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9 Films Punched up by Famous Screenwriters

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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


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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