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Screenwriting Featurette of the Day: John Milius

John Milius made a name for himself as a writer and director of violent action fare that stresses issues of honor, anarchism, nonconformity and the therapeutic aspects of warfare. Milius first made an impact as a screenwriter and uncredited script doctor on such memorable 70s genre films as Don Siegel's "Dirty Harry" (1971), "Jeremiah Johnson" and John Huston's "The Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean" (both 1972), "Magnum Force" (1973) and Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975).  As a writer-director, Milius crafts luridly dark comic book movies that convey both passion and ideological incoherence, but he stages action scenes with rare authority. His films display a problematic nostalgia for unfashionable notions about chivalry, noble savages and weaponry. (More)

On the Surfing Scene in APOCALYPSE NOW:

"One of the most poignant things of the film is how many California surfers went to Vietnam, and how many didn't come back. One of the reasons I put surfing in 'Apocalypse Now' was because I always thought Vietnam was a California war."

On the line "I love the smell of napalm in the morning..."

"I just wrote it -- it just came up...That's what happens. People love to think that all this stuff happens when you write a famous line -- that you really thought about it a lot."

On Screenwriting

"I consider it a degrading occupation, because everybody's writing a personal screenplay. It's, "Wow, my sister's writing a screenplay," or "Oh, so-and-so's writing a screenplay." Every actor is writing a screenplay. Everybody nowadays gets so much for them, you know, you hear about these bidding wars and stuff. It's out of control.

On his Career

I was the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood when I was twenty-five years old. And I've been the hottest three or four times since. And every time in between there are always these years when "This guy is the hottest thing that's ever lived," and "He just sold a screenplay for five hundred thousand dollars," which is a pittance now. And of course the movie never gets made or it gets made into a piece of shit. The guy disappears into drug addiction. And every year there's one of these new wunderkinds. And I've watched so many of them come and go, but I"m still here. I'm still at large. I'm still a dangerous man"

Sources; 'Apocalypse' writer: Most scripts today 'are garbage';   "Reel Conversations: Candid Interviews with Film's Foremost Directors and Critics" by George Hickenlooper (Citadel Press: 1991)

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