Monster: Living Off the Big Screen

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9780679455790: Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
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Monster is John Gregory Dunne's mordant account of the eight years it took to get the 1996 Robert Redford/Michelle Pfeiffer film Up Close & Personal made. A bestselling novelist, Dunne has a cold eye, perfect pitch for the absurdities of Hollywood, and sharp elbows for the film industry's savage infighting. 192 pp. Author tour & national ads. 25,000 print.

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Review:

This is a story of a screenplay, how it was initially conceived, "developed" by a number of studio heads and producers, and finally transformed into a movie even its writers admit is mediocre. In 1988, John Gregory Dunne and his wife Joan Didion began work on a film script based on the tragic life of anchorwoman Jessica Savitch. Over the next eight years, studio executives coaxed them to transform it into Up Close and Personal, a toothless star vehicle for Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. In his account of the script's metamorphosis, Dunne also mentions other potential masterpieces of excess that he and Didion worked on, including Dharma Blue, an aborted Jerry Bruckheimer-Don Simpson movie about UFOs and Ultimatum, a nuclear thriller that was abandoned after its studio spent $3 million on script development! Dunne makes no bones about being in show biz for the money--his film work financed his heart surgery, legal costs, and vacations in Honolulu. Still, this account of a screenplay's devolution unmasks an industry spoiled rotten by wealth and power.

About the Author:

John Gregory Dunne wrote six novels—Vegas; True Confessions; Dutch Shea, Jr.; The Red White and Blue; Playland; and Nothing Lost—and seven works of nonfiction, among which are the memoir-like Harp and two books that look at Hollywood, The Studio and Monster. Born in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 1932, he graduated from Princeton in 1954. He collaborated with his wife, the writer Joan Didion, on many screenplays, including Panic in Needle Park and True Confessions. John Gregory Dunne died in December 2003.

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