How Bad Movies Get Made: Robin Hood from Script to Screen

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05/19/2010 12:42 PM |

Cary Elwes takes aim at each of Robin Hoods screenwriters.
  • Cary Elwes takes aim at each of Robin Hood‘s screenwriters.

Last week in this space, Jesse Hassenger noted that, “Once upon a time, there was this idea for a Robin Hood movie told from the Sheriff of Notthingham’s point of view, where Robin Hood is the bad guy and the Sheriff is the misunderstood protagonist. Ridley Scott, among others, showed interest, as did his constant companion Russell Crowe. This project was discussed for years and years, until, after a thorough development process, they finally cracked it and found a way in: what if, instead of Robin Hood being the bad guy, how about a reinvention—one where Robin Hood is actually the good guy?”

Vulture’s Claude Brodesser-Akner has an in-depth report on how, exactly, that “thorough development process” went.

Short version: risk-averse studio groupthink and the “I love that—now change it” mentality of a series of producers and agents and directors and suits who don’t have any ideas except how to make somebody else’s idea better.

It is, one suspects, a fairly typical story, although it turns out that The L and film critic Benjamin Strong may owe something of an apology to credited screenwriter Brian Helgeland for evaluating his work as “atrocious” and cliche-ridden. Inasmuch, that is, as Helgeland was apparently hired to rewrite somebody else’s rewrite of his own rewrite of the original script, and then saw Tom Stoppard hired to provide some on-set dialogue polishing.

Apportioning credit and blame in a big-budget studio development is a fool’s game, but I think we can say with a fair degree of certainty that “I awoke this morning with a tumescent glow” was all Stoppard.

4 Comment

  • My apologies then to Mr. Helgeland. And you’re right, “tumescent” has Stoppard written all over it.

  • It seems like the patented Stoppard dialogue polish has yet to actually work in a movie not actually written by Stoppard (unlike, say, Tarantino, who has done some supposed dialogue polishes that were, if not essential, at least amusing). Wasn’t he rumored to have done some touching up on the Star Wars prequels? And I love those Star Wars prequels, but lordy does their dialogue not sound remotely touched up.

  • Tarantino’s revisions come through loud and clear in Crimson Tide.

  • Jesse, are you implying that Hollywood is so impressed by seeming erudition of a British import that they keep throwing money and prestige at him regardless of the quality of his actual work? Because I’m having a really difficult time swallowing that.