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.
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
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
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
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.