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9 Films Punched up by Famous Screenwriters

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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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15 Festive Facts About Jingle All the Way
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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's film oeuvre, Jingle All the Way might just be the one that most exhibits the ugliness of humanity. Set on a fevered Christmas Eve brimming with desperate last-minute shoppers, Schwarzenegger's Howard Langston and Sinbad's postal worker character Myron Larabee find themselves battling one another to make themselves look good to their sons by getting their hands on the elusive Turbo Man action figure. The comedic genius Phil Hartman; Rita Wilson; future young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd; Laraine Newman; Harvey Korman; Martin Mull; Curtis Armstrong; and Chris Parnell were the other willing participants in this cult comedy, directed by Brian Levant. Here are some things you might not have known about the contemporary holiday classic.

1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE LEAD BECAUSE OF A DELAY ON A PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE.

Arnold Schwarzenegger signed up to star in the Apes remake in March of 1994, but 20th Century Fox rejected multiple scripts for the movie, including one co-written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies). Columbus left the project in late 1995, and Schwarzenegger followed him soon after, freeing him to sign up for Jingle All the Way, produced by Columbus, in February 1996. Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot found its way into theaters in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton.

2. SINBAD THOUGHT HE SCREWED UP THE AUDITION.

Sinbad in 'Jingle All the Way' (1996)
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Filming was delayed so that Sinbad could follow through on his commitment to travel to Bosnia with Hillary Clinton. Even though Columbus agreed to wait for him, the comedian still thought he "messed up" his audition and told his manager-brother he was going to quit show business.

3. OFFICER HUMMELL WAS INITIALLY WRITTEN AS A WOMAN.

Though the role of Officer Hummell was written for a woman, the part went to Robert Conrad. Conrad's explanation was that the producers "wanted someone who could pull up next to Arnold and tell him to pull over and he pulls over."

4. IT WAS CHRIS PARNELL'S FIRST MOVIE.

The future SNL star played the toy store clerk. "Well, it was my first movie role, and I didn't know how they typically shot scenes," Parnell admitted in a Reddit AMA. "So I had to laugh a lot, and I sort of spent all of my laughing energy in the wider takes, so by the time we got to the close-up shots, it was a real struggle to keep that going."

5. MARTIN MULL STAYED ON SET FOR OVER TWO WEEKS LONGER THAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO.

Mull (KQRS D.J. a.k.a. Mr. Ponytail Man) was told it would just be a one- to two-day shoot for him. Unfortunately, his part had to be shot on a rainy day, and it didn't rain in Minneapolis for two and a half weeks.

6. PHIL HARTMAN MADE UP A BACKSTORY FOR HIS CHARACTER.


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Hartman (Ted Maltin) was probably joking for the film's official production notes, but you never know. "Ted is a guy who sued his employer for headaches caused by toner fumes and now hangs around the neighborhood and helps all the housewives," Hartman said. He also offered a take on how he was kind of being pigeonholed in Hollywood when he added, "Ted's another weasel to add my list of weasels."

7. HARTMAN ENTERTAINED HIS BORED YOUNG CO-STARS.

To keep young E.J. De la Pena (Johnny Maltin) and Jake Lloyd (Jamie Langston) from getting bored shooting a car scene all day, Hartman improvised songs designed to bring kids to hysterics. One tune contained the lyrics “You make my butt shine, the more you kiss it, the more it shines! The clock is ticking, so keep on licking, oh how you make my buttocks shine!”

"When you’re an 8 year old hearing that kind of potty humor, it was hilarious!" De la Pena remembered. "And we had a lot of fun."

8. JAMES BELUSHI HAD EXPERIENCE PLAYING SANTA BEFORE.

Belushi sort of trained to portray the Mall of America Santa in the movie by playing Kris Kringle for four years in "about 20" different homes, according to his estimation.

9. SHOOTING BEGAN IN MID-APRIL.

The Minneapolis/St.Paul areas were chosen because the producers figured they had the longest winter. But they also filmed in Los Angeles' Universal Studios for the big parade over a three week span, where it was typical hot California weather on the verge of summer. Sinbad remembered it was 100 degrees on the days when he wore the Dementor costume, and the water in his helmet had started to boil.

10. THE REAL TURBO MAN DIDN'T SWEAT.

Daniel Riordan's Turbo Man suit ensured he wouldn't have trouble with the scorching heat. He was wearing a vest underneath used by race car drivers. "They're very thin membrane vests that are filled with small, plastic tubing that's tightly coiled, back and forth, and they run cold water through it," Riordan explained. "So when they run it, it's like this cold water right up against your body and it was amazing. The sensation was fantastic."

11. TURBO MAN FIGURES WERE SOLD AT WAL-MART.

200,000 were originally produced and sold at 2,300 Wal-Mart shops for $25. They would have made more but, as Fox’s president of licensing and merchandising explained to Entertainment Weekly, there were only six and a half months to produce and promote Turbo Man toys, and it usually takes "well over a year."

12. THEY ALMOST SOLD DEMENTOR DOLLS TOO.

Sinbad recalled that the studio didn't sell Dementor action figures even though they tested high during research. "I had a prototype of the doll but they said 'give it back, we'll get you the real one when it comes out,'" Sinbad said." ...And dude, it NEVER came out!" Sinbad told Redditers his theory: "I think that they didn't want the competition between Turbo Man and my doll."

13. SOME PARENTS HAD ALCOHOL-RELATED COMPLAINTS AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.


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Schwarzenegger and Sinbad talking at a bar over some alcohol, and the fact that reindeer also imbibed in beer, were among some of the problems mothers and other early viewers took issue with.

14. THE FILMMAKERS WERE SUED FOR PLAGIARISM, AND LOST.

Randy Kornfield penned the official script, but high school teacher Brian Alan Webster alleged his Could This Be Christmas? script was very similar. The publishing firm that had the rights to Webster's script won a $19 million lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but the ruling was overturned in 2004. Webster's screenplay was about “the quest of a Caucasian mother attempting to obtain a hard-to-get action figure toy as a Christmas gift for her son. In the course of this pursuit, she competes with an African-American woman, similarly seeking to give the action figure doll as a Christmas gift.”

15. THERE WAS A SEQUEL STARRING LARRY THE CABLE GUY.

None of the original cast members nor characters returned in the straight-to-DVD Jingle All the Way 2 (2014). It was produced by 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios and featured wrestler Santino Marella. Sinbad expressed incredulity when a Redditer inquired if he was asked to return for it. "What they are doing a new version without me! Ain't gonna work!"

Additional Sources:

Schaefer, Stephen: "Sinbad leaps at the chance to go postal in Jingle All the Way," December 6, 1996; Des Moines Register

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10 Rich Facts About Wall Street
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Twentieth Century Fox

It’s often said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Wall Street could have easily turned this sentiment into a tagline. A gripping financial thriller, the Oliver Stone classic is a cautionary tale whose message is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was released 30 years ago today.

1. OLIVER STONE WOULD DELIBERATELY TICK OFF MICHAEL DOUGLAS BETWEEN TAKES.

“As a director, he really tests you,” Douglas said of Stone. Around two weeks after shooting had started, Stone showed up at the actor’s trailer and asked “Are you on drugs? Because you look like you’ve never acted before in your life.” Mortified, Douglas took a look at some footage they’d already shot. Yet, after diligently reviewing it, he could find nothing wrong with his performance. “I came back to Oliver and said … ‘I think it’s okay,” Douglas remembers. “Yeah, it is, isn’t it?” Stone replied.

Eventually, Douglas wised up to his boss’s overly critical act. “Basically, what he wanted was to ratchet up that much more nastiness in Gordon Gekko,” Douglas explained. “And he was willing … for me to hate him for the rest of that movie just to bring it up a little more.” 

2. WALL STREET WON BOTH AN OSCAR AND A RAZZIE.


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Douglas’s cold portrayal of the unscrupulous Gekko netted him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1988. On the other hand, critics were thoroughly unimpressed by leading lady Daryl Hannah, who took home a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie.

3. GORDON GEKKO’S FAMOUS PHONE WEIGHED TWO POUNDS.

In one pivotal scene, Gekko rings Bud with a state-of-the-art mobile communication device. Specifically, it’s a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. Released in 1983, this brick-shaped cell phone was 13 inches long, weighed two pounds, and cost the equivalent of $8,806 in modern dollars. During the 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the anachronistic gadget returned for a quick sight gag.

4. CHARLIE SHEEN CHOSE TO HAVE HIS REAL FATHER PORTRAY HIS FICTIONAL ONE.

“It was interesting having my dad play my dad,” Sheen said on the DVD's “making of” documentary. Wall Street’s most dramatic arc revolves around Bud and Carl Fox, who were played by Charlie and Martin Sheen, respectively. Stone had built a strong working relationship with the former on the set of 1986’s Platoon. So when the time came to cast Carl, he had the younger Sheen make the call, asking “Do you want Jack Lemmon or do you want your father?” “Oh, Jack Lemmon’s a genius,” the actor said, “but my dad’s my dad and he’s kind of a genius, too.”

5. SCREENWRITER STANLEY WEISER COULDN'T FIND INSPIRATION IN EITHER CRIME AND PUNISHMENT OR THE GREAT GATSBY.

Before the writer could get started, Stone gave him a little homework. Originally, the film was conceived as “Crime and Punishment on Wall Street.” When Weiser was brought aboard one fateful Friday, Stone told him to read Dostoyevsky’s novel over the weekend. “Not having taken an Evelyn Wood Speed Reading class, I went to UCLA and purchased the Cliffs Notes,” Weiser wrote in 2008.

But the literary exercise proved futile. “On Monday, I explained to Oliver that the paradigm for that masterwork would not mesh well with the story we wanted to tell.” In a flash, Stone hit him with another assignment. “Okay,” he ordered, “read The Great Gatsby tonight, and see if we can mine something out of it.” This time, Weiser simply rented the 1974 movie adaptation. Once again, though, inspiration eluded him.

Wall Street as we know it didn’t really start to take shape until after a change in tactic: When Gatsby led him nowhere, Weiser read everything about finance that he could track down and, along with Stone, “spent three weeks visiting brokerage houses, interviewing investors and getting a feel for the Weltanschauung of Wall Street.”

6. PARTS OF THE MOVIE WERE SHOT AT THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE DURING WORKING HOURS.


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Permission was secured with the help of Kenneth Lipper, a longtime Wall Street insider who also served as New York City's deputy mayor from 1982 to 1985. For the film, Stone brought him on board as the chief technical advisor.

7. TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE FILM’S RELEASE, THERE WAS A MAJOR WALL STREET CRASH IN REAL LIFE.

Historians now call it “Black Monday.” On October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by a staggering 22.6 percent. It was the largest single-day stock market decline of all time, with $500 billion suddenly going up in smoke. Wall Street would hit theaters on December 11, leading conspiracy theorists to wonder if Stone had seen the crisis coming and made his movie to exploit it. 

“I did not foresee the crash, as some people say, because if I had, I would have made a lot of money,” Stone quipped.

8. GEKKO WAS BASED ON THREE BIG-NAME FINANCIERS. 


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“If you need a friend, get a dog,” Gekko advises his young protégé. This quote was adapted from a remark that corporate raider Carl Icahn once made (which he had cribbed from Harry Truman). In 1985, Icahn became a notorious figure by taking over TWA airlines under the pretense of making it more profitable only to sell off its assets for his own gain. Gekko, no doubt, would’ve approved.

Wall Street’s charismatic antagonist also took cues from Asher Edelman, a financier and major league art enthusiast. Another source of inspiration was arbiter Ivan Boesky, who confessed to illegal insider trading in 1986 and ended up in jail in 1988 (more about him later).

9. STONE’S FATHER WAS A STOCKBROKER.

A survivor of the Great Depression, Louis Stone had a huge influence on his cinematically-inclined son. “The main motivation to make Wall Street was my father,” the director admitted. “He always said there were no good business movies, because the businessman was always the villain.” In the end, Wall Street was dedicated to the elder Stone, who passed away two years before its release. 

10. GEKKO’S BIG LINE IS NUMBER 57 ON THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE’S TOP 100 MOVIE QUOTES LIST.

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” finished just ahead of “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” from The Godfather: Part II. Gekko might as well have been quoting Boesky: At a 1985 commencement address given at UC Berkeley, the trader said “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Newsweek later reported on the speech—and made a telling observation. “The strangest thing, when we come to look back,” the magazine argued, “will not just be that Ivan Boesky could say that at a business school graduation, but that it was greeted with laughter and applause.”

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