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In the panel Choosing The Story To Tell, producer Scott Alexander discussed the underlying similarities in the stories he’s drawn to tell. With producing partner Larry Karaszewski, Alexander did Ed Wood, The  People Vs. Larry Flynt, and Man On The Moon. He describes all these projects as “anti-biopics… biopics about people who don’t deserve one…” Biopics are structures around a personality. “We study every single possible source there is, and you find yourself turning into a journalist. I’m a guy who goes to look in Periodicals Index in the library…” said Alexander. With Auto Focus, Alexander and Karaszewski had to “hard-core develop the script for two years.”

Of the Arabian Nights script he’s currently writing for Sam Raimi, Alexander said, “It’s really hard. I’m not used to writing about heroic characters who are good… our impulse is always to subvert the character.” Roxanne Bogucka spoke to Alexander during the film festival.

Scott Alexander

RB: I was wondering if you could talk a little more about the anti-biopic and these people who have these sort of Dada-ist lives that attract you.

SA: Okay, what, what’s the question?

RB: A little bit more, explain to our readers about why these subjects, these anti-biopic subjects, how you select them and what’s attractive about them. You mentioned anti-biopics as what you had done with Man On The Moon and The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Ed Wood, so say what’s attractive about—

SA: They’re attractive because, you know, the cliché is “conflict is drama,” and these characters are pure conflict. I mean, you got mainstream society saying, “Things are done this way,” and we’re writing movies about guys who are saying, “No, it isn’t. It’s done my way or the highway.” And then they’re so impassioned and they’re fighting a big wave that’s about to crash down on them the entire movie, and they’re just refusing to give in. And it makes for colorful characters and that’s more fun than a noble character, for me.

RB: Could you tell me some about how you came to Bob Crane, with the Auto Focus movie and also talk a little bit about your research and development process for Bob Crane?

SA: Okay, I produced it, I did not write it.

RB: But you said you spent, like, two years—

SA: Yeah, some guys came to us. Todd Roskin and Michael Gerbosi came to us with the rights to a book called The Murder Of Bob Crane. Which was about the crime investigation, and they sort of wanted to make a movie about the police procedural. And my partner and I weren’t really interested in that, but we thought the story of Bob Crane’s moral slide from upstanding family man to degenerate addict was an interesting tale. Sort of a tale of morality turning into amorality, and a man sort of losing his compass and not being able to get back. And so we said to Michael, the writer, we’ll work with you on telling that story, but we feel really strongly about the way to tell this sort of movie. And if you’re going to work with us, you got to do it our way. And he was real eager to learn and this was his first big thing, and so we just sort of helped him shape the material the way we thought the three-act story should be told. And then we did about five or six drafts with Michael.

RB: I found it pretty creepy. I found it really creepy in Auto Focus, like you were talking about the slide… This was like Mr. Normal White Bread Suburban Anyguy, who becomes this addict. And he’s like this geeky guy and you can see it happening with the obsession. He’s obsessed with the new technology of the VTR—

SA: It was important to us to structure that movie, at least this is the way I like to do movies, that the audience can identify with him right off the bat. And he’s going to go on such a strange trip. It was really important to me—and we had a lot of fights about this—you know, you see him with his kids. You see him going to church. You see him leading a regular life, so the audience could sort of get in the car with him. They could say, “All right, he’s somebody like me. I understand this guy.” And then you get plunged down into hell with him.

RB: Also I was wondering about this Marx Brothers project and your research and things for that. Somebody, some group of people who are so well known like the Marx Brothers and the research you would have to do, do you do all—do you look at fiction things too? I just read Carter Beats The Devil, have you read it yet?

SA: I haven’t, I haven’t read it yet, but I hear that it’s great.

RB: The Marx Brothers are in there, but it’s a while before you know that they’re the Marx Brothers, because the magician’s traveling around with these brothers…

SA: I heard the book was being so clever that it actually refers to their mother as Minnie Palmer, not Minnie Marx. And Minnie Palmer was a sort of an affectation, stage name she used. Marx Brothers, we read every book every written about the Marx Brothers.

RB: Fact and fiction?

SA: No, fiction isn’t going to do me any good. I mean I was just, I’m used to making movies about guys who have nothing on them. Andy Kaufman, there was no book. Larry Flynt, there was no book. We just had to piece it together. But the Marx Brothers, there was two dozen books, and I’ve read every word of every one of those books.

RB: Thank you very much.

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