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‘Aquaman’ Screenwriter: ‘This Is My First Movie That My Kids Can Watch’

Aquaman” writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick is looking forward to the superhero movie’s opening because of his three children.

“This is my first movie that my kids can watch and I want to take them,” he said at Wednesday night’s “Behind the Screen” event, held by the Writers Guild of America West at Beauty & Essex in Hollywood.

“They’re dying to see ‘The Conjuring 2,’ but they’re also eight, nine, and 10, so that’s not happening,” he said.

Johnson-McGoldrick co-wrote the “Aquaman” script with Will Beall from a story by Beall, Geoff Johns, and James Wan, who directed “Aquaman” and both “Conjuring” movies. He has every confidence in “Aquaman,” which he began working on three years ago and recalls reading “Aquaman” comic books while on the set of “The Conjuring 2.”

“James Wan knows how to connect with the audience instinctively,” he said. “In horror movies, you’re sometimes rooting for the monster, but in the ‘Conjuring’ movies, you’re rooting for Ed and Lorraine Warren. You’re pulling for them.”

Jeff Whitty, who penned the screenplay for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” with director Nicole Holofcener, said Wednesday that he’s still astounded about how his involvement in the movie came about.

“I was the most unlikely choice at the time,” he noted. “It was 2011 and I was sort of best known for being the Tony Award winner for writing ‘Avenue Q’ so I was an odd choice, but Bob Balaban had read a play of mine set in New York and recognized my voice. So this was very much giving it up to the Gods and a team of incredibly gifted women. I was so happy to be the token male.”

Melissa McCarthy stars as late celebrity biographer Lee Israel and the script is based on Israel’s 2008 memoir. Whitty recalled meeting the notoriously cantankerous author after he had completed the first four drafts.

“On my 40th birthday, my friends were taking me on a bar crawl in Manhattan and we wound up at Julius Bar, which is in the movie,” he said. “I had these bunny ears on and went over to her and said, ‘Lee Israel,’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ very warily, and I said, ‘I’m Jeff Whitty and I wrote the screenplay of your life.’ She said, ‘I was looking at you with those bunny ears on and I told me friend that I couldn’t wait for you to leave.’ So she cut me to ribbons in one sentence and I’ve never laughed so hard. We got along really well.”

Elizabeth Chomko, the writer-director of family drama “What They Had,” expressed profound gratitude to stars Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster, and Blythe Danner for coming on board the pic, which is based on Chomko’s own experience.

“The script won the Nicholl Fellowship so that was really helpful,” she recalled. “I’d been an actor and a playwright, and I’d never felt at home doing that. I was never willing to let anyone else direct it. I’m a first-timer, but the actors were all so passionate and fearless to step in, given the constraints of the schedule. It’s really a piece of my heart.”

Chomko shot “What They Had” in 22 days. She was named earlier in the day as one of Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch.

“Age of Summer” co-writers David Harris and Bill Kiely recalled that they also based the coming-of-age surfing movie on their own lives in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

“I live down there and I watch Bill surf,” Harris admitted. “I really wanted to write this, but I’m terrified of the ocean. Bill’s a good surfer.”

Kiely added, “This really deals with falling in love with it and an outsider trying to fit in. We decided to cast non-professionals as the surfers and I think that brought a real authenticity to the movie. The beach kids really informed the actors.”

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