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Screenwriter Eric Roth

Hollywood Awards honoree

“Tenacity is a good trait,” says Roth, who has spent the last dozen years on “The Good Shepherd,” which opens in December, directed by Robert De Niro.

Begun with Francis Ford Coppola and attached at various times to Philip Kaufman and John Frankenheimer, “Good Shepherd” covers the beginnings of the CIA, from 1939 to 1961. As for how the film changed from filmmaker to filmmaker, Roth admits, “I gotta be honest, it’s changed very little except for length. It was too long, and we’ve had to fashion something that’s not a five-hour movie. I think it’s as real a CIA movie as has ever been done, but at its heart it’s still a drama and still a family story.”

Regarding the film’s long gestation, Roth has been there before with films like “Forrest Gump” and “Munich.” As he puts it, “They all take a long time.”

Rarely does Roth write with a specific actor in mind. “I did with ‘Forrest Gump’ because Tom Hanks expressed interest in the material. But that’s dangerous when the actor says he’s not interested,” he says. “I prefer to write it without anybody in mind, but you have to be practical.”

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