“Partly, I didn’t work on anything for [Friedkin] because I didn’t want to disappoint him.”
Seven is one of the greatest procedural films of all time. A dystopic vision of the present, a philosophical examination of justice and punishment, and perhaps the bleakest vision of optimism ever filmed. No, really. All of that came from the script, and the script came from Andrew Kevin Walker.
Andrew was not only gracious enough to join us on this month’s show, but also allowed us to probe his mind regarding the murkier aspects of screenwriting. Some screenwriters see their original works filmed, and others see them languish on the shelf. Some are hired to rewrite someone else’s work, and others find themselves rewritten. Some work on big budget tent-pole scripts only to see the studio abandon the project, and then sometimes come back to it with a new team at the helm. Andrew is one of the few scriptwriters who has been in every situation we just mentioned. If you’re a budding writer, or even vaguely interested in the process, you’re going to want to hear his insights.
But before that happens, Rochelle and Lee kick off the episode by chatting about some of this month’s most notable films. What did they make of Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial melodrama Phantom Thread? Were they won over by Ryan Coogler’s progressive African superhero blockbuster Black Panther? Did they recognise anything of themselves in Greta Gerwig’s northern California Catholic schoolgirl comedy-drama Lady Bird? Was Lee enamoured by, with, of, or near Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut biopic Molly’s Game, and did Rochelle see it or skip it?
But most importantly, what does everyone think of William Friedkin? Andrew’s filmmaker of the month is one of New Hollywood’s most striking visionaries, with just as many all-time classics to his name as obscure curiosities. For someone who made films that are so indelibly branded into pop-consciousness, Friedkin’s filmography is peppered with works both tonally and stylistically unlike anything we think of when someone mentions his name. There were many more strings to his bow than even many of his ardent fans may realise. And hey, that’s what this show is for, right?
If all of that sounds like a lot for one episode, it is. That’s why we used special magnets to pack it into a single hour. Plus there are some jokes. Go listen now.
- Did you enjoy us chatting about Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread? Then you might want to go back and check out the show devoted to the entire Paul Thomas Anderson filmography, such as it was when we
- You’re definitely going to want to head over to Neighbourhood Paper, where Rochelle writes about Phantom Thread and the everyday sadism of marriage.
- Then for SBS Film, Rochelle lists some of the worst takes about Phantom Thread, and why so many reviews may have totally missed the point of the film.
- And still on SBS Film, Rochelle goes into more detail on the glories of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.
- We highly recommend you visit Andrew Kevin Walker’s personal website. As he mentions on the show, you’ll be able to read the first drafts of his films, including Se7en, 8mm, Sleepy Hollow, and so many others. It’s an extraordinary resource, and one hell of a treasure trove.
- If you’d like to know more about the tricky Hollywood screenwriting arbitration process, this blog post at The Bitter Script Reader should give you a good head start.
- There are so many articles about Friedkin’s Cruising, we almost didn’t know where to start linking. But there are a couple of irresistible pieces, including this original New York Times report from September 1979 in which Friedkin defends the film. And then there’s this entertaining tidbit regarding the missing 40 minutes of footage from the film.
- We enjoy a good coincidence, and it was only after recording was complete that we realised actor and playwright Tracy Letts got two unrelated shouts-out in this episode: first as actor, in Lady Bird, then later as the writer of both Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2011) for Friedkin. No article to link to here, we just wanted to point it out.
- We mention the so-called “Exorcist curse”, and because we couldn’t find a satisfactory article about it, here’s a link to a Bloody Disgusting article which basically refutes the whole mystery, although not really.
- We couldn’t find an archive of the Pauline Kael Boys in the Band review, but here’s a New York Magazine piece that quotes it.
- And for the record, Lee did in fact check his copy of Cruising to see if that sound reappeared at the end – and it did not! Time to reinvest in VHS.
Outro music: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield from The Exorcist (1973)
The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website