Screenwriting : Lawrence of Arabia - a great influence. What others? by Frankie Gaddo

Frankie Gaddo

Lawrence of Arabia - a great influence. What others?

Recently I read the screenplay Lawrence of Arabia over three evenings and watched the film on the fourth. The script is 267 pages. I first saw the film about ten years ago, and to be honest, felt lost. This time I researched the history surrounding it, and also being older, had a much fuller comprehension of the film and screenplay which allowed me to appreciate it much more. Steven Spielberg had a sort of similar experience which he expressed in an interview that the first time he saw the film he couldn't handle the enormity of it and wasn't able to fully appreciate it until many years later. He's named the film as one of his four go to films anytime he makes one of his own.

The script is filled with camera and actor direction. It also uses scene headings very sparsely. In William Goldman's screenplay Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, he seems to adapt this technique by not using any scene headings. I also noticed the influence a part of this script may have had on Pulp Fiction. Marsellus is like a king within the parameters of his own world, like Lawrence. When the two characters are taken outside of their world they're raped, creating a stark contrast which humbles them and acts as a big moment in the overall story arc. Lastly, William Monahan when accepting the academy award for best adapted screenplay for The Departed said Lawrence of Arabia is the reason he got into screenwriting.

So it's clear Lawrence of Arabia has had a huge influence on screenwriters and filmmakers that have come after it. So my question is, what other screenplays do you think have had a great influence on screenwriters and filmmakers?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Ten Commandments, Blazing Saddles, Annie Hall, The Odd Couple, Fargo, Taxi Driver, On The Waterfront, Snatch

Wanted to keep it to (10).

Dan MaxXx

Folks don't remember screenplays, they remember movies. The screenplay is an afterthought for study and craft. It's like looking at architecture. People walk and marvel. they are not thinking of the blueprints. the script is just a component, so is directing, acting, editing - lots of craftspeople. I would guess about 30% of a screenplay does not make it to a finished movie.

James Drago

Princess Bride, Pulp Fiction (good and bad)

Doug Nelson

Things were different back in ye olden days. Aside; today's audiences poses the attention span of a bug so you must learn to write accordingly.

Frankie Gaddo

On The Waterfront - now that's a brilliant script, Steven.

Doug Nelson

You'll seem to be talking about good stories/movies - not about scripts.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Still takes a great script to make a great movie. Even if your audience has the attention span of a BUG. And a script IS only a component of a film the Director and actors bring their talent to the film. However no great director or actor can save a bad script.

Dan MaxXx

you can make a great movie without a script. Rely on craft experience. Trust your cast and crew. Clint Eastwood winged it for Dirty Harry, directed himself. The cast of The Usual Suspects made up their own dialogue. Sam Mendes has said publicly he didn't know what he was doing for "American Beauty". Marty Scorsese lets his Actors ad-lib; his long-time Editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, she doesn't even read scripts.

David E. Gates

Dirty Harry had a script. At least according to IMDB:

Harry Julian Fink ... (screenplay) &

Rita M. Fink ... (screenplay) (as R.M. Fink) and

Dean Riesner ... (screenplay)

Harry Julian Fink ... (story) &

Rita M. Fink ... (story) (as R.M. Fink)

Terrence Malick ... (screenplay) (uncredited)

Jo Heims ... (story) (uncredited)

John Milius ... (screenplay) (uncredited)

The Usual Suspects - Writer: Christopher McQuarrie

American Beauty - Writer: Alan Ball

Frankie Gaddo

On The Waterfront - strong protagonist, protagonist journey, characters, love story, principle lesson - the script. And of course, it's also a great film brought to life with strong acting, directing, and cinematography. I wanted to try and keep the thread specific to screenwriting. Yes a script can go through changes from pre to post production, but the bare bones of it at the least will always stay the same. But yes, the lines can get blurred sometimes given a script eventually is pushed into a collaborative process. And it's the finished film that's remembered rather than the script, as scripts are written to be turned into movies. If the script isn't turned into a movie chances are it won't ever widely be heard of. So to clear the fog a little let's say 'the script in its original form as actually written on the page, or the script the best you can make it out indirectly from watching the finished film made from it.'

Dan MaxXx

When I was reading professionally, there was a hot spec script called "Stay" by D Benioff. Just about every Exec and Agent in Hollywood loved it. Better than Sixth Sense- that was the buzz. I think the spec sold for 7-figures and fast tracked into production. The movie was a BO flop, starred an A-List actor (Ewan mcgregor) and Oscar director, Marc Forster. From memory, I think Forster is faithful to script, scene by scene.

Hell or High Water- the movie is almost word by word, scene by scene of the original 2012 black List script.

Doug Nelson

I've seen/read a few excellent scripts over the decades. I've witnessed fine scripts turned into trash (a real pity) and I've watched some ho-hum scripts made into some really fine films. It goes both ways. Very rarely a truly magnificent script falls into the right hands resulting in a truly magnificent film.

Babz Bitela, President/Silver Bitela Agency/WGA

I loved Hell or High Water. The script was superb.

Frankie Gaddo

Yeah, I liked the tone, feel, and setting (story world) of Hell or High Water a lot. It's essentially a western, and I think it was actually classified as one at a time? It isn't on imdb right now though. Lawrence of Arabia feels like a western a lot of the time. I'm sure it took inspiration from Hollywood's golden age of westerns. It's cool to see scripts not actually based in America during the 1800's that are like westerns.

Frankie Gaddo

And yeah, sometimes a script is done justice and sometimes it isn't. I always felt like the script for con air is better than the movie. I read panic room this week and watched the movie yesterday. There were a lot of minute changes made. I think a lot of them must have been changes by the director of things he thought the audience wouldn't get. A lot of the third act was changed too. In the script, the mother breaks into the panic room through the neighbor's house to save her daughter. I'm not sure why it was changed, it may have been a location scouting issue. I don't know.

Fiona Faith Ross

I'd put The Shawshank Redemption on the list.

Dan MaxXx

Panic room and the brownstone apt was fake, built on a sound stage.

Wikipedia page says the test audience didn't like the original ending and David Fincher reshot.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Hitchcock was quoted as saying you need three things to make a great movie: script, script, script.

Frankie Gaddo

Hitchcock was a smart man. And panic room did a good job making it feel like a real apartment. That CG shot that floated from the top to the bottom of the apartment created the illusion of the sets all feeling connected (assuming they used various sets and didn't build the entire actual apartment). I assumed maybe they had a spacing issue from setting up the distance of the neighbor's home from the panic room in the flashlight sos scene to her breaking into it in the third act (if they were on location). But at a 48mil budget, I'm sure they could probably solve any issue (use ext rain sets, whatever). But I really had no clue, was just speculating, and had my eye more on the script to screen elements of the movie. Good and interesting to know though.

Shawn Speake

That MaxXx is a wise man!

David E. Gates
Jenny Masterton

LOVE Lawrence of Arabia! Martin Scorsese talks about his influences here:

James Drago

Fantastic share Jenny Masterton Thank you

Joe Orlandino

I read "The Big Lebowski"....thought about if for a while, mixed myself another drink and just said, "fuck it man."

Gregory Green

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is one of my all time favs. The dialogue (used sparingly) written by Robert Bolt is brilliant.

Matt Tucker

Would be remiss not to mention Robert Towne's 'Chinatown,' the script Syd Field references the most in the work he's published on screenwriting. Whatever you think of Field's work, 'Chinatown' is a hell of a script to pull apart and study.

Simon King

LoA is absolutely a go-to for how a story should be told; screenplay or otherwise. Another is Chinatown; the perfect combination of dialogue, action, character, and setting.

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