Screenwriter Roundtable: Fatih Akin, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. Gordon, Anthony McCarten, Jordan Peele, and Aaron Sorkin
Part of The Hollywood Reporter’s annual sit-downs with Hollywood players.
An excerpt from a THR roundtable with screenwriters Fatih Akin (In the Fade), Darren Aronofsky (mother!), Emily V. Gordon (The Big Sick), Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour), Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game).
Name one screenplay that has particularly influenced you.
MCCARTEN Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. It’s a notch above realistic, and it creates a new poetry in the vernacular.
SORKIN Network. Paddy Chayefsky filled that screenplay with great theatrical language, every bit as meaningful as any image in the movie.
ARONOFSKY The Social Network. I couldn’t put it down — the musicality of it, of the dialogue. It is real and it is grounded, but it’s on a different level.
GORDON I tend to be really appreciative of dialogue, and that’s why the screenplay of Moonlight struck me.
PEELE The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. Both [based on novels by] Ira Levin.
GORDON Good lord!
PEELE What they did within the thriller genre was this very delicate tightrope walk that honored the protagonist in a way that you rarely see in the genre these days. The protagonists are smart and they’re investigative, and there’s an effort to justify why the character doesn’t run screaming. That dance between showing something weird and then showing how easily it can be placed with reality was the technique I brought to Get Out.
Last question. One piece of advice that you would give a starting writer?
AKIN What is the line of [Samuel] Beckett? “Fail again. Fail better.”
SORKIN Advice? Intention and obstacle: Cling to that like a lifeboat. Somebody wants something, something’s standing in their way. Intention and obstacle. Once you have that, that’s the drive shaft of the car.
MCCARTEN Every new writer stands on the border of this undiscovered country called the arts. And you really question, “Do I have any talent?” My experience is: The writer I was when I began was only a fraction of what I feel capable of doing now. Don’t stand on that threshold saying, “I’m uncertain about my talent.” You can grow that part of yourself.
ARONOFSKY Tell only the story you can tell. If you’re trying to tell stories for the largest audience possible, the best way to get to them is by telling the story that really connects with you.
GORDON The best work comes when you are really grappling with something ethically or morally. If it can speak to something that you’re personally going through — not literally, but emotionally, that always makes a better piece of work.
PEELE I would say, we all deal with writer’s block. We all get in our own way. And my mantra was: Follow the fun. If I’m not having fun, I’m doing it wrong.
For the rest of the conversation, go here.
Screenwriter Roundtable: Fatih Akin, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.