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Scott Frank takes leap with "Brooklyn"

Good Lord, look out. Scott Frank is taking the leap. Scott (who I dont think its vainglorious or presumptuous to say is a friend to the site) has signed on to direct his first film. The films title is BYE BYE BROOKLYN (lets hope they fix the punctuation there) and "The Hollywood Reporter" describes it as follows: a period piece set during the 1940s (that) follows a fatherless Jewish boy from Brooklyn who befriends a member of the New York Giants baseball team just before the start of World War II.

Strangely enough, Frank didnt write the script. Those honors go to Jordan Roberts. (Its based on a novel by Glen Brunswick and Steve Kluger.) "Reporter" mentions Scott will oversee the development of the script. One would hope Frank, who is particularly good at getting into the minds of his characters, will take a whack at it.

Scott Frank is an honest, good-natured fella, and hes as famous for his scripts as he is for his reaching out to other scribes. The most admirable thing about Scott is that he takes selfless interest in young screenwriters. Hes a staple at the Sundance Screenwriting Lab, and he told me he loves the opportunity to work with the tyro writers and it makes him challenge his own work and its purpose.

In honor of Franks big step, wed like to take a look back at his films:

Scotts first film was PLAIN CLOTHES. This is a film so well known, in William Goldmans book "Which Lie Did I Tell?" he says of it: Scott Franks first credit is a movie (PLAIN CLOTHES) that Ive never seen. Thanks, Bill. In fact, PLAIN CLOTHES is about a cop who reenters high school to find out who murdered a teacher. His young brother is suspected of the crime.

Mostly dismissed as a B-movie, PLAIN CLOTHES is, in my eyes, an effective comedy. Sort of like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH with guns a-blazing. The scene where Arliss Howard explains to the class what a metaphor is -- by using the workings of a car to describe sex -- is a classic. The reception to the movie was fair to good, and it has a steady cult following on cable and video. I can remember many nights as a young teen passing through the channels and happening upon this flick. If there are any CHEERS fans out there, I suggest you give this a viewing. Youll never look at your beloved seat-warmer the same way again.

Next up was DEAD AGAIN, Scotts ingenious, loopy, dual-realities thriller about an L.A. detective hired to uncover the identity of a woman who has lost her memory. A hypnotist discovers the woman might have led a previous life. DEAD AGAIN was received well, and the encomium for Scotts script was copious. In this rare case it was the writers words -- as much as the showy direction of the helmer -- that was credited with the movies success. Heres a quote from Roger Eberts four-star review: The screenplay, by Scott Frank, is old-fashioned (if you will allow that to be a high compliment). It takes grand themes -- murder, passion, reincarnation -- and plays them at full volume. Yet there is room for wit, for turns of phrase, for subtle little sardonic touches, for the style that transforms plot into feeling.

I read an interview with Scott where he said though Kenneth Branagh shot his script word for word, he missed the tone of his screenplay. (Its an interesting subject: how a director can keep your words, but still make the movie his.) I suppose Scott has backed off of that a bit by this point, because he supports the film and has been quoted as saying hes proud of it (as he should be). Branagh, who, after HENRY V was getting similar scripts, said Scotts script came out of the blue. I had a very powerful reaction. My disbelief was utterly suspended while I was reading it. It reminded me of some of the movies I first saw on television: the woman with no memory, the private eye, the creepy house, the hypnotist. I thought of Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND and its big dramatic score, the Salvador Dali designs, the dramatic lighting. I knew the script had been read by many other directors; perhaps the melodrama frightened them off."

Try to pick up DEAD AGAINs DVD; it has a nifty commentary track with Scott.

Then came LITTLE MAN TATE, which is known for being the directorial debut of Jodie Foster. But theres a lot more going for it than that.

LITTLE MAN TATE is, of course, about a child genius who was born to an average Jane. The mother (Jodie) knows she cant stimulate the boys brain and does whats best for him: sends him off to a school for gifted students and into the arms of Dianne Wiest (a child psychologist). Jodie fears that by doing so she is losing her child. And that, I have to say, is always what got me about the script and the project. The setup is really about the odd situation where the kid is the intelligent and rational one. But Scott and Jodie (who was a prodigy herself) never forget that kids, no matter how smart, are still kids. And the movie is simply about a woman who doesnt want to lose her child. Familial love is the strongest and easiest to understand. And Scott, father of three, knew that.

From what I understand TATE was Scotts first script. He told me it was a mess but people saw he had a voice and helped him through the process. Lucky us.

MALICE would follow. This misfire exemplifies director Harold Beckers ineptitude. No movie written by Scott and Aaron Sorkin should be so odoriferous. Scotts script, originally titled DAMAGED, was rewritten and violated because Becker was too bullheaded and obstinate to see when he was wrong.

Along with the writing, the acting talent was wasted, too. Which is a shame. From the few glimpses into the fun stuff this could have become we can only guess what was originally in store. So it goes, gents. MALICE was a tough experience, apparently; Scott was so sick of Hollywood he skipped favored author Elmore Leonards book about the place: GET SHORTY. Good thing he eventually did.

Ill admit it. Im guilty of calling an adaptation of Elmore Leonard easy. Leonards writing is, I know, novels. But, in fact, gents, its basically a screenplay. All dialogue. Nonstop. The plots as inconsequential as who gets shot on the last page.

But as Scott told me, you get seduced by all the dialogue -- and then you really have to work. Keeping Leonard in focus for an audience is hard. There are a lot of characters, a tangled plot, and its all pretty aimless.

The truth is, SHORTY (which was directed with high-flying grace by Barry Sonnenfeld), isnt as close to the book as you might think. Its Leonard, alright, but Scott shaped and kneaded. Bringing more inside info into the film, giving it a movie cohesion, and paring down Leonards prolixity. But still keeping close to that book.

I think Scotts best addition to the script was the airport scene with the whip pans. Because its one of the best representations of criminal paranoia Ive seen.

GET SHORTY became a hit (Travolta was never more popular at the time) and a lot of the credit was directed at Scotts funny script. Despite Travoltas out-and-out lie that he asked to have Leonards dialogue put back in the script (Scott struggled to keep as much as possible), Scott can be commended with being the first person to write a good adaptation of an Elmore Leonard book.

With SHORTYs huge popularity what it was, I think, in my humble opinion, this opened the second act of Scotts career.

HEAVENS PRISONERS followed about a year later. The film flopped, and its screenplay has a sordid history I wont get into without Scotts approval. Needless to say, the credits lie. Ive always been an admirer of this film. From its awesome opening to its pan-fried noirish feel. Eric Roberts getting his first opportunity to act in years. Alex Baldwin before he went loco with his career. The degenerate denizens of an underworld we dont want to step near but cant look away from. The milieu a guy like Harry Crews knows so well. The film shouldnt be counted out as easily as it was.

Scotts second adaptation of Leonard, OUT OF SIGHT, would get him his Oscar nomination. Even more so than GET SHORTY, this is a very faithful adaptation. Director Steven Soderbergh, who made his comeback with this movie, started his experimentation with timelines here and did a cinematic switcheroo. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez both proved they could be more than their past films and images would suggest. Soderbergh showed the world he could still make good movies (its amazing how he went from zero to the most powerful guy in Hollywood so fast). And Scott became the Leonard adapter of choice.

To be totally honest, I think OUT OF SIGHT is a great movie. Its a BEAUTIFUL movie. But its very close to the book it came from (though Scott added a lot of nice touches to the robbery at the end) and I dont think it got the treatment SHORTY did.

It would appear that Frank dropped out of sight (no pun, please) after his massive success. But fear not. He was just busy writing things on the QT and prepping what will most likely be one of the biggest movies ever made.

Scott did extensive rewrite work on the Robert Rodat/Frank Darabont script of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Rodat got all the nominations and praise, but its believed that Darabonts and Scotts contribution was huge. While Darabont added to the behemoth opening, Scott apparently worked his magic on the players dialogue and was the man responsible for that memorable sniper scene.

Well, you know Scotts rewrites kicked ass because Steven Spielberg placed him in his writers cache. Among the few that Steve calls up every time he needs some fine-tuning or otherwise.

Which leads to MINORITY REPORT. The film, which Scott is sole author of, will star Tom Cruise. Steven and Tom together for the first time. Just think of those previews. The film will be huge, no doubt, and heres why: its going to be the most exciting thing Steven has made in years. Its not some hokey sci-fi movie about gadgets and alien life on far-off planets. It is about loss and the depths a man will go because of his grief. Look out for this one, folks. Its gonna be a doozy.

Scott recently did a quick rewrite on THE RING, which will star the amazing Naomi Watts. And between OUT OF SIGHT and MINORITY REPORT, has had these writing highlights --

Adapting Lawrence Blocks WALK AMONG TOMBSTONES. He started but never finished his much-publicized adaptation of Dahls CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. (That project is still on; I think they should give it to Dan Waters.) Rewriting FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (this has gone through many drafts and writers; Scott, whose father was a pilot, might pick it up again). THE LOOKOUT. This was supposed to be Sam Mendes post-AMERICAN BEAUTY directing gig. He instead went with ROAD TO PERDITION. Ive read ROAD and Ive read LOOKOUT. No comparison: LOOKOUT smokes it. The early draft of LOOKOUT held a few problems with me, but through conversations with Scott Ive learned that those problems have been stamped out and the script has become another shining example of Scotts exceptional ability to create those nuanced, unique personalities that carry the weight of his work.

I know the above is a somewhat inadequate retrospective on Scotts work. But I didnt have much time to do it and I can only hope Scott approves.

This long-winded exercise was to say something pretty simple: Scotts had an incredible career and has given us a steady stream of authentic, honest scripts. You can say what you want, but Ive never felt shortchanged by the man. While everyone resorts to action-movie payoffs, if you go back and look through these films youll see a man who, for the most part, focuses in on extraordinary personalities.

Scotts directorial debut should be interesting, to say the least. Ive never seen a man so talented beat himself up as much as Scott Frank does. So I apologize now to his wife, who will have to hear his imagined traumas from the set. Hopefully shell shoulder the burden for our sake. For a film that will no doubt be another exemplary edition in Scotts impressive offerings.

-- Darwin Mayflower (

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