She’s been called Hollywood’s most distinctive new voice since Quentin Tarantino burst onto the scene. She walks red carpets, signs autographs and appears in glossy magazines with names like Elle and Vogue.
Her fans quote her and she’s become a brand name. She is … a screenwriter? In an industry that treats wordsmiths like hired hands and little else, she has transcended the usual anonymity that goes along with the job to become a star.
The fame that comes along with writing the Oscar-winning screenplay to Juno, the critically acclaimed series The United States of Tara and penning this weekend’s Jennifer’s Body is a bit of a conundrum for the 31-year-old Cody (whose real name is Brook Busey).
“I’m completely overwhelmed,” she told one interviewer.
“My life is chaos. I cannot even begin to explain to you how busy I am or how drained I am. My entire life is completely upside-down. I’m a professional writer and yet I have fewer and fewer opportunities to write.”
That is a problem not many screenwriters have had to face, but occasionally Hollywood catapults a writer from the shadows of their chosen profession into the glare of the spotlight.
Joe Eszterhas made headlines in 1990 when his $3 million US paycheck for Basic Instinct made him the highest paid screenwriter of all time. He’s since been eclipsed by Shane Black ($4 million for The Long Kiss Goodnight) and M. Night Shyamalan ($5 million for Signs) but his outspoken nature — in his bio Hollywood Animal he writes of his competitive streak: “The only time I’ll root for anybody to be a success is if he or she has cancer, and I know for certain that the cancer is terminal” — and party-boy lifestyle made him a legend.
A battle with cancer slowed down his wild ways but he is still outspoken in defence of screenwriters, who he says are treated like “discarded hookers … not invited to premieres of their own movies, cheated of residual payments.”
Years before the title of highest paid screenwriter had been held by Ben Hecht, the pen behind dozens of screenplays including Some Like it Hot and Scarface.
He rarely spent more than a week on a screenplay (and never more than eight weeks) and once said, “Writing a good movie brings a writer about as much fame as steering a bicycle.”
I wonder what he would have thought of Diablo Cody’s fans.
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