I am exactly halfway to the goal of my daily wordcount: a short but meaningful scene in which a random Australian surfer gets attacked by what he first assumes to be a shark. This leads up to one of the moments I’ve been anticipating since beginning this book, but I must say: I am not exactly writing what I know. (Although I have been to Australia more than once, and look forward to taking my boys there, I’ve never even been to Bondi Beach, much less the dangerous riptide southern side of it, which is where this scene takes place.)
So I procrastinated by heading over to A Socialite’s Life hoping for the latest on Britney’s marriage (when is she going to divorce this dude? I’m curious to see how fast he blows through his settlement) and came across this little nugget about a guy who used to write for FRIENDS:
One thing that wasn’t so exciting was the frequent appearance of the cast members to pitch their ideas to the writers. “Matthew Perry was the only one we’d listen to,” Bernstein says. “He’s a genuinely funny dude and could be a comedy writer. The rest of the stuff was inane.”
At the time Bernstein was on the “Friends” staff, Aniston was dating Brad Pitt, and Pitt’s movie “Fight Club” was released. Some of the writing staff was invited to the premiere and reported that at the after party, Aniston came up to the writers and said, “Guys, seriously, we need to do more stuff like this.”
The writers said something to the effect of, “Yeah, but this is a gritty, edgy, violent thriller. We write a half-hour comedy for network TV.”
Bernstein recalls that from then on, whenever Aniston would call with ideas or complaints, the writers would hang up and one of them would say, “What we need to do is stuff like ‘Fight Club.'”
“That was a running joke all year,” Bernstein says.
Which reminded me of something I hear often in Hollywood: how movie stars have way too much creative input into the scripts. I remember the writer of PAY IT FORWARD being particularly outspoken about this — blaming Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, and the executives who couldn’t stand up to them, for taking her story and turning it into mortifying saccharine mush.
On the other hand, the first moment I actually developed some respect for Brad Pitt was when I heard about how, when he agreed to do the movie SEVEN, he had it put expressly into his contract that the ending of the movie would remain as written. And if ever there was a film that should not have its ending redesigned to placate test-screen audiences and nervous execs, that would be the one. Good for him.