Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes

9 Films Punched up by Famous Screenwriters

Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes

Whether a script needs to be completely re-written or simply have its dialogue punched up, Hollywood isn't wanting for scribes who can get the job done—including a few well-known names who have worked on projects you might not expect. Here are nine famous screenwriters who helped write other people's movies. 

1. She’s All That (1999) — M. Night Shyamalan

Getty Images

Before Hollywood writer/director M. Night Shyamalan dazzled audiences with his films The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the Indian-American filmmaker had a career as a screenwriter, ghostwriting scripts that needed additional work. The most notable (and inexplicable) screenplay Shyamalan had a hand in crafting was the teen movie She’s All That in 1999. 

While promoting his film After Earth, Shyamalan told Movies.com that he co-wrote the Robert Iscove-directed film. Although Shyamalan had already revealed his contribution to She’s All That during the press tour of the film Signs in 2002, the teen movie’s credited screenwriter, R. Lee Fleming, Jr., took umbrage with Shyamalan’s claims. The reality is Fleming wrote the original screenplay, but Shyamalan was hired to re-write and punch up the story and dialogue. Shyamalan didn’t receive a film credit for his rewrites, but Iscove mentioned his work on the film’s DVD commentary.

2. It’s Pat: The Movie (1994) — Quentin Tarantino

Getty Images

Director Quentin Tarantino and Saturday Night Live alumna Julia Sweeney are good friends. They met through Harvey Keitel when he was hosting SNL in 1993, and the pair got along so well that Tarantino wrote a part specifically for Sweeney in his 1994 film Pulp Fiction.

Tarantino was also a big fan of Sweeney’s recurring SNL character Pat, an androgynous person who searches for love in Los Angeles. Tarantino co-wrote the film adaptation's script, but refused credit and considered helping with the script as a favor to his friend.

3. Kung-Fu Panda 2 (2011) — Charlie Kaufman

Getty Images

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is mostly known for writing weighty films featuring introverted, self-doubting characters. So when news broke that he was hired to consult during the early development on the screenplay for Kung-Fu Panda 2, DreamWorks’ decision almost made sense considering the fragile emotional state of the animated film’s protagonist Po (voiced by Jack Black). Kaufman only worked on the film for two weeks and merely polished the screenplay.

4. The Rock (1996) — Aaron Sorkin

Getty Images

During the mid-'90s, after the success of A Few Good Men, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin worked as a script doctor in Hollywood. He was one of many screenwriters hired to re-write and polish Michael Bay’s sophomore effort The Rock in 1996. While it’s unclear which parts of the action film Sorkin was personally responsible for, there are a number of scenes involving the White House that are reminiscent of his TV series The West Wing.

Screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh and Quentin Tarantino were also brought on to re-write The Rock, while British screenwriters and long-time Connery collaborators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were hired to punch up Sean Connery’s dialogue.

5. Speed (1994) — Joss Whedon

Getty Images

Before director Joss Whedon delivered the third highest-grossing movie of all time with Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012, the geek icon spent a majority of the '90s as a screenwriter and script doctor. While Whedon worked on scripts for X-Men, Waterworld, and Twister, the 1994 runaway action film Speed was Whedon’s most notable uncredited work.

Although screenwriter Graham Yost received the only writing credit on the film, Whedon wrote almost all of its dialogue and contributed some of its characters. Ultimately, Whedon’s writing credit was arbitrated off the final version of the film, but the 49-year-old filmmaker owns one of the few movie posters of Speed that includes his name. 

6. Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) — Joel & Ethan Coen

Getty Images

The film remake of the 1977 film Fun with Dick and Jane had been floating around Hollywood for years until screenwriters Judd Apatow and Nicolas Stoller and director Dean Parisot brought the Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni starring vehicle to the big screen in 2005. But in 2003, director Barry Sonnenfeld was attached to the film along with The Mask co-star Cameron Diaz, who was slated to play the housewife-turned-criminal with Jim Carrey as her on-screen husband. The screenplay also received an uncredited re-write from Joel & Ethan Coen, who had a knack for writing comedies featuring criminals with The Ladykillers, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Raising Arizona

7. Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) — Carrie Fisher

Getty Images

While Carrie Fisher is best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, she branched off into professional writing after the success of the series' original trilogy. She showed off her razor-sharp wit with the novel and film Postcards From the Edge and the soul-piercing memoir Wishful Drinking. Fisher also worked as a script doctor on the films Hook, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer, among others.

Her unexpected work on Lethal Weapon 3 was her most notable job as a ghostwriter in Hollywood. The strange pairing received mostly mixed reviews, but garnered hefty box office receipts with $321.7 million worldwide in 1992.

8. Coyote Ugly (2000) — Kevin Smith

Getty Images

In the late '90s, writer/director Kevin Smith was the toast of Hollywood, known as a writer producing sharp and snappy dialogue. After the success of Dogma in 1999, he was hired as a script doctor on the film Coyote Ugly. While Smith admitted that there were eight writers brought on to revamp the screenplay, only one, Gina Wendkos, received credit.

Smith also mentioned that he’s usually brought on to punch up a screenplay’s dialogue, but on Coyote Ugly, a number of Smith’s contributions involved scenarios and set pieces.

9. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) — Tom Stoppard

Getty Images

Thanks to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead and Shakespeare in Love, British playwright-turned-screenwriter Tom Stoppard is mostly known for putting a post-modern spin on the work of William Shakespeare—but he's also worked as an uncredited script doctor, notably on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for which he wrote a majority of the dialogue. While the dialogue and wordplay in the third movie in the Indiana Jones film series is punchy and clever, Stoppard’s unexpected re-write and polish on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is mind-boggling. Sith is flat and wooden, until its third act encounter between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader (formerly Anakin Skywalker) in an epic lightsaber battle. Stoppard’s characteristic pathos can be felt as a struggle between good and evil unfolding on the big screen.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
iStock
iStock

Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
iStock

The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
15 Facts About the Summer Solstice
iStock
iStock

It's the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, so soak up some of those direct sunrays (safely, of course) and celebrate the start of summer with these solstice facts.

1. THIS YEAR IT'S JUNE 21.

June 21 date against a yellow background
iStock

The summer solstice always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but because the calendar doesn't exactly reflect the Earth's rotation, the precise time shifts slightly each year. For 2018, the sun will reach its greatest height in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time.

2. THE SUN WILL BE DIRECTLY OVERHEAD AT THE TROPIC OF CANCER.

A vintage mapped globe showing the Tropic of Cancer
iStock

While the entire Northern Hemisphere will see its longest day of the year on the summer solstice, the sun is only directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees 27 minutes north latitude).

3. THE NAME COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUN APPEARS TO STAND STILL.

Stonehenge at sunrise.
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

The term "solstice" is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun's relative position in the sky at noon does not appear to change much during the solstice and its surrounding days. The rest of the year, the Earth's tilt on its axis—roughly 23.5 degrees—causes the sun's path in the sky to rise and fall from one day to the next.

4. THE WORLD'S BIGGEST BONFIRE WAS PART OF A SOLSTICE CELEBRATION.

A large bonfire
iStock

Celebrations have been held in conjunction with the solstice in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Among these is Sankthans, or "Midsummer," which is celebrated on June 24 in Scandinavian countries. In 2016, the people of Ålesund, Norway, set a world record for the tallest bonfire with their 155.5-foot celebratory bonfire.

5. THE HOT WEATHER FOLLOWS THE SUN BY A FEW WEEKS.

Colorful picture of the sun hitting ocean waves.
iStock

You may wonder why, if the solstice is the longest day of the year—and thus gets the most sunlight—the temperature usually doesn't reach its annual peak until a month or two later. It's because water, which makes up most of the Earth's surface, has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a while to both heat up and cool down. Because of this, the Earth's temperature takes about six weeks to catch up to the sun.

6. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHER AT STONEHENGE TO CELEBRATE.

Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Matt Cardy, Getty Images

People have long believed that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on the winter and summer solstices. While there's no proven connection between Celtic solstice celebrations and Stonehenge, these days, thousands of modern pagans gather at the landmark to watch the sunrise on the solstice.

7. PAGANS CELEBRATE THE SOLSTICE WITH SYMBOLS OF FIRE AND WATER.

Arty image of fire and water colliding.
iStock

In Paganism and Wicca, Midsummer is celebrated with a festival known as Litha. In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.

8. IN ANCIENT EGYPT, THE SOLSTICE HERALDED THE NEW YEAR.

Stars in the night sky.
iStock

In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice preceded the appearance of the Sirius star, which the Egyptians believed was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile that they relied upon for agriculture. Because of this, the Egyptian calendar was set so that the start of the year coincided with the appearance of Sirius, just after the solstice.

9. THE ANCIENT CHINESE HONORED THE YIN ON THE SOLSTICE.

Yin and yang symbol on textured sand.
iStock

In ancient China, the summer solstice was the yin to the winter solstice's yang—literally. Throughout the year, the Chinese believed, the powers of yin and yang waxed and waned in reverse proportion to each other. At the summer solstice, the influence of yang was at its height, but the celebration centered on the impending switch to yin. At the winter solstice, the opposite switch was honored.

10. IN ALASKA, THE SOLSTICE IS CELEBRATED WITH A MIDNIGHT BASEBALL GAME.

Silhouette of a baseball player.
iStock

Each year on the summer solstice, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks celebrate their status as the most northerly baseball team on the planet with a game that starts at 10:00 p.m. and stretches well into the following morning—without the need for artificial light—known as the Midnight Sun Game. The tradition originated in 1906 and was taken over by the Goldpanners in their first year of existence, 1960.

11. THE EARTH IS ACTUALLY AT ITS FARTHEST FROM THE SUN DURING THE SOLSTICE.

The Earth tilted on its axis.
iStock

You might think that because the solstice occurs in summer that it means the Earth is closest to the sun in its elliptical revolution. However, the Earth is actually closest to the sun when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter and is farthest away during the summer solstice. The warmth of summer comes exclusively from the tilt of the Earth's axis, and not from how close it is to the sun at any given time. 

12. IRONICALLY, THE SOLSTICE MARKS A DARK TIME IN SCIENCE HISTORY.

Galileo working on a book.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Legend has it that it was on the summer solstice in 1633 that Galileo was forced to recant his declaration that the Earth revolves around the Sun; even with doing so, he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

13. AN ALTERNATIVE CALENDAR HAD AN EXTRA MONTH NAMED AFTER THE SOLSTICE.

Pages of a calendar
iStock

In 1902, a British railway system employee named Moses B. Cotsworth attempted to institute a new calendar system that would standardize the months into even four-week segments. To do so, he needed to add an extra month to the year. The additional month was inserted between June and July and named Sol because the summer solstice would always fall during this time. Despite Cotsworth's traveling campaign to promote his new calendar, it failed to catch on.

14. IN ANCIENT GREECE, THE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL MARKED A TIME OF SOCIAL EQUALITY.

Ancient Greek sculpture in stone.
iStock

The Greek festival of Kronia, which honored Cronus, the god of agriculture, coincided with the solstice. The festival was distinguished from other annual feasts and celebrations in that slaves and freemen participated in the festivities as equals.

15. ANCIENT ROME HONORED THE GODDESS VESTA ON THE SOLSTICE.

Roman statue of a vestal virgin
iStock

In Rome, midsummer coincided with the festival of Vestalia, which honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity and was considered the patron of the domestic sphere. On the first day of this festival, married women were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal virgins, from which they were barred the rest of the year.

A version of this list originally ran in 2015.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios