You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Eric Roth on What He Learned From William Goldman: ‘Take the Reader by the Heart’

Somebody (I think it was my hero Francis Coppola) said the movies that most affect us, the moments that changed us, live on the other side of the moon while we live our lives.

Al Pacino kissing Fredo on the lips. Bob De Niro asking a mirror if it’s talking to him. James Dean discovering oil reaching to the heavens in “Giant.” Those Red Shoes. Burt Lancaster waltzing in Visconti’s “The Leopard.” Mary Badham being told to stand up in “To Kill a Mockingbird” because her father was leaving the room. Kubrick looking beyond Jupiter. All of those emotions and images still exist as the movies play out for the rest of our lives.

And how many of these images that walk around with us are from the imagination and the grandeur of William Goldman. He wrote the book for me, literally, on what a screenplay is, and try as I might, and do I ever try, I never could lay a glove on him. He said we shouldn’t just be the handmaidens to the director’s vision, not just assembling shot lists as they did in the days of old, but that we should talk to the reader, take the reader by the heart and the jugular. Be — despite the bastardized form this great art and craft is, this screenwriting — be a writer. Use words for their power, express feelings, have characters that have their own voice and are as individual as each of us is. Have laughter. And joy. And magic.

I write what makes us great and, too, human. When I heard Bill had died I thought there was a silence. He spoke to us in “Butch and Sundance” about a bond between men, had us run for our lives with Dustin Hoffman (and, oh, my God, that dentist scene) in “Marathon Man,” saw a fairy tale when life was too real in “The Princess Bride” and of course there was the transcendent “All The President’s Men,” probably one of the great films, saying we are all equal under the law and representative of where we rise up — the shot down from the Smithsonian Library dome where he is now watching us on high.

You were famously quoted as saying about this business, this art, “Nobody knows anything.” I beg to disagree: You knew something. Goodbye — you can
put your pen down now, Mr. Goldman. Godspeed.

Eric Roth is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Forrest Gump.” His credits include “A Star Is Born” (2018), “Munich,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Insider” and “The Good Shepherd.”

More Film

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Crosses $250 Million at Foreign Box Office

    Things are going swimmingly at the box office for “Aquaman” as the Warner Bros.’ superhero flick hits another major milestone overseas. James Wan’s take on the ruler of the seven seas just passed $250 million internationally, and a weekend haul of $126.4 million from 43 territories brings its foreign tally to $261.3 million. “Aquaman” — [...]

  • Mortal Engines

    'Mortal Engines' to Lose More Than $100 Million at Box Office

    “Mortal Engines,” a steampunk fantasy adventure, is also an epic flop. With a budget of just over $100 million and tens of millions in global marketing costs, executives at rival studios estimate that the movie will lose upwards of $100 million. Some even project that number could float to more than $125 million. “Mortal Engines” [...]

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content