Why Buy a Script when you can make it from scratch

I just finished reading What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line by Art Linson. Linson is the producer of such films as The Untouchables, Scrooged, This Boy’s Life and many, many more. This particular book, which is fascinating in the same way that all books about the making of films in Hollywood is fascinating, is mainly about the movies The Edge, Great Expectations, Pushing Tin, The Fight Club and Sunset Strip.
For those of you who’ve always wondered about the origin of the story line about the Bruce Willis character having gained weight and not wanting to shave a beard in the movie What Just Happened (produced by Linson), you’ll find it here in the problems Linson faced (pun intended) with Alec Baldwin while shooting the Edge.
What I found most interesting in the book is that Linson never bought (he seemed to have never even read or even heard of the concept of) a spec script, a screenplay already written. Instead, he always made a movie from scratch (like our grandmothers or great grandmothers would make cakes). This made no sense to me. It’s not that I believe that making a movie from a spec script is going to guarantee a higher quality of movie than one that originates between Linson sitting down with David Mamet and bullshitting until they came up with an idea for a film about a bear; it just seems so damned inefficient.
Though the stories of how the movies he made got made is fascinating, he comes up short when trying to explain why so many of them didn’t work. In the end, though he so wanted to blame marketing (and he often does), his answer is more existential: there is nothing to know because no one really knows why something doesn’t come together and work in the long run. He may be right. They say hindsight is 20/20, but not always.
But Linson’s still making movies and I’m writing about it in a blog, so who am I to say.


  1. I liked many of his movies. I was one of the few people who liked Scrooged. I still think it's one of Bill Murray's greatest performances. At the end of the book, it looked like Linson was on his way out, but he was just starting to make a come back with Heist.

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