Tag Archive for 'william devane'


Nightbird Publishers interviews Heywood Gould about his new book SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER and about his life as a writer 





Will we be seeing another Heywood Gould project on the big screen soon?

Hope springs eternal. There’s been some early interest in SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER.

Do you miss Hollywood and the director’s chair?

Yes. The best thing about directing is you’re not writing, but you have a good excuse. Also, a driver picks you up and takes you home. You have your own trailer where you can nap undisturbed. You’re allowed to cut the lunch line. The crew guys call you “sir,” and pretend to be impressed with everything you say. As a writer you’re an object of disdain. As a director you have the illusion of being in control.   I can’t say enough terrible things about the movie business. How harshly you’re exploited. How your work is cheapened; by illiterates who take credit for your success and blame you for their failure.  The way the valet parker somehow knows you’ve had a flop… But I would drop everything to make another movie. Any movie. Anywhere…

Who were some of your favorite actors you have worked with on your films?

The ones who knew their lines and did what they were told, which means the day players and character actors. It was fun watching the big stars at work. Peck, Olivier, Newman, Cruise—they really are larger than life. There were some who understood the script— Bill Devane, Elizabeth Shue, Brian Brown, Jon Seda, Rachel Ticotin. Richard Portnow, John Capodice, among others–and said the lines exactly the way I heard them in my head.  In the beginning I would become frustrated when an actor’s portrayal didn’t match my conception. But, after a while I realized that the character changes from page to screen and an actor can rightfully claim ownership of the person he/she is playing. You hope for the best. 

How does the process of writing a screenplay differ from the process of writing a novel?

A screenplay is the characters and the story. A novel is authorial presence, ideas, language.A novelist agonizes over every word. The screenwriter has a few automatics—“Interior, Exterior, Fade In, Dissolve To—and all-purpose phrases—“the car explodes,” “she moans with pleasure, “the wizard turns into a hissing dragon,” “Will Ferrell drops his pants” etc.  A screenplay doesn’t require elaborate, eloquent scene setting, back story, insight …But that doesn’t make it easier to write. A screenplay that someone has labored months over will usually be read in one sitting over a Starbucks frappacino by a frazzled assistant who has to write reader’s reports on five more scripts by the end of the week. Most people in the movie business don’t know how to read a script so it has to be as novelistic as possible. The scene and character descriptions have to be vivid and concise. Some idea of the “attitude” of the movie is necessary, along with simple explanations of motivation and action. The entire script has to have a hypnotic pace that keeps the reader’s jaded attention. The novelist can learn from the brevity and focus of film dialogue. The screenwriter can learn from the airtight plotting of a good novel. Screenwriters should notice that most great movies were made from novels.



You’ve lived on both east and west coasts, what do you like best about each?

In California you can go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. I did neither. In NYC you can you can hear great jazz and get mugged outside the club. I did both. In Cali some guy can decide you cut him off on the freeway and blow your brains out.  In NYC the train you were taking to Brooklyn can end up in Queens, leaving you freezing in a crack war zone waiting for the shuttle that never comes. The weather’s not so great in Cali. New Yorkers aren’t half as smart as they think they are. I lived in Cali for nineteen years and never went to the beach. I was born in NYC and have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the top of the Empire State Building. The Mexican food is better in Cali. The Italian food is better in NYC. In NYC the literati can decide you’re just a hack. In LA the whole town can suddenly decide —as if someone sent out an e-mail blast– that you’re not bankable. You pick your poison.

Who inspires you?

James Joyce, who went days without eating. It took him years to find a publisher for “Dubliners,” and then the printer refused to print it because it had a few “bloody”s in it. Fitzgerald who died broke in Hollywood convinced he was a failure. The Russian writers– censored, exiled, murdered. The contemporary Chinese writers– muzzled. The Cuban poet who was imprisoned for twenty years.  All I have to whine about is some editor/producer/critic/reader who doesn’t understand how great I am. And boy do I whine.

Tell us about your military experiences. It’s well known you were a reluctant warrior during the Vietnam conflict. How did you end up being drafted? What kind of action did you see? Did that experience shape your storytelling in any way?

I’m working on a short book of comic (I hope) memoirs about being drafted. The world will have to wait with bated breath.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Sit around and beat myself up for not writing.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

A very bitter person in a job I hated. Although lately I’ve been thinking I might like to raise goats.



AutoBARography: A Noir Rewrite


Everybody loves beautiful gringo girls!
As promised, here is my correspondence with ROLLING THUNDER co-scripter Heywood Gould.

From me:


If my email is an intrusion please forgive me. I am a film programmer at the Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Austin TX. I will be presenting Rolling Thunder next week and I was curious about the collaboration on the script with Paul Schrader.

Specifically, who wrote the first draft, did you collaborate actively or were you brought in to rewrite an existing script. Or none of the above? Did director John Flynn write any of the script?

The reason I thought to ask you was that Quentin Tarantino mentioned a few years ago when he visited us that his favorite parts of the script were your contributions. Which really got me wondering about specific scenes in the context of your and Mr Schraders’ work.

This is all old news and possibly small potatoes to you but I will write up the film and hopefully in some small way the information you provide can help film historians in the future.

Thanks for your time,

Lars Nilsen

From Heywood Gould:


Let me answer your questions and then give some background. Paul Schrader wrote the first draft and I was brought in to rewrite. I never spoke to him about it and haven’t met him to this day. John Flynn didn’t do any writing, but like a good director he and producer Larry Gordon shaped the script. In the great tradition (now lost) they let the writer do his job and then made adjustments.

I was working as a bartender in Soho, living in a residential hotel and generally having a blast. Bill Devane had read a draft of a script I wrote called Fort Apache the Bronx, plus my novel One Dead Debutante. I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes, but I know they were already in prep when they decided they needed a rewrite and he suggested me. So they flew me to LA and I met Larry Gordon, the producer and the director, John Flynn. I read the script that night and as I remember it was a relentless bloodbath, which I guessed they didn’t want. At the meeting the next day I said they could keep the structure of the story, but needed more scenes to explain Raines, more emotion in his family life, more realistic bad guys, and they definitely needed a plausible, sympathetic woman (who doesn’t?) I did a little writing out of sequence because they wanted scenes for the auditions. I wrote the scene in the bar where Raines meets Linda Haines first and then the scene in the garage where he relives the torture for Cliff. (The line “you learn to love the rope” became the motto for the shoot when the temperatures went over 110.) Then I did the homecoming scene with Raines and his wife in which she tells him she’s found another man and stuff where he reconnects with his son.

I pretty much wrote the picture (or thought I had) in LA and went home. The next week they called and flew me down to San Antonio to do a production rewrite based on the locations they had chosen. I stayed for about a month and ended up writing new scenes for Raines and Linda and rewriting the fight scenes and the big brothel shootout at the end. The only scene they wanted intact was the one with John’s family where they talk about the Japanese cars, although I remember I wrote the last exchange between John and his dad. I wanted to show some unspoken love and communication between the two men because I objected to what I considered to be the original’s heavyhanded snobbery about working people.

A picture changes a lot when the reality of cast, location and schedule sinks in. John wanted scenes punched up and new scenes written. I wrote the target practice scene between Raines and Linda after he looked at dailies and decided the relationship was playing well and he wanted more.

That’s the best way to make a picture, keeping it alive and open to the very end.

I keep saying I remember because I was drinking mescal and eating cabrito every night and there’s a lot I don’t remember.

This was the first feature I ever worked on and it was a great experience.

The crew was old Hollywood mostly second or third generation, whose families had come up in the Golden Age. They were calm and professional in the face of the grinding pressure to finish long days on a short budget on location. I didn’t realize how unusual that was until I witnessed the hysterical anarchy in which most other pictures were made.

The budget was a million-three so there was no room for error. The line producer, Norman Herman, could look at the lens and know what the frame would be. The UPM, Tony Wade, went across the Mexican border, and rented real brothels (and some of their employees) for the big shootout. The First AD, Pepe, had been Henry Hathaway’s first and got the crew to hustle in the blazing heat without ever raising his voice. He brought his little dog on the set and it never barked during takes.

John was completely prepared. He had an encyclopedia of shots in his head. “This is a Kurosowa 150…” Or “A Huston low angle…” He may be one of the most underrated directors ever and you should definitely give him a retrospective. At least show “The Outfit,” which is a terrific picture.

We became close friends and I was shaken by his sudden death.

The crew worked hard, partied harder, and were ready to go the next morning. We were staying at the Holiday Inn and making good use of the bar. After the first week I noticed we had a discreet contingent of Texas Rangers hanging around to protect us from obstreperous locals. They studiously ignored the strong herbal odors coming from the prop truck.

An amiable old man in faded jeans and scuffed boots started hanging around, cadging drinks. One night he approached shyly and asked if we would come to his house for a barbecue. We didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He told us to start looking for his name when we got twenty miles out of town. We found his name, but it took us ten more miles to get to his house. Turned out he was one of the biggest ranchers in the area. He barbecued a whole steer and the fixins for us that day. His daughter thanked us for being so “hospitable” to him. And I caught a look a shrewd amusement in his eyes as we wandered around in awe.

In the bar of the Holiday Inn one night one of the local stunt men said he had been Roy Rogers riding double. The Hollywood stunt guys took this as unpardonable blasphemy and demanded a retraction. Before I knew it I was in the middle of a brawl. The next day the stunt guys came over to me and said: “Hey, you New York writers can really handle yourselves.” To this day that’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten in this business.

I could go on and on.

Hope I answered your question.