a more integral part of the process. I was an executive producer of the film and that was not a nominal title, but it was also a situation where it could be either a screenplay that was my platonic-ideal of a screenplay or it could be a messier movie. I chose to do the latter and I’m happy that I did.
Neely: I’m especially interested in why the director made some of the script choices that he made. Any insight, because he really lopped this off in a couple of places?
Howard: You can say that, but my perspective is different, Austin, who is a writer as well as a director and had never before directed something he had not himself written, did a pass prior to production. I think part of it was that I had given him everything that I knew how to give in terms of what he had asked of me. There were things that he asked that I just didn’t know how to do and I thought he could do better than me. That was part of it. Something else I’ve learned that is truer in the independent world than it is in the industrial studio model, is that a really well-written scene that the director does not understand is not going to be a good scene on the screen; whereas a scene that the director has some ownership of and some feeling for is going to be a better scene even if you or I might think that technically it’s more poorly written. So I really believe in the necessity of a director to understand and have ownership of the work that she or he is doing. Sometimes they accomplish it by rewriting, sometimes they accomplish it by working closely with the writer, and that to me is always preferable. But in this case, Austin, in order to make the film work for him needed to make changes. And then I came on after Austin’s changes and I went back to work. So there was a kind of collaboration, and then a kind of serial- collaboration, and certainly we had different opinions but we were not shy about voicing them to each other. I liked those conversations even when we didn’t have the same point of view.
Neely: Well, I guess I’ve made it pretty clear about how I feel about the choices he made. You know, as a writer, if you have a strong beginning and a strong finish people will often times, providing it’s not 3 hours in the interim, forgive a weak middle. As far as I’m concerned, from what I read in your screenplay and what I saw on film, he cut the teeth out of the initial sequence, which introduces the characters. This says nothing of the fact that the particular actor wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway, but in terms of the choices the director made in the making of that scene, he unduly softened it. And at the end he also cut out the teeth when he cut a critical scene involving the frustration of the main character, Tom who is filled with anger management problems, arrogance and entitlement that lead to his downfall; even more importantly, as far as I’m concerned, cutting the anti-Semitism at the end. Now I don’t necessarily think that the anti-Semitism was the main point because, when all is said and done, the main point was that the still Waspish Wall Street world can say “Fuck You. I don’t care who you are and what you have because I have so much money that I don’t have to care about a young upstart like you. I can buy you and sell you or choose to drown you just because I can and because you’re not one of us.” But Austin knocked the legs out from this scene.
Howard: I think if you’ve had anything to do with a film – if you’ve written it, directed it, if you’ve edited it, you’re seeing about six or seven thousand movies that aren’t there, as opposed to the one that’s actually up on the screen. When you’re making a movie there’s all kinds of things that come into play. We’ve all seen it happen when the actors who make the financing possible may or may not have been the actors you imagined in your head. You have the situation where the writer, director and producer have somewhat different visions of the film and its larger trajectory and what it should accomplish emotionally and what it should accomplish practically. It gets messy, so the final film that gets made, in almost every case, isn’t the film that any one person wanted to make. It’s a residue of different desires and a residue of what happens when you bump up against practicality; when you have 32 shooting days and you wish you had 40; or when you can’t get that location. You bump up into the logistical walls.
A friend of mine who had worked with Sidney Lumet, a director I think very highly of, made the following observation. “Here’s something Sidney did before every film. Sidney got everybody who was involved in a room, like the director, the writer, the producer, but also the DP and the editor, if the editor was already on board, and also the composer, if the composer was already involved. All the heads of the departments and the physical production people, like the first AD. And they went around the room and talked about what each of them thought the movie was about. And you’re not really looking for consensus or unanimity, but you are trying to get everybody on the same page because even small technical decisions ultimately are informed by an effect of what the larger sense of what the movie is about.”
So we tried that and we didn’t, of course, all see the same movie.
Neely: (laughing) You can’t possibly have.
Howard: I mean that happens occasionally. For instance, having watched him work, the movie you see on the screen from Peter Greenaway is astonishingly close to the movie he saw in his head before he wrote a word on paper.
Neely: But he writes and directs all his own films.
Howard: Well, I do think there are people who are in such tenacious and lovely control of what they do that those artifacts are minimized. But for the rest of us, I think movies are the kind of clumsy residue of the way many many different people see the world. And if you’re lucky, if you’re fortunate, all of those things work in syncopation or synchronization or lovely arrhythmia, and you get something larger and more satisfying than anybody could have imagined on their own. On a good day, I think that happens. A day that’s not a good day, you just get something that is not quite anybody’s vision.
Neely: This was not a good day. Again, it’s not just that the teeth were knocked out, the emotion was removed also. And I’m unhappy because this was on paper and it was a very visually written script, by the way – just in case you didn’t realize it (laughs). It was very visual. But what ended up being produced from a visual, emotional, in some ways evil, dynamic script was bland. For whatever reason that was, and unfortunately no matter how much you dance around it, it was on the page and so the director obviously had a different vision. I can’t imagine that the end product was what his vision was, but perhaps so. He may have been trying to make what he thought might be a more universally big budget, wide-scale distribution film, because you had, for that time, a hot actor as your lead, although, in the end, he just had an “it boy” look and not much else.
Howard: Let me speak to that because I don’t think that the failure of the film was that I wanted to make something small and evil and the director wanted to make something large and commercial.
Neely: I didn’t say that you wanted to make something small. This should always have been a big movie.
Howard: Okay. Well, in terms of the casting, I think everybody brought things to it that I think were very useful and interesting. I do think that our lead had a natural charisma which was very helpful to us, actually. And I think there are actors, like Rip Torn and David Bowie, who are iconic figures who bring that with them in a way that’s a useful shorthand for audiences.
Neely: Unless they’re miscast – Rip Torn, college professor of poetry?
Howard: Look, I don’t want to… I’m not trying to defend my film or be defensive about it.
Neely: No. But I also don’t believe that in the end you’re happy with what the end product was.
Howard: All I can say is that I take responsibility for my own work and I take responsibility for the decisions I make and, again, I would rather have a kind of rougher, more lumpy thing that gets made, than a screenplay I can be obscenely self- congratulatory about with me and my 2 ½ friends. I just find that the process of making films - good, bad or indifferent – is so thrilling; you get to manifest something in the world. For instance, I hear a line reading in my head when I write every line of dialogue. Really what I’m doing is imagining a movie that I’m transcribing. When an actor comes and gives a really different line reading of that line of dialogue, nine times out of ten I like it a lot better than what I’d heard in my head before the actor came on. It has more flavor notes. Sometimes it runs kind of contrary to the tone I’d set up in interesting ways. There were many moments like that in the film “Savage Grace” where there were scenes that I’d imagined fairly well. And then when Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Dillane were acting it, what came out of their mouths and what registered on film was very very different than what I’d imagined and I just found it richer and more interesting.
I think self pity is the black-lung of screenwriting and I think one of the easiest things to do is to say “Look what they done did to my screenplay.” And I think the far more interesting thing to do is to write as many things as you can because that’s how your voice emerges; and then get as many things as you’ve written manifested in the world because I think you learn more in a day of shooting than you learn in a week of story conferences because you see what plays and what doesn’t - what is actually a real scene as opposed to what resembles a scene on paper but isn’t a real scene. So in terms of my own growth as a writer, I would rather movies that were not exactly as I imagined them to an endless succession of screenplays on my shelf that remain in perpetuity exactly as I envisioned them.
Neely: Well… the most successful writers move on and write more.
Neely: There’s no question about that. So, after the film came out and didn’t do well (the word “tanked” comes to mind), was there any Monday morning quarterbacking on the part of the producers and/or director?
Howard: No. Certainly this was not a film that transformed my career but it wasn’t designed to do that, nor would it have even in another version. The fact that I could write a small producible quirky film had already been priced into the valuation of my stock. I mean, just in terms of who I am emotionally, I try to learn good lessons and I try to make my work better. I don’t spend a lot of time going coulda/woulda/shoulda or holding other people responsible for choices I had some hand in making.
Neely: I guess I’m being particularly harsh about all of this because, in the light of Aaron Sorkin’s masterful adaptation of The Accidental Billionaires, the opportunity was missed with “August.” “August” was a fictionalized portrait of today’s 20-something internet entrepreneurs who all seem to have great ideas but negative personalities. Whereas a negative personality is a major deficit in Big Business, including Wall Street, it seems almost de rigueur for the “net.”
Did you have “inspirations” when it came to your main characters? Actually we sort of talked about that in terms of what you had seen at the time – these guys talking about “air.”
Howard: Both because of my own sense of honorability and also because of the libel laws in this country, I don’t want to talk about specific corporations that rose and rose and rose on clouds of their hot air, but we all saw them in those days.
Neely: (laughs) Oh yeah. We still are seeing them.
Howard: There was a period of time when Amazon was losing money hand over fist and each quarter it lost more money than the quarter before and everybody took that as a good sign. And it was! It meant that they were taking seriously their own expansion and their own scaling. Then, of course, there were other companies that had insane valuations and it turned out that there was no there there.
Neely: I’m pretty sure we invested in some of those.
Howard: (laughs) But I found those periods deeply deeply fascinating.
Neely: Like I said, your screenplay was quite prescient. I guess if I have, well resentment is too harsh a word, regret or coulda/woulda/shoulda, it was already there.
Howard: Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.
Neely: The opportunity was there, but there are lots of missed opportunities in the world – I’ve had plenty of those myself. You move on, otherwise you’re stuck in the morass of self regret and self pity and what does that get you. Even so, I still have to ask – was what ended up on screen in “August” what you had hoped or envisioned it would be?
Howard: It's not the job of a filmmaker to make the film that the screenwriter envisioned. That would be pouring amber over a literary document, not making a movie. (Similarly, when I'm adapting a book, it's not my lookout, nor should it be, to worry first and foremost about the film version that the novelist sees in his/her head...) So, no, what was up on the screen wasn't what I'd imagined - but there were moments that were far better than what I'd imagined, like some of the gestures and lines that Adam Scott found in his portrayal of Joshua - sweet and sly and complex and smart.
Neely: Well you (and everyone else now) knows how I felt overall about the film, but on a more positive note, I definitely agree with you on Adam Scott’s performance which showed the depth and complexity that was on the page.
I know you just returned from Sundance. That would be a good topic to talk about in a further conversation next week. To be continued.