If they don’t always get all the credit they deserve or a lot of time on the Emmy show itself, this year’s nominated writers in five different categories got a lot of love and all the time they wanted to make a speech while accepting official certificates of nomination at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Thursday night.
Writing Governors Kirk Ellis and Margaret Nagle along with The Writers branch Peer Group Executive Committee threw a lively and loose pre-Emmy celebration of all things written for TV this year with a very well-attended cocktail party (nicely coordinated by the Academy’s Barbara Chase) plus formal presentation in the Academy’s massive Leonard Goldenson Theatre hosted by Breaking Bad’s 3-time Emmy winner and 2012 nominee Bryan Cranston. Clips of all the nominated achievements were shown followed by a ceremony in which stars of those shows gave Emmy certificates to their writers.
“Everybody says it all starts with a script but in this hall we really believe that,” said Ellis in getting the evening rolling. Then in introducing Cranston, Nagle pointed out the close relationship between actors and their writers by saying, “In interview after interview he always states his admiration for writers and he means it”. Pointedly referencing Clint Eastwood’s rambling, improvised appearance at the GOP convention Cranston entered carrying an empty chair which he put beside the podium. “Was there ever … Read More »
Frank Pierson had a magical way with words, so it is ironic that the most famous movie line he ever wrote is: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”. Frank Pierson never suffered “failure to communicate”. That iconic phrase uttered by Strother Martin to Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967) – one of Newman’s greatest movies EVER — was even voted by the American Film Institute as the No. 11 greatest movie quote of all time. It’s even now part of a Guns N’ Roses song, “Civil War”. But Pierson, who died today at age 87 after a short illness, didn’t even know if he would be allowed to keep it in the script that also has Donn Pearce credited; he was author of the original book in which the line doesn’t exist. Isn’t that always the way with such immortal lines? Thank God it was left in. It’s hard to imagine this great film without it.
Pierson was nominated for an Oscar in the adapted screenplay category for Cool Hand Luke. It was his second nomination there: Two years earlier, his script for the classic comedy Western Cat Ballou landed him his first nomination, even though, as he said, he was the “11th writer” on the project. But he was the one (with inspiration from the film’s “10th writer”, Walter Newman) who finally cracked it. turning the dramatic Western into a comedy. It won Lee Marvin the Best Actor Oscar and made a star out of a drunken cross-legged horse to whom Marvin offered half his Oscar. It too contained another now-famous line said by a young Jane Fonda: “You won’t make me cry. You’ll never make me cry”. And of course his Oscar-winning original screenplay Dog Day Afternoon (1975) saw Al Pacino chanting another famous phrase, “Attica! Attica!” According to movie lore though, that may have been improvised on set, but there can be no doubt whenever Pierson’s name was on a script it was bound to contain immortal bits of dialogue to go with great screenplay structure and high-class writing.
His films as a screenwriter included some very fine underrated movies in his later career like Presumed Innocent (1990), which starred Harrison Ford, and In Country (1989) with Bruce Willis. But for me, a nifty little 1971 caper picture starring Sean Connery, The Anderson Tapes, has become a hidden gem in the filmography of both Pierson and its director Sidney Lumet. Of course, they would collaborate four years later on Dog Day Afternoon, but check out Anderson, like Dog Day a great crime/heist picture but one that almost seems forgotten 40 years later. It shouldn’t be. Read More »
Exceptional Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Frank Pierson, who became presidents of both the Writers Guild, West, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, died today in Los Angeles of natural causes following a short illness, according to his manager. He was 87. Gentlemanly yet ornery, meticulous yet creative, Pierson compiled a remarkable writing resume, starting in the 1950s with television shows like Have Gun, Will Travel and Playhouse 90, followed by five decades of seminal films like Cat Ballou (screenplay by Walter Newman and Frank R. Pierson), Dog Day Afternoon (screenplay by Frank Pierson), A Star Is Born (screenplay by Joan Didion & John Gregory Dunne and Frank Pierson), In Country (screenplay by Frank Pierson and Cynthia Cidre), and Presumed Innocent (screenplay by Frank Pierson and Alan J. Pakula). Even in his later years, he worked for HBO on telemovies, AMC as a writer/consulting producer on Mad Men, and on CBS in the same function for The Good Wife. Phil Robinson of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Governors Writers Branch said today: “Young rock ‘n rollers always look to the old bluesmen as models of how to keep their art strong and rebellious into older years. For screenwriters, Frank has been our old blues master for a long time. He’s always shown us – better than anyone else – how to do it with class, grace, humor, strength, brilliance, generosity, and … Read More »