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The seeds of a memorable film most often comes from the craftsmanship of a well-written screenplay. For the Oscars 2012, the winners in the categories Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay were equally expected as they were surprising.
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were awarded for their delicate adapted drama ‘The Descendants’, capturing the inner turmoil of a fractured family and personal chaos of an estranged father and betrayed husband. Backstage, the Oscar press corps caught up with them.
Q. I was wondering, from their first draft, what did you keep, what did you like, because I’m under the impression that you just rewrote everything and shot with your version of the script. And I’m just wondering what you kept from what Jim and Nat did.
A. (Alexander Payne) They paved a path for me because they had been through the book quite a few times, they had done a number of drafts. I think the main things you know, I’ve got to say in all honesty it was helpful for me to read their drafts both for what I kept and what I didn’t keep. I was able to sort of they gave me the luxury to be able to pick and choose what I personally responded to. What I didn’t keep, for example, was more screen time with the younger daughter rather than with the older daughter. For example, I was much more interested in the relationship with the older daughter. Two items in particular which I did keep, neither of them, sadly, made it in the final film, the girl singing “that shit is bananas.” Anyway, in one scene, you have to read the script, it’s not interesting to talk about.
And at the very end something also maintained, carried over from the novel, which was kind of a joke at the end of the what became in the film we hope a poignant spreading of the ashes, there was a joke which punctuated that. We shot that, that didn’t make it into the final film. But the [unintelligible], it’s just a matter of taste what one picks and chooses from a novel.
Q. I recently saw you were at the Spirit Awards. And you talked a lot about taking original work and making it your own, so I was just curious about what you took from the book and how you put your own original spin on it.
A. (Jim Rash) Well, I think, you know, after our first draft, actually I’m meeting with Alexander and our producer, Jim Burke, and getting some notes, that was sort of a thing that Alexander said to us to put the book aside for a second and get ourselves into understanding this character better. So I think it was more to sort of be able to put that away for a second and expand on it and let the scenes and the emotions there carry us through it, you know, and brighten that story.
Q. Mr. Payne, like the novelist William Kennedy’s ties to Albany, you have very profound and deep ties to Nebraska. And now that this Hawaiian story is over, what is the next part of your Nebraska identity, Nebraska roots, cultural ties and moves, and where does Nebraska fit into your future, sir?
A. (Alexander Payne) It’s been ten years thanks for the question. It’s been ten years since I’ve shot there and I haven’t shot there since ’01 since ‘About Schmidt’ and I’m anxious to go back. If I can cast it right, the next screenplay I’m involved in directing is a father son road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln that gets waylaid in a small town in central Nebraska. I’m from Omaha, so in a way my trying to interpret small town Nebraska is as exotic an endeavor as going to Hawaii. But I’m anxious to do so. I’m having trouble casting it, quite frankly, but I hope it works out.
A. (Alexander Payne) Because the characters I didn’t write the script, by the way, I rewrote it, but I didn’t originate it. They’re very specific. I’m having trouble finding specifically people to fill those roles.
For Best Original Screenplay, Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ ran off with the glory. The quirky romantic comedy about the protagonist Gil, who is swept away in the magic of the Parisian night as he is caught up in a professional, and personal crisis, is cited as one of Allen’s best films in recent years.
The 76-year-old was not present to claim his awards, having consistently avoided the Academy Awards and his recognition within it throughout his career. The Academy accepted the statue on his behalf.
Image Courtesy of Fox Searchlight (Top Image)