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Charlie Kaufman is a Rare Scribe ...

Charlie Kaufman is a screenwriter in a rare position. It’s been a while since a screenwriter yielded such respect and influence in Hollywood; maybe as far back as Preston Sturges or Ben Hecht. When Jim Carrey was asked how he got involved with Kaufman’s latest movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, he didn’t even flinch:

“I was given the script. They just said, `Charlie Kaufman.' And I'm like, `OK, where do I sign?'” Carrey told The Associated Press. “I mean, it's just to be part of his legacy. It's like a Hitchcock kind of thing, where you just want to go, `Yeah, I did one of his movies, man!'”

Charlie Kaufman’s movie, lets not forget there is a director and his name is Michel Gondry. The two have a history, Gondry was a music video director when he read one of Kaufman's screenplay's “Human Nature,” which he would make in 2001 with Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette.

Kaufman’s ascendance in Hollywood is somewhat surprising as he’s never written a blockbuster. He is a screenwriter who has actually gained recognition solely from the quality of his scripts, not the price he sold them for or how much his movies have made.

In 1999, his first theatrical screenwriting credit was for “Being John Malkovich.” It made the rounds in Hollywood for years. It was hailed by virtually everyone who read it, some called it “brilliant” and “mind bending.” The story not only used real-life actor John Malkovich as the title, but also as its subject. It what was a surreal fantasy about a door that leads into Malkovich's mind, the actor could not resist it. He would not be the first to be unable to resist a Kaufman script.

Former music video director Spike Jonze did the honors on two of Kaufman’s scripts: “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” and both were positive experiences where Kaufman had input and was on set part of the time. Very few screenwriters get much input once a film goes into product, Kaufman is one of the few who does.

These two films, though not blockbusters, were widely considered cinematic revelations by many in the media. Kaufman could have easily jumped into the spotlight:

“I'm not a celebrity. I'm intentionally and defiantly not a celebrity,” he said. “I don't have any interest in it. I don't have any talent for it. I keep my personal life out of my public life as cleanly as I can.”

Carrey let it be known that the writer has a lot going on. “He's an interesting character because he's got so much going on inside. It's like paisley wildness going on, something weird going on in there. And he's so withdrawn.”

Where does Kaufman find his inspiration?

“I plod along and try to think, and I can't really stop myself," he said. "I'm disciplined in the sense that I probably suffer from (obsessive compulsive disorder) a bit, so I can't stop thinking about things. So I go over ideas whether I want to or not over and over and over. I have a problem in a script or a problem in a story and I just rehash it and you come up with solutions eventually, over time sometimes long stretches are barren.”

His only negative experience, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” the biopic of “Gong Show” host Chuck Barris. The film's director and co-star, George Clooney, didn't want him around.

“That was a very sad experience for me,” Kaufman said. “These things are important to me, these things I write. ... I recognize and embrace the notion of collaboration and other people should, too.”

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is another cerebral and mind altering creation by Kaufman. But this time the germination of the story was not solely his. Director Michel Gondry brought the idea to Kaufman, who turned it into a screenplay.

“I think generally I'm kind of interested in subjective experience, what goes on inside someone's head, that being all they really know of the world,” the 45-year-old Kaufman said in an interview.

The idea for “Eternal Sunshine” surfaced when French artist Pierre Bismuth asked director Michel Gondry what he would do “if a card came in the mail saying you had been erased from a friend's memory and should no longer contact them.”

The story centers on Joel (Carrey), who is such a disheleved, lonely, and non-confident person that he mumbles and barely can make eye-contact with anyone. When he learns that his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has had him erased permanently from her memory, he goes to the same company Lacuna Inc., (“Lacuna” means “a blank space or a missing part.”) and has her completely removed from his. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but we’ll let you discover that on your own.
-- Chris

(Source: quotes and content from an AP story)

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