Thursday, September 27, 2007

THE DEVIL'S CANDY by Julie Salamon

The Book: Julie Salamon, THE DEVIL’S CANDY. Houghton Mifflin, 1991 (second printing, signed by author). Book is in fine condition, dust jacket is slightly faded.
First read: 2001
Owned since: 2001

The Devil's Candy is the story of how a can't-miss Hollywood project -- the adaptation of Tom Wolfe's bestseller Bonfire of the Vanities -- took a brilliant director and an A-List cast and produced a critical, financial and career-crippling disaster.

The film version of Bonfire of the Vanities is almost unwatchable. Tom Hanks as a Wall Street shark? Melanie Griffith as a cruel, brittle socialite? Bruce Willis as an effete, self-destructive (and in the book, British) tabloid journalist? Brian DePalma, master of suspense, directing a satire? What were they thinking?

The Devil's Candy explains. Every decision made sense at the time, or else it seemed to be the best they could do. No one sets out to make a bad movie. People set out to make a great movie; sometimes, along the way, they settle for making a movie that's "good enough," and sometimes they just fail in a spectacular way.

Hollywood chews people up and spits them out. Some sell up and go back where they come from. Some stay on and keep trying. Fittingly, I bought this book at a moving sale in my old neighborhood, on the southern edge of Hollywood.

I came out to Los Angeles this week to see the first cut of a movie I worked on, which screened last night. I think the non-disclosure agreement I signed prevents me from identifying the movie here, although if you know me, you know what it is. As soon as I'm allowed to promote the movie here, I will, because -- even in the embryonic form I saw last night -- it is magnificent, and I am proud to have been a small part of it.

Oh, and I saw Across the Universe yesterday afternoon. It is an opera of Beatles music, directed by Julie Taymor, and although it's 20 minutes too long, I loved it. See it in a movie theater, if you can.


Anonymous said...


Given your last two BLOGS, I'd like someday to hear (read) your thoughts about the art of the screenplay, (constructive editorial only, please), just kidding.

I attended a screenwriters retreat last year and learn a great deal about character (my motivation for going in the first palce). I came away understanding that writing a screenplay is really, really hard, and quite different that writing a novel. But, the experience did help me to be more concise.

So, your perspective, and wisdom on the subject would be of great interest.


AnswerGirl said...

I think it's very useful for novelists to study screenwriting, in order to learn how to show personality and emotion through action.

Screenplays should include ONLY what's visible to the moviegoer; adverb tags on dialogue are a hallmark of a weak screenplay. Characters' emotions should be clear from what they do or say, without any narration from the writer.

This is the heart of the writing class admonition, "Show, don't tell," and applies to any kind of prose.

As for my own insights, I just parrot William Goldman. His ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE remains the very best work on the subject. I don't currently own a copy, since I keep giving mine away.