It should come as no surprise that there are dozens, if not hundreds of movies about writers. After all, who is coming up with the ideas for these movies? Writers! The very people who put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards, and come up with the ideas that are the building blocks of film.
This weekend The Words, starring Bradley Cooper, Denis Quaid and Zoe Saldana, is the latest movie to explore the process of putting words in the right order.
Woody Allen has featured writers in many of his movies—Meryl Streep plays a writer in Manhattan, in Midnight in Paris Owen Wilson portrays a screenwriter visiting Paris–but Deconstructing Harry features his most vivid portrayal of a tormented author. Woody plays a novelist with writer’s block whose characters come back to haunt him. “I’m a guy who can’t function well in life but can in art,” he says.
Allen also played a writer in The Front, a movie about a talentless hack who “fronted” for blacklisted writers. Allen’s performance, however, is overshadowed by Zero Mostel as an out-of-work comic in this savage indictment of the McCarthy witch-hunt.
David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch is probably the most hallucinatory look at the writing process ever put on film. How strange is it? Typewriters turn into bugs, that’s how weird it is.
To get into the character of Hunter S. Thompson for Where the Buffalo Roam, Bill Murray hung out with the Gonzo journalist. In preparation for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Johnny Depp did the same thing, which led to a friendship that lasted until the writer’s death. “He knew I worshiped him,” said Depp, “and I know that he loved me, so he may have been part father figure, part mentor, but I’d say the closest thing is brothers. We were like brothers.”
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle showcased the alcohol-fuelled work of satirist, poet and all round bon vivant Dorothy Parker. Jennifer Jason Leigh, plays the writer from her heyday at the legendary Algonquin Round Table to her time as a Hollywood screenwriter. Of her Tinsel Town work she said, “I write doodads because it’s a doodad kind of town.”
Finally, 2002 was a particularly good year for writers on film. Nicole Kidman won and Oscar playing author Virginia Wolfe in The Hours and Adaptation featured Nicolas Cage, the star of the film, also playing the film’s writer!