Top scripters' best collected in 4 volumes

If prolific screenwriter William Goldman had any affinity for horses or dentists, the films “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Marathon Man” probably never would have been made.

These admissions and other pathologies can be found in the introductions and essays contained in four volumes of the scribe’s screenplays to be published in February by Applause Books, the largest collection of work ever published by a living screenwriter.

Goldman writes that the sinister Nazi dentist in the “Marathon Man” was inspired by a dentist he saw as a child. “And I knew he had to torture someone because I remembered the pressure from my childhood, of being helpless in the chair with that knee forcing me down, unmindful of my pain.”

A pic is born

Goldman notes that “Butch” stemmed from his childhood dislike of horses. His suffering during a horseback ride as a camper would prove to have a lasting effect. “All I can say now is that almost my entire career was because of a pain in the ass,” Goldman writes.

At 65, he continues to be one of the hardest-working scribes in show business. In 1996, he had three films in theaters based on his screenplays, drafts or rewrites (“The Ghost and the Darkness,” “The Chamber” and “Extreme Measures”).

He begins 1997 with the publication of the four books, which include two compilations (“William Goldman: Four Screenplays,” “William Goldman: Five Screenplays With Essays”) and two screenplays (“Absolute Power” and “The Ghost and the Darkness”).

Among the screenplays in the books are “Marathon Man,” “Butch Cassidy,” “The Princess Bride” (an adaptation of his novel), “Misery,” “All the President’s Men,” “The Great Waldo Pepper,” “Magic,” “Harper” and “Maverick.”

Charitable tome

Aside from the obvious symbol of Goldman’s fecundity, the books serve an altruistic purpose as well: the scribe’s royalties are being donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

The volumes’ essays offer Goldman’s insight after more than 30 years in Hollywood, including his admission that he doesn’t like his writing, but “I constantly remind myself of two salvations. First: I really did do the best I knew at the time. Second: I have only written stuff I wanted to write.

“These are the anchors that have kept me able to face tomorrow.”

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